Fabiano Caruana triumphs in Superbet Chess Classic


Fabiano Caruana drew a sharp game against Richard Rapport to finish in clear first place in the Superbet Chess Classic, taking the $100,000 top prize and the maximum 13 Grand Chess Tour points. His pursuers could all only draw, though that was a good result for Anish Giri after he stumbled into a lost position against Ian Nepomniachtchi. Ding Liren regained the world no. 3 spot after ending with a fine win over Bogdan-Daniel Deac.

Five players went into the final round of the Superbet Chess Classic with a chance of catching or overtaking leader Fabiano Caruana with a win, but in the end none of them managed.

That left the final standings as follows, with Fabiano Caruana picking up $100,000 while the four players in second place took home $42,750 each.

Let’s take a look at how the event went for each of the players.

Fabiano Caruana: 5.5/9 (2 wins, 7 draws), 1st place, $100,000

This was vintage Fabiano Caruana, who, as in the glory days of 2018, combined stellar opening preparation and sharp calculation (the win over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave), with patience and determination (the win over Ian Nepomniachtchi) to come close to a model of a perfect chess player.

He was never in danger in a single game and could have scored more. He missed a chance against Bogdan-Daniel Deac in the first round, and his one real regret was a failure to turn a huge advantage against Alireza Firouzja into a full point. He commented:

It was a bit of an anti-climax, because I should have maybe converted against Alireza to really feel like I deserved victory fully.

The final round was noteworthy for Fabiano willingly stepping into the World Championship match preparation of the Ding/Rapport team.

Fabi commented:

Richie played the line that Ding played. 10…Bc5 is the top line if you leave a really powerful engine running for a while, it’s a forced draw, but I was just curious what they had prepared against 10…Ba5, so I decided to play it.

There was also nostalgia, as Fabiano had been the first to face 10…Ba5 10.Bf4 0-0 11.0-0-0!, in a game against Magnus Carlsen. Rapport varied from that game with 13.Qe3 and an interesting battle ensued, but there was no opening bomb. When Richie missed a chance to ask more questions with 19.f3! the game soon fizzled out into a draw.

Fabiano had to wait to see if anyone would catch him and force a playoff, but no-one did.

Alireza Firouzja, 5/9 (3 wins, 4 draws, 2 losses), 2nd-5th place, $42,750, world no. 2

It says a lot about the excitement Alireza Firouzja generates that fans of the 19-year-old could feel some disappointment about a tournament in which he regained the world no. 2 spot and beat both the World Champion and the World Championship challenger.

It was as if Alireza was out to demonstrate why Magnus Carlsen had said a match against the Iranian-born Frenchman would be enough motivation for him not to give up his title without a fight.

Alireza would have had every chance of 1st place if not for a loss in the penultimate round. He commented:

I’m very disappointed with yesterday’s game. It felt like the tournament was going my way, but suddenly Duda played a brilliant game… Overall I’m very happy after the loss with Wesley. To finish with +1 is pretty good. Last year I got -1 here, so it’s a good start to the year.

Alireza made just four draws, less than any other player.

The final round was also a sign of his maturity. Back in 2022 he’d lost to the same opponent, his French colleague Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, after over-pressing, while this year he calmly shut down a game that had gone against him.

Wesley So, 5/9 (1 win, 8 draws), 2nd-5th place, $42,750

For one round, this looked like Wesley So’s tournament. After getting into a difficult position against Alireza Firouzja in Round 1 he snatched the chance to take over the initiative and win a pawn, and then instead of being tempted to take a draw by repetition he went on to convert the advantage.

From them on, however, it was a familiar story, as Wesley remained content with his +1 score through the next eight rounds.

The one which stood out was taking a draw by repetition in a close to winning position against Ding Liren, while there were instant draws towards the end of the event. Once again it’s hard to avoid the thought of just how dominant a player Wesley might have become with a little more ambition.

In his defence, however, Wesley was just one of three players who had the same one win and eight draws tournament.

Richard Rapport, 5/9 (1 win, 8 draws), 2nd-5th place, $42,750

Richard Rapport managed to do what his boss Ding Liren didn’t and play a quietly successful tournament after the strain of the World Championship match in Astana. He returned to the Top 10 after an event where he was rarely troubled, with a win in what looked like an unwinnable position against Jan-Krzysztof Duda the icing on the cake.

Anish Giri, 5/9 (1 win, 8 draws), 2nd-5th place, $42,750

Six draws in a row at the start of the event were swiftly forgotten when Anish Giri scored a stylish win against the new World Champion Ding Liren. In under half a year Giri has beaten Ding twice, and also beaten another World Champion, Magnus Carlsen.

The win against Magnus in Wijk aan Zee had seen Anish win his home supertournament for the first time, and another victory wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility going into the final round. He even got an edge against Ian Nepomniachtchi’s Sicilian.

In the end Anish was on the verge of a mood-spoiling loss, but disaster was averted and he could look back on a good if unspectacular event.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda, 4.5/9 (1 win, 7 draws, 1 loss), 6-7th place, $19,750

Jan-Krzysztof Duda was one of two players to finish on 50%, which was a good outcome after the Polish no. 1 slipped to a totally unnecessary loss to Richard Rapport in Round 2. The question, “so Duda is the World Champion now?” was asked online after Duda beat the man who had beaten Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi, Alireza Firouzja, for a first classical win in over 9 months.

It doesn’t quite work like that, but it was a fine game by Duda after Firouzja misplayed the opening.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 4.5/9 (1 win, 7 draws, 1 loss), 6-7th place, $19,750

Maxime came into the event as the defending champion, but kept a low profile except for two defining moments. In Round 3 he got into dire trouble against Fabiano Caruana’s 3.h4 Grünfeld and resigned on move 23 with his queen about to be trapped. In Round 5, however, he redeemed himself by holding on in a difficult position against Ian Nepomniachtchi before taking over and winning in style.

Ding Liren, 4/9 (1 win, 6 draws, 2 losses), 8th place, $16,000

Ding Liren was the man we all wanted to see in action, but the fears that the new World Champion would be drained physically and emotionally after the match in Astana proved justified. He was running on empty in the early rounds and only barely survived another test against Ian Nepomniachtchi.

In Round 5 he lost what was briefly a winning position against Firouzja, before suffering another heavy loss with the black pieces in Round 7, to Anish Giri. It could have been a bitter aftermath to the greatest success of his career, but the final round provided some relief, as Ding comprehensively outplayed Bogdan-Daniel Deac with the black pieces.

The win saw him return to the world no. 3 spot where he’d started the event, even if with a different player above him, and you might joke that Ding had failed to get out of his Astana mindset i.e. you don’t need to play chess brilliantly, just a little bit better than Ian Nepomniachtchi!

Ian Nepomniachtchi, 3.5/9 (1 win, 5 draws, 3 losses), 9th place, $13,000

It was doubly tough for Nepomniachtchi, since he didn’t have the positive emotions of winning the World Championship to compensate for his exhaustion. A bright start quickly soured, until most things that could go wrong did go wrong for him in Bucharest.

The familiar flaw of rushed moves in critical positions was on display, and it felt as though Ian was on an extended tilt. The last game was perhaps the most bitter, since Nepomniachtchi had applied heavy pressure to Anish Giri and managed to reach a winning position, only to let it slip.

This was the key moment:

48…Qg3+! 49.Kh1 Qf4! 50.Qc2 Ng3+! and it’s all over.

51.Kg1 Qe3+ 52.Kh2 Qe1 and that checkmate Ian talked about can’t be stopped. The only alternative is 51.Kh2, but then simply 51…Nf5+ wins the knight on d6, and with it the game.

Instead after 48…Ng3? Anish survived, and Ian had dropped from 2nd at the start of the event to 4th on the live rating list after losing 15 points.

The slim consolation was that he didn’t finish rock bottom.

Bogdan-Daniel Deac, 3/9 (6 draws, 3 losses), 10th place, $10,500

Local star Bogdan-Daniel Deac has tended to over-perform in Bucharest. In 2021 he beat and finished above Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, while in 2022 he ended up tied for 4th place after beating Richard Rapport and finishing on 50%.

This time, however, there was little to celebrate, with Bogdan-Daniel losing three games, all with the white pieces, and becoming the only player to win none. It wasn’t a disaster for the lowest-rated player in the event, but must still have been disappointing.

The next event on the Grand Chess Tour, the Superbet Warsaw Rapid & Blitz, starts in just six days, with six of the same players competing. We won’t get to see Ding Liren vs. Magnus Carlsen just yet, however, since Ding has been granted a much needed break!

Stay tuned for all the action here on chess24.

See also:


Source link

Superbet Chess Classic 8: Duda shocks Firouzja


Jan-Krzysztof Duda won his first classical game of chess in 9.5 months after Alireza Firouzja’s decision to dodge an early draw backfired spectacularly. That means Fabiano Caruana goes into the final round of the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest as the sole leader after he managed to draw against Anish Giri with 7 minutes more on his clock than he’d started with. The remaining three games were uneventful draws.

The Superbet Chess Classic has been a long, tough tournament, and it was only Alireza Firouzja’s youth energy that prevented all five games ending in draws in Round 8.

If there was one result that seemed certain going into Round 8 it was that Ding Liren and Richard Rapport would make a quick draw after their months of working together on World Championship preparation.

They did, but it wasn’t quite as quick as Ian Nepomniachtchi’s draw against Wesley So.

The infamous 14-move Berlin draw was the product of Ian just wanting things to be over and Wesley having nothing against an easy draw with the black pieces against a man Anish Giri would describe as, “probably the best prepared player in the world right now”.

On paper Maxime Vachier-Lagrave would be expected to push hard against underdog Bogdan-Daniel Deac, but after getting nothing much out of the opening Maxime made a draw by repetition in just 21 moves.

Caruana-Giri was another draw in which the balance was never upset, but it was a different beast entirely. Anish summed up afterwards:

What can I say? Great prep by Fabiano! Everything went according to his plan, but yeah, I was very lucky. I told him after the game, I’m very sorry, normally I lose today… I just found all the moves and I didn’t know any of this. Normally I find such sequences only if I’ve seen them before.

In an Italian Game, Fabiano pushed d4 at a moment few players had tried before, and then went for the tricky 13.Ba3.

13.Qb3, when Black’s play in reply is forced, was the standard approach, but now Caruana was giving Giri options, which took the Dutchman 28 minutes to ponder.

13…d5?! is a move you want to play, but Anish spotted the trick that Fabiano explained afterwards: 14.Bxd5 exd4 15.c4! cements the bishop on d5.

There were many options, but Anish ultimately correctly went for the most forcing, 13…exd4!, and play continued 14.Qb3 d5! 15.exd5 dxc3 16.Rxe8+ Qxe8 17.Re1

Anish could have moved his queen and the game would continue, but he’d spotted something better — a solution Fabiano had known all along.

17…Qxe1+! 18.Nxe1 cxd2 19.Nf3 Ne4! 20.d6! Nxf2! 21.Bxf7+ Kh8 22.Nxd2 Ne4+! 23.Kh1 Nf2+ 24.Kg1 and the players repeated moves for a draw.

Giri joked about spotting the draw by perpetual check:

I think it’s all the mocking over the years! I’ve become very good at spotting perpetual checks, and all sorts of different drawing patterns, from all the memes. So all the mocking is rubbing off and eventually it helps, it helps actually.

It was a bittersweet feeling for Fabiano.

I played a game with more time on my clock when I finished! You don’t, unfortunately, get extra points for the time you saved up during the tournament.

By the end of the day, however, sweetness would prevail, since Fabiano’s co-leader Alireza Firouzja was punished for his ambition. In hindsight, Jan-Krzysztof Duda’s approach of absolute solidity proved inspired, but he admitted he’d only wanted to get the tournament over and done with.

It’s of course a very nice feeling to win the first game in like a year in classical chess. It’s kind of unexpected, because before the round I was feeling quite bad and actually decided to wrap it up, but my opponent got ambitious after the opening and I got a better position.

The Polish no. 1 had last won a game of classical chess 9.5 months ago in Round 3 of the Chennai Olympiad, and it was a memorable one.

Beating Alireza Firouzja, live no. 2 on the world rating list, is at least as memorable, though it looked unlikely when Duda went for the notoriously solid Exchange Slav, and then a drawish line within it.

Duda pointed out, before the audio failed completely from Bucharest, that the main move here, 14…Rc8, is “known since the Stone Age”. 12.Ne5 Ng4 13.Nxg4 Bxg4 14.Qb4 Rxc6 15.Qxb7 and a draw is the overwhelmingly likely outcome — though Velimir Ivic managed to lose with Black in the final round of the Tata Steel Challengers this year, when Alexander Donchenko had only been trying to force the draw he needed to clinch 1st place

Instead, however, Alireza thought for 18 minutes before deciding to keep the game alive with 11…Ne4!?, and that wasn’t the end of his ambition.

It very soon became clear that Alireza was only creating trouble for himself, however, since Duda methodically went about winning the a7-pawn, an echo of what Firouzja himself had done to Ian Nepomniachtchi the day before.

Firouzja had some hopes on the kingside, and also the hopes connected to his sheer talent. As Anish Giri noted:

He’s one of those players who’s always lucky, to the point that you start wondering, ‘maybe it’s not just luck?’

Largely, however, things just went from bad to worse for Alireza, who found himself two pawns down, but was given one last lifeline when, with under a minute on his clock, Duda played 40.g4?! That allowed 40…c5! in a version that would come very close to equalising fully.

40…Ra1+ would also have reached the time control while spoiling nothing, but instead, with just two seconds to spare, Alireza went for another check, 40…Re2+?, which spoilt everything.

The problem after 41.Kd1 is that 41…c5 no longer works, with 42.Rxd5+! the flashiest reply. If the bishop captures, the rook on e2 is undefended, but 42…Kxd5 runs into 43.Nf4+, with the same outcome of the black rook being lost.

Firouzja needed to move the rook with 41..Ra2 but that allowed 42.g5 and now after 42…c5 the g-pawn could run further with 43.g6! The outcome of the game was no longer in doubt, and Alireza resigned on move 48.

That meant that Alireza Firouzja dropped back to the 4-way tie for 2nd place, with Fabiano Caruana going into Monday’s final round as the sole leader.

If Fabiano Caruana beats Richard Rapport with the black pieces, he wins the tournament outright. If he draws he’ll at least tie for 1st place, but can be caught by Firouzja (White vs. MVL), So (White vs. Duda) or Giri (White vs. Nepomniachtchi), when we’ll get a rapid playoff. If Fabi loses, Richard Rapport will leapfrog him into 1st place on 5.5, but could again be caught by Firouzja, So and Giri.

Tune into all the Superbet Chess Classic games from ONE HOUR EARLIER, 13:30 CEST!

See also:


Source link

Superbet Chess Classic 7: Firouzja catches Caruana


Anish Giri has become the latest player to beat Ding Liren after the World Champion allowed a powerful piece sacrifice on move 11 in Round 7 of the Superbet Chess Classic. Ding has dropped to last place, but he has the company of his World Championship challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi, who was put to the sword by Alireza Firouzja. The young star now co-leads with Fabiano Caruana going into the final two rounds.

Round 7 of the Superbet Chess Challenge was a repeat of Round 5, with both of the 2023 World Championship participants crashing to heavy defeats.

There was no distraction from those two games, since the remaining three games were relatively uneventful draws. Wesley So showed zero ambition against Fabiano Caruana and took a 24-move draw, Duda-MVL featured an offbeat opening but never flared into life, while it felt as though the drama in the longest game of the day, Rapport-Deac, wasn’t really on the chessboard.

Since switching to the Romanian Chess Federation, Richard Rapport has taken over Bogdan-Daniel Deac’s no. 1 spot, and the relationship looks strained. There was a curious start, as Richard decided to leave the ceremonial opening move on the board, while Bogdan-Daniel wanted him to take the move back and then make it again himself.

After that, commentator Cristian Chirila revealed that his father, working as an arbiter at the event, had been approached by Richard with a complaint about Bogdan-Daniel hitting the clock too hard after his moves. We never got open conflict on the board, however, with just one pair of pawns swapped off before a draw on move 63.

In his Round 7 post-game interview, Fabiano Caruana commented of Ding Liren’s near loss to Wesley So the day before:

The way he played just showed a lack of feeling of danger. Something’s very off.

That would apply even more to Round 7, where, despite Anish Giri playing his moves instantly, Ding Liren decided to go for 10…g5?, inviting a piece sacrifice on g5.

It was the worst possible scenario for Ding, since Anish, with Jan Gustafsson as his second, knew the position.

I remembered that this move order is not very good, because the sac here is strong… I was fortunate that I’d looked at this.

For the remainder of the game Ding was on the ropes, constantly trying to find ways to avoid immediate disaster. There were opportunities as well, for instance on move 16.

The computer claims 16…Bxe3+! as 0.00, with the follow-up 17.fxe3 Nb8! and the knight coming to d7 to relieve its pinned colleague on f6.

That was a theme that would return later, but in a much trickier situation, after Anish Giri found the essential 22.Qe2! to keep an advantage.

What to do about the attacked bishop on e6? The best option was again to give up the dark-squared bishop with 22…Bxe3+! 23.fxe3 and then play 23…Bg4!, when after 24.hxg4 Ne4! Black has real counterplay.

Instead Ding picked the simpler way to get something for the bishop with 22…Bxh3!? 23.gxh3 Kf8 24.h4 Bd4.

Here Anish Giri’s 25.Rxd4!? exd4 26.Nf5 was an echo of Ding Liren’s first win in the match against Ian Nepomniachtchi, though in this case it was only the computer’s third choice in the position. Anish explained, however, that he dreaded the ridicule if he’d missed a chance to beat the World Champion by not playing such a move.

