Champions Showdown: Caruana and Rapport start best

by ChessBase
2/21/2019 – The Champions Showdown in St. Louis features five exhibition matches in which five US players compete in rapid and blitz against five non-US players. With three wins and one draw Fabiano Caruana (who played against Pentala Harikrishna) and Richard Rapport (who played against Sam Shankland) scored best on day one. Caruana more than once showed superb endgame skills. | Photo: Saint Louis Chessclub

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Endgame magician Caruana

The Champions Showdown consists of 12 rapid games (four on each of the first three days) and 24 blitz games (twelve each on days four and five). The time limit is 15+10 for the rapid games and 3+2 for the blitz games. A win in the rapid games is rewarded with two points, a draw with one point, while a win in the blitz games yields one point and a draw half a point.

The match-ups

Hikaru Nakamura vs. Jan-Krzysztof Duda
Fabiano Caruana vs. Pentala Harikrishna
Wesley So vs. David Navara
Leinier Dominguez vs. Veselin Topalov
Sam Shankland vs. Richard Rapport

Day 1 | Photo: Austin Fuller

With three wins and one draw Caruana ended day one well and he also started it well by winning the first game of his match against Harikrishna with Black. Caruana predictably played the Petroff which led to an equal though not necessarily drawish ending in which Black had a majority on the queenside while White had more pawns on the kingside.


Pawn majorities on the queenside are often better than pawn majorities on the kingside because the pawns on the queenside might lead to an outside passed pawn. On the other hand, in endings with pawns on two sides the bishop tends to be better than the knight.

But a few moves later the following position was on the board:


Black has definitely made more progress than White and a few moves later Black was winning – even though the knight on d5 did not even move.


White resigned soon.

After a draw in game two, game three saw another Petroff which led to an endgame with rooks and opposite coloured bishops.


The engine thinks that Black is only a bit better but in the game Black won rather easily. Caruana exchanged one pair of rooks (31...Rg4) and then won the pawn on a4. Harikrishna found no defense and lost. 


White is lost and with the self-mate 54.Be3 Harikrishna shortened his sufferings.

Game four also led to an endgame but Caruana first showed his attacking skills.


Black's king seems to be well protected by his pawns but with 31.Nxe4 Caruana destroyed the pawn cover and after 31...fxe4 32. Qxe4 Kd8 33.Qxg6 he had three pawns for the piece and an ongoing attack.

Black managed to reach the endgame but this did not help:


White played 53.b5 and Black resigned a few moves later.

Richard Rapport also demonstrated attacking and endgame skills. He won the first game with an energetic attack and the second in an endgame though only because Shankland unwillingly helped him.


Here White should have played 56.Te7+ but instead he tried 57.b5? and resigned after 57... axb5 58.a6 f2 59.Re7+ Kd4 60.Rf7 Txh7 61.Rxf2 Kc3 62.Rf1 Rh6 0-1.

Rapport also won game three but game four ended in a draw.

After the first four games Wesley So leads 5-3 against David Navara, as does Veselin Topalov against Leinier Dominguez. Hikaru Nakamura and Jan-Krzysztof Duda ended day 1 with a 4-4 tie.

Though Wesley So leads against Navara he started the day with a loss.

Navara-So | Photo: Saint Louis Chessclub

In a line of the Open Spanish both players followed Karjakin-Polgar, World Cup 2011, for 26 moves before So who was playing with Black deviated – however, without success.


After 26.cxd4.

Here, Karjakin-Polgar continued with 26...fxe5 and the game later ended in a draw. But So played 26...Qe6 and resigned after 27.d5.




Video of day 1

Video: Saint Louis Chessclub



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