Three Kings, one Jack in the Semifinals

Carlsen, Caruana, Aronian and Abdusattorov play for the tournament win

Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian and Nodirbek Abdusattorov have reached the semi-finals of the WEISSENHAUS Freestyle Chess G.O.A.T. Challenge. While Caruana, Aronian and Abdusattorov only needed two classical games to prevail, Carlsen had to fight Alireza Firouzja in a play-off. He won both rapid games.



Firouzja, Gukesh, Vincent Keymer and Ding Liren remain in the tournament. After their quarter-final defeats, they will play for places five to eight. The preliminary round prediction that the Jacks could already be the real Kings has therefore not been confirmed. Three of the four veterans will play in the semi-finals for the tournament victory, plus one of the youngsters. However, this one will have his say.


The Tuesday games.

Ding Liren vs. Nodirbek Abdusattorov

The chess positions might be random, but the final standings of the rapid segment haven’t been random at all. Now, after four days of play, Abdusattorov is the one who has shown the best chess (says Carlsen!) while Ding is still hopelessly out of shape. This also showed in their second classical game, although the Chinese grandmaster did pick up half a point this time.


Half a point was not enough for World Champion Ding Liren. Nodirbek Abdusattorov advances and will play for the tournament win. Photo: Lennart Ootes

The early moves of the game were very similar to what happened in Carlsen-Firouzja, but soon Ding started to make inaccuracies. He allowed his opponent to build a pawn center and when one of those pawns passed the halfway mark of the chessboard, Ding was getting in serious trouble quite early. It was only because of a slip by Abdusattorov on move 17 that Ding could reach an equal endgame, not enough for the must-win situation he was in.

“Came here to enjoy” (Nodirbek Abdusattorov)

Abdusattorov expected too much from 17…c5: “I thought I have some dangerous tactics there but after he took on c5 I thought for a while, but I couldn’t find anything special. So, yeah, I just decided to go for an endgame and make a draw.”

After the game, Abdusattorov said that he doesn’t do any preparation during this event, and also not before: “First of all, I wanted to recover after Wijk aan Zee. I had a little bit more than a week, so I rested and came here to play and just enjoy the time.”

Magnus Carlsen vs. Alireza Firouzja

After the initial defeat, Magnus Carlsen made a convincing comeback in the second classical game. Firouzja followed Carlsen’s blueprints for eight moves, only then did the symmetry dissolve – as did the eight pieces lined up on the e-file. Carlsen apologized for this to “all the aesthetics fans among the spectators” after entering the confession booth in the opening.

Faced with White’s advantage, Firouzja ecaped into an endgame, which he hoped to hold despite a ruined structure and passive pieces. This hope was not fulfilled. The score was 1:1 after the classical games.

The first game of the first play-off in the WEISSENHAUS started strongly for Firouzja. He enjoyed an extra exchange until the endgame, but was never able to fully control Carlsen’s counterplay. Eventually, the tide turned and Carlsen scored another trademark Carlsen endgame win, at the end of which a white knight got lost in the black camp.


Alireza Firouzja can look back to a won classical 960 game against Magnus Carlsen. However, the G.O.A.T advances to the semifinals. Photo: Maria Emelianova

In the second game, Firouzja had to win to equalize the match and force two blitz games. But already early on it was a game to one goal – in which Firouzja was pressed but initially held out.

The one time Carlsen’s heart rate crossed the 100 mark

With just one minute left on the clock (around 3:30 on Firouzja’s side), Carlsen’s heart rate exceeded the 100 mark for the first time in the tournament. Firouzja could have exploited a tactical wobble: 27.Qb3??, played with 3 seconds on the clock. Once that chance had passed, Firouzja didn’t get another.

Levon Aronian vs. Vincent Keymer

Levon Aronian is through to the semi-finals. With a brilliant 20-move victory over Vincent Keymer, he secured a 1.5:0.5 win in the mini-match against the German number one. Aronian had probably understood the essence of the basic position better than his opponent this time: “Activating the queen is the point of this starting position,” explained Aronian after the game.


Levon Aronian advances, Vincent Keymer plays for fifth place, chief arbiter Gregor Johann collects the sheets. Photo: Maria Emelianova

It was actually Keymer who had already pointed out precisely this 960 law on the first day: find ways to bring the queen into the game, never let it linger behind a fixed pawn phalanx. But that’s exactly what happened to him against Aronian, who felt he had an extra queen after the opening.

Vincent Keymer continues to play for 5th place in the “loser’s” tournament tree after a strong tournament. After a convincing preliminary round with 5/7 and a first match game with winning chances, he was suddenly eliminated in the second match game against the seventh-placed player in the preliminary round. “That shows us how tricky this tournament system is. One bad game and you’re out,” explained Keymer’s coach Peter Leko, who made an honest and mostly successful effort to remain neutral as commentator of his boy’s match.

Gukesh vs. Fabiano Caruana

After his “counter win” the other day, Caruana this time played a very convincing game that he might have won if Gukesh hadn’t offered a draw in a bad position. But, half a point was enough for the American grandmaster to move ahead, so he happily agreed to sharing the point today.


Gukesh offered a draw in a worse position. Fabiano Caruana accepted – and advances. Photo: Maria Emelianova

It looks like Gukesh’s fourth move was already somewhat dubious, after which Black got good control of the center. After he castled, Caruana was already in front of a natural-looking position while his opponent’s pieces weren’t occupying great squares. In the remainder, Gukesh never got a chance to get back into the game.

By Peter Doggers and Conrad Schormann

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