He needn’t have worried, as in the following sequence he played the computer’s first choice for eight moves in a row, by which stage he was totally winning. For instance, he found the most clinical finish of exchanging off one of the knights with 30.Nh6+! and after 30…Nxh6 he didn’t recapture.

31.Qxe5! was more powerful, and Giri would later force resignation with another queen move, 36.Qc3+!.

The black knight on g4 can’t be saved, and the endgame is completely hopeless for Black.

That means that despite a very slow start, Anish Giri is suddenly right back in the hunt for 1st place in another supertournament. He also holds the bragging rights of having beaten both World Champion Magnus Carlsen, in Wijk aan Zee, and now World Champion Ding Liren. In fact, he also beat Ding in Wijk, so Anish could claim even more.

Of course, I’m happy to defeat the World Champion. This year I’ve beaten a World Champion you could say thrice. It’s hard to say, because I beat Magnus when he was a champion, then I beat Ding before he was a champion, and now I’ve beaten him again, so I’m really happy with that.

There’s serious competition for bragging rights, however, since 19-year-old Alireza Firouzja can now say he’s beaten both the World Champion and the runner-up, Ian Nepomniachtchi, in the same tournament. There’s clear water between him as world no. 2 and the chasing pack, though of course there’s an even bigger gap to Magnus Carlsen as world no. 1.

Firouzja-Nepomniachtchi in many ways followed a similar scenario to the Giri-Ding game. Alireza commented of winning with a quiet opening setup:

It feels great. Ian has a very solid repertoire with Black, so it’s really difficult to get a game against him… It’s not anything special, but it’s interesting, to get a game at least.

We didn’t get a dramatic sacrifice the way we did in the Giri game, but with 23.Qxa7 Alireza had won a pawn.

“It’s not easy for Black because he’s down a pawn”, said the youngster, and Nepomniachtchi needed to play accurately to hold the balance. 23…Ng6! was the correct move here, not 23…Nf5!?, and on move 26 Ian missed another chance to equalise with 26…Nh4!

Alireza, meanwhile, was able to win the game by playing absolutely logical moves. After grabbing the a7-pawn he pushed his queenside pawns to create a passed pawn, with the situation critical after 28.a5. Once more, Ian’s Achilles’ heel of playing too fast in such positions returned, and he went for the losing 28…Qe2?

At a glance the move looks powerful. There’s no time to defend the f3-pawn with 29.Kg2? due to 29…Nxe3+, but there was a crucial detail in the position. After 29.a6! Qxf3 Alireza had 30.Qg4!

After 30…Qxg4+ 31.hxg4 Nd6 32.Be5 Black has to give up the knight to stop the pawn. Ian’s 30…Qd5 31.e4 Qxb5 32.Ba1!? Qxa6 33.exf5 featured the same trade of a piece to stop the pawn, but here Nepomniachtchi got a glimmer of hope, since he was able to sacrifice his queen for a position with some chances to hold.

Alireza said he wasn’t a believer in the fortress, but there might have been a tough fight ahead if after 37.h4 Ian hadn’t immediately weakened his king position with 37…g6? but instead gone for 37…Rg6+.

As it was, Alireza was able to manoeuvre until the perfect opportunity arose to give up his queen for Black’s rook. 57.Qxf7+! ended the game.

After the heavy pieces are traded the pawn endgame is an easy win for White.

That means that with just two rounds to go Alireza Firouzja has caught Fabiano Caruana in the lead, while Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren join Bogdan-Daniel Deac in last place.

They really need a win, but Ding faces his second Richard Rapport in Round 8, while Nepomniachtchi is up against the rock solid Wesley So. For the leaders, meanwhile, there are also interesting battles ahead, with Caruana White against Anish Giri, while Firouzja is Black against Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

Tune into all the Superbet Chess Classic games from 14:30 CEST!

See also:


Source link

Superbet Chess Classic 6: So & Caruana miss wins


‌Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So missed gilt-edged chances as all games were drawn in Round 6 of the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest. World Champion Ding Liren was fighting hard but might still have suffered a 2nd loss in a row if not for Wesley taking a draw by repetition. Caruana leads but would be much closer to overall victory if he’d beaten Alireza Firouzja. Instead a careless 41st move spoilt all his efforts.

For the first time in the 2023 Superbet Chess Classic all games ended in draws in Round 6.

Despite the draws, there were no quick peace agreements in Round 6. Nepomniachtchi-Duda was the kind of sharp clash you’d expect between such combative players, with Jan-Krzysztof finding a nice way to hold a draw. 28…Qd5! was not a mouse-slip.

After 29.Rxd5? cxd5 the white queen and rook would be forked, and with the d-pawn also falling, and White’s back rank weak, it’s Black who would have winning chances. Ian instead retreated his queen and the game was soon drawn by a repetition of moves.

Deac-Giri was a Najdorf, but if Anish was playing for a win after five draws it came closer to backfiring. Bogdan-Daniel manoeuvred nicely to get his best winning chances of the tournament so far, but the game fizzled out into another draw by repetition, on move 34.

The longest game of the day saw Maxime Vachier-Lagrave make a bold new move against Richard Rapport’s French.

It was a game that always seemed on the verge of an explosion, but it never came, and Richard forced a draw by perpetual check on move 49.

The greatest action came in the two games where the most was at stake. Alireza Firouzja commented, “when Fabi’s on form it’s very difficult to play against him”, and found himself outplayed in the opening by leader Fabiano Caruana.

Alireza then felt he’d been “too optimistic” as he got into more trouble, with the clock also his enemy. He played 35…e6?! with under 30 seconds to spare.

“Of course it should be lost,” said Alireza, who had struggled with knights on the rim all game, first on a5 and now on a4.

Play continued 36.Rb7 Rc8 37.Ng4 Rf8 38.Nh6+ Kh8 39.Nf7+ Kg8 40.Nd6 f5 and, with the time control reached, Fabiano got another 30 minutes to ponder his options.

Instead he took just five minutes to play 41.Nc4?, which gave up all winning chances on the spot. 41…Rf7! left Fabiano no way to avoid an exchange of rooks, when the knight endgame would be a trivial draw. The game soon ended 42.Rb8+ Rf8 43.Rb7 Rf7 and moves were repeated for a draw.

“It was a cold shower,” said Alireza, who saw Fabiano slump back in his chair when he realised 41.Nc4? was a blunder. Alireza pointed out:

If he plays 41.Rc7! I will lose the game, slowly, slowly… It was just luck that he missed Nc4 when he got the time, 30 minutes.

That wasn’t the most surprising end to a game of the day, however, with Ding Liren-So ending when it was seemingly still in the heat of battle. Alireza commented:

This is typical Wesley. He wins one game in the tournament and makes draws, but this is weird!

Ding Liren had a day to recover from his loss to Firouzja, but the way he started his game with the white pieces against Wesley So was anything but convincing. Already on move 14 he was choosing between difficult options.

The problem is that 14.0-0 runs into 14…d5! and Black is better, but that was the best option available.

Instead, after half an hour, Ding went for 14.Nh3!? d5! 15.Bf4 Qe7 16.cxd5 cxd5 and then didn’t castle long, which might have been some justification for his aggressive approach, but tried to hold things together with 17.Nf2!? Ne6 18.Be3.

Wesley continued his strong, natural play with 18…d4! 19.Bxd4 Rd8! and suddenly only tactical measures were keeping Ding above water. First attacking the black queen with 20.Bxf6 Qxf6 and then again with 21.Ng4!

After 21…Qg5, Wesley correctly felt 22.h4!? was a mistake. He thought for 20 minutes, telling Cristian Chirila:

I felt his position was very close to collapsing, but I just couldn’t find a knockout blow.

After 22…Qa5 23.Qb5 Qc7 24.Nd5 Qg3+! 29.Kf1 there was a chance.

25…Rxd5! was the best move, and Wesley said that following 26.exd5 Nf4! 27.Ne3 Wesley he’d seen the essential move 27…a6!, but after 28.Qa5 Bd7 29.Qe1 he missed how powerful it is simply to retreat the queen with 29…Qg6!

Wesley was understandably cautious about going for a position where he was down an exchange and a pawn, but the threats of moves such as Bc5, Re8 are lethal.

25…Bd7!? retained an advantage for Black, but Ding was beginning to show the kind of tactical defence that had so often saved him against Ian Nepomniachtchi in their match. Wesley was surprised after 26.Qa5 Nd4.

Here Ding decided to pick up Wesley’s queen with 27.Rd1!? Nxe2 28.Rh3! b6! 29.Qa6 Bxg4! 30.Rxg3 Nxg3 31.Ke1! Be6 and we had a new and interesting position.

