It may have been close at times, but in the end it was smooth sailing for Wesley So who made it to the top of the leaderboard for the 2021 Paris Grand Chess Tour. Although his rival for first place, Ian Nepomniachtchi chased the American the entire day, Wesley So ultimately took home the first place win with a round to spare.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Alireza Firouzja fought hard today as well. Despite the fact that they both lost on the final round, the two finished the day tied for third place and then it was a tie for fifth between Levon Aronian and Richard Rapport.
2021 Paris Grand Chess Tour Final Standings
Kramnik felt rusty today, and it is not something the top chess contenders forgive. Over the two days of blitz Kramnik was inventive, imaginative, and unafraid to take chances on the board. Unfortunately he was not sharp enough when the tactics and fireworks inevitably happened to disrupt his games. Regrettably, the Russian made uncharacteristic mistakes and was consistently outcalculated among his competitors.
Always a pleasure to see Kramnik back in action, but he had a tough two days | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Unfortunately the World #2 did not become a contender at the top of this tournament’s leaderboard, and the last day was not a strong improvement for Caruana either. Luckily the American won twice today with black against Radjabov and Svidler, which meant that the day was still successful but not enough to move him to the top standings. Caruana's previous final standings of seventh in Bucharest and now placing eighth in Paris shows that his chances to fight for the 2021 Grand Chess Tour title might be quickly slipping away.
After losing to Aronian on the second blitz game of the day, it could have been easy to dismiss Richard Rapport as not finding his form. But he came back fighting with three near-consecutive wins against Caruana, Radjabov and Firouzja that greatly improved his overall tournament results. The Hungarian ended up tied for fifth with Armenian player, Levon Aronian.
Big improvement for the Hungarian #1, but it came a bit too late in the event. | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
The tournament was sadly a bit of a disaster for Radjabov, he finished the final day of Paris with three losses in a row. The talented Azerbaijani will need to go back to the drawing board to see what went wrong in both the rapid and blitz sections as he gears up for his next Grand Chess Tour event. Unfortunately Radjabov finished last in the event, even with Kramnik’s not so stellar performance in the blitz, which offset Bacrot’s excellent rapid portion.
The 8-time Russian Champion started the day in third place, but he was unable to keep pace and maintain the third place position among his fellow competitors. Throughout the day he was in a fight for third place with Firouzja, Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave, but he fell apart in the second half of the day. Losing three games in a row saw him tumbling down the standings, finishing in seventh position overall.
A very solid +2 score in the last day of blitz was unfortunately not enough for Levon to achieve third place, even though the Armenian was fighting tenaciously throughout the day’s blitz games. Although Aronian’s games were fun to watch and his score in the blitz was good with +1 over these two days, it wasn’t enough to overcome his result in the previous rapid portion ultimately tying for fifth with Richard Rapport.
Firouzja vs. Aronian mini-match averaged 105 moves over three games | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Amazing chess was played today by one of the shining stars of the game. His unique comeback story from the win-less rapid to a blisteringly hot performance in the blitz section stole all the viewer’s hearts. A tie for third place is a great result for the young phenom and future of our sport.
Alireza Firouzja jumped to World #4 in the blitz rankings | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Vachier-Lagrave himself considered his play today to be “too uneven”. Indeed, masterstrokes and brilliant games were sometimes marred or wiped by multiple blunders or unnecessary losses. Still, tying for third place is not an awful result for the French #1. He hopes to be in better shape with his participation in the upcoming Croatia Grand Chess Tour stop.
The World Championship Challenger had a great event. A good performance in the rapid portion, followed by strong showings in both days of blitz. His 21.5 total points would have won the last Paris Rapid & Blitz, that edition won in 2019 by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (21 points total for that first place win). This year, however, Wesley So was on fire for this year’s Paris leg. Huge kudos to Nepomniachtchi for trying his hardest against So in the final round, despite the result not mattering for the standings as So clinched with a round to go. That being said, Nepomniachtchi lost that final game against the tournament winner!
Nepomniachtchi must be pleased with his play, but not pleased at how he couldn’t achieve first. | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
What a scintillating performance by the American player! Wesley So didn’t simply win the tournament - remained completely unbreakable. Aggressive positions, slow positions, endgames, openings - it didn’t matter what type of position appeared on the board, So was able to masterfully play it and win. The American super star has lost only one game between the 36 Grand Chess Tour games he has played so far this season: 9 in Bucharest (classical) and 27 in Paris (rapid and blitz). Congratulations to the 2021 Paris Grand Chess Tour winner, Wesley So!
So’s mother, Lotis Key, has been an important part in the American’s success | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Gilles Betthaeuser with winner Wesley So | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes