Carlsen Connects on Day 2 of Rapid and Blitz

GM Magnus Carlsen roared back to life on Day 2 of the 2020 Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz, recovering from the first day’s disappointing disconnection and leaping into the tournament lead with three wins out of three games.

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Standings after Round 6
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courtesy SLCC / Spectrum Studios

Carlsen started his day with a decisive win over GM Levon Aronian on the White side of a Grunfeld, an opening that was in Aronian’s repertoire in years past, and one that seems to have been resurrected for this event. Here Aronian tries to bring back a move from the past (9. … Ng4) but some things are perhaps left buried…

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Rapid 2020"] [Site "lichess.org INT"] [Date "2020.09.16"] [Round "4.1"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D97"] [WhiteElo "2863"] [BlackElo "2773"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "67"] [EventDate "2020.09.15"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Qb3 dxc4 6. Qxc4 O-O 7. e4 a6 8. e5 b5 9. Qb3 Ng4 $6 {An older move that Aronian does not quite make playable again here.} (9... Nfd7 {is almost automatic here}) 10. h3 Nh6 11. Bd3 Be6 12. d5 Nd7 {This must be Aronian's idea - decent enough for rapid, but objectively rubbish.} 13. Bb1 ({Perhaps his main line was} 13. dxe6 Nc5 14. Qd5 Nxd3+ 15. Ke2 {when Black is still fighting.}) 13... Bf5 14. Bxh6 Bxh6 15. Bxf5 gxf5 16. O-O {Space and structure both favor White. The win is not too difficult from here.} e6 17. dxe6 Nc5 18. exf7+ Rxf7 19. Qa3 Ne6 20. Rad1 Qf8 21. Qb3 Re8 22. Nd5 Bg7 23. Rfe1 c5 24. Qa3 Ra7 25. Qa5 c4 26. a4 b4 27. Nf6+ Bxf6 28. exf6 Qxf6 29. Qxb4 Rg7 30. Qxc4 Kh8 31. Rd6 Reg8 32. Rexe6 Rxg2+ 33. Kf1 Qxb2 34. Qd4+ 1-0 [/pgn]

Indeed, it was an all-action Round 4, with every game decisively decided. GM Hikaru Nakamura’s win over the Iranian phenom GM Alireza Firouzja was one of the more interesting of the bunch.

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Rapid 2020"] [Site "lichess.org INT"] [Date "2020.09.16"] [Round "4.4"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Firouzja, Alireza"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2736"] [BlackElo "2728"] [ECO "B12"] [Opening "Caro-Kann"] [Variation "advance variation"] [WhiteFideId "2016192"] [BlackFideId "12573981"] [EventDate "2020.09.15"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. h4 h5 5. Bd3 Bxd3 6. Qxd3 Qa5+ 7. Bd2 Qa6 8. e6 Qxd3 9. exf7+ Kxf7 10. cxd3 Nh6 11. Nf3 Nf5 12. O-O Rg8 13. Re1 Ke8 14. Bg5 Na6 15. a3 g6 16. Nc3 Bg7 17. Ne2 Nc7 18. Ng3 Bf8 19. Nxf5 gxf5 20. Bf4 Kd7 21. Bxc7 Kxc7 22. Re5 Rg4 23. Rxf5 Bg7 24. Re1 Bxd4 25. Rxe7+ Kb6 26. Nxd4 Rxd4 27. Rxh5 Rxd3 28. Rhh7 Rd1+ 29. Kh2 Rd2 30. Rxb7+ Kc5 31. Rhf7 d4 32. b3 Rh8 33. Kh3 Rd1 34. g3 d3 35. Rbd7 Rh5 36. Rf4 Rd5 37. b4+ Kb5 38. Rxd5+ cxd5 39. Rd4 Ka4 40. Kg2 Kb3 41. h5 Kc2 42. Rxd5 Re1 43. g4 d2 44. h6 Re6 45. Rxd2+ Kxd2 46. g5 1-0 [/pgn]

GM Wesley So, who is tied for second place heading into Day 3 along with GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, took the full point against GM Leinier Dominguez.

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Rapid 2020"] [Site "lichess.org INT"] [Date "2020.09.16"] [Round "4.5"] [White "So, Wesley"] [Black "Dominguez Perez, Leinier"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2770"] [BlackElo "2758"] [ECO "C80"] [Opening "Ruy Lopez"] [Variation "open, Bernstein variation"] [WhiteFideId "5202213"] [BlackFideId "3503240"] [EventDate "2020.09.15"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. Nbd2 Nc5 10. c3 d4 11. Bxe6 Nxe6 12. cxd4 Ncxd4 13. a4 Bb4 14. Ne4 O-O 15. Be3 Nf5 16. Qc2 Nxe3 17. fxe3 Qe7 18. Nd4 Nxd4 19. exd4 Rad8 20. Rad1 c5 21. axb5 axb5 22. Qd3 cxd4 23. Rf5 g6 24. Rdf1 Kg7 25. Ng5 Kg8 26. Qh3 h5 27. Qg3 d3 28. Nxf7 Bc5+ 29. Kh1 Rxf7 30. Rxf7 Qxf7 31. Rxf7 Kxf7 32. Qf3+ Kg8 33. e6 Kh7 34. Qf7+ Kh6 35. Qf4+ Kg7 36. Qc7+ 1-0 [/pgn]

Perhaps So’s feline companion is proving a good influence on his chess?