It was still good for Black, but 32.Qb7!? proved to be, if not the best move in the position, then an excellent practical decision by Ding Liren. After 32…Rdb8 33.Qc7 Nh5 34.g4 Nf6 35.Ne7+ Bxe7 36.Qxe7 Re8 37.Qb7 Wesley decided to make a draw by chasing Ding’s queen back and forth between b7 and e7.

Wesley had a clear material advantage, a rook and two pieces for a queen and pawn, and could have played on by, for instance, pushing his h or b-pawns at the right moment. He could in any case have made the time control at little risk and got an extra 30 minutes to ponder his options.

Initially, when confronted by the computer evaluation that he was close to winning, he commented:

I just thought things went out of control. It doesn’t even make sense looking at the computer these days, because they’re just too strong and the evaluation is inhuman, so totally unrealistic, but I thought the position was very complicated at that stage. I was also disappointed that I missed a very good winning chance against Deac the other day, so I wasn’t especially hoping for much today.

As the post-game interview went on Wesley became harder on himself.

Now that I see the evaluation it was very stupid for me to repeat, but during the game I wasn’t 100% sure who’s better, or how much better I really am.

How would he get over his miss?

I’ve been doing this for 8.5 years, so it’s just another day in the office for me.

That peaceful outcome means that with three rounds to go Fabiano Caruana still leads by half a point ahead of Alireza Firouzja, Wesley So and Richard Rapport, while the World Championship players Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi are on a minus score.

So has a chance to leapfrog into the lead when he has White against Caruana in Saturday’s Round 7, while Firouzja-Nepomniachtchi and Rapport-Deac are the other games that are likely to affect the lead. Of course Duda-MVL and Giri-Ding also have the potential for fireworks.

Tune into all the Superbet Chess Classic games from 14:30 CEST!

See also:


Source link

Superbet Classic 5: Firouzja world no. 2 after beating Ding


19-year-old Alireza Firouzja has regained the world no. 2 spot after beating World Champion Ding Liren in Round 5 of the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest. Ding had winning chances of his own, as did Ian Nepomniachtchi, who for most of the round was putting pressure on Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. A few careless moves, however, and MVL took over to make it a red-letter day for French chess.

Sometimes the last day before a rest day can be quiet, with the players reluctant to risk spoiling their mood with a loss, but not this time, as both players from the recent World Championship match were put to the sword.

The headline result was the first loss as a World Champion for Ding Liren, especially as it came at the hands of the man Magnus Carlsen said he would have played a match against, Alireza Firouzja. The 19-year-old, who has lost four classical games and won none against Magnus, was asked how it felt to beat a World Champion.

I feel really happy. For sure it’s an easier World Champion than Magnus…

He seemed to realise he’d gone a bit far, before adding:

Of course, Ding is very strong, and I’m very happy to get this victory, because now I moved to +1, and it’s really important.

The opening was an echo of the match, as Ding Liren repeated the Anti-Berlin he’d played in Game 9 against Ian Nepomniachtchi. That game was played the day after training games between Ding and his second Richard Rapport, which featured this line, had become public knowledge.

Although Firouzja varied here with 9.Qc2, the players transposed and followed the earlier game until 11.h3.

The scenario of Game 9 of the match was also repeated, in that Ding seemed to get an excellent position out of the opening but then handled it unconvincingly. Firouzja felt that 18…h5 was “a bit aggressive” and called 20…g6?! “a terrible move” that left the black king weak.

21.Nd2! Nc5 and then the pawn sacrifice 22.Nf3! was the correct punishment, but after 22…hxg3 23.fxg3 Ncxe4 Firouzja confessed to losing his way.

His original plan wasn’t working.

First I thought I’m winning with 24.Qc2? in my calculation, but of course, 24…Qc5! and I lose! This was the first cold shower.

In that line it would be too late to retreat the c4-bishop, since 25.Ba2? would run into the crunching 25…Rd2+! and White has to give up the queen to stop checkmate.

24.Ba2! immediately, however, was the key move, and another echo of Game 9 of the match. Alireza called it “very difficult”, however, explaining that it was largely prophylactic to get the bishop out of the way of the coming Nd6.

Instead Alireza went for 24.Ng5?!, which he admitted “was not a good move”, though he also felt he should be no worse. The computer doesn’t entirely agree, and soon Alireza conceded things had gotten out of hand for him. The critical moment came when Ding chose the wrong knight on move 30 after thinking for almost 7 minutes.

Instead 30…Nde4! was winning, but only if you found the follow-up 31.Nxf7 Rxd1! 32.Rxd1 Nf2!, with the black queen getting the e4-square to attack the white king. Alireza called that “really crazy”, giving up the d-file for no obvious reason, while moves such as Bh6+ and Ng5 are in the air.

Just how difficult it all was to calculate was shown by Ding Liren after the game suggesting to Firouzja that 30…Nde4 was winning, but because of the follow-up 31.Nxf7 Rd2!?. In fact Ding’s line would lead to disaster: 32.Rxd2 Nxd2 33.Bh6+ Kh7 34.Rf4 Nh5? (34…Nde4! should hold).

Alireza pointed out 35.Ng5+! wins for White, with 35…Kxh6 running into 36.Rf7!, threatening mate-in-1 if the queen moves away.

In hindsight 30…Rf8, defending the f7-pawn, might have been a good practical choice for Ding, even if it feels strange to take a defender away from the e-pawn. Alireza felt at this point that Ding had settled for a draw, though it’s also possible that the Chinese star felt the forced line after 30…Nfe4 was simply winning.

31.Bxd6 Nxd6 32.Bxf7 Nxf7 33.Rxf7+ Qxf7 34.Nxf7 Rxd1 35.Qxd1 led to a position you could easily misjudge.

35…e2 would be winning for Black if not for 36.Qd7! e1=Q and then the only winning move 37.Ne5+!

It’s mate-in-5.

Ding avoided that pitfall with 35…Kxf7, but after 36.Qe2 his next decision would cost him any chances of saving the game.

Firouzja felt he should be winning, but it seems Black might still be able to hold after 36…Kg7, or 36…Bc5, preparing to put the bishop on the more promising d6-square. Instead Ding thought for almost five minutes before abandoning the g6-pawn with 36…Ke7? Firouzja commented:

He thought here for 3-4 minutes and he thought that he’s just lost and he gave up, I think. He just wanted to make some move in the last chance.

Alireza understood he needed to get his king to safety, as he did with 37.Kf1 Rf8+ 38.Ke1, while 38…Rf2 only looked threatening.

“The rest is just easy”, said Alireza, who played 39.Qg4!, taking advantage of the weak g6-pawn, and then began pushing his pawns. Ding conceded defeat on move 52.

That win saw Alireza leapfrog Ding into the world no. 3 spot on the live rating list, but he didn’t have to wait long until he’d climbed to no. 2.

That was because Ian Nepomniachtchi, who just a couple of days ago had been on the brink of beating Ding Liren and crossing 2800 for the first time, instead drew that game, lost to Fabiano Caruana and now, in Round 5, crashed and burned against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

For most of the game that seemed a very unlikely outcome. You might have thought Nepomniachtchi was on tilt when he began with the Alapin, 1.e4 c5 2.c3, but he played fast and well, while Maxime admitted he’d misjudged the endgame. In fact he went as far as to say:

My position was shitty, there’s no other words! Pardon my French…

Maxime explained the issue:

He keeps all the pieces, my pawns are sometimes weak, and I don’t have so much space for my minor pieces.

Even relatively early on, however, you could ask some questions about Ian’s speed of play, for instance in going for 19.Ne3.

19.a5!? was at least an interesting try. Nevertheless, it was only around move 30 that White’s grip on the position weakened. Opening the h-file helped Maxime, while 35.Bd6 ran into the fine move 35…Nd7!

Before the bishop came to d6 the d-file was off limits for the knight, but now suddenly it had the perfect jumping off square on the way to c5 or e5. Maxime commented, “And here I thought 36.Bc7, he has to bail out, but of course it’s tempting to keep playing…”.

36.b3!? was played after 10 minutes, with Maxime finding the strong reply 36…f6!, and after 37.Ba3!? Ne5! the Frenchman was already taking over. A couple more moves, 38.Bb2 Rch8 39.Kf2? and Maxime was completely winning.

39…Rh2+! 40.Ng2 and only then 40…Nc5! is the computer-approved kill, but 39…Nc5 was also strong, and Maxime was suddenly a beast in the final stages of the game.

48…Rxf1+! 49.Kxf1 Rh1+ 50.Kf2 Ne4+ 51.Kxf3 (51.Ke3 Nxd2 52.Kxd2 f2 and the pawn queens) 51…Nxd2+ and MVL had won a piece. He then put no foot wrong before forcing resignation with the little tactic 58…a3!

59.Rxb3 loses the rook to 59…Rh3+. That win means that Maxime now has an even more incredible classical score against Ian of 7 wins to 1.

Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi may feel united in regretting agreeing to play in a major tournament so soon after an exhausting World Championship match, though of course in advance they had no way of knowing that it would go all the way to tiebreaks.

