In a sensational upset GM Hans Niemann defeated World Champion Magnus Carlsen with the Black pieces in their first ever classical encounter, overtaking the sole lead in the 2022 Sinquefield Cup and crossing 2700 for the first time in his career. In the meantime, Alireza Firouzja won a brilliant game against Levon Aronian, while Wesley So jumped into clear second place thanks to an excellent win over Fabiano Caruana.
Standings after Round 3
Check out the full replay of live coverage from the day here. The time control for the event is 90 minutes for 40 moves plus 30 minutes for the rest of the game; with a 30-second increment starting from move 1.
Round 3 Results
CARLSEN - NIEMANN | 0-1, 57 moves
In the clash between the two leaders, Carlsen tried the rare 4.g3 Nimzo, against which Niemann was unusually well-prepared for, having checked the line that morning. An early mistake by Carlsen landed him in an unpleasant endgame where it was only Niemann who could play for two results. Things quickly turned worse for Magnus as he tried to salvage a difficult rook and bishop vs. rook and knight ending but a further slip in time pressure left Niemann with a technical win.
Niemann’s 13…Be6! was a powerful counter, forcing White into a slightly worse endgame, as 14.Qa4 is met with 14…Qa5!
After the game, Niemann gave an honest interview where he discussed his ambitions to become World Champion, the difficulty of proving yourself as a player, and the importance of invites to elite events.
Niemann: “I believe that these [first] three games have encapsulated my strength and potential as a player, but I’m still improving, I’m still learning…you don’t become World Champion in a day, it’s a gradual process. [...] If I didn’t have this opportunity, who knows how long it would take me to show that I can beat top players. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
FIROUZJA - ARONIAN | 1-0, 38 moves
An early contender for the event’s brilliancy prize, the game started in a quiet Italian with Aronian winning the pair of bishops early on. But an extremely risky decision by Levon (11…g5) allowed Firouzja a powerful piece sacrifice, completely exposing Black’s king. From there Firouzja just needed to bring all of his pieces into the attack, after which Aronian’s position became simply indefensible.
12.Nxg5! gave Firouzja two pawns and an irresistible attack for the piece.
A fantastic comeback win for Firouzja, who got back to 50% with today’s victory. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
SO - CARUANA | 1-0, 67 moves
So’s rare 5.Bd3 Petroff worked out rather well, as he gained an early lead on the clock as well as the more pleasant position in a symmetrical structure. Caruana did not seem comfortable with the situation, as he started to burn lots of time and soon sacrificed a pawn in exchange for some activity rather than having to defend a passive position. But Black’s counterplay wasn’t enough, as So expertly traded down to leave himself with queen and knight against queen and bishop, retaining the extra pawn. Caruana’s king was also quite weak as So slowly marched his kingside up the board, eventually weaving a deadly mating net around Black’s king.
57.Nh6! was a kill shot, leaving Black without a good defense to White’s mating attack.
The current GCT leader took one step closer to winning the 2022 tour. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
DOMINGUEZ - NEPOMNIACHTCHI | ½-½, 42 moves
Instead of his usual Petroff, Nepomniachtchi returned to his previous weapon, the Najdorf, for today’s battle. In response, Dominguez deviated from his main approach in the English Attack (6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3) with the more positional 7.Nf3, and quickly earned a clear strategic edge after Nepo misplayed the early middlegame. A further mistake allowed Dominguez a winning tactical sequence, but he couldn’t calculate the line until the end and chose a safer continuation, after which his winning chances were more or less gone.
After 22…Bxd2, Dominguez underestimated the winning intermezzo 23.Bxd6!, with idea 23…Qxc4 24.Qxb7+, followed by Bxf8. Instead he played 23.Rxd2 and the game was later drawn.
Dominguez let his opponent off the hook, missing a big chance to defeat Nepomniachtchi. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
MAMEDYAROV - VACHIER-LAGRAVE | ½-½, 36 moves
Coming off of yesterday’s loss, Mamedyarov chose an ultra-safe variation against MVL’s Queen’s Gambit Accepted, exchanging queens right out of the opening. There was not much action in the game, as the players quickly traded down into a completely drawn rook endgame.
A relatively quiet day at the office for Vachier-Lagrave. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
The 2022 Sinquefield Cup continues Monday, September 5, with live coverage from grandmasters Peter Svidler, Yasser Seirawan, and Alejandro Ramirez starting at 12:50 PM CT on grandchesstour.org and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels.