Carlsen beats Firouzja in tough match, wins Generation Cup

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/4/2023 – After beating Alireza Firouzja by a convincing 3-0 score in the winners’ bracket final of the Generation Cup, Magnus Carlsen saw the youngster setting up a rematch by winning the losers’ bracket. In the Grand Final, a much more hard-fought encounter was also won by Carlsen, who defeated Firouzja with black in the Armageddon decider.

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“Lucky to even make it to the Armageddon”

Three rather clean victories allowed Magnus Carlsen to reach the Grand Final of the Julius Baer Generation Cup, the fifth event in this year’s Champions Chess Tour. Carlsen got the better of Amin Tabatabaei (2½-½), Fabiano Caruana (2½-1½) and Alireza Firouzja (3-0) to prevail in the winners’ bracket.

Firouzja, Carlsen’s opponent in the Grand Final, had a tougher time before Sunday’s deciding match. Before losing to Carlsen in the final of the winners’ bracket, Firouzja beat Nodirbek Abdusattorov (3-0) and Wesley So (2½-1½). His toughest opponent was 16-year-old Denis Lazavik, though, who according to Firouzja himself was “a better player today than me” in the final of the losers’ bracket — Firouzja’s resourcefulness allowed him to get a 1½-½ victory nonetheless.

Given the form the (grand) finalists had shown during the week, a clear win for Carlsen was perhaps the most likely result on Sunday. However, it was only in Armageddon that the Norwegian managed to beat the ever-resilient Firouzja. Carlsen was very critical of his play in the match:

It was not my day at all today. I think I was lucky to even make it to the Armageddon.

Despite not having his best day, Carlsen got to collect his third tournament victory in the Champions Chess Tour. The Norwegian participated in four out of the five events played so far this year, won three and finished third in the Chessable Masters, where he lost matches against Vladislav Artemiev and Hikaru Nakamura.

Alireza Firouzja

In the match, two draws were followed by a 61-move win by Carlsen, which meant Firouzja needed to win on demand to keep the match going. An incredibly hard-fought game reached a queen endgame with three pawns per side.

Firouzja promoted his c-pawn to a knight amid mutual time trouble.

57.c8N defends the queen against a potential check on the h2-b8 diagonal. Carlsen managed to grab the knight shortly after, but White emerged with an extra pawn in a position evaluated by the engines as clearly winning for the youngster.

But both contenders were living on the 3-second increments, which prompted Firouzja to miss an easy win on move 65.

Instead of trading down to a winning pawn ending with 65.Qe6+, White grabbed the remaining black pawn with 65.Qxb5. Despite being two pawns up, however, Firouzja needed to keep playing until move 130 (!) to even the score in the match.

Following such a nerve-racking game, an Armageddon encounter would decide matters. Carlsen played black and got an advantage in the early middlegame. Pragmatically, the Norwegian simplified whenever he had a chance and forced his opponent to take great risks in the ensuing struggle.

Firouzja was unable to create winning chances, and ended up losing the game and the match. 

Julius Baer Generation Cup 2023

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.