Caruana, So Head to Paris Rapid & Blitz for Second GCT Stop After Superbet

Superbet Classic 2021 in Bucharest, Romania
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The 2021 Grand Chess Tour returned with its kickoff event, the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest, Romania. // photo Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour


Time is speeding up for GMs Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So. 

Just after the conclusion of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour’s kickoff event, the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest, Romania which wrapped up Monday, the American aces and the rest of the GCT cast made a quick jet set to France for the tour’s second event, the Paris Rapid & Blitz event with play beginning Friday. 

Quickening from the classical pace at the Superbet, the Paris event will play 9 rounds of rapid chess followed by 18 rounds of blitz -- all games over-the-board. The 10 participating Grandmasters include six listed as full tour players, who are each scheduled to play in two of the GCT’s upcoming three summer speed events: Caruana and So, hometown hero French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Armenian GM Levon Aronian, Azerbaijani GM Teimour Radjabov, as well as Hungarian GM Richard Rapport, who was a last-minute scratch from last week’s Superbet due to an illness. 

Paris will also feature a nice assortment of wildcard players, including World Champion Candidate GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, fellow Russian GM Peter Svidler, 17-year-old Iranian-born phenom GM Alireza Firouzja. The event will also be joined by 14th World Chess Champion Vladimir Kramnik, who will play the blitz portion and team up with French No. 2 GM Etienne Bacrot, who will play the rapid games. 


2021 Superbet Chess Classic Final Standings
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Final standings of the 2021 Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest, Romania. // courtesy Grand Chess Tour


The Superbet kickoff event was won clear by Azerbaijani GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who pocketed the $90,000 top prize with an undefeated, plus-three 6/9 score, a full point ahead of the chasing group. The event received a healthy share of digital griping from fans taking issue with the amount of non-game draws, specifically the amount of quick draws seen that had already been theoretically solved. Radjabov received the lion’s share of this ire, drawing all 9 rounds to a fifth-place finish, though most all GMs played their part in the quasi-peaceful event: There were only 12 decisive games among the 50 played, with anti-climactic rounds of all-draws to both start and finish the tournament. 

US Chess Champion So also finished without a loss at 5/9, tying for second place with Aronian and Russian GM Alexander Grischuk, though tallied only one win -- over compatriot Caruana, who likely looks forward to the change of pace in Paris, happy to leave Superbet behind. The World No. 2 was the subject of several missed opportunities in Romania, losing twice and letting a few winning positions slip into half-points. He finished tied for seventh with 4/9 including two losses. 


Grandmasters Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So at the Superbet Classic
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American GMs Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So play in Round 7 of the 2021 Superbet Classic. // photo Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour


Caruana was on top of the leaderboard early, after his only win of the event in the second round over Romanian GM Constantin Lupulescu. The lead was short-lived, however, knocked out by So in the fourth round with a surprise -- 1. c4 – in the fourth round. After the game, So said about his American teammate: "(Caruana) plays five defenses against 1.e4; I could name all of them. He plays five defenses against 1.d4; I could name all of them!" 

[pgn][Event "Superbet Classic 2021"] [Site "Bucharest ROU"] [Date "2021.06.08"] [Round "4.1"] [White "So, Wesley"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A20"] [WhiteElo "2770"] [BlackElo "2820"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (4s)"] [PlyCount "103"] [EventDate "2021.06.05"] {[%evp 9,103,23,20,19,26,11,24,5,9,5,23,10,10,-12,18,0,43,-29,0,0,48,62,83,41, 30,42,33,36,36,31,33,38,37,45,48,32,184,191,225,237,257,248,247,250,250,265, 259,255,251,238,327,325,315,295,406,383,394,400,500,500,504,486,753,753,753, 753,753,753,743,743,740,731,724,711,685,658,686,712,730,713,753,753,745,745, 745,739,737,728,737,737,727,704,923,917,885,837]} 1. c4 e5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 Bc5 4. d3 c6 5. Nf3 d6 6. O-O {A20: English Opening: 1...e5.} O-O 7. Nc3 a5 8. d4 { White has an edge.} exd4 9. Nxd4 a4 $146 ({Predecessor:} 9... Re8 10. h3 Nbd7 11. b3 Qe7 12. Bb2 Nb6 13. e3 a4 14. Rc1 Bd7 {1/2-1/2 (39) Sakhabeev,R-Boecher, H ICCF email 2002}) 10. Rb1 Re8 11. e3 Qa5 12. Bd2 Bg4 (12... Nbd7 $11) 13. f3 ({White should try} 13. Qc2 $14) 13... Bh5 14. Ne4 Qd8 (14... Qb6 $11 {was preferrable.} 15. Nxc5 Qxc5) 15. Nxc5 $14 dxc5 16. Ne2 (16. Nf5 $16) 16... Qd3 {[#] Hoping for ...Rd8.} 17. Nf4 Qxc4 18. b3 axb3 19. axb3 Qb5 20. e4 $36 { [%mdl 3072] White has compensation. White has good play.} Bg6 21. Bc3 Na6 22. h4 {And now Bxf6 would win.} h5 $2 {[#] This move loses the game for Black.} ({ Better is} 22... Rad8 $1 $14 23. Qc1 Nd5) 23. Qc1 $18 Kh7 24. Rd1 Rad8 25. Qb2 c4 {and if ...Rxd1+ works, Black does fine.} 26. Bxf6 gxf6 27. Qxf6 ({Don't take} 27. Rxd8 $6 Rxd8 28. Qxf6 Qc5+ 29. Kh2 Rd6 $16) 27... Rxd1+ 28. Rxd1 Qc5+ 29. Kh2 Qe7 30. Qxe7 Rxe7 31. bxc4 Kg7 32. Bh3 Nc5 33. Rd6 f6 34. Ne6+ { White is clearly winning.} Nxe6 35. Bxe6 {[%mdl 4096] Endgame KRB-KRB} ({ Less strong is} 35. Rxe6 Rxe6 36. Bxe6 b5 $18) 35... Be8 (35... Re8 $142 36. Kg2 Rb8) 36. c5 Bf7 37. Bc8 Re5 38. Bxb7 Rxc5 39. Rxc6 Rb5 40. Ba6 Rb2+ 41. Kg1 Be8 42. Rc5 Kh6 43. Kf1 Bd7 44. Be2 Be8 45. Kf2 Rb3 46. Rd5 Ra3 47. Bd3 Kg7 48. Ke3 Rb3 49. Kf4 Rb4 50. Rc5 Bf7 51. Rc7 Kg6 52. g4 {Weighted Error Value: White=0.10/Black=0.28} 1-0 [/pgn]

