GM Sam Sevian won the 2023 Champions Showdown after a brilliant final day, where he defeated both Garry Kasparov and Fabiano Caruana to finish with 7/9 and take home the $37,500 first place prize.
The event featured Chess 960 (aka Fischer Random), a chess variant where the starting position of the pieces is randomized along the first rank. The tournament, a 10-player round-robin, with a time control of 20 minutes per side with a 5-second increment, took place from September 8-10, 2023 in the World Chess Hall of Fame, Saint Louis Chess Club.
Going into the day Sevian and Aronian were tied for the lead with 4.5/6. While Aronian could only manage to draw against So, Sevian defeated Kasparov, after the former World Champion overstepped the time limit while trying to defend a pawn down. Also winning was Caruana, who outplayed Xiong from the Black side in nice positional style:
Xiong-Caruana: final position after 32…Ng5 0-1
In the penultimate round Sevian drew with Xiong, maintaining his lead but allowing others a chance to reach him. Aronian, just a half-point behind Sevian, lost to Caruana after flagging in a difficult position, leaving Caruana in second place going into the final round. Also winning to enter the tie for second was Shankland, who refuted a faulty Greek Gift sacrifice from Kasparov to win his second straight game as well:
Shankland-Kasparov: after 22.Nf4 Black was forced to resign, as h5 is falling next.
The final round featured the crucial game Caruana – Sevian, with Fabiano needing to win in order to overtake first place. A sharp battle ensued, with the critical moment occurring when Sevian went all-out for an attack, finding a stunning bishop sacrifice in order to get his heavy pieces in front of White’s king. Caruana was simply unable to defend the position and Sevian clinched tournament victory as he was soon to deliver mate.
Caruana-Sevian: 18…Bxb2!! was a stunner, with idea 19.Kxb2 Rgg6!-+, lifting the second rook in order to hunt down White’s king.
Shankland would go on to draw against Xiong, leaving him in second place with 6.0/9, while Aronian and So both managed to win their final games, as So converted an extra pawn in the endgame against Robson while Aronian took down Nakamura thanks to a vicious counterattack on the queenside.
Good prep pays off! Shankland chose the right player to analyze with. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
So scored 2.5/3 to sneak into the tie for second. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
A second place finish for Levon Aronian as well. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
Written by IM Kostya Kavutskiy