Caruana Stops Firouzja, Joins Lead of FIDE Grand Swiss Entering Weekend Final

GM Fabiano Caruana GM Alireza Firouzja
Image Caption
American GM Fabiano Caruana joined the leaders of the 2021 FIDE Grand Swiss in Riga, Latvia after defeating French GM Alireza Firouzja in the 9th round. // photo Anna Shtourman, FIDE


American GM Fabiano Caruana has moved into co-lead of the 2021 FIDE Grand Swiss with two rounds remaining, after breaking through the Caro-Kann of French GM Alireza Firouzja, who had been the sole leader of the international super-event entering the 9th round on Friday.  

Caruana catches Firouzja at 6.5/9 and enters the weekend tied for first along with English GM David Howell. Since the American has now defeated both co-leaders in the tournament, including Howell in the fifth round, Caruana is set to square off with French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (6.0/9) in Saturday’s penultimate round, while Firouzja and Howell will play on the top board. 

Over 100 Grandmasters are in Riga, Latvia for the world’s strongest Swiss-system tournament, boasting an average player rating of 2647 and granting two seats into FIDE’s next Candidates Tournament in 2022. Co-winner of the last Grand Swiss in 2019, Caruana entered as this year’s top seed and has now put together back-to-back wins, remaining undefeated with a plus-4 score. 


GM Fabiano Caruana
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Winner of the 2019 Grand Swiss and top seed in 2021, GM Fabiano Caruana is plus-4 and leads the super-event entering its penultimate round. // photo Anna Shtourman, FIDE


The French-naturalized Firouzja, ranked No. 9 in the world at 18 years old entering November, was the only GM in Riga to win his first three games and has played on the top board since that third round of the Grand Swiss. Plus-5 by the ninth round, Firouzja held a full-point lead over the field and was looking like an unstoppable candidate before Caruana brought rain to the early fanfare. 

In an appropriate Mikhail Tal-variation of the Caro Kann Advance, seeing the 4. h4 h5 moves popularized by the Latvian legend, Caruana played an interesting 9. b4 to speed development, though the offer was rejected by Firouzja at the cost of much of his clock. After an early queen trade, Firouzja was under 20 minutes and moving fast by 20. … c5, finally giving Caruana some pause before responding with the nifty 21. Nd5! 

Despite the time trouble, Black’s king navigated a deep raid into White’s camp, finding itself in opposition at 36. Ke2! with the intentions of escorting its runaway d-pawn. The attempt proved fruitless, however, as Caruana ended the run with a sac of his bishop, leaving the black king wildly out of position to defend against White’s pair of protected passers. 

