by IM Kostya Kavutskiy
With tensions flaring up in the race for the 2024 FIDE Candidates, Wesley So took one step closer to qualifying after defeating Levon Aronian to score his second victory of the event. Meanwhile both Firouzja and Giri lost their games (to Caruana and Dominguez) to give So a current 10-point lead in the FIDE live ratings chart. With three rounds left to play, So also continues to lead the Sinquefield Cup, but will face Caruana in a critical game tomorrow as Black.
Check out the full replay of live coverage from the day here. The event features a 10-player round-robin format with a time control of 90 minutes for 40 moves, with an added 30 minutes for the rest of the game, plus a 30 second increment from move 1.
FIROUZJA - CARUANA | 0-1, 44 moves
Repeating the same line in the Fried Liver Attack that Nakamura used to defeat Caruana in Norway Chess earlier this year, Firouzja was clearly trying to play as aggressively as possible, castling queenside to reach an incredibly dynamic position. But Caruana managed the complications well, seizing the initiative with a strong exchange sacrifice after which Firouzja was unable to defend his position.
Firouzja-Caruana: After 27…Qa5! 28.Bxb4 Nxb4, Black had full compensation for the exchange and soon won the material back.
Caruana put a serious dent in Firouzja's chances for the Candidates. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller
GIRI - DOMINGUEZ | 0-1, 56 moves
Starting with 1.g3, Giri also went all-out looking for a complicated struggle, as the players ended up in a Closed Sicilian structure. Going for the attack, Giri started to advance on the kingside, but Dominguez managed to castle queenside just in time. A crucial mistake by Giri then left him in a lost endgame which Dominguez had no issues converting.
Giri-Dominguez: After 24.c3? Qxd3, Black started to take over. The game continued 25.Qxc5 Qg3 26.Qf2 Qxf2! and Dominguez got a winning endgame advantage.
Dominguez also played spoiler today, but now he has his own chances of qualifying to the candidates. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
SO - ARONIAN | 1-0, 78 moves
After the players blitzed out 20 moves of Berlin theory to end up in a bishop vs. knight ending with equal material, the situation seemed drawish at first. But soon it became clear that the endgame was unpleasant for Aronian to defend, as So began to activate his king. Aronian couldn’t figure out the optimal defensive setup, and So quickly achieved a decisive advantage, going on to win a long technical endgame.
So-Aronian: After 24.Kf3, the endgame was still drawn, but difficult for Black to hold without precise knowledge.
It was a long grind, but So got the job done, and now has a healthy lead in the race for the qualifying FIDE ratings spot. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
RAPPORT - VACHIER-LAGRAVE | ½-½, 35 moves
Coming out of a c3-Sicilian, Rapport had a small edge in the opening, which he used to win an extra pawn. However MVL was able to immediately blockade the pawn, setting up a defensive fortress on the dark-squares. After a few exchanges, it became clear that Rapport could no longer make progress, as the players repeated moves.
NEPOMNIACHTCHI - FREE DAY
Round 7 Pairings
The Sinquefield Cup continues tomorrow, November 28, with live coverage starting at 1:15 PM CST. Catch all the action live with grandmaster commentators Yasser Seirawan, Peter Svidler, and Jovanka Houska on uschesschamps.com and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels.