The first day of blitz was a rollercoaster day for many of the players, but the clear storyline was the surge of Alireza Firouzja - from finishing win-less and in last place after the rapid portion of the 2021 Paris Grand Chess Tour to being tied for fourth after today’s 6.5/9 performance. Tomorrow, it will be a two horse race to find out who will ultimately win between Wesley So and Ian Nepomniachtchi as they are so far ahead of the rest of their competitors.
Standings after the first day of blitz
The former World Champion jumped into the action taking Etienne Bacrot’s spot in the blitz portion of this event. Kramnik had big shoes to fill in as Bacrot’s performance in the rapid was sublime.
Unfortunately for Kramnik, he simply seemed out of form. Losing games on time and inattentive tactical moves showed he was a bit out of form. His lone win was against countryman and former second, Peter Svidler.
The duel of old friends went to Kramnik | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
On a normal day, defeating Kramnik and Caruana with black indicates a good day. Not this time for Radjabov as he only scored 1/7 in the remaining games. It seemed like Radjabov was unable to keep up tactically today against any of his opponents.
Caruana has not been able to find himself in this leg of the Grand Chess Tour. With a full day of blitz left tomorrow, the World #2 is already out of contention for first place in this event. The American will need a brilliant performance tomorrow to keep any hopes of winning the 2021 Grand Chess Tour.
Caruana dipped under 2700 blitz today, but his improvement in the second half bounced him back over. | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Rapport had a very solid day today, drawing six of his nine games. His only win was against Kramnik, who forfeited in a lost position. Having missed the Superbet Chess Classic and with this performance in Paris, Rapport seems to also be putting himself out of contention for the 2021 Grand Chess Tour title.
50% for Aronian keeps him in a tie for 6th with the Kramnik/Bacrot duo. Aronian played some excellent games today, like his win against Radjabov. Unfortunately, consistency wasn’t there and he suffered too many losses for him to seriously climb the standings.
Ponchik, Aronian’s dog, is a star in his own right. | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
The Frenchman is typically one of the most dangerous blitz players in the World, and while we are used to him dominating or scoring highly in the blitz sections. Today, however, it was a topsy-turvy day for MVL who scored 50%, finding better form in the second half of the day.
The Russian star seemed to be fading away on the early part of the day: losses to Aronian and Kramnik to kick off the blitz was certainly not what he wanted. After a series of draws, however, inspiration came back to Svidler as he finished the day with a hat-trick and surged in the standings: his combined Rapid and Blitz puts him in an excellent third place position.
Wesley So’s 5.5/9 was a solid score and combined with his rapid results he is still in the lead. The 2016 Grand Chess Tour champion lost his first game of the entire 2021 Tour against Aronian. An excellent win against Firouzja was the highlight of the day for the American, but he will need to do better than 5.5 tomorrow if he wishes to secure first place.
So crucially defeated Firouzja in round seven| Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
The World Championship Challenger continued to position himself right behind Wesley So’s first place heels. The American’s lead is only because the Russian super star scored an excellent 6/9 today - a score that could very well have been 7/9 if he had converted against Firouzja. Nepomniachtchi is only half a point behind So, and another day like this might be all he needs to take first place.
Tenacity was the name of the game for Nepomniachtchi today, sometimes finding opportunities out of nowhere. | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
The Prince of Chess stole our hearts today. What a comeback story: the young phenom had been unable to win a single game in the rapid part of the event, but he started the blitz in blazing glory. A marvelous 5.5/6 certainly made him the attention of the commentators and of the audience. His loss to So prevented him from realistically fighting for first place, but he is currently tied for fourth.
Firouzja started the day collecting win after win. | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes