Shakhriyar Mamedyarov maintained his full-point lead in the 2021 Superbet Chess Classic, forcing a quick draw against Giri while neither of his closest rivals was able to make progress in the standings. The only decisive victory went to Levon Aronian, who won his second game in a row to give himself an outside chance of catching up to the leader.
With just one round left to play, Mamedyarov can clinch clear first place in Bucharest tomorrow with another draw. But a loss will mean that either Aronian, So, or Grischuk will be able to catch up with a win.
Mamedyarov - Giri ½-½
With a full-point lead going into the final two rounds, Mamedyarov opted for a trendy forced draw in the Grunfeld Defense, used by Radjabov earlier in the event and by several top players in recent online events. Giri, playing Black, did not object and the game was drawn soon after the round started.
Playing it safe after three wins in a row, Mamedyarov forced a draw today with the White pieces. | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
So - Vachier-Lagrave ½-½
A quite unusual variation in the Symmetrical English saw Vachier-Lagrave making eight moves with the same knight out of the first ten, in exchange for White having to move his king and weaken his structure in the center. A sharp battle ensued, with So sacrificing a pawn on the kingside in order to generate a dangerous attack. MVL defended well though and was able to force a series of trades, leading to a drawn opposite-colored bishops endgame.
Radjabov - Lupulescu ½-½
For the first time in the event, Radjabov opted for 1.e4 and did not force a theoretical draw with White, opting to play a fighting game against Lupulescu, who went for the Classical Sicilian which he previously used against Grischuk. While Black’s position looked suspect on the light-squares, Radjabov was not able to secure an advantage, and Lupulescu slowly started to take over the initiative. Soon the minor pieces got traded off, leaving both players with a queen and pair of rooks, and neither player able to make progress without exposing their own king. The game was then drawn by repetition after the first time control.
Deac - Aronian 0-1
A surprising choice of the Sicilian Defense backfired for Aronian, as he ended up in a slightly worse endgame coming out of the Moscow Variation (3.Bb5+). But he was soon able to outplay the Romanian Junior and 10 moves later Black was already playing for two results. Despite putting up stiff resistance, Deac made a crucial error in a pure bishop vs. knight endgame, and Aronian found a brilliant breakthrough to win his second game in a row.
After 60...e5! with the point 61.Nxe5 Kc2!, and White would have no way to stop the plan of bringing Black’s king to f1 to escort the g-pawn, winning.
Grischuk - Caruana ½-½
Looking to win to stay in the range of Mamedyarov, Grischuk chose an aggressive approach against Caruana’s Neo-Moller (5...Bc5) Variation of the Ruy Lopez, pushing his kingside early to take lots of space. White’s kingside quickly became overextended, however, and Caruana was the one to seize the initiative in the middlegame, forcing Grischuk to give up a pawn. After a tense time scramble leading up to the first time control, it was Grischuk who managed to come out on top with an extra pawn and seemingly excellent winning chances in the endgame. But a later slip allowed Caruana a nice resource to liquidate most of the material and end up in a drawn rook endgame.
The final round of the 2021 Superbet Chess Classic will take place on June 14, starting 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 and Bryan Adams
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