Magnus Carlsen Strikes Back To Win 2024 Chessable Masters—His 14th Champions Chess Tour Title
GM Alireza Firouzja took the first set of the Grand Final, impressively winning the first two games in a row, but the world number-one struck back in the second set. Carlsen won the match reset with a 2-0 sweep.
It was Carlsen’s 14th victory in 17 CCT finals. He made $30,000, gains 100 tour points, and earns direct entry into both Division I of the next event and the live Finals at the end of the year.
Replay the action from the Grand Final here:
Carlsen was a favorite against his 13-years-younger opponent, as he would be against just about anyone. Carlsen won their only previous Grand Final encounter in the 2023 Julius Baer Generation Cup. Firouzja’s been in two Grand Finals but has yet to win one.
Firouzja was in nearly full control in the first set. After the French number-one won the first two games back-to-back, the Herculean task of winning twice on demand was too much even for the former world champion.
GM David Howell, commentating on the action during game one, said: “We couldn’t have hoped for a more exciting beginning to this game.” By quality of play and intrigue, it was the best of the first four games.
Firouzja, with Black, sacrificed a piece for a wall of pawns. The two grandmasters played a perfect game for 41 moves, and just one slip, 41.Qf7?, lost the game for Carlsen after 41…h6!—cementing 99.1% accuracy in the game—made Firouzja’s king untouchable.
Firouzja shocked the commentators and fans alike in game two by outplaying the world’s endgame maestro in the endgame. In hindsight, it’s easy to appreciate the way he activates his king from move 34 to 38 so that it becomes a leader in threatening checkmates.
“He outplayed me completely,” said Carlsen about this game after the match.
“He is just dominating Magnus Carlsen!” said Hess after the second win, while Howell concluded: “It’s one-way traffic right now.”
Carlsen played the London System and won a nice rook endgame in game three, but he seemed to run out of steam in the fourth game. After he made a mistake, he himself offered a draw to throw in the towel.
Carlsen later explained: “I just missed Be2 and I was kind of pissed about that and there were no winning chances, so I thought, it’s fine, I get White the next game, I start anew.”
Then the Reset Match started. They sometimes say that you have to beat a grandmaster three times to win one game—meaning they keep fighting their way back in. From this perspective, Carlsen can be like the mythological Hydra—you cut off one head, two grow in its place.
“I don’t know if he lost energy, if he got nervous, but it’s hard to keep it up,” said Carlsen after winning the next, and last, two games.
The first game was the better one, where we were treated to a dynamic, opposite-sides castling position that arose from the Trompowsky Opening. A sharp middlegame turned into a winning endgame, which Carlsen converted with exceptional power.
Firouzja was much better, and very close to winning, in the second game. But when Carlsen traded queens—still much worse—endgame magic happened. Firouzja’s best chance would have been 33.Rf1, but after drifting into an equal position, 37.Re4?? was the nail in the coffin. Carlsen needed just three moves to finish the game.
There have been 32 CCT tournaments in total and Carlsen has won 18 of them. After this latest win, he started the interview with: “I really needed my extra life today, that’s for sure.”
The former world champion, true to his nature, reflected: “It was not a sparkling event for me by any means, but it feels awesome to win.”
Firouzja still pockets $20,000 and 80 tour points for reaching the Grand Final. He also gains direct entry to Division I of the next event, as does GM Vincent Keymer for winning Division II.
There are just three more CCT events before the live Finals at the end of the year, and so the clock is ticking for everyone whose name is not Magnus Carlsen.