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World Champion Magnus Carlsen Crowned Clutch Chess International Winner

World Champion Magnus Carlsen Clutch won the Chess International at the St. Louis Chess Club.
St. Louis Chess Club
World Champion Magnus Carlsen Clutch won the Chess International at the St. Louis Chess Club.

The second edition of Clutch Chess, Clutch Chess International, had the recipe for the perfect event: high-stakes, top-level chess, epic comebacks, drama and emotion. 

The historic online tournament, hosted by the St. Louis Chess Club, had everyone in the chess world glued to their seats watching the grand finale between the world No. 1 and 2 players. The event featured some of the world’s best chess players and a record-breaking prize fund of $265,000.

The event featured knockout matches with bonus prizes in “clutch games,” the last two each day worth more points and money for a decisive result. Clutch Chess ended up being the St. Louis Chess Club’s most-watched live event, capturing the attention of more than 28,000 concurrent viewers on the final day alone.

The eight grandmasters who competed in Clutch Chess International were:

  • Magnus Carlsen (reigning world champion, Norway)
  • Fabiano Caruana (World No. 2, U.S.)
  • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (World No. 5, France)
  • Alexander Grischuk (World No. 6, Russia)
  • Levon Aronian (World No. 7, Armenia)
  • Wesley So (World No. 8 and recent winner of Clutch Chess USA, U.S.),
  • Leinier Dominguez (World No. 6 in Rapid, U.S.)
  • Jeffery Xiong (U.S. No. 5, U.S.)

The quarterfinals featured an intriguing matchup between World Champion Magnus Carlsen and the 19-year-old American phenom Jeffery Xiong. 
Although significantly outrated, the youngster put up a fantastic fight and had Carlsen on the ropes at several points in the match. Ultimately, the world champion prevailed and advanced to the semifinals. 

The two seasoned players of this format, Fabiano Caruana and Leinier Doiminguez, faced off once again, with Caruana defeating his familiar rival quite convincingly. The winner of Clutch Chess USA, Wesley So, had no difficulties knocking out Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, while Levon Aronian’s match against Alexander Grischuk came down to the final clutch game. The Armenian star finished his opponent off in style with a beautiful win.

The semifinals saw matchups of Caruana vs. So and Carlsen vs. Aronian. The Armenian star was long considered to be the main contender to Carlsen’s crown, but nonetheless never found his footing in this match. Caruana had a Herculean task ahead of him on day two of his match against So, as he fell four points behind after a rough start. In game after game, the 27-year-old narrowed the gap, until the penultimate round win gave him the decisive two-point advantage.

The stage was set for an epic showdown between Carlsen and Caruana, a 12-game match between the two giants of chess, reminiscent of their 2018 World Championship match. However, unlike in their 2018 match, the players left blood on the battlefield, with only three games ending peacefully. Carlsen threw the first punch in game three, but Caruana quickly bounced back the next game. Once again, the world champion took the lead in game five, this time scoring two points by winning a clutch game. Again, Caruana equalized the score with a win of his own, entering day two neck-and-neck with the world champion.

The back-and-forth battle continued in day two and was ultimately decided in the final two clutch games. With a win in the penultimate game 11, Caruana took a lead for the first time in the match. In a must-win situation in the last game, Carlsen remained calm and cool, confident that he would get his chance to stage a comeback. And what a comeback that was, as the world champion took apart his opponent’s position with a stunning sequence, securing the 9.5 points needed to clinch the title.

The world champion took home the grand prize of $50,000 and an additional $25,000 in clutch bonuses, while Caruana pocketed $35,000 with an additional $21,000 in bonuses.

For more information about the two recent Clutch Chess tournaments, to read daily recaps, and to rewatch the games with commentary, visit uschesschamps.com.

Tatev started playing chess at the age of 8. She has competed in five Chess Olympiads, earning a bronze team medal for the United States in her first appearance. Tatev has also competed in multiple U.S. Women’s Chess Championship as well as Women’s World Chess Championship.

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