Leinier Dominguez wins Champions Showdown in Saint Louis

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/11/2021 – Four players reached the final round of the Champions Showdown tournament tied for first place. Only Leinier Dominguez managed to score a win in his last game, though, and thus claimed clear first place and $37,500 in prize money. Garry Kasparov was among the four players sharing the lead after eight rounds, but a loss against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave left him in fifth place in the final standings. | Photo: Crystal Fuller

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Kasparov impresses

After quitting professional chess as the world’s highest-rated player 16 years ago, Garry Kasparov has made sporadic appearances in rapid, blitz and chess960 tournaments. The Russian living legend is not one to face unchallenging opposition, as he participates in events that include the strongest (active) players in the world. While sometimes things go badly wrong — like earlier this year in Croatia — other times he shows some of the brilliant play that catapulted him into the very top of the chess elite.

At the chess960 tournament in Saint Louis — dubbed Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX — the 58-year-old had a remarkable performance. Facing a host of top GMs all rated 2720 or above, the former world champion collected 3 wins, 2 losses and 4 draws for a 5/9 final score.

Moreover, Kasparov reached the final round tied for first with Leinier Dominguez, Sam Shankland and Wesley So. A rather quick loss with the black pieces against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave left him out of the fight for tournament victory, though. Talking to Maurice Ashley once the event had finished, Kasparov quipped:

It would be bad for me to win. As my wife says, “Garry, you’re an amateur, you cannot win such a tournament, because otherwise these guys would get crazy”. It’s wrong, you know (laughs).

Garry Kasparov

Living legend Garry Kasparov | Photo: Crystal Fuller

Dominguez beats Aronian to clinch first place

Cuban-born grandmaster Leinier Dominguez is the 12th highest-rated player in the world. A stable and extremely well-prepared grandmaster, he is not one to win tournaments often. He has some great triumphs in his long career, though, having won the 2008 World Blitz Championship and the 2006 Magistral Ciutat de Barcelona (with a 2932 performance rating).

After transferring to the United States in 2018, he fought for tournament victory in his first US National Championship, but ended up getting shared second place a half point behind winner Hikaru Nakamura. Visibly happy with his victory, he told Maurice Ashley:

To be able to finally win a tournament is really great.

Ashley: You came close a couple of times, now you’ve broken through. Are you gonna win the US Championship?

Well, that’s the plan!

Facing Levon Aronian with black in the final round, Dominguez correctly assessed that his opponent’s b-pawn push had been a mistake:

 

White had to calculate that, instead of retreating with the knight, he could safely go for 20...Nb3, getting a strong initiative after 21.Ra2 Be6. Dominguez continues to find precise manoeuvres at every turn until getting the all-important victory.

Champions Showdown, Chess 