Firouzja Defeats A World Champion For The 1st Time

Firouzja Defeats A World Champion For The 1st Time

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GM Alireza Firouzja gained his very first classical victory vs. a world champion in round five of the Superbet Classic Romania 2023. The youngest player to break 2800 defeated GM Ding Liren in a back-and-forth duel for the initiative, scoring his second win in a row. 

The 19-year-old grandmaster joins GM Richard Rapport and GM Wesley So in a tie for second place. GM Fabiano Caruana continues to lead by half a point after a comfortable draw as Black vs. GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has begun to turn around a rocky start with his first tournament win. He defeated GM Ian Nepomniachtchi by turning a challenging defensive position into a tactical delight. 

After the rest day on Thursday, the first leg of the Grand Chess Tour continues with round six on Friday, May 12, starting at 5:00 a.m. Pacific/14:00 CEST.

See what happened

You can watch live games of the Superbet Chess Classic on our Events Page. The rounds start each day at 5:00 a.m. Pacific/14:00 CEST.

Firouzja vs. Ding

With just four draws between them, their first-ever decisive classical game gave Firouzja the honor of dealing Ding his first loss as the reigning world champion. 

In a d3 Ruy Lopez, Firouzja opted for an enterprising sacrifice of his e4-pawn to instigate a combative middlegame. When he followed it up inaccurately, Ding wrestled the initiative from the 19-year-old’s hands by launching his passed center pawn up the board. Both players brought all hands on deck to focus on the raging battle in the center. When Ding chose to leap the wrong knight to e4, Firouzja traded into an advantageous queen vs. rook and bishop ending.

The current world champion shaking hands with a future one?! Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Though Ding had chances to set up a fortress, he instead chose to bring his rook to his opponent’s second rank to try to create counterplay. The Chinese grandmaster’s scattered forces left his kingside too weak, and Firouzja stormed his connected passers up towards promotion to seal the victory. 

The 2022 Grand Chess Tour champion was elated after the game: “I feel really happy. For sure, it’s an easier world champion than Magnus. Of course, Ding is really strong. I’m happy to get this victory because now I move to plus one. It’s really important.”

This pivotal victory is our Game of the Day, analyzed by GM Dejan Bojkov.

With this victory, Firouzja returns to number two in the world in live rankings, leapfrogging the world champion and his recent challenger, Nepomniachtchi, who also experienced a disappointing turn of events today. 

Graphic: 2700chess.com

Nepomniachtchi vs. Vachier-Lagrave 

Vachier-Lagrave delivered Nepomniachtchi his second loss in a row today. In a queenless middlegame arising from an Alapin Sicilian, the challenger pressed a comfortable edge with the white pieces. But in his ambitions to play for the win, Nepomniachtchi allowed the French grandmaster to create powerful counterplay with his doubled rooks on the h-file. Inspired by the fresh life in his position, Vachier-Lagrave started a tactical onslaught against Nepomniachtchi’s king, leading to a decisive win of material.

The French grandmaster was relieved to be back on an even score for the tournament. Before Nepomniachtchi let him back into the game, Vachier-Lagrave’s own assessment of his middlegame position was quite bleak: “My position was s*****. There’s no other word.”

Duda vs. Caruana

This was another matchup with a short history: 2-1 in Caruana’s favor, with just four draws. The tournament leader managed to neutralize Duda’s first move advantage in the opening. With White’s rook awkwardly placed on e3 and his queenside undeveloped, Caruana centralized one of his knights on c5 and then planted the other on the appealing f4 post, offering him influence on the queenside, center, and kingside. 

Tactic alert: On move 23, Caruana allowed Duda to capture his center pawn on e5. What idea did he have ready to keep the balance?

This comfortable result for Caruana with the black pieces keeps his lead heading into the rest day. 

Caruana has shown excellent form through the first half of the tournament. Will he maintain it in the critical upcoming rounds? Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Giri vs. Rapport

Shockingly, Rapport has never defeated Giri in a classical game. Contrastingly, Giri has four victories out of their nine games. The Romanian number one had chances today, gaining a substantial edge with Black as the queens were traded. Between his hopping knights, centralized rooks, and advanced e4-pawn, Rapport had full control of the center while every single one of Giri’s pieces watched from the back rank. However, Black went astray with 31…f5, allowing the elusive Dutch grandmaster to create an advanced passer on the queenside and generate enough counterplay for equality. 

Sneaking out of trouble this round, the ever-solid Giri is the only player with no decisive games yet. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

So vs. Deac

With pawns left on only the d- to h-files, So gained a compelling space edge, a potent knight on f5, and a target in Black’s backward d6-pawn. Though the American grandmaster maneuvered with the hopes of increasing his advantage, GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac defended with vigor, bringing his rook to White’s second rank, creating a pin on his opponent’s eager knight, and breaking in the center with 44…f5. His energetic play gained him full equality in the arising ending. 

Results – Round 5









White

Black
Nepomniachtchi 0 – 1 Vachier-Lagrave
Duda 1/2 – 1/2 Caruana
Firouzja 1 – 0 Ding
So 1/2 – 1/2 Deac
Giri 1/2 – 1/2 Rapport

Standings – Round 5

Round six will feature a key matchup: Coming off back-to-back wins, Firouzja will get his shot at the tournament leader, Caruana.

Pairings – Round 6









White

Black
Vachier-Lagrave Rapport
Deac Giri
Ding So
Caruana Firouzja
Nepomniachtchi Duda

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