Nakamura Last Loser Standing In Unforgettable Chessable Masters

GM Hikaru Nakamura became the first player to book his ticket to join GM Magnus Carlsen in the Champions Chess Tour (CCT) 2023 finals, winning the Chessable Masters Division I finals over GM Fabiano Caruana.



While “Nakamura Wins Online Rapid Event,” might not sound newsworthy, perhaps “Nakamura Defeats Carlsen in Losers Final” would do a better job of representing the pure chaos that was this tournament.



Indeed, it was Caruana who earned the first spot in the grand final, defeating Nakamura 2½-½ in the winners final. Caruana’s unblemished path to the grand final was particularly impressive considering that he did not even qualify for Division I in the previous CCT event. Going back to the start of the Airthings Masters Division II double elimination bracket, this meant Caruana had won eight consecutive matches.

In the first of ten (!) games between Caruana and Nakamura in this event, both players showed their intention to launch full-scale attacks from the start. In a memorable final position, Caruana calmly walked his white king to the g4-square, where it stood somehow impervious to Nakamura’s pieces.



Then, after the first (and last!) draw of their matches, things looked relatively equal until Nakamura blundered mate-in-one.



This sent Nakamura to the losers final, where he had to face none other than Magnus. How did Magnus get here? Did he give himself a handicap just for fun? Not at all. Rather, in the first round of the winners bracket, he faced all he could handle from GM Vladislav Artemiev. After trading blows in four decisive games where the black pieces emerged victorious, Artemiev broke the curse, winning his must-win with the white pieces in Armageddon.



With Caruana patiently waiting, Nakamura and Carlsen threw down a pair of very well-played draws, including this dynamic gem.



Everything was set for another memorable Armageddon between the two familiar fighters. In a sense, that’s exactly what we got. I admit, the first time I saw this position posted on Twitter, I forgot that White’s f-pawn could move, and assumed this was some brilliant drawing trick from Magnus.



No such luck (nor would it had mattered if it was a stalemate, as White needed the win)! And just like that, Magnus was knocked out of a CCT event without even reaching the finals.



It’s worth noting that, thanks to the double elimination format, the four-game match about to take place between Caruana and Nakamura is not a typical winner-take-all event. Rather, since Caruana was still undefeated, a win would have delivered him the crown and CCT tour points. But if Nakamura were to win, they would immediately play a second two-game winner-take-all match.

Below, I’m including all seven games from their two final sets, won by Nakamura 3-1 and 1-2 (Armageddon), respectively. I can’t not. Each game was tense, energetic, imbalanced, dynamic, and full of subtle opportunities down to the end. This was some of the most entertaining chess I’ve seen on the CCT, and it was refreshing watching Nakamura attempt to vanquish a player who he had comparatively less history with (at least in rapid and blitz settings).

If this sounds hyperbolic, here's the moment Caruana forced an Armageddon in the second set:



Congratulations to both Nakamura and Caruana on some truly fantastic chess. The next CCT event, yet to be named, will take place from May 22 through 26, with qualifiers beginning May 1. All games can be reviewed on the official event page.

Without further ado, please enjoy all seven games from the grand finals.