Mamedyarov was the only player with three wins, which he scored in succession in rounds 5-7 to grab a permanent lead. His third win came with the black pieces over Caruana and was highlighted by an aggressive 9. … g5 in an Anti-Berlin system. The win pushed Mamedyarov a full point ahead of the pack and moved the Azerbaijani up to the World No. 5 rank in the process, passing Aronian. 

[pgn][Event "Superbet Classic 2021"] [Site "Bucharest ROU"] [Date "2021.06.12"] [Round "7.1"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2820"] [BlackElo "2770"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (2s)"] [PlyCount "96"] [EventDate "2021.06.05"] {[%evp 10,96,-8,-18,-11,-45,-10,-10,-9,-23,103,4,0,-37,-24,-40,-36,-59,-91, -100,-113,-95,-81,-95,-104,-99,-106,-96,-111,-117,-124,-193,-177,-184,-202, -200,-192,-208,-186,-224,-221,-234,-223,-219,-212,-220,-216,-223,-214,-221, -220,-339,-336,-612,-600,-625,-625,-624,-614,-607,-559,-788,-771,-752,-656, -986,-986,-986,-978,-945,-960,-927,-690,-1072,-1051,-1080,-995,-15258,-15258, -15263,-15263,-15265,-15265,-15265,-27997,-27998,-27997,-27998,-27997]} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Nc3 Nd4 6. Ba4 c6 {C48: Four Knights: 4 Bb5, replies other than 4...Bb4.} 7. O-O d6 8. Nxd4 Bxd4 {The position is equal.} 9. h3 g5 $146 (9... a5 $11 {remains equal.} 10. Ne2 Bb6) ({Predecessor: } 9... O-O 10. Ne2 Bb6 11. Ng3 Be6 12. c3 d5 13. Qf3 Nd7 14. Re1 Re8 15. Nf5 Nf8 {1-0 (30) Gallagher,J (2565)-Raetsky,A (2405) Graechen 1999}) 10. Ne2 (10. Bxg5 $6 Rg8 $11) (10. Nd5 $1 $16 Nxd5 11. exd5) 10... Bb6 $1 $11 11. c3 Rg8 { Black wants to play ...g4.} 12. d4 $1 Nxe4 13. Bc2 d5 14. Bxe4 dxe4 15. dxe5 Qxd1 16. Rxd1 g4 17. h4 g3 $1 {[%cal Rg3f2]} 18. Nd4 Bd8 19. fxg3 Rxg3 20. Re1 {[#]} (20. Rf1 $17) 20... Rg4 $1 $19 (20... Bxh4 21. Rxe4 Rg4 22. Rxg4 $11) 21. Bg5 Bxg5 22. hxg5 Ke7 (22... Rxg5 23. Rxe4 Bh3 24. Re2 $15) 23. Rad1 {[#]} Bd7 $1 24. e6 fxe6 ({But not} 24... Bxe6 25. Nxe6 fxe6 26. Rd4 $17) 25. g6 hxg6 26. Nb3 e5 27. Na5 Be6 28. Rd2 Rb8 ({Worse is} 28... Bxa2 29. b3 $14) 29. b4 Kf6 30. a4 (30. Re3 {was worth a try.}) 30... Rg3 31. Rxe4 $2 (31. Rf2+ Bf5 32. Rxe4) 31... Bd5 32. Rh4 Rxc3 33. Rh7 b6 34. Nxc6 Bxc6 ({Less strong is} 34... Rxc6 35. Rxd5 Ke6 36. Rdd7 $17) 35. Rc7 Rc1+ 36. Kf2 Rf8 37. b5 Ke6+ 38. Kg3 Rc3+ 39. Kh2 Rh8+ 40. Kg1 {[#]} Rh1+ $3 {[%mdl 576] Decoy} 41. Kxh1 {[#]} (41. Kf2 Rf1+) 41... Bxg2+ {[%mdl 576] Discovered Attack} 42. Rxg2 (42. Kxg2 Rxc7) 42... Rxc7 43. Rxg6+ {[%mdl 4096] Endgame KR-KR} Kd5 44. a5 Kc5 45. axb6 axb6 46. Re6 Kxb5 47. Rxe5+ Rc5 48. Re1 Rg5 {Weighted Error Value: White=0.40/ Black=0.12} 0-1 [/pgn]


GMs Fabiano Caruana and  GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov at the 2021 Superbet Classic
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Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana and GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov at the 2021 Superbet Classic in Bucharest, Romania. // photo Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour


The Paris Rapid & Blitz event begins Friday through June 22, with first moves of each day pushed at 8:00 a.m. eastern. As a 10-player round-robin, the tournament will play three rapid games each day for the first three days, then switch to the two-day blitz portion that will play a new round every 30 minutes. More information can be found on the Grand Chess Tour website