Recap Article

2018 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Recap Day 1

After a month break, the Grand Chess Tour finally arrived to the capital of chess in the United States. The last half of the tour kicked off with the second annual Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz. After the first day of rapid, Fabiano Caruana is leading the event with a perfect score. In his own words, the day couldn’t have gone any better. Coming into Saint Louis, the American is in last place in tour standing but is still looking for his chance to qualify to the finals in London. In another shocking turn of events, the leader of the tour, Wesley So, finds himself at the bottom of the standings after suffering two losses.

Round 1

The day started with a peaceful result between Sergey Karjakin and Levon Aronian as well as wildcard Leinier Dominguez and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. However, blood was spilled in the other three games, all of them in attacking style. Fresh off his victory in Biel ahead of Magnus Carlsen, Shakriyar Mamedyarov continued his winning streak by destroying Wesley So’s kingside after the latter went pawn hunting on the queenside. Viswanathan Anand couldn’t resist an exchange sacrifice that left Hikaru Nakamura’s king completely defenseless against the incoming attack. Alexander Grischuk was also on the receiving end of a mating attack, when when in an opposite side castled position, his own attack was too slow, allowing Fabiano Caruana’s pieces to overwhelm his king.

Round 2

Fabiano Caruana delivered another mating attack, this time against Levon Aronian. A thematic knight sacrifice forced his opponent to part ways with his queen and thus lose the game. Hikaru Nakamura bounced back from his first round loss by defeating his countryman Wesley So. Things went wrong for So in the endgame when his knight was left out of the action and Nakamura’s passed pawn became unstoppable. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played a very instructional game, demonstrating that opposite color bishop endgames aren’t always drawn. His endgame skills helped him secure a win over Vishy Anand. Sergey Karjakin won in less than 30 moves after Leinier Dominguez decided that there was no point in continuing to play a two pawn down position. The only draw of the round was between Shakriyar Mamedyarov and Alexander Grischuk, when, out of thin air, the Russian created counterplay in a completely lost position and drew the game with a perpetual.

Round 3

It was a quiet round with four draws with the exception of the game between Caruana and Mamedyarov. The game was so complicated that neither the players nor the commentators knew how to accurately evaluate the position. The Azeri grandmaster sacrificed a piece for two pawns in exchange of a powerful pawn chain. Caruana was under pressure but due to his resourcefulness created difficulties for his opponent. Mamedyarov erred as he started to get low on time, letting the advantage slip. Caruana consolidated his position and went on to convert his material advantage flawlessly.


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