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Undefeated MVL Moves Into Tied First With Firouzja In Rapid

The midway level of the 2022 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz got here to a detailed on Sunday with GMs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Alireza Firouzja perched atop the leaderboard. An undefeated run with two wins was requisite for Vachier-Lagrave to affix his compatriot, who drew his remaining three video games as a way to maintain onto the highest spot.

The day was hallmarked by an entire flip from the draw-fest yesterday in favor of decisive outcomes with 9 of 15 video games ending on this method. GM Shakriyar Mamedyarov was the primary beneficiary, profitable every of his three video games and recovering from a dismal begin to the match.

GM Samuel Shankland very almost did the identical, scoring 2/3 in rounds seven and eight, together with the sport of the day in opposition to GM Ian Nepomniachtchi. The well-prepared GM fell simply quick and misplaced to GM Jeffery Xiong in spherical 9.

The occasion will proceed with rounds 1-9 of the blitz portion on August 29 at 11 a.m. PT/20:00 Central European.


The remaining day of speedy video games kicked off with a bang and by the tip of spherical seven, it was clear that each one 10 gamers had confirmed as much as struggle. Mamedyarov cracked Xiong’s run of fine kind utilizing an method to the Semi-Tarrasch that the American himself had used to separate the purpose with Nepomniachtchi in spherical one.

Xiong’s stellar run got here to an finish by the hands of the Azeri dynamo. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The pawn break 20.f4 was the supply of Xiong’s discomfort. He quickly misplaced a pawn and traded into an ending the place Mamedyarov made no errors and captured his first full level of the occasion.

Meanwhile, Shankland employed a difficult line within the Berlin Defense that brought on issues for GM Hikaru Nakamura. Already struggling to search out his finest kind, Nakamura was floor down as his focus undoubtedly turned towards the time management the place he’s thought of one of many heavy favorites.

Until spherical seven, the Berlin Defense had confirmed near-infallible, however GM Fabiano Caruana‘s wall got here crumbling down in 40 strikes by the hands of Vachier-Lagrave, whose lively rooks performed the roles of battering rams. The outcome allowed the unbeaten Frenchman to affix Firouzja in first place. 

A move-eight novelty within the Semi-Tarrasch Defense featured in Firouzja’s recreation and allowed the Iranian-born GM to win the change early with enterprising play. Nepomniachtchi was resilient and used his wholesome bishop pair to stabilize within the endgame. The recreation was fairly distinctive as neither king was capable of finding shelter within the opening.

The subject’s most skilled gamers, GMs Levon Aronian and Leinier Dominguez, performed out a brief draw within the London System. Aronian did fort queenside in an try to put Dominguez’s kingside below stress, though the 2 pawns he needed to sacrifice for the initiative left him with little selection however to repeat strikes.

Dominguez got here armed with a strong defensive setup for his round-seven recreation. Photo: Bryan Adams/Grand Chess Tour.

Round eight was equally if no more entertaining than the earlier spherical and featured three wins for the black items and two thrilling attracts. The recreation of the day and certain the match to this point went to Shankland whose beautiful preparation fueled his fortunes in opposition to Nepomniachtchi’s Catalan Opening. GM Rafael Leitao has supplied his professional commentary on the sport that included a rook change and pawn sacrifice en path to a victory for the American.

Honing the momentum gained from his first win of the occasion, Mamedyarov notched a second win in spherical eight with the black items, this time dispatching Caruana. The Azeri claimed that he sought to “simply play fascinating chess” on the ultimate day, and the technique paid off. Caruana was clutching at straws after 19 strikes, coming off worse within the Italian Opening: Two Knights Defense, ultimately succumbing after 91 mammoth turns.

Mamedyarov checks his clock moments earlier than Caruana resigns. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Xiong dared to dream up in opposition to a downtrodden Nakamura however misplaced his second consecutive recreation as Nakamura concocted a mannequin recreation in his legendary King’s Indian Defense that ended with an unstoppable assault on Xiong’s king that was mentioned in depth on Nakamura’s stream.

The remaining video games of the spherical between Firouzja and Aronian in addition to Dominguez and Vachier-Lagrave led to attracts after prolonged theoretical battles within the Ruy Lopez Opening: Berlin Defense and Sicilian Defense: Open, Najdorf. The ends in the penultimate spherical left the leaders with a brand new adversary in Shankland though apparently, Firouzja and Vachier-Lagrave have been as a result of face within the remaining spherical.

Firouzja within the field seat within the penultimate spherical. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.

Round 9 adopted the theme of three decisive outcomes and two attracts, though this time, the three winners have been all gamers who didn’t have mathematical potentialities to complete atop the leaderboard. Xiong’s victory with the black items in opposition to Shankland instantly quashed his countryman’s hopes of a first-place end and capped a good fourth-placed end for the 21-year-old.

Trivia time! Which trendy participant sported chess socks to the ultimate speedy video games right this moment? Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

In the Nimzo-Indian Defense, Xiong castled queenside early, attacked Shankland’s stranded king, and completed the job with a harmful handed d-pawn. It would have been tough for Shankland to undertake a extra defensive type after the brutal, combative show in opposition to Nepomniachtchi lower than an hour earlier.

Vachier-Lagrave and Firouzja clarified the pole place shortly with a 14-move Berlin draw, heading dwelling early to arrange for the blitz section. Both gamers are tipped to do effectively within the blitz video games after having tied for first within the world blitz chess championships in 2021, a match that Vachier-Lagrave gained in a playoff with GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

After a stellar 2021, together with first place within the Sinquefield Cup and World Blitz Championship, the sky is the restrict for MVL. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Mamedyarov gained his third recreation straight and recovered to submit a mid-table inserting after a disastrous begin, this time demonstrating nice method in a rook-and-pawn ending to dismantle Dominguez. 

After exhibiting constructive indicators in spherical eight, Nakamura with the white items hoped to take down Caruana within the English Opening, however the tables have been turned on him, and Caruana clamped down on his kingside. After a -2 rating total within the speedy section, it could not be surprising to see Nakamura channel his frustration into a powerful blitz efficiency over the subsequent two days.

Nakamura is understood for exhibiting feelings, each constructive and damaging, on the board. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Two gamers who have been anticipated to complete towards the highest finish of the leaderboard, Aronian and Nepomniachtchi, completed spherical 9 with a quiet draw that ended a disappointing begin for each gamers. Aronian, who drew eight out of 9 of his video games (with one loss), will little question intention to be extra assertive within the time management the place he’s the present world number-one.

One win, one loss, and 7 attracts have left lots of room for the 2022 Rapid Chess Champion to enhance. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Six factors separate the highest from the underside of the sector heading into 18 blitz video games, which means that any participant has the potential to compete for the trophy. Tune in tomorrow to see the primary 9 blitz video games unfold!

All Games Day 3


# Fed Player Rating Pts
1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2757 11
2 Alireza Firouzja 2778 11
3 Sam Shankland 2720 10
4 Jeffery Xiong 2690 9

Ian Nepomniachtchi 2792 9
6 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2758 9
7 Levon Aronian 2775 8
8 Fabiano Caruana 2776 8
9 Leinier Dominguez 2754 8
10 Hikaru Nakamura 2768 7

The 2022 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz is the fourth leg of the 2022 Grand Chess Tour and the final of its velocity chess occasions. Players compete in a 10-player speedy (25+10) round-robin and a 10-player blitz (5+2) double round-robin for his or her share of a $175,000 prize fund. 

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