Top-Seed Caruana, Swiercz Score First-Round Wins in 2021 FIDE Grand Swiss

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2021 FIDE Grand Swiss
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The 2021 FIDE Grand Swiss is being held at the Hanzas Perons Cultural Centre in Riga, Latvia through November 7. // photo Mark Livshitz, FIDE

 

American Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana kicked off with a win on Wednesday to lead five Americans -- and over 100 Grandmasters -- in the world’s strongest Swiss-system tournament, which began this week in Riga, Latvia.  

The World’s No. 2 GM is top seed in the 2021 FIDE Grand Swiss, an 11-round World Championship-cycle event that awards two seats into the 2022 Candidates Tournament. The International Chess Federation has invited 107 of the world’s best GMs – and one very brave IM from Madagascar – all who have collected in Riga for an average player rating of 2647.  

Four other Americans appear in the studded lineup: Dallas super-GM Jeffery Xiong; Massachusetts GM Sam Sevian, rolling off his stellar appearance in the 2021 U.S. Championships in early October; the recent Sinquefield Cup-hardened GM Dariusz Swiercz; and 2021 U.S. Junior Champion GM Hans 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, and combining for a $550,000 prize fund. Rounds begin daily at 8:00 a.m. eastern and may be viewed on Chess.com, which is in a multi-year part partnership with FIDE for the broadcast rights of its major events. The Grand Swiss will 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. 

 

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GM Hans Moke Niemann
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GM Hans Moke Niemann considers his next move in the 2021 FIDE Grand Swiss in Riga, Latvia. The 2021 U.S. Junior Champion played to a draw with French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the opening round. // photo Mark Livshitz, FIDE

 

The International Chess Federation began offering the world-title path through the last-played Grand Swiss, which was won by Caruana and Chinese GM Wang Hao in 2019. After being cancelled in 2020 during the global pandemic, and not to be left without controversial decisions during the COVID era, FIDE returns the Grand Swiss to action in 2021 amidst a cloud of last-minute uncertainty and difficult restraints. 

FIDE announced the qualifying players for the Grand Swiss last August, also stating that the event venue would be moved to Latvia from its first-choice Isle of Man in the United Kingdom, whose COVID travel regulations had caused too much difficulty for event planning. However, one week before the tournament was scheduled to begin, the Latvian government began a four-week long lockdown due to a surge in COVID cases, installing a curfew through mid-November for the city of Riga, which homes a third of the country’s population. 

FIDE appealed for an exemption, receiving approval from the Latvian government to continue the Grand Swiss and Women’s Grand Swiss as planned, grouped with several high-level international sports events allowed to continue during the lockdown. The 2021 Grand Swiss has been closed to the public and sealed by strict healthcare protocol, including preventative measures that isolated the Chief Arbiter before the event began. FIDE's statement on the Latvian exemption can be found here

 

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Still, the effects of COVID on the last-minute scramble for the Grand Swiss were felt, with several of the world’s top players withdrawing from the event in the week before arrival. Half of the top-10 seeded GMs cancelled their plans to participate, including Americans GM Hikaru Nakamura, the tournament’s eighth seed, and GM Robert Hess. 

 

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The first round began Wednesday, with Caruana using the Keres attack to break the Scheveningen variation of the Sicilian by Russian GM Maksim Chigaev, the tournament’s 55th seed. White was better out of the opening, aided by Black’s questionable 11. … g5 that left his monarch without shelter. Caruana castled queenside, then set to work on a heavy invasion up the h-file, sacrificing a knight at 23. Nd5 to achieve a dangerous kingside outpost. Black’s attempts to collapse toward endgame were ill-advised and, despite being down material, White’s reply was swift. 34. Rh7 was a nice closer. 