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The fifth round was a bit more sedate, with only two wins. Both, however, were crackers. Carlsen took down Dominguez in what he later said was his favorite game of the day.

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Rapid 2020"] [Site "lichess.org INT"] [Date "2020.09.16"] [Round "5.1"] [White "Dominguez Perez, Leinier"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C41"] [WhiteElo "2758"] [BlackElo "2863"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "82"] [EventDate "2020.09.15"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 {Is this the influence of Dubov, who has seconded Carlsen and who trots out the Philidor from time to time?} 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Be7 {[#]} 6. Bf4 $5 (6. Be2) (6. Bc4) 6... O-O 7. Qd2 c6 8. O-O-O b5 9. f3 b4 10. Nb1 (10. Nce2 c5 11. Nf5 Bxf5 12. exf5 Nc6 13. g4 Qa5 14. Kb1 c4 { 1-0 (39) Popov,I (2592)-Kazhgaleyev,M (2587) St Petersburg 2018}) 10... a5 11. g4 a4 12. h4 c5 $5 {The race is on - who will checkmate whom?} ({Previously seen is} 12... Qb6 13. h5 b3 14. cxb3 axb3 15. a3 d5 16. g5 $1 $36 {1-0 (29) Kokoszczynski,J (2121)-Domanski,L (1975) Gora Sw Anny 2016}) 13. Nf5 Bxf5 14. gxf5 Nc6 15. h5 Nd4 ({The engine argues for inserting} 15... a3 16. b3 { and only then} Nd4 {as White cannot kick the d4-knight with c2-c3 so easily}) 16. Qg2 Kh8 17. Be3 $6 {Too slow.} ({Everything is very sharp after} 17. c3 $1 bxc3 18. bxc3 Rb8 $1 (18... Nc6 $2 {loses to} 19. e5) 19. cxd4 cxd4 20. Rd2 $1 {(trying to bring a defender to the king's aid!) when matters are far from clear.}) ({Another idea is just attacking straightaway with} 17. h6 g5 $5 ( 17... g6 18. c3 $1) 18. c3 $1 (18. Qxg5 $4 Rg8 19. Qh4 Nd5) 18... bxc3 19. Nxc3 a3 $1 20. b3 Rg8 21. Be3 {and the position is a mess.}) 17... h6 {Now Black just has to keep an eye on g7 while attacking White's king.} 18. Bd3 Nd7 19. Rhg1 Bf6 {Stockfish thinks that Black is just winning here, while Leela thinks that White still has a puncher's chance. From a practical perspective, Black certainly has most of the chances.} 20. f4 Re8 (20... b3 $5 21. a3 bxc2 22. Bxc2 Rb8 23. Nc3 Rg8 $17) 21. Bxd4 ({Here's a place where Leela and Stockfish see things differently. Leela believes that White is only slightly worse after } 21. Nd2 {(heading to c4) but now Black breaks through with} b3 22. cxb3 axb3 23. a3 {and here the neural network misses} Rxa3 $1 24. bxa3 Qa5 25. Nb1 Nc2 { when the attack breaks through.}) 21... cxd4 22. Nd2 Nc5 (22... b3 $5) 23. Nc4 b3 24. Kb1 (24. a3 bxc2 25. Qxc2 Rb8 26. Kb1 Nxd3 27. Qxd3 Rb3 $40) 24... bxc2+ 25. Bxc2 Rb8 26. Bd3 Rb4 $6 {[#] Carlsen slips here.} (26... Qc7 $142 { connecting the rooks and helping to get the last piece into play}) 27. a3 (27. e5 $1 dxe5 28. Nxe5 $1 {(hitting f7)} Qc7 29. Rc1 $1 {and White should have enough counterplay to keep things messy and complex}) 27... Rb3 28. Bc2 Rb8 29. e5 $1 dxe5 30. fxe5 Rxe5 $1 {Carlsen correcty gives the exchange up to continue his pressure.} 31. Nxe5 Bxe5 32. Bd3 Bf6 33. Qc2 Qa5 34. Rg2 Nxd3 35. Qxd3 {Black has compensation, but White has material. Which will prevail?} Qd5 36. Re2 $2 {Missing the tactic.} (36. Rc2 Rb3 37. Qc4) (36. Rgd2) 36... Kh7 $2 (36... Rb3 {forces the queen off the third rank and allows something like the game continuation}) 37. Qe4 $4 Rxb2+ $1 38. Kxb2 d3+ 39. Kc1 Qc5+ 40. Kd2 Qc2+ 41. Ke1 Bh4+ (41... Bh4+ 42. Kf1 (42. Qxh4 Qxe2#) 42... Qxd1+ 43. Re1 Qxe1+ 44. Qxe1 Bxe1 45. Kxe1 g6) 0-1 [/pgn]

