April 14, 2024

Peruvian Streamer Gets ‚One In A Million‘ Draw Vs Hikaru Nakamura To Top Chessable Masters Play-In

Peruvian grandmaster and popular streamer Jose Martinez had a birthday to remember as he finished first in the all-GM Play-in of the 2024 Champions Chess Tour Chessable Masters.

The 25-year-old needed a vital draw in the penultimate round against the event’s defending champion GM Hikaru Nakamura to clinch top spot, and despite being a piece down and losing he managed it. Martinez said it was something that „happens once in a million times.“

Division Placement is the next stage. Based on their results, 15 players move on to Division I Placement, 18 players to Division II Placement, and 40 to Division III Placement.

Day two begins on Thursday, February 1, starting at 11 a.m. ET / 17:00 CET / 9:30 p.m. IST.

Replay the action from Day 1 here

Day one of the Chessable Masters was a nine-round Swiss. All grandmasters are allowed to participate for free, as well as qualified players from a tournament played the Friday before. 202 players competed in the Swiss—and they were all grandmasters.

There are some players who didn’t need to participate; with their performances in the AI Cup 2023, the last CCT event, the following players are already in Division I of the Chessable Masters 2024: GMs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Division I winner), Magnus Carlsen (Division I runner-up), and Vladimir Fedoseev (Division II winner). 

We also didn’t see four other players who already qualified, through the AI Cup, for the Division I Placement stage: GM Ian Nepomniachtchi (Division I third place), GM Anish Giri (Division I fourth place), GM Vladislav Artemiev (Division II second place), and GM Sam Sevian (Division III first place).

As for those who did participate, well, it’s maybe better to ask who didn’t. All the world’s top-10 who weren’t already qualified for the Placement stage were in—except for World Champion Ding Liren and GM Wei Yi. Both were traveling back from Tata Steel Chess 2024 and the tournament start time was at 12:00 a.m. in China.

That is, we did see GM Fabiano Caruana, Nakamura, GM Alireza Firouzja, GM Wesley So, and GM Leinier Dominguez from the top 10. We also saw several former classical world champions: GM Vladimir Kramnik, GM Ruslan Ponomariov, GM Ju Wenjun (reigning now!), and GM Alexandra Kosteniuk.

Six rounds into the Swiss, Martinez was the last player on a perfect score with 6/6, before GM Wesley So finally held him to a draw in round seven.

The Peruvian GM treated the audience to a 23-move miniature in round three. Against GM Robby Kevlishvili, he played the Alapin Sicilian, considered to be a „solid“ variation. This „unambitious“ opening led to a one-sided attack, and 18.Bxh6! was a thunderous knock on the gates to the black king.

The most dramatic upset of the day was without a doubt the draw Martinez managed to pull off against Nakamura in the penultimate round. In an endgame down a piece, the writing was on the wall; but Nakamura, with either a mouse slip or a mental lapse, hung his own knight back.

Had Nakamura won the game, he would have led the tournament in the final round. The mistake was critical in securing the Swiss victory for Martinez, and Nakamura did make it to Division I Placement anyway.

In his post-tournament interview, Martinez talked about stubborn resistance in worse or lost positions, pointing out: „I think I learned that from Hikaru.“ As a prize for finishing first in the Swiss, he gets a bye for the first round of Division I Placement (on Thursday). 

GM David Anton Guijarro also made a last-minute leap into tied first by defeating So, with Black, in a tricky endgame.

Anton just missed out on the bye on tiebreaks, however, and will be in action in round one. There are no easy pairings in the CCT, in any division. Nakamura vs. GM Denis Lazavik will be an interesting pairing on Thursday, as they have both just played in the 2023 CCT Finals in Toronto a month ago. It’s also good to see players like Svidler and GM Rauf Mamedov show that class is permanent.

Adapted from NM Anthony Levin’s report for Chess.com. To read the full report with game analysis, click here.

You can keep up with all the chess action live on Chess.com, or on our Twitch and YouTube channels! Play starts at 11 a.m. ET / 17:00 CET.