The remaining games in Bucharest were drawn, but only Duda-Caruana was relatively swift. Afterwards Jan-Krzysztof was kicking himself for not having looked at Fabiano’s 13…Ne7, a move played before by Levon Aronian and Daniil Dubov, while preparing:

Today also was another brilliancy, because I totally forgot to check the Ne7 move. It’s the main move…

Despite being out of book, however, you couldn’t really fault a single move Duda made in the remainder of the game. When Fabi forced a draw by perpetual check it brought an end to his 2-game winning streak.

That draw meant that Wesley So and Richard Rapport had a chance to catch Fabiano in the lead, and both came close.

Wesley predictably took few risks but nevertheless applied heavy pressure with the white pieces against tournament underdog Bogdan-Daniel Deac. It came close to working, but the difference between this and many of the Romanian’s other games in the tournament was that he was the player up on the clock.

Richard Rapport had the black pieces, but played the French against Anish Giri, got a new position in under 10 moves, and, when queens were traded, looked to have real winning chances. The white pieces all returned to the back rank and it seemed Black would be able to gradually up the pressure. As it turned out, however, it was necessary to act fast.

31…e3! might have kept winning chances, while after 31…f5 32.b5! White had sufficient counterplay. In fact it briefly seemed as though Anish might be able to nurse a passed c-pawn to victory, before the game fizzled out into a draw.

That meant Fabiano Caruana remains the sole leader going into the rest day, but Alireza Firouzja’s two wins in a row have seen him join Wesley So and Richard Rapport in 2nd place.

The battle for 1st place resumes with a vengeance on Friday with Caruana-Firouzja, Ding-So and MVL-Rapport.

Tune into all the Superbet Chess Classic games from 14:30 CEST!

See also:


Source link

Superbet Chess Classic 4: Caruana beats Nepomniachtchi


Fabiano Caruana won his first ever classical game against Ian Nepomniachtchi to take the sole lead after Round 4 of the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest. Fabiano described it as “really satisfying” to outplay his opponent from a position where a draw looked inevitable. The day’s other winner was Alireza Firouzja, who scored his first classical win in 8 months after bamboozling Bogdan-Daniel Deac in a complicated clash.

Round 4 of the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest, Romania saw world no. 7 Fabiano Caruana and no. 4 Alireza Firouzja pick up wins.

At one point it looked as though all five games in Round 4 might end in draws, with most of the interest concentrated in opening nuances. For instance, Ding Liren’s 6.a3!? felt like a leftover World Championship idea from the Richard Rapport laboratory.

The move discourages an early c5, while Jan-Krzysztof Duda’s novelty in reply, 6…b5, didn’t cause Ding to start thinking. Soon he’d played e4 and looked to have a small edge, but the game fizzled out fast into a totally locked position.

Duda’s bishop would usually be considered “good”, and Ding’s “bad”, but here it doesn’t make the slightest difference.

Like Ding, Anish Giri has also drawn all of his games so far. In Round 4 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played the Scotch and got in an early h4, an echo of the game he’d lost to Caruana the day before.

MVL appeared to have the advantage of a slightly better pawn structure, but was happy to take a draw by repetition when the opportunity arose.

The remaining draw, Rapport-So, was also nothing to write home about, with both players retaining their +1 score. That brings us to the day’s decisive action.

At first Caruana-Nepomniachtchi promised little, especially when Fabiano Caruana missed a chance after 16…Bc7!?

With the c-file blocked and the black bishop no longer on the a1-h8 diagonal, 17.Na4 was strong, but Fabiano took just a minute and a half to play 17.Ne2. He immediately regretted it.

I had nothing out of the opening. I thought he kind of got careless a little bit and then I got careless… Bc7 allows Na4, and right after I played Ne2 I was like, why didn’t I play Na4 and have a very pleasant position? For a long time, we were just playing instantly and nothing was happening.

No draw offers are allowed in Bucharest, but there’s nothing to stop draws by 3-fold repetition, and Fabiano admitted that if Nepomniachtchi had played 35…Kg8 he would have replied 36.Kg1 and a draw would almost certainly have followed.

Instead 35…Ke7 saw Fabiano become interested again, while after 37.Nc2! he could see that his queen could enter the black position.

Here Nepomniachtchi took a decision he would live to regret, playing 37…Ne4+!? 38.Bxe4 dxe4 39.Nd4, which was a change of scenery Fabiano welcomed.

I was happy, because I could never risk in this position. It’s of course a draw, but if I don’t trade queens then I have absolutely no risk.

Suddenly, and surprisingly, the position became very sharp, until Ian Nepomniachtchi made another f5-move that would end badly, 45…f5?!

The move was played after 12 seconds, but for once it would be unfair to consider it a rushed decision at a critical moment, since Ian had obviously planned it in the 23 minutes he spent on his previous move. Other options are also unappealing, involving the immediate surrender of a pawn, since 45…Qe7? 46.Qc7! is completely lost.

Fabiano described 45…f5 46.Qc7! in the game as “borderline winning”, since it turns out the black queenside pawns can’t be saved. It remained tricky, however, with Fabiano calling Nepomniachtchi’s waiting move 52…Kh8 an “absolutely brilliant resource”. After deep thought, Fabiano correctly decided to push his pawns.

That was allowing the scary 55…Bc4, but Fabiano had seen that 56.Qd8+ Kh7 57.Qd1 held everything together.

Fabiano was low on time, but the technical conversion of his advantage was close to flawless. Even a move the computer flags as an inaccuracy, 63.Qd2, looked to have been a good practical decision to untangle at the cost of one of the pawns.

Fabiano won the game by realising he could give away the second pawn as well, with a move he said he was lucky to have, 68.Qc1!

After 68…Bxb5 (Black has nothing better) 69.Qc7+! it turns out Black is losing the b5-bishop with checks. Nepomniachtchi didn’t delay the inevitable, and after 69…Kf8 70.Qc5+ he resigned, since the bishop will fall next move.

That was surprisingly Fabiano Caruana’s first ever classical win over Ian Nepomniachtchi, though that’s partly down to Nepomniachtchi having spent many years somewhat below the elite level, so that they’d played a relatively low 13 games (12 draws, one win for Nepo). Fabi was understandably happy.

This is a very, very important game. It’s really satisfying also because Ian just played a World Championship match and I didn’t achieve anything in the opening, but still I was outplaying him.

The day’s other win was also noteworthy, with Alireza Firouzja winning a classical game of chess for the first time since beating Wesley So in the penultimate round of the Sinquefield Cup eight months ago. Firouzja said after beating Bogdan-Daniel Deac:

As I said yesterday, my game throughout the tournament is a decent level, I think, just my results are not good, and now I’m happy that I got this win. He’s a very solid player with White and it’s kind of impossible to beat him with Black.

Alireza had essentially been lost after 10 moves against Deac a year ago at the same event, so this time he decided to take a quieter approach.

For me today my plan was to just play solid with Black. Last year I played the King’s Indian against him. This year for me a draw was ok.

It wouldn’t stay quiet for long, however, with Deac going for the correct 11.b4! (11…Bxb4 12.Nxd5!)

Alireza wasn’t sure that was a wise idea.

He got very aggressive with b4!? I think it’s a good move, but I think there is no need, just Rc1 or something.

Bogdan-Daniel followed up with what was in fact a pawn sacrifice, 11…Bc7 12.b5!? (Alireza pointed out 12.e4 was a more logical follow-up) 12…Nb6 13.bxc6 dxc4 14.Qc2 bxc6, but got into trouble, with Firouzja feeling that 19…c3! was the moment things “got out of hand” for White.

20.Qxc3 is met by 20…Qxa2, while after 20.Nd3 Black was also better.

“I like the fact that it’s complicated!” said Firouzja, though he also noted his opponent “played perfectly”, and it briefly seemed Deac might take over when he spotted a move Alireza had missed, 24.e4!

“Just brilliant!” said Alireza, but after 24…Qd8!? 25.Rfd1 exd4 he said he was confused that his opponent didn’t go for the strong 26.Bb2!, instead playing 26.Qxd4. Time was becoming more and more of a factor, and eventually the constant need to find tricky solutions took its toll. Deac lost the thread around move 32.

Firouzja noted 32.Kg2!, 33.Qf3 “is a solid plan”, but instead 32.Bc1?! Rb8 33.Qa4?! Rd1 left Deac needing to find clever hidden resources to survive. The moment of no return came after 34.Rd2 Rxf1+ 35.Kxf1 Nb6.

36.Qd1! and the damage is limited to losing the h-pawn, but after 36.Qxc6? Qxh2 there was no defence, as the black pieces suddenly began to coordinate perfectly for an attack. After 37.Nd3 Qh1+ 38.Ke2 Bd4! 39.Rd1 Qh5+ 40.Ke1 Rc8 41.Qb7 Qf3 Deac resigned.

White’s paralysed army has no defence against e.g. Re8-Rxe4+.