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Carlsen on Day 2 of SLCC Rapid and Blitz
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courtesy SLCC / Spectrum Studios

 

GM Jeffery Xiong won a 21-move tactical feast against Nepomniachtchi.

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Rapid 2020"] [Site "lichess.org INT"] [Date "2020.09.16"] [Round "5.4"] [White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Black "Xiong, Jeffery"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B04"] [WhiteElo "2784"] [BlackElo "2709"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "42"] [EventDate "2020.09.15"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. e4 Nf6 {Not in favor among the world's elite, but certainly playable, and an occasional entry in Xiong's repertoire for a few years now.} 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 dxe5 5. Nxe5 g6 6. Qf3 $5 {Relatively rare.} (6. Bc4 {is more usual, i.e.} c6 7. O-O Bg7 8. Nd2 O-O 9. Ndf3 Nd7 10. h3 Nxe5 11. Nxe5 Be6 {0-1 (58) Movsesian,S (2747)-Svidler,P (2726) Odessa 2009}) 6... Be6 7. Bc4 Bg7 8. Qb3 $6 {This looks very reasonable, hitting the unprotected b7-pawn and adding pressure to d5. But the tactics just don't work.} Bxe5 (8... Nc6 $1 {probably improves on the game. Play might continue} 9. Nxc6 bxc6 10. O-O O-O (10... Bxd4 $6 11. Rd1 Bg7 12. Qb7 $13) 11. c3 $15) 9. dxe5 Nc6 10. Qxb7 $4 Ndb4 $1 { with the dual threats of ... Nxc2 and ... Rb8} 11. Bb5 (11. Bxe6 fxe6 12. Na3 Rb8 {traps the queen}) 11... Nxc2+ 12. Ke2 O-O 13. Bxc6 Rb8 (13... Bc4+ $1 { starts the king-hunt a bit more quickly}) 14. Qxa7 Nd4+ 15. Ke1 Nc2+ $1 { Same knight, same square!} 16. Ke2 Rb6 (16... Bc4+ $1) 17. Na3 Nd4+ 18. Ke1 Nxc6 {White is up a pawn but completely lost. Wild!} 19. Qa4 Nxe5 20. Bh6 Qd5 21. f3 Rxb2 0-1 [/pgn]

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Xiong explains his win
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courtesy SLCC / Spectrum Studios

 

Carlsen, Dominguez, and Nepomniachtchi were the victors in the sixth and final round of Day 2. Carlsen downed GM Pentala Harikrishna, who slipped in the standings a bit after an excellent first day, while Nepomniachtchi defeated Nakamura. Dominguez was a bit in his win over Firouzja, as his opponent flagged in a tricky position that was better for him.

[pgn][Event "Saint Louis Rapid 2020"] [Site "lichess.org INT"] [Date "2020.09.16"] [Round "6.5"] [White "Dominguez Perez, Leinier"] [Black "Firouzja, Alireza"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [WhiteElo "2758"] [BlackElo "2728"] [ECO "B12"] [Opening "Caro-Kann"] [Variation "advance variation"] [WhiteFideId "3503240"] [BlackFideId "12573981"] [EventDate "2020.09.15"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. h4 h5 5. Bd3 Bxd3 6. Qxd3 Qa5+ 7. Nd2 e6 8. Nf3 Nh6 9. O-O Nf5 10. a4 Qa6 11. c4 Bb4 12. b3 c5 13. dxc5 Nc6 14. Ba3 Bxd2 15. Nxd2 Rd8 16. Qb1 Ncd4 17. Re1 Rh6 18. cxd5 Rxd5 19. Nc4 Rg6 20. Re4 Nxh4 21. g3 Nhf3+ 22. Kg2 Qc6 23. Na5 Qd7 24. Nc4 Qc6 25. Na5 Qc7 26. Nc4 Ng5 27. Rh4 1-0 [/pgn]

You can replay the day’s action at the SLCC YouTube page as seen here:

 

 

Play resumes at 1pm Central Thursday, and live coverages include expert commentary by GMs Yasser Seirawan and Maurice Ashley, and WGM Jennifer Shahade. Viewers can watch live on uschesschamps.com or on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and TwitchTV channels.


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