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Carlsen survives Firouzja onslaught to win his fourteenth Champions Chess Tour event Dot Esports

The world number one had to fight back from a set down against a resurgent Alireza Firouzja to win the 2024 Chessable Masters, the first of four events in this year’s Champions Chess Tour.

The online tournament was not without its controversies as some competitors continued to make passive-aggressive insinuations about each other, but a fireworks-filled final more than made up for it in the end. When he deigns to compete, Magnus Carlsen still remains the player to beat in the chess world—especially in the faster time controls. After defending his title at the offline Rapid & Blitz World Championship late last year, he continued his pristine performances in chess.com’s online competition, making it 14 out of 17 since the tech behemoth took over what was formerly known as the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.

Magnus Carlsen at the 2022 Chennai Olympiad
Still the best. Image by Lennart Ootes via FIDE

Even though Carlsen went undefeated in the upper bracket, it wasn’t a procession this time. A close-fought battle against Wesley So was followed by big fights against surprise packages in the form of Vladimir Fedoseev and Denis Lazavik, with both players taking a game off the former five-time classical world champion.

The grand final seemed to continue this trend, with Alireza Firouzja coming out guns blazing to win back-to-back games, first with an impressive piece sacrifice, then with precise endgame play. The Norwegian managed to bounce back in game three, but couldn’t generate winning chances in game four to push the set to Armageddon.

However, Carlsen’s upper bracket advantage came to the rescue, and he was much stronger in the second set of play than he was in the first, winning back-to-back games of his own to clinch the series.

The final position of the 2024 Chessable Masters after 39. - e2
Carlsen clinched the tournament with an extravagant pawn move, which cost White a rook. | Image via lichess.org

“I really needed my extra life today, that’s for sure,” was Carlsen’s succinct summary in the post-match interview.

$30,000 richer and with 100 points atop the leaderboard, Carlsen is now in prime position to qualify for the end-of-season live finals. As for the rest of the competitors, they have a lot of thinking to do—including about the tournament itself.

Vague cheating accusations continue to permeate the online chess world, and this tournament was no exception. Overperforming youngsters have continued to draw the ire of the established chess elite, with Ian Nepomniachtchi especially going down the passive-aggressive route with regard to Jose Martinez and Denis Lazavik. Later, the Peruvian grandmaster wrote he was “sad and bitter because of the accusations” and later added that he wasn’t enjoying the event, and wished he didn’t have to play on at all—big blemishes on otherwise impressive showings from up-and-coming chess talent, with nothing tangible to suggest foul play on the part of any participant.

In the lower divisions, Vincent Keymer triumphed in the Division II finals over Levon Aronian, while Alexey Sarana defeated Alexander Grischuk to rise from Division III.

Luci Kelemen

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