Firouzja, Mamedyarov Storm To The Lead

Firouzja, Mamedyarov Storm To The Lead


GM Alireza Firouzja continued his fine run of form in St. Louis in the 2022 Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX on Thursday with two key victories over GM Garry Kasparov and previous tournament leader GM Ian Nepomniachtchi. Firouzja’s 2.5/3 score on day two was enough to climb to an equal first alongside GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov who won all three of his games.

A horror day for Nepomniachtchi saw him lose two consecutive rounds but only drop to the third position, while GMs Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, and Hikaru Nakamura kept themselves in the race with solid results, leaving them trailing the leaders by a single point.

The event will conclude with rounds 6-9 on September 16th at 12 p.m. PT/21:00 Central European.


After a first day brimming with decisive results and a format void of any theoretical preparation, the players arrived fresh and ready to play on day two, with much anticipation surrounding Nepomniachtchi’s unbeaten run so far.

The players were right back to analyzing the starting positions in small groups. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Round four saw Nepomniachtchi pick up right where he left off on Wednesday, this time overcoming his closest competitor Caruana. In a dazzling display of endgame technique, Nepomniachtchi overcame an evaluation deficit and squeezed the American GM, whose increment was not enough to help him save the game.

The other highlight of the fourth round was an impressive win for Firouzja over a struggling Kasparov. The win avenged Firouzja’s loss to the former world champion in the 2020 edition, the then seventeen-year-old falling to an instructive endgame idea at the time.

In the clash of the generations, Kasparov certainly did not receive his “seniors discount” which he cited on Twitter after a tough first day. Two more losses in rounds five and six left the once world champion licking his wounds.

Nepomniachtchi’s unbeaten run finally came to an abrupt stop when Firouzja flipped the script on the world championship challenger, knocking him over in 42 moves and joining him in the lead. 

In the following round, Nepomniachtchi was unable to recover and lost again, this time to Mamedyarov, who was the pick of the field on day two. Mamedyarov had lackluster performances in both the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz as well as the Sinquefield Cup, but his creativity has proven paramount to his success in the Chess960 event.

Mamedyarov’s quick win with the black pieces put pressure on Firouzja to score a full point against GM Leinier Dominguez. However, it was not meant to be, and a wild rook ending culminated in a draw for the combatants, with Firouzja ruing a missed chance on move 57.

An ordinary 1/3 on the first day would have left Nakamura feeling disappointed though he was able to draw inspiration from his turn-around in the rapid and blitz a fortnight ago and storm to 2.5/3 on day two. Nakamura was quick to admit in his YouTube recap that while he lost two games on Wednesday, defeating “Garry Chess (Kasparov)” buoyed his emotions heading into the second day.

One thing that has become clear is the high percentage of decisive results in the Chess960 format, which has put significant pressure on the leaders to continue winning. Heading into the final three rounds, Firouzja will try to complete a trifecta of tournament wins in St. Louis, but the top spot will be hotly contested as momentum plays its part.

All Games Day 2

Current Standings

# Fed Player Rating Total
1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2757 4.5
2 Aliewza Firouzja 2778 4.5

Ian Nepomniachtchi 2792 4
4 Fabiano Caruana 2758 3.5
5 Levon Aronian 2759 3.5
6 Hikaru Nakamura 2768 3.5
7 Wesley So 2771 3
8 Leinier Dominguez 2745 2

Peter Svidler 2683 1.5

Garry Kasparov 2812 0

The Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX tournament takes place September 14-16, 2022, at the chess club in St. Louis.  Players compete in a 10-player rapid (20+10) round robin for their share of the $150,000 prize fund. 

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