Robson Wins Rapids in GCT Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz

The last leg of the 2023 Grand Chess Tour kicked off Tuesday, November 14, in Saint Louis with the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz at the Saint Louis Chess Club. The Sinquefield Cup takes over next Tuesday, November 21, with six of the same ten participants playing in the classical Round Robin. 


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The rapid leader GM Ray Robson (courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)


After three days of rapid chess, it was one of the wild cards on top with American GM Ray Robson finishing a half-point ahead of the field with 5½/9 despite his last-round loss. Robson finished a half-point ahead of French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and countryman GM Fabiano Caruana. 




There are not separate prizes for the rapid and blitz portions of this event, and the two days of blitz begin today at 1:00 p.m. CST. For final standings, each rapid game counts for double, meaning that Robson's score of 11/18 leads Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave by a full point for the purposes of the $40,000 first prize. 


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SLCC regulars Le (L) and So before their game (courtesy Crystal Fuller/SLCC)


Halfway through the rapids, it was another wildcard, GM Le Quang Liem (subbing for GM Ding Liren), in clear first. In game after game, Le forced his opponents to make difficult decisions under time pressure and was reaping the rewards. For instance:




The Webster coach was on the way to building on his lead in round six against Caruana before a highly complex endgame burst the standings right open headed into the final day of rapid games.



Robson sealed the deal with his eighth-round win over GM Ian Nepomniachtchi despite burning most of his time in the two-time challenger's favorite opening.



Robson managed to go eight rounds without a loss, but GM Wesley So caught him in the final game to tighten up the standings headed to the blitz. Here is his impeccable conversion technique:



Caruana was able to get back into the race with a productive third day to make up for his ½/2 start.


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The cure for a rough start is the same, even for Super-GMs! (courtesy Lennart Ootes/SLCC)


First, GM Alireza Firouzja managed to outplay him in a dazzling opposite-side attacking game.



Then, against Firouzja's Olympiad teammate, Caruana came within inches of winning a rook ending.



Sevian Nepo
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The ever-expressive Nepomniachtchi (R) during his surprise loss to Sevian on the first day of rapids (courtesy Lennart Ootes/FIDE)


Caruana wasn't the only "big dog" to get off to a slow start against Saint Louis's stable of wildcards, with GM Sam Sevian continuing a streak of recent strong performances with a nice miniature over Nepomniachtchi:



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WGM Tania Sachdev joins GM Yasser Seirawan for live commentary on Twitch (courtesy Crystal Fuller/SLCC)


See even more highlights here, and check back on Chess Life Online for updates on the blitz games and a preview of the Sinquefield Cup.

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