[pgn][Event "FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss 2021"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2021.10.26"] [Round "1"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Chigaev, Maksim"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2800"] [BlackElo "2639"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "67"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] {[%evp 12,67,79,48,52,40,40,46,47,13,31,28,113,110,100,100,105,100,100,91,101, 111,113,72,72,72,71,65,110,71,67,71,72,72,99,-28,-72,-39,-46,0,-39,-66,6,0,143, 80,52,47,156,146,272,282,657,654,854,936,898,942]} 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e6 7. g4 h6 {B81: Sicilian Scheveningen: Keres Attack.} 8. a3 $5 {[%mdl 4] An interesting side line.} Be7 9. Be3 Nc6 { White is slightly better.} 10. Rg1 Nd7 $146 ({Predecessor:} 10... Qc7 11. Qe2 Nxd4 12. Bxd4 e5 13. Be3 Be6 14. O-O-O Rc8 15. Kb1 Qc6 16. Bg2 Nd7 {1/2-1/2 (29) Zolochevsky,V (2365)-Ermolaev,A (2431) ICCF email 2011}) 11. Be2 g5 { [%eval 113,15]} (11... O-O $11 {[%eval 28,16]}) 12. Qd2 $16 Nce5 13. O-O-O b5 14. h4 Bb7 15. hxg5 hxg5 16. Rh1 Rg8 17. Rh5 {[%eval 72,18]} (17. Rh6 $142 { [%eval 113,15]}) 17... Rc8 18. Rdh1 Bf6 19. f3 Qe7 {[%eval 110,15]} (19... Nb6 $14 {[%eval 65,16]}) 20. Kb1 Nc4 21. Bxc4 Rxc4 22. b3 Rc8 23. Nd5 {[%eval -28, 16]} exd5 $11 24. Nf5 Qe6 (24... Qe5 25. Bd4 $11) 25. Bxg5 {aiming for exd5.} Bc3 26. Qh2 Ne5 {[%eval 6,14] [#]} ({Don't blunder} 26... dxe4 $2 27. Nxd6+ Kf8 28. Nxc8 $18 (28. Nxb7 exf3 29. Bh6+ Ke7 $18)) ({Black should play} 26... Be5 $15 {[%eval -66,15]} 27. f4 Bf6) 27. Rh6 $1 $36 {[%mdl 2048] White is more active.} Rg6 {[%eval 143,16] [#]} (27... Ng6 $1 $11 {[%eval 0,17]}) 28. Rxg6 $1 $16 Qxg6 29. Qf4 {Black must now prevent Rh6.} Nxf3 {[%eval 156,16]} 30. Qxf3 { Strongly threatening Bf4.} dxe4 {[%eval 272,15]} (30... Be5 $16 {[%eval 146,17] is a better defense.} 31. Bf4 dxe4) 31. Qe3 $18 Bg7 {[%eval 657,14] [#]} (31... Be5 {[%eval 282,17]} 32. Rh6 Qg8 33. Nxd6+ Bxd6 34. Rxd6 f6 35. Bxf6 Qxg4) 32. Qa7 $1 {White is clearly winning.} Qxg5 (32... Kd7 33. Rd1) 33. Qxb7 {[%mdl 64] Double Attack} Rd8 34. Rh7  1-0 [/pgn]

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2021 FIDE Grand Swiss
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FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich makes the ceremonial first move for American GM Fabiano Caruana as the top seed in the 2021 FIDE Grand Swiss in Riga, Latvia. // photo Anna Shtourman, FIDE

 

Swiercz also won his first-round game as Black in a Four Knight English on Wednesday over Latvian GM Nikita Meshkovs. With the center closed, the marathon positional battle began its focus down the open h-file, with Swiercz first stacking his rooks and then swinging a queen-bishop battery in from the queenside. White was short on initiative and looked to trade the rooks, though Black plants with 50. … Rh4, following with a nice 53. … Be1+ … Rxg4+ to win a pawn. 

The game burned through all time controls and was the last to finish Wednesday, with Swiercz forcing queens off the board in a time scramble on the 90th move, and converting the winning bishop-and-pawn endgame. Swiercz entered as the Grand Swiss’ 46th seed. 