That win takes Alireza Firouzja back to 50% and sets up his clash with the white pieces against Ding Liren in Round 5 nicely. Fabiano Caruana, meanwhile, has taken the sole lead, and has Black against Duda.

Nepomniachtchi-MVL may be a chance for Ian to bounce back immediately, while Wesley So is likely to be out to score a win when he takes on Bogdan-Daniel Deac. Don’t miss the last round before the rest day.

Tune into all the Superbet Chess Classic games from 14:30 CEST!

See also:


Source link

Superbet Chess Classic 3: Ding thwarts Nepo again


Ding Liren confessed “I forgot the moves” as he stumbled into a close to lost position against Ian Nepomniachtchi in Round 3 of the Superbet Chess Classic. Just as in the second half of the match, however, Ding managed to survive, thus denying his opponent a 2800 rating. Elsewhere the one decisive game saw Fabiano Caruana beat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in only 23 moves to join Richard Rapport, Wesley So and Nepo in the lead.

There was just one decisive game in Round 3 of the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest.

Going into Round 3, all eyes were on the clash between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren, a chance for Ian to get some small measure of revenge after losing the World Championship match in Astana.

Ian chose to go for 1.d4, a move he’d played only in Game 3 of the match. Back then Ding had scored one of his easiest draws with the black pieces in a game that was notable for the Chinese star declaring he’d recovered from his mental issues at the start of the match. This time, however, things didn’t go to plan. Was he expecting 1.d4?

Not today, but I prepared d4 during the World Championship match after he first employed it in Round 3, so actually I prepared this line, but today I forgot the moves.

Ding was the first to vary, on move 6, choosing to head for a passive but hard to break down endgame.

It wasn’t clear exactly where he left his opening preparation, but he wrongly felt that 13.f4! was a move that needed to be punished for its weakening of the e3-square. 13…Bc2?! was a mistake.

The computer was already signalling big problems ahead for Black, and Ian Nepomniachtchi correctly went for 14.Rc1! Bb3 15.Nb1!

The bishop on b3 is about to be attacked by the knight, the b-pawn can’t move because of Rxc6, the white knight is coming to the wonderful f5-square, and White has almost completed development.

Ding Liren sank into a 35-minute think, and later described his energy levels as “quite low”.

During the game I thought when he played this Nb1 I feel very tired. For this tournament, at first, I didn’t want to participate, I’m so tired after the World Championship, but now I’m just trying to hold, to continue to play.

Ian Nepomniachtchi must have sensed he was close to pulling off a win that while doing nothing to alter the outcome of the match would put him over 2800 for the first time and give him some bragging rights. It would also reverse a scenario from 2021, when in the final round of the Candidates Tournament Ding Liren scored a consolation win after Ian had won the tournament with a round to spare. On that day Ian could also have crossed the 2800 barrier for the first time.

From here, however, things started to go Ding’s way. The move he came up with, 15…Ra5!?, had the virtue of forcing Ian to start spending time himself. Then after 16.Be2 c5 17.Nf5 Nb6 Nepomniachtchi began to falter.

Connecting the rooks with 18.Kf2! is one good option for White, but instead Ian gave up a tempo with 18.Nd2!? c4 19.Nb1. That mattered, since Ding found a surprising knight manoeuvre of his own, 19…Na8!

Ding felt Nepo must have missed that move, and explained why it was so strong.

I’m getting into the game after Na8, since I have a very clear plan: Nc7, b5, b4, and he cannot play Bf3… he cannot prevent b5 anyway.

Ultimately Ding got to play b4 just after Nepo had played e4, and then perhaps the last critical moment of the game occurred after 25.exd5.

Ding said he’d been planning 25…Kd7! but didn’t explain why he instead played 25…Rxd5?!, when the computer and Garry Kasparov were advocating for a move Ding himself said he was worried about, 26.g4!, simply maintaining the dominant knight on f5.

Instead Ian went for the second best option, 26.Bxc4!? Rxf5 27.Bxb3, perhaps having overlooked the power of castling late with 27…0-0!

Ian fell behind on the clock as he spent 13 minutes on 28.Rc4, when after 28…Rxf4+ 29.Ke3 Bd2+! Ding was very close to home and dry.

A key point is that the alternative 28.Bxa4 runs into 28…Rxf4+ 29.Ke3 and again that key trick 29…Bd2+!

After 30.Kxd2 Rxd4+ 31.Kc3 Rxa4 Black should have no trouble drawing.

In the game there may still have been some small chances for Nepomniachtchi if he could show extreme precision in the rook endgame, but by this point he probably felt the universe was against him. The bare kings at the end summed up another fantastic fighting game.

On Twitter, Ian quoted Karl Marx, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce,’ though he later deleted the tweet.

Elsewhere there were some reminders that not all classical chess games are classics. So-Giri was a Berlin endgame that ended in an opposite-coloured bishops draw, while Firouzja-Rapport was a Petroff Defence, though one not without some opening intrigue. Alireza commented of his 10.a3, “a3 was some Karjakin game in the 2018 Candidates”.

That was the game Karjakin won in Round 12, almost destroying Fabiano Caruana’s hopes of qualifying for the World Championship match. There was a difference, though, since in that game the black bishop was on f5 and not e6 — Firouzja’s move was in fact a novelty.

Alireza followed up 10…0-0 with 11.h4!?, which he said he didn’t think was a good move, but no great harm was done as the game fizzled out into a 33-move draw. More interesting afterwards was Alireza’s comment on the fashion career he’s currently pursuing alongside chess.

I think in general I wanted to always have something outside of chess, because just to play your whole life chess is a bit weird for me, but I always loved playing chess. The fact that I’m living in Paris now… is a good opportunity there, but in general I’m still in chess… It’s a new chapter. I like how things are going.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda looked to have every chance of bouncing straight back from his loss to Richard Rapport. Bogdan-Daniel Deac didn’t blunder in his latest time trouble, but he did find himself a pawn down when the dust had settled.

There would be more disappointment for Duda, however, since after 41.Re5 Be6 42.Ndc1?! (42.b4!) 42…Rb2! it turned out White’s advantage had slipped away and the game soon ended in a draw.

The one decisive result was a remarkably fast win for Fabiano Caruana against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Fabi was rewarded for playing the hyper-aggressive 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4.

He explained:

I’m a few years behind the times! This h4 got really popular, again it’s kind of like an invention of Grischuk, like so many ideas these days. It got really, really popular, and Maxime has faced it many times. I actually wasn’t surprised that he decided to go for the Benko against it.

Maxime had experience of playing the opening from both sides, with Fabiano pointing to MVL’s win with White over Peter Svidler in the 2021 Sinquefield Cup. The players were following that game until move 11.

Here Maxime had played 11.Bd2, while Fabiano went for 11.Bxa6. He had no complaints about the position:

It’s basically a Benko Gambit where White, for no reason, has put a pawn on h4. It’s the best Benko you could have, but it’s still a Benko!

Fabiano felt he’d calculated well, but added, “to be fair, I think Maxime was playing far from his best today”. He used as evidence for that the fact that the French star played 15…Nh5?! without realising the e7-pawn could be taken.

Fabiano took 22 minutes to convince himself to play 16.Bxe7!, mainly because after 16…Nf4 17.g3 he feared 17…Nbd3!

He needn’t have worried, however, since Maxime opted for the weaker 17…Rfe8?!, and was soon completely lost. The d6-pawn also fell, and at the end 23.Ne2! was threatening to trap the hapless black queen. Maxime resigned.

That means we now have four players in the lead on 2/3, and four players in last place on 1/3.

The leaders clash in Round 4, when we have Rapport-So and Caruana-Nepomniachtchi, while there’s plenty of hope for decisive action in MVL-Giri, Deac-Firouzja and Ding-Duda.

Tune into all the Superbet Chess Classic games from 14:30 CEST!

See also:


Source link

Superbet Chess Classic 2: Nepo and Rapport strike


Ian Nepomniachtchi and Richard Rapport picked up wins in Round 2 of the Superbet Chess Classic to join Wesley So in the lead. Nepomniachtchi took down Bogdan-Daniel Deac and will go into the Round 3 clash against Ding Liren with a chance to cross 2800 for the first time with a win. Rapport ground down Jan-Krzysztof Duda in what had at first looked sure to be a drawn ending.

The decisive games doubled to two in Round 2 of the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest.

The most anticipated clash was perhaps between the new World Chess Champion Ding Liren and the 2018 challenger Fabiano Caruana.

Fabi made the game an echo of the match when he adopted the same system as used by Ian Nepomniachtchi in the quiet Game 3 of the tiebreaks, but Ding steered towards mainline Catalan positions with 6.d4 instead of the 6.b3 he used back then.

Fabi commented:

I’m not sure if he actually has anything from the match. My impression is that he had no ideas at the end of the match. At some point they ran out, and he’s not really trying very hard at the start of this tournament. Maybe he’s still trying to recover some energy, but yesterday he didn’t really try very hard against Maxime.