[pgn][Event "FIDE Grand Swiss 2021"] [Site ""] [Date "2021.11.05"] [Round "9"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Firouzja, Alireza"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2791"] [BlackElo "2770"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "107"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] {[%evp 9,107,53,53,53,77,25,25,24,24,-4,8,-13,-21,-21,-21,-44,-4,-7,-4,-3,0,0, 0,0,0,-5,0,0,0,0,0,0,13,0,66,25,27,21,22,30,30,28,28,32,31,32,28,25,28,24,39, 35,37,0,33,0,46,46,52,54,55,32,37,42,38,32,1,-8,99,100,104,107,94,113,108,58, 129,113,194,194,194,166,333,370,366,364,588,556,642,636,642,650,644,642,1284, 1297,1223,1195,1273,1292]} 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. h4 h5 5. Bd3 Bxd3 6. Qxd3 {B12: Caro-Kann: Advance Variation.} Qa5+ {is now more promising than 6... e6.} 7. Nd2 {[%eval 25,17]} ({White should try} 7. Nc3 $16 {[%eval 77,17]}) 7... e6 $1 $11 8. Ne2 {White has an edge.} Ne7 9. b4 $146 ({Predecessor:} 9. O-O Qa6 10. c4 Nf5 11. b3 c5 12. dxc5 Nc6 13. a3 Bxc5 14. b4 Nxe5 15. Qb1 Nxc4 16. bxc5 Nxd2 17. Bxd2 Qxe2 18. Qxb7 {0-1 (40) Lagarde,M (2648)-Bluebaum,M (2669) Chalons en Champagne 2021}) 9... Qa6 10. Qb3 Nf5 {Threatens to win with ...Qxe2+!} 11. Nf3 $1 Nd7 12. a4 Qc4 13. Bd2 Qxb3 14. cxb3 f6 15. O-O Be7 16. g3 Kf7 17. Rfe1 fxe5 18. dxe5 Rac8 19. Nf4 d4 20. Rac1 c5 {[#]} 21. Nd5 $1 cxb4 {[%eval 66,19]} (21... Rhe8 $11 {[%eval 0,15]}) 22. Nxe7 $14 Nxe7 23. Ng5+ Kg6 24. Rxc8 Rxc8 25. Nxe6 Nc6 26. f4 $1 Kf5 27. Nxg7+ {[%mdl 64] Double Attack} Kg6 $1 {Hoping for ...Nc5.} 28. Ne6 Kf5 29. Ng5 Nc5 30. Nf7 Ke6 31. Nd6 Rg8 $1 {[%cal Rg8g3]} 32. Kg2 Kd5 {[%eval 46,19]} (32... Nxb3 $11 {[%eval 0,20] is superior.} 33. f5+ Kd5) 33. Rb1 Ne4 34. Nxe4 Kxe4 {[%mdl 4096] Endgame KRB-KRN} 35. Rc1 Kd3 36. Be1 Ke2 $1 37. e6 {Black must now prevent f5.} d3 38. f5 { Strongly threatening f6.} Nd4 {[%eval 99,19]} (38... Re8 $1 $11 {[%eval -8,20]} 39. g4 hxg4) 39. Bxb4 $16 {[%csl Gb4][%cal Rc1e1]} d2 {[#]} 40. Bxd2 {[%mdl 512]} Kxd2 {KRN-KR} 41. Rc5 {Rd5 is the strong threat.} Re8 {[#]} 42. Re5 $1 { And now e7 would win.} Kd3 {[%eval 129,18]} ({Black should play} 42... Nc6 $14 {[%eval 58,20]} 43. Re4 Kd3) 43. Kf2 {aiming for e7.} Re7 {[%eval 194,19]} ( 43... Kc3 $16 {[%eval 113,20]}) 44. g4 $18 hxg4 45. Kg3 Re8 $2 {[%eval 333,16]} (45... Nxf5+ {[%eval 166,17]} 46. Rxf5 Rxe6) 46. Kxg4 Nc6 47. Kf4 Ne7 $2 { [%eval 588,16]} (47... Kd4 {[%eval 364,18]} 48. Re1 Kd5) 48. f6 {White is clearly winning.} Ng6+ 49. Kf5 Nxh4+ 50. Kg5 Nf3+ 51. Kf4 Nd4 52. e7 Nc6 53. f7 Rxe7 54. Rd5+ 1-0 [/pgn]

Caruana leads four other Americans in the 2021 Grand Swiss, including GM Sam Sevian who remains undefeated at plus-3 and is one of 10 players chasing the leaders by a half-point; and GMs Dariusz Swiercz, Jeffery Xiong and Hans Niemann, all at 5.0/9. 

The five Americans can’t seem to stay out of each other’s way in Riga: Swiercz met with Caruana in the fourth round, then with Xiong in round six, while Sevian played Caruana in round seven – all ended in draws. Now on Saturday, Xiong has been paired with Niemann. 



Also in the Latvian capital is the first-ever Women’s Grand Swiss, offering the same qualification path into the women’s world championship for 50 of the top female players from around the globe. Chinese GM Tingjie Lei is at 8.0/9 with a commanding two-point lead over six players, all-but guaranteeing her seat in the next Women’s Candidates Tournament. 

The 2021 Grand Swiss and Women’s Grand Swiss rounds begin daily at 8:00 a.m. eastern and may be viewed on, which is in a multi-year part partnership with FIDE for the broadcast rights of its major events. Both events feature games using a classical time control of 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 50 minutes for the next 20 moves, and 15 minutes for the rest of the game, along with a 30-second increment per move. 


Quick Links:

2021 FIDE Grand Swiss Main Page

2021 FIDE Grand Swiss Live Games

2021 FIDE Grand Swiss Pairings and Results

2021 FIDE Women's Grand Swiss Pairings and Results