[pgn][Event "FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss 2021"] [Site "Chess.com"] [Date "2021.10.26"] [Round "1"] [White "Meshkovs, Nikita"] [Black "Swiercz, Dariusz"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2550"] [BlackElo "2647"] [Annotator "Tactical Analysis 4.1 (5s)"] [PlyCount "206"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] {[%evp 9,206,-3,-3,-15,-15,-21,-21,-21,-7,-7,-12,-7,-4,-2,-2,-4,-2,-25,-25,-24, -25,-24,-22,-37,-38,-50,-51,-63,-13,-26,0,0,0,-33,-32,-42,-22,-42,-11,-26,-19, -50,-23,-23,27,11,17,22,20,41,41,0,8,-34,-30,-37,-36,-35,-35,-34,-33,-34,-35, -54,-11,-54,-54,-54,-20,-54,-54,-54,-54,-54,-46,-43,-43,-46,-37,-117,-101,-94, -109,-109,-71,-82,-82,-82,-82,-82,-82,-82,-82,-82,-82,-123,-124,-108,-114,-124, -122,-104,-104,-105,-104,-105,-103,-104,-104,-158,-158,-235,-235,-238,-158, -158,-103,-105,-87,-103,-88,-87,-89,-88,-86,-103,-103,-99,-88,-88,-90,-88,-89, -88,-87,-91,-82,-83,-90,-117,-78,-78,-78,-78,-76,-76,-78,-221,-225,-185,-62, -74,-75,-176,-181,-163,-12,-12,-12,-12,-12,-12,-12,-12,-12,-12,-12,-179,-188, -189,-168,-167,-171,-177,-188,-189,-128,-189,-189,-189,-189,-189,-189,-308, -189,-306,-306,-318,-305,-305,-305,-305,-275,-268,-176,-1001,-758,-721,-717]} 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e4 Bb4 5. d3 d6 6. a3 {A28: English Opening: Four Knights Variation.} Bc5 $1 {White should prevent ...Ng4. 6...Bc5 scores better than 6...Bxc3+.} 7. b4 Bb6 8. Na4 {The position is equal.} Bg4 9. Be2 Bxf3 10. Bxf3 Bd4 11. Rb1 O-O 12. O-O Qe7 $5 $146 {[%mdl 8] An interesting novelty.} ({Predecessor:} 12... a6 13. Bd2 Ba7 14. g3 Nd4 15. Bg2 Nd7 16. Nc3 c6 17. Kh1 a5 18. f4 axb4 19. axb4 {1-0 (61) Vitiugov,N (2732)-Motylev,A (2651) Douglas 2019}) 13. g3 a5 14. b5 Nd8 15. Bg2 Ne6 16. Be3 h5 17. Qd2 h4 18. Nc3 c6 {[%eval -13,15]} (18... Bxc3 $15 {[%eval -63,16]} 19. Qxc3 Ng4) 19. Ne2 hxg3 20. hxg3 Bc5 21. a4 Bb4 22. Qd1 Rad8 23. Bd2 Ra8 24. Be3 Rfd8 25. Bb6 Rd7 26. d4 Qe8 {[%eval 27,17]} ({Black should try} 26... cxb5 {[%eval -23,15]} 27. d5 ( 27. cxb5 d5 $11) (27. axb5 exd4 28. Nxd4 Nxd4 $11) 27... Nc5) 27. d5 $11 cxd5 28. cxd5 Nc5 29. Bxc5 Bxc5 30. Qd3 {[%eval 0,19]} (30. Bf3 $14 {[%eval 41,18] feels stronger.}) 30... Rdd8 31. Bh3 {[%eval -34,20]} (31. Bf3 $11 {[%eval 8, 17] might be stronger.}) 31... g6 32. Kg2 Kg7 33. Nc1 Qe7 34. Nb3 Bb6 35. Rbc1 Rh8 36. Rh1 Rh6 {[%eval -11,20]} (36... Rh7 $15 {[%eval -54,19]}) 37. Nd2 { [%eval -54,18]} (37. f3 $1 $11 {[%eval -11,20] deserves consideration.}) 37... Rah8 $15 38. Qe2 Bc5 39. Nf3 Rh5 40. Rh2 Qd8 41. Rch1 Qb6 42. g4 R5h7 43. Ng5 $1 Rh4 44. Kg3 {[%eval -117,17]} (44. Nxf7 $15 {[%eval -37,19]} Nxd5 45. exd5 Kxf7 46. g5) 44... Qd8 45. Nf3 R4h6 46. Kg2 Nh7 47. Qd2 f6 48. Kg3 Ng5 49. Nxg5 fxg5 50. Bf1 Rh4 {aiming for ...Qf6.} 51. f3 Qf6 52. Be2 {[%eval -123,20]} ({ White should play} 52. Rh3 {[%eval -82,19]}) 52... Bb4 $17 53. Qc1 {[#]} Be1+ $1 {[%mdl 512]} 54. Kg2 {[#]} Rxg4+ $3 {[%mdl 512]} 55. Kf1 {White wants to mate with Qc7+.} Rxh2 56. Rxh2 {Threatening mate with Qc7+.