Tuesday, March 5, 2024
Tuesday, March 5, 2024
HomeSportFreestyle chess day 4: Carlsen returns to beat Firouzja and reach semi-finals

Freestyle chess day 4: Carlsen returns to beat Firouzja and reach semi-finals


World Champion Magnus Carlsen fought back with three wins to beat GM Alireza Firouzja and book a semi-final of the Freestyle Chess GOAT Challenge 2024 against GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov, who easily beat GM Ding Liren. It was the day the “veterans” struck back, as GM Fabiano Caruana gave GM Gukesh Dommaraju no hope of a comeback, while GM Levon Aronian fought his way to beat GM Vincent Keymer in 20 moves.

The first day of the Semifinals begins Tuesday, February 13, at 7 am ET / 1:00 pm CET / 5:30 pm IST.

For most of the event at Weissenhaus it looked like Chess960 could be a game for the young, with the opening knowledge and pattern recognition of seasoned stars outweighed by raw power and sheer calculation ability. Perhaps that will still be the case, but not this Monday, as three of the four semi-final spots were taken by the old guard.

Quarterfinal results

Three of the games ended quickly, and Ding and Gukesh, who needed to win when called upon with the white pieces, found that their entire initial advantage had disappeared after a break on their opponent’s move five: 5…e5. from Caruana, and 5…f5! by Abdusattorov.

Freestyle chess day 4: Carlsen returns to beat Firouzja and reach semi-finals
Ding found himself completely lost on move 11, and when Abdusattorov later made what the computer would label a “mistake,” he was simply heading into a position where he could practically force a draw and seal the victory.

Freestyle chess day 4: Carlsen returns to beat Firouzja and reach semi-finals
It’s been a difficult event for Ding, but at least he has support in place. Photo: María Emelianova/Chess.com.

Once again, the world champion did not stop to look for small opportunities, allowing his young opponent the easiest draw.

That leaves Ding with a score of 1/9, but his ordeal is not over as he will continue in the “consolation” group, where players will compete for spots five to eight.

No one doubts Gukesh’s willingness to fight in any match (see his zero draws in seven matches at Rapid), but it turned out that the position against Caruana was too miserable to offer opportunities. The American star dominated the board from start to finish and in the final position, Gukesh offered a draw instead of continuing to play in a losing position.

Freestyle chess day 4: Carlsen returns to beat Firouzja and reach semi-finals
Caruana proved to be Gukesh’s enemy in both the Rapid and the Knockout. Photo: María Emelianova/Chess.com.

The only matchup in which neither player was leading was Aronian-Keymer, and in the lead-up to the game there was a hiccup in the buildup, as Aronian and Ding spent a few minutes analyzing a position with the queen and rook exchanged on a1. and b1.

Aronian also pointed out that earlier incident in St. Louis, while sharing his emotions upon discovering the mistake: “I’m at this stage where I’m okay admitting I’m an idiot and I’m happy!”

I’m at this stage where I’m okay admitting I’m an idiot and I’m happy!

—Levon Aronian

However, it turns out that this time the opening was like a dream for Aronian, who said the confessional on move seven: “I’m an optimist, but I shouldn’t let this slip away!” He didn’t, as 19-year-old Keymer’s good play so far in the event suddenly unraveled. Attempts to win counterplay only accelerated the end, with Aronian finding a brilliant finishing sequence with two finishing moves that should have been detected beforehand.

Freestyle chess day 4: Carlsen returns to beat Firouzja and reach semi-finals
Aronian took advantage of his opportunity against Keymer. Photo: María Emelianova/Chess.com.

However, there was one matchup that seemed like a lot more depended on.

Carlsen 3-1 Firouzja

Freestyle chess day 4: Carlsen returns to beat Firouzja and reach semi-finals

The tournament is called GOAT Challenge in honor of Carlsen, and although the world number one commented: “I don’t refer to myself in those terms”, if he had not been able to come back and beat Firouzja, it would have meant that he would be left fighting for only one maximum fifth place and $15,000, against the other players who will lose the quarterfinals.

Freestyle chess day 4: Carlsen returns to beat Firouzja and reach semi-finals

Carlsen said after finishing the day: “Of course, when it is the first tournament of its kind, it would have been extremely unfortunate to be eliminated in the first round, especially after I have not shown anything of what I am capable of.”