Until move 13 Fabiano was following an idea played by Alireza Firouzja against Ding in the 2019 FIDE World Cup. As he commented, “Alireza likes it, the computers don’t like it, but it’s not bad at all”. Then 13…Qd7 was a novelty, with all previous games having witnessed 13…Qe8.

Ding spent 16 seconds to reply 14.Rd1 and after 14…Rfc8 went for what Fabiano called “the safest move” with 15.Bg5. After 15…h6 16.Bxf6 Bxf6 17.Ra3 it might have seemed that the game had just begun.

This, however, is where it ended. Fabiano played his key idea to deal with the knight on c6, 17…Nc5! and after 18.Nb4 Nb7 Ding returned the knight with 19.Nc6 and the players repeated moves for a draw. It was a good decision by Ding, since Fabiano said he’d been hoping Ding would try for something more after Nb7. Rook swings are tempting, but it seems Black would then be better.

There was also an early draw by repetition in MVL-So, where it felt as though Wesley might have pushed for more if he hadn’t been very satisfied to already be on +1 in the tournament.

Giri-Firouzja developed into a struggle to attack and defend the c3-pawn.

Alireza might have retained a microscopic edge but, licking his wounds from the day before, decided to liquidate everything with 27…b4. When the queenside disappeared, the game was soon over.

Both winning players gave more credit to their opponent than themselves for the result, with Richard Rapport particularly self-deprecating after beating Jan-Krzysztof Duda. For instance, he commented, “in the opening I forgot to play a4”.

4.a4 did eventually give Richard victory over Peter Svidler in the 2021 Sinquefield Cup, though 4.Nc3 did no harm in Bucharest. Ian Nepomniachtchi mentioned that Richard is good for coming up with creative ideas with White, but not the top chess player you’d rely on to develop a solid black repertoire.

To call a spade a spade, basically he has the worst opening preparation, but on the other hand, he’s very creative with White.

Rapport’s game with Duda seemed sure to end peacefully, but Richard commented, “he got careless, obviously, because he thought everything is a draw”. Richard felt Jan-Krzysztof had missed that 24.Bxd1! was an option instead of 24.Kxd1, and when 25.b4! appeared on the board the endgame was already critical.

Opposite-coloured bishops are drawish in endgames, but this move fixed the weak pawn on b5, while there would soon be an identical weakness on the other side of the board after 25…g5?! 26.f4! gxf4 27.gxf4. All Richard needed to do was attack both pawns on b5 and f5 with Bd3, capture one of them, and go on to win. That’s just what he did, with Jan-Krzysztof failing to put up much resistance.

Ian Nepomniachtchi scored a win over 2700-rated wildcard Bogdan-Daniel Deac, who is as close as we get to an underdog in Bucharest. Bogdan-Daniel had almost lost to Fabiano Caruana the day before, and was living dangerously when he went for the bold decision to capture a knight on c3 with 14.Qxc3!? instead of 14.bxc3.

That allowed Nepomniachtchi to win the exchange with 14…Bb4! 15.axb4 Qxd5. Ian commented:

I wouldn’t say it was me winning, it was more about him. I’m not sure if it was a blunder or an exchange sac… When he started thinking, I felt maybe he was going to play Qc3, and I wasn’t quite sure if it would be a blunder or it would be some preparation.

It was a very reasonable question, since after 16.b5!, as played, the computer thinks White is no worse, though forceful play is required.

The next moment Ian pointed to was the critical one, after 30…Rdd2. A crucial factor here was that Deac had played his previous move with just 10 seconds left on his clock, and was living on the 30-second increment added each move.

After 31.Qa7! and then e.g. 32…Kg6 32.Qa8! it turns out the black king is too weak for Black to have time to do any more on the kingside than force a draw. Instead Nepo called Deac’s rushed 31.Bg3?, “such a gift”, and after the quickly played 31…Nf5! Black had taken over.

32.Bc6?! Ra2! just confirmed the worst for White, and when the time control had passed Black had a completely winning endgame. Deac resigned on move 44.

Ian talked about his mood after the World Championship match:

I wouldn’t say I’m full of energy, motivation, ideas, but ok, it’s my job.

He’s now a co-leader in Bucharest and has every reason to feel motivated for Round 3.

Ian has the white pieces against Ding Liren and, if he wins, will cross 2800 for the first time in his career. There would, of course, also be the matter of some small revenge for events in Astana.

If Nepomniachtchi-Ding were to disappoint, we’ve still got the clashes Caruana-MVL and Firouzja-Rapport to look forward to.

Tune into all the Superbet Chess Classic games from 14:30 CEST!

See also:


Source link

Superbet Chess Classic 1: So gets Firouzja revenge


Wesley So talked of “revenge” as he beat Alireza Firouzja with the black pieces to score the only win on Day 1 of the Superbet Chess Classic, the first event on the 2023 Grand Chess Tour. Ding Liren was ultimately happy to open with a solid draw against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, while the world champion’s second Richard Rapport felt Ian Nepomniachtchi was vulnerable in the French Defence, though he couldn’t prove it.

The Superbet Chess Classic began in Bucharest with the chess world’s thoughts still very much on the World Championship match. The watching Garry Kasparov felt that Ding Liren hadn’t got used to his new status.

I think Ding still doesn’t believe he’s world champion, because the moment you say “world champion” he looks around!

Garry would go on to make the first move of the game for Ding.

Ding said he was exhausted immediately after the match, but felt ok after flying to Europe. He faced a challenge on the chessboard when Maxime Vachier-Lagrave surprised him with the Queen’s Gambit Accepted and not the Grünfeld he’d expected. If Ding had been playing a match against Maxime, questions would have been asked, since he clearly didn’t realise his opponent had played the position in the game before.

Ding said of the new move 15…h6:

Maybe he’s still in preparation as he played this move within 10 minutes… I was surprised about this move, to do nothing on the queenside and to make a waiting move on the kingside.

With 16.Rc1 Rc8 17.b4 Ding confessed he “decided to make a quick draw”, which is just what happened.

He wasn’t complaining:

Today I feel much better than in the previous tournament. Normally I play very bad with the first white games, I lost many white games in the previous tournaments. Today at least I got a draw.

Ding Liren’s second Richard Rapport was also in action, and he commented about his experience of the match, “Astana, it was sweet at the end, but it wasn’t really fun!” In Round 1 he was facing the man he’d spent months preparing someone else for, Ian Nepomniachtchi, and he tried to use that experience.

I was very surprised by his approach. I was thinking to take some small experience with me from the match, and I felt like he’s actually quite vulnerable in the French. [1.e4 e6 2.d4 d53.Ne2 is not of course the most dangerous line.

Richard conceded, however, that he ended up with a difficult position from the opening, with Ian the one doing Richie things.

It was an interesting struggle, but once again fizzled out, with Rapport noting, “he kind of let me off the hook very easily”.

The game you might most have expected to produce a decisive result, Caruana-Deac, was close to doing so, but Fabiano Caruana missed his best chance in the run-up to the time control.

34.g4! gains space, relying on the little tactic 34…Bxg4? 35.Rg1, while after 34…Bg6 35.Bxc5! Bxc5 36.Bd5! Bogdan-Daniel Deac would have a very bad bishop and struggle to keep hold of both the b7 and the e5-pawns.

Instead in the game 34.Rc1!? b6! came to nothing.

Duda-Giri featured one of the most unusual positions of the day, with Jan-Krzysztof giving up a rook only to win it back with 17.b7.

Anish Giri said “the match was very inspiring” of Ding-Nepomniachtchi, but this game was something we didn’t see much of in the match: “It was one of those computer-generated variations”.

Both players knew what they were doing and Giri comfortably held a draw a pawn down. He afterwards explained how opening specialists such as himself now have less of an edge.

Nowadays it’s very hard to control the game. It wasn’t the case before. The well-prepared players, they controlled the game, but the nature of the game is such nowadays that you’ve got to get out there and fight, because you don’t really have the advantage of being well-prepared, because it’s so easy to prepare now. Anybody without understanding or skills just looks at the engine. And before the engine would give you, let’s say, five options, and if you had some better understanding you would see that the first option is not good, the second option is not good and the third option is good, or the most sound one, but now the engines are much superior and they right away put that the right one is the third, so anybody just looks and writes down the same lines, and so I don’t have that edge anymore.

The one game that did end decisively had an echo of last year’s Sinquefield Cup. Back then Wesley So was winning with the black pieces against Alireza Firouzja in the penultimate round, and with that win could have won both the Sinquefield Cup and the Grand Chess Tour, with its $100,000 top prize. Instead he blundered and lost and Alireza took the titles and money.

Wesley commented of beating Alireza this time round:

He’s very dangerous. I’m very happy to get revenge for that important game in the Sinquefield Cup, and again, all glory to Jesus for the win. He was playing very ambitiously…

The game was tense, with Alireza for choice until as late as move 36. Only 37…g5! by Wesley began to turn the tables.

After 38.hxg5 hxg5 39.Qd2 g4 40.Nh4 Qe4+ Alireza suddenly needed to play very precisely, but his 41.Kh2?!, leaving the f2-pawn undefended, was a mistake. After 41.Kg1 it seems 41…Qxd4 is just a draw, but in the game the same move was picking up a crucial pawn.

Alireza’s best hope was perhaps that Wesley would see some ghosts and decide just to make a draw. He didn’t, however, and instead of repeating moves he correctly evacuated his king, first to f8……and then shortly afterwards to e8.

…and then shortly afterwards to e8.

When queens left the board things briefly looked more optimistic for White.

But again, Firouzja needed to show extreme precision. After 54…Rd7! the best try was 55.Ng2, but Alireza instead went for the plan of 55.Kg2?! and going after the g4-pawn with his king, but it only left him with a bad position. He was unable to put up much resistance as Wesley wrapped up a 72-move win.

It was understandable that Alireza was rusty after not playing a classical game since that earlier Sinquefield Cup, but if he needs a reason for hope it’s that he also started badly on the Grand Chess Tour in 2022, losing to Ian Nepomniachtchi in Round 2. That didn’t stop him winning the tour.

In Sunday’s Round 2 the leader will be challenged with the black pieces against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, while Ding-Caruana is perhaps the other standout game. There are no dull ties, however, and Giri-Firouzja, Rapport-Duda and Deac-Nepomniachtchi might well produce fireworks.

Tune into all the Superbet Chess Classic games from 14:30 CEST!

See also:


Source link

Firouzja, Giri & Aronian in ChessKid Cup


Alireza Firouzja, Anish Giri, Levon Aronian, Anton Shevchenko and Dmitrij Kollars were the star performers in the ChessKid Cup Play-In and will now join Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Nodirbek Abdusattorov in the top division of the main event that runs May 22-26. The ChessKid Cup is the 3rd tournament on the $2 million 2023 Champions Chess Tour.

Magnus Carlsen will not be playing in the ChessKid Cup, which meant there were five rather than four places in Division I up for grabs during the gruelling Play-In on May 1st.

Once again there was a big 9-round 10+2 Swiss, open to all grandmasters and other qualifiers, before the top finishers played two-game matches to decide the spots in the main event. The most ambitious goal was to finish in the top 10 and get the chance to play for a place in Division I.

The players who managed were the following, with Alireza Firouzja, Jules Moussard, Aleksandr Shimanov and Jorden van Foreest scoring 7/9, while the remaining players scored 6.5/9. Georg Meier, Raunak Sadhwani, Pavel Eljanov and Tuan Minh Le also scored 6.5/9, but were unlucky to miss out on tiebreaks.

The twist in these Play-Ins is that the top five players get to choose, in order, who they want to play out of the players who finished 6th to 10th. That didn’t work out so well, as three of the five players lost their matches.

Let’s take a look at how players qualified for Division I of the ChessKid Cup, starting with the established stars.

Alireza Firouzja 2:1 David Anton

Alireza Firouzja is still just 19, but the world no. 4 has long been established as one of the greatest natural talents the game has ever seen. He hasn’t, perhaps surprisingly, been such a force in online chess, but this time, from the moment his first round opponent Rudik Makarian blundered with 33…Ng4?, he didn’t look back.

34.Rg8+! Kf6 35.Rxg4 was the kind of tactic Alireza wasn’t going to miss, and Black resigned rather playing on a piece down after 35…fxg4 36.Kxe4.

Alireza went on to rack up a 5.5/6 score before easing off with three draws and still taking first place.

The win over David Anton was a 24-move miniature which would be doubly significant. First, it came against a 27-year-old Spaniard who had just played a phenomenal game of his own.

18…Bxh3! was the start of a brutal attack that would culminate in checkmate, two rooks down, ten moves later.

The second reason Firouzja’s win over Anton was important was that Alireza then chose for them to play again in the match play. That could have backfired, as Anton had some pressure in the first two games, but then Alireza dominated the Armageddon. With three minutes less on the clock and needing only a draw with the black pieces, he went on to win easily. David Anton qualifies for Division II.

Anish Giri 2:0 Jorden van Foreest

Anish Giri made the infamous 14-move Berlin draw against Alireza Firouzja in the final round of the Swiss, but it would be hard to hold that against him, since it was his only draw all day!

Anish finished 6th, so that it was his Dutch compatriot Jorden van Foreest who chose to play him in a match, while Dmitry Andreikin was the other option. Maybe Jorden recalled beating Anish in tiebreaks to win the 2021 Tata Steel Masters, or perhaps it was just trolling, but in any case, it didn’t work out well.

In the first game Anish got to sacrifice a knight and two rooks in a crushing attack with the black pieces, while the second game was over in just 21 moves.

Jorden has just defended against Nxf6 and Qxh6, but only to set up another win. 21.Nxf6+! and Jorden resigned rather than see 21…gxf6 22.Qe4+, forking the king and a8-rook, on the board. Anish had a convincing reason for why he’d qualified for the event.

Levon Aronian 1.5:0.5 Dmitry Andreikin

Levon Aronian bounced back from being knocked out of the Chessable Masters by Magnus Carlsen to qualify again. His Swiss performance was smooth, until he lost to Aleksandr Shimanov, but he bounced straight back by beating one of his great rivals, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, in the very next round.

Levon had also taken down Dmitry Andreikin, so that he can’t have been too disappointed when he was left playing the same opponent again (as the fifth-placed player, Levon didn’t get a choice in the matter). The curiosity was that the game in the Swiss and the first game of the match play followed the same theme — Dmitry lost a piece after taking a poisoned pawn on e5.

That happened on move 15 in the first game, while he did the same a move later in the match play, with 16…Bxe5?

This was much trickier, but after 17.Rfe1! f6?! 18.Rxe5! fxe5 19.Ng6 Rg8 20.Nxe5 Qd5 21.Nxc4 Levon had a completely winning position.

In the second game, Levon comfortably achieved the draw he needed to clinch the match.

The remaining two matches featured less well-known players.

Kirill Shevchenko 2:1 Aleksandr Shimanov

20-year-old Ukrainian Grandmaster Kirill Shevchenko, who now represents Romania, began the Swiss with a loss to Peruvian IM Renato Terry, but a later run of five wins in a row saw him squeeze into the Division I matches in 10th place.

His opponent, Aleksandr Shimanov, was a revelation in the Swiss, beating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Anish Giri and Levon Aronian.

In the first game of the match he was a whisker away from another big win. The position after 72.Nxd3 is winning for White…

…though it’s one of those positions that with best play can’t be won in the 50 moves you have before a draw is declared. Perfect play is impossible in a rapid game, but in any case the game was declared drawn on move 122, with the same pieces on the board and a win still far in the distance.

The 2nd game also featured a big chance for Shimanov after an en-passant capture gone wrong, but that might not have mattered as Aleksandr again had plenty of winning chances in the Armageddon game. In the end it came down to finding a winning Qg8+ resource… which Kirill finally spotted, at the 3rd time of asking!

The least well-known player to qualify for Division I is 23-year-old German Grandmaster Dmitrij Kollars.

Dmitrij Kollars 1.5:0.5 Jules Moussard

Dmitrij Kollars was one of just three players to end the day unbeaten — the others were Alireza Firouzja and Vladimir Fedoseev, though Vladimir only qualified for Division II. Dmitrij scored just four wins in the Swiss, but one of them was against Liem Le.

French GM Jules Moussard predictably did things more dramatically, as he scored six wins, and one loss, to take second place. Jules was then on the verge of beating Dmitrij in their first game, before missing one detail.

49.gxf4! wins a vital pawn, since the black rook can’t stop defending the bishop on c6, while after 49.Rxf6?! Kollars had the zwischenzug 49…fxg3+! before capturing the rook. It still looked as though White might triumph, but Dmitrij was able to hold a study-like position by giving up his bishop for one of the white queenside pawns.

Then Dmitrij clinched the match with the white pieces in a sharp Sicilian battle that ultimately ended in checkmate.

So we now have the full line-up for Division I of the ChessKid Cup that runs May 22-26 (the seedings are based on the Swiss standings, apart from the top three, who qualified from the Chessable Masters).

As always in such events, there were star names who missed out, including the likes of Arjun Erigaisi, Vincent Keymer and Leinier Dominguez.

One notable storyline was that of Sam Sevian, who missed the first three rounds before powering to 6/6 and a playoff for a spot in Division II. When he then made it a 7th win in a row by beating none other than Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, he looked to be having a stunning day.

As you can see, however, Shakh hit back, first delivering a surprise checkmate in what had seemed a technical endgame a pawn up, before then winning on demand with the white pieces in the Armageddon.

The ChessKid Cup starts at 17:00 CEST on May 22nd.

See also:


Source link