2021 STL Rapid & Blitz - Day 1 Recap

By Eric Rosen

The Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz kicked off with an exciting mix of blunders, brilliancies, and plenty of decisive games. After three rounds, American grandmasters Fabiano Caruana and Leinier Dominguez lead the field with 5 out of 6 points. Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura trail close behind with 4 points. In the rapid portion, a win is worth 2 points, a draw is 1 point and a loss is 0. 

Standings after day 1

Round 1

The first round of the tournament began with two decisive games as Richard Rapport and Leinier Dominguez made quick work of their opponents. Rapport reached a winning position after just 14 moves against GM Shankland, after the American grandmaster made a costly tactical oversight. Rapport pounced on the opportunity to sacrifice a piece for overwhelming initiative.The final position featured a rare material imbalance in which Rapport’s 5 extra pawns completely overpowered Shankland’s extra minor piece. Meanwhile, Dominguez played a very clean positional game against Jeffery Xiong. Although the game featured a relatively mild-looking Italian Opening with an early queen trade, Dominguez acquired a dominant grip on black’s queenside weaknesses, causing Xiong’s position to crumble quite rapidly. 

GM Richard Rapport

Round 2

The second round featured another two decisive games with grandmasters Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Fabiano Caruana joining the top of the standings. For those chess fans who truly despise the London Opening (known for it’s extremely solid and annoying nature), I can bring you some good news: Fabiano completely dismantled Liem Le’s London is a highly instructive game. The American number 1 unleashed some hypnotic knight maneuvers leading to a clear middlegame edge. By move 21, Caruana achieved a strong outpost in white’s territory and gradually transformed his advantage into a winning endgame. For the staunch London Opening supporters (including yours truly), we will have to dig hard to find some improvement against Caruana’s super-grandmaster preparation. The matchup between Svidler and Mamedyarov produced the most shocking twist of the day. For much of the game, the Russian grandmaster displayed extraordinary tactical vision in a complex position to achieve a decisive advantage. According to Maurice Ashley, Svidler was playing “BOSS CHESS.” However, in an unexpected turn of events Svidler froze up in time trouble and ended up flagging to give Mamedyarov the victory. Check out a short clip of the game’s climax on the Grand Chess Tour’s Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/GrandChessTour/status/1425589561921572868?s=20

Round 3: 

In the final round of the day, all heck broke loose… decisive games EVERYWHERE! 

Hikaru, wearing his iconic pineapple shirt, earned his first victory of the event by beating Svidler while he was still down. Jeffery Xiong committed a one-move blunder in the early middlegame to give his compatriot Caruana another victory. Mamedyarov got wiped off the board in just 23 moves with white, after his off-beat opening completely backfired against Le. Wesley So outclassed Sam Shankland’s Slav in a one-sided beatdown. In the final game to end, Dominguez displayed exceptional endgame technique against Rapport to secure another victory and join Caruana for the lead. 

GM Leinier Dominguez

If the final round of the day can foreshadow anything, it’s that we can expect a lot more exciting and dramatic chess to come. Be sure to tune in tomorrow at 2:50pm CT and catch all the action live at https://kasparovchess.com/grand-chess-tour and https://grandchesstour.org/