Freestyle chess day 4: Carlsen returns to beat Firouzja and reach semi-finals
“I have to say, I wasn’t enjoying it yesterday!” Carlsen said about his loss to Firouzja: he wouldn’t make the same mistake again. Photo: María Emelianova/Chess.com.

He explained that in the games he had lost, “I lacked tactics and couldn’t see the whole board,” before adding: “I want to leave another impression besides that I’m terrible at this, but I’ve sort of avoided the worst. I’ve proven now that I can at least play decent classical chess!”

I’ve proven that I can at least play classical chess decently!

—Magnus Carlsen

This brings us to the classic game where Carlsen counterattacks when called upon. From the opening it seemed that Firouzja had reasoned that the way to make the draw he needed might be to simply imitate his opponent’s moves, which led to an extraordinary position with the e-file packed with pieces. Carlsen played 6.Rf1 with a heavy heart and a sin to confess.

Carlsen was actually worried that his opponent would break the symmetry with the interesting pawn sacrifice 6…d5!?, when he could imagine losing a model, but instead Firouzja reflected further moves with 6…Rf8 and it was only three moves later that the young Frenchman had to react to a check, rather than repeat it. The point of no return seemed to arrive shortly after, with Firouzja playing 11…b6? instead of 11…a5!.

“I actually played well, which was a surprise!” Carlsen said, and the rest of the game was a very fluid positional victory. It is our Game of the Day and has been analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao below:

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

With the scores now tied, the entire match revolved around the first 15+10 tiebreaker game, which easily could have gone either way. Carlsen admitted that his opening choice was “a rush of blood to the head”, and although it briefly seemed to be working, one misstep left him in trouble and needing to sacrifice a quality.

From there, however, it was all a matter of Carlsen returning to the game, as he gradually did, until it became unclear who was playing to win.

Freestyle chess day 4: Carlsen returns to beat Firouzja and reach semi-finals
Make yourself comfortable… Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In the end, a draw seemed the likely outcome, but when the world number one emerged with an extra pawn in a bishop versus knight ending, the only certainty was that Firouzja was going to have to endure one of his infamous long routines. opponent. For a moment it looked like he would, especially when he put a pawn on g3, but Carlsen did things to get a hugely important victory.

GM Hikaru Nakamura noted that the ending Carlsen had won was familiar to him from a recent game he had played:

There was more than a little titled Tuesday about the way Firouzja tried to hit back when asked, playing 1…h6!?

Freestyle chess day 4: Carlsen returns to beat Firouzja and reach semi-finals

There was some method to the madness (on h7 the bishop would target the white king on b1), but Carlsen thought it was more about that last game: “It seemed like I was obviously biased going into the second game, but my brain was quite fried!”

It seemed like I was obviously leaning towards the second game, but my brain was pretty fried!

—Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen managed to build a huge center and was soon winning completely.

Except for a stumble near the end, he never let go of that grip, although that didn’t mean it was easy. There were tactics everywhere and he commented: “I got an absolutely dream position, but the pieces were placed in strange squares and I saw ghosts.” In the end, however, the game reached its logical conclusion and Carlsen won the match 3-1; It was also the first day in which he did not taste defeat.

“What a mess!” said Carlsen, who also noted, “It takes a lot more energy to play this way!” However, he has reached the semi-finals and is still in the fight for the top prize of $60,000. The next is Abdusattorov, whom he called “the guy who has played by far the best chess here.” The other semi-final is a very familiar matchup from the last decade of world chess: Caruana against Aronian.

Freestyle chess day 4: Carlsen returns to beat Firouzja and reach semi-finals

As you can see, the losing quarterfinalists will also continue to play for fifth to eighth place, with Firouzja facing Ding, while Keymer will face Gukesh.


The Freestyle Chess GOAT Challenge will take place from February 9 to 16, 2024 at the Weissenhaus Private Nature Luxury Resort, Germany. All games are Chess960. It begins with a quick seven-round tournament to decide matchups before a classic elimination tournament with two-game matches. A tie is decided by two quick games of 15+10, then, if necessary, two blitz games of 5+2, and finally an armageddon game. The prize fund is $200,000, with $60,000 for first place.

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