The quartet of top grandmasters now move on to the Winners Bracket in Division I of the tournament, the 4th leg of the $2 million Champions Chess Tour.
Aronian won game two against GM Vladimir Fedoseev and made three other draws for the match victory. Abdusattorov won on demand with Black in game four against Wesley So and then won the armageddon game with White after losing in game three to spin the match around.
In Division II, eight players advance to the Winners Quarterfinals. The young star GM Denis Lazavik, who made it all the way to the Losers Final in the last event, came back with a vengeance as he defeated experienced Iranian GM Parham Maghsoodloo 3-1.
The same is in Division III. Eight players move on to the Winners Quarterfinals. GM Laurent Fressinet, who defeated his boss Carlsen in the Play-In a few weeks ago, this time sent legendary GM Vladimir Kramnik to the Losers Bracket.
Three players have qualified for the Playoffs so far, which will occur at the end of the year. They are Carlsen, Nakamura, and Abdusattorov. The clock is ticking for the five remaining seats to be filled.
Entering this match, Carlsen was coming off the high of scoring 11/11 in Titled Tuesday and also scoring 9/9 over the board against some of the world’s top players in one day, all in one week. Carlsen scored seven wins in their previous rapid games with just one loss (and five draws). Obviously, he was the favorite—but that is usually the case regardless of his opponent.
Van Foreest is known for his creative opening ideas and has worked as Carlsen’s second, making for an interesting situation regarding the start of their game. The big question was: which opening would we see? Carlsen answered that question on move one with the remarkable 1…a6.
Despite Carlsen’s historic winning streaks in the previous week, he did lose to another second, Fressinet, in the Play-In. Van Foreest also defeated GM Hikaru Nakamura in the last CCT event, proving he can hang with anyone in the high-stakes rapid format.
In game one, Carlsen responded to 1.e4 with 1…a6, the same opening choice he used in every black game in Titled Tuesday last week. In his signature style, he won what looked to be another one of those „dead drawn“ endgames.
The Norwegian won another knight endgame in the next game. This one was even nicer as Carlsen, showcasing his reputation as perhaps the greatest endgame player of all time, finished the game by sacrificing the only minor piece he had left.
The world number-one played 1…a6 again and closed out the match with a draw (from a winning position), finishing in three games and not needing the fourth.
Due to traveling back home after winning a tournament in Zagreb yesterday, he said: „I was pretty tired today, so my play was not so good, but I managed to eke out some games anyway.“
For a more in-depth look at Monday’s play including game analysis, highlights and reports from Division II and III, click here.