Things couldn’t have gone better today for World No. 5 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov as he defeated Fabiano Caruana in an explosive fashion to win his third game in a row in the 2021 Superbet Chess Classic. Meanwhile, the previous co-leader Alexander Grischuk lost a difficult game to Levon Aronian, leaving Mamedyarov with a full-point lead ahead of the field.
With two rounds left to play, Mamedyarov is now a strong favourite to win the event, which would earn him a first-place prize of $90,000 and 13 Grand Chess Tour Points in the overall circuit.
Radjabov - So ½-½
A theoretical Ragozin Defense saw Teimour Radjabov offer a piece sacrifice in order to open up his opponent’s king, but Wesley So promptly declined (accepting would be far too dangerous) and instead found a clever way to simplify into an equal endgame. With even material and opposite-colored bishops, the result was never in doubt and the players drew shortly before move 40.
Aronian - Grischuk 1-0
Despite a quiet variation of the Tarrasch Defense, Grischuk found himself in a particularly grueling version of his usual time-trouble, going down to just 13 minutes with 26 moves left to play in the first time control. Although his position wasn’t objectively bad, Grischuk quickly misplayed things, allowing Aronian to weaken Black’s king and soon take advantage with a vicious attack. After 29 moves it was all over, with Aronian’s pieces ready to soon deliver mate.
Caruana - Mamedyarov 0-1
The game of the round saw Mamedyarov take his chances with an early and extremely aggressive g7-g5 push in the typically-solid Berlin Defense, looking to attack White’s king from the very start. Although the engine disapproved of Black’s play, Caruana could not refute the line over the board and quickly found himself in trouble, opting to trade queens into a difficult endgame.
Despite resistance from Fabiano, sacrificing two pawns in hopes of activity, Mamedyarov accepted the material and accurately converted his advantage, eventually ending in a trivial rook endgame.
Giri - Vachier-Lagrave 1-0
Anish Giri was somewhat fortunate today as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave didn’t seem to have many issues equalizing against his anti-Grunfeld with 1.Nf3. Things, however, were not too simple as Giri ended up with an extra pawn in an endgame with rooks and opposite-colored bishops. Despite the drawish tendency of these kinds of endgames, Giri managed to cause problems for MVL; and an untimely trade of rooks left White with decent winning chances in the pure opposite-colored bishops endgame. MVL then made one more mistake and it was all over, as Giri found a nice way to sacrifice his bishop for multiple passed pawns and a decisive advantage.
Lupulescu - Deac ½-½
The battle of the two Romanian locals also proved to be an exciting one, with both players fighting for chances in a complicated ‘isolated queen pawn’ middlegame. As the pieces came off the board, it was Deac who had the upper hand in the endgame, thanks to his slightly better structure and more active pieces, but Lupulescu defended well and managed to eventually hold the draw.
The coverage of the 2021 Superbet Chess Classic continues Sunday, June 12, at 6:50 AM CDT with live coverage from GMs Alejandro Ramirez, Yasser Seirawan, and Maurice Ashley on grandchesstour.org/live.
Text: IM Kostya Kavutskiy
Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Official website: grandchesstour.org/