} Bh4 $1 {And now .. .Rxe4 would win.} 57. Qe3 Rg3 58. Rg2 g4 $1 {[%cal Rg4f3]} 59. Rxg3 {[%eval -158,17]} (59. Bd1 $142 {[%eval -104,21]}) 59... Bxg3 60. Bd1 {[%eval -235,19]} (60. Qb6 $17 {[%eval -158,19]} gxf3 61. Bd1) 60... Bf4 $1 $19 {[%cal Rf4e3]} 61. Qb6 Kh6 62. Qg1 (62. Qxb7 $2 Qh4 $19) 62... gxf3 {[%eval -103,19]} (62... g3 $142 $1 {[%eval -158,22]} 63. Qh1+ Kg7) 63. Qg4 Qe7 (63... Qd8 {is more complex.} 64. Qxf3 Qh4 65. Be2 Kg7 66. Qg4 Qd8) 64. Bxf3 Kg7 65. Qc8 Be3 $1 66. Ke2 Bc5 67. Qg4 Bd4 68. Qc8 Qh4 {Hoping for ...Qf2+.} 69. Kd3 Qf4 70. Qd7+ Kh6 71. Qh3+ Kg5 $1 72. Be2 b6 ({But not} 72... Qc1 $6 73. Qg4+ Kf6 74. Qe6+ Kg7 75. Qd7+ Kh8 76. Qh3+ Kg8 77. Qe6+ Kh8 78. Qh3+ Kg8 79. Qe6+ Kh8 80. Qh3+ $11) (72... Bb6 {keeps more tension.} 73. Bd1 Qh4 74. Qg2+ Kh6 75. Bg4 Kg7) 73. Bd1 Bc5 ({Much weaker is} 73... Qc1 $6 74. Qg4+ Kf6 75. Qe6+ Kg5 76. Qe7+ Kh6 77. Qf8+ Kh7 78. Qe7+ Kh8 79. Qf8+ Kh7 80. Qe7+ Kh6 81. Qf8+ Kh7 $11) (73... Qh4 { is interesting.} 74. Qf3 Bc5 75. Be2 Qf4 76. Qh3 Bf2) 74. Qg2+ Kf6 75. Qh3 Bb4 $1 76. Qh8+ Kg5 $1 77. Qd8+ {[%mdl 64] Double Attack} Qf6 78. Qxb6 {[%eval -221,16]} (78. Qxf6+ $17 {[%eval -78,19]} Kxf6 79. Ke3) 78... Qf1+ {[%mdl 64] Double Attack} 79. Kc2 Qc4+ {[%eval -62,16]} (79... Kf4 $19 {[%eval -185,16]} 80. Qd8 Kxe4 81. Qh4+ Kxd5) 80. Kb1 $15 Qxe4+ 81. Bc2 {[%eval -176,16]} (81. Kb2 $17 {[%eval -75,16]}) 81... Qe1+ $19 82. Ka2 Bc5 $2 {[%eval -12,17]} (82... Bc3 $1 $19 {[%eval -163,16] ( -> ...Qa1+)} 83. Qd8+ Kh5 84. Qh8+ Kg4 85. Qc8+ Kg5 86. Qd8+ Kh5 87. Qh8+ Kg4 88. Qc8+ Kg3) 83. Qd8+ $11 Kf4 {Threatens to win with ...Bd4.} 84. Qf6+ Ke3 85. Qxg6 Qc3 86. Qg5+ (86. Qh6+ {with more complications.} Ke2 87. Qh2+ Ke1 88. Qh1+ Kd2 89. Qd1+) 86... Ke2 87. Qg2+ (87. Qh5+ {seems wilder.} Kd2 88. Qd1+ Ke3 89. Qg1+ Kf3 90. Qf1+) 87... Ke1 88. Qe4+ $2 {[%eval -179,19] [#]} (88. Qh1+ $11 {[%eval -12,18] and White is okay.} Kf2 89. Qh2+ Ke1 90. Qh1+ Kd2 91. Qd1+ Ke3 92. Qg1+ Ke2 93. Qg4+ Kd2 94. Qd1+ (94. Bb3 Qc1 $17) 94... Ke3 95. Qc1+ Kf2 96. Qb2 Qc4+ 97. Bb3+ Qe2 98. Bd1 Qxb2+ 99. Kxb2) 88... Kd2 $1 $19 89. Bb3 Qd3 90. Qg2+ Qe2 91. Qxe2+ Kxe2 {[%mdl 4096] Endgame KB-KB} 92. Bc2 {[#]} Ke3 $1 93. Bg6 {[%eval -189,32]} (93. Kb2 $17 { [%eval -128,27]}) 93... Kd4 94. Bf7 Kc3 95. Bg6 Kc4 96. Bf7 {[%eval -308,25]} ( 96. Kb1 {[%eval -189,29] was worth a try.}) 96... Bb6 97. Kb2 {[%eval -306,25]} (97. Bg6 $142 {[%eval -189,28]}) 97... Kb4 98. Be8 Kxa4 99. Kc3 Ka3 100. Bh5 Bd4+ 101. Kc4 Kb2 {White must now prevent ...a4.} 102. b6 $2 {[%eval -1001,18]} (102. Bd1 {[%eval -176,23]}) 102... a4 {...a3 is the strong threat.} 103. b7 Ba7  0-1 [/pgn]

 

The remaining three Americans played to draws in Wednesday's first round: Xiong as White against Chinese GM Jianchao Zhou; Niemann as White against French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave; and Sevian as Black against Georgian GM Baadur Jobava.

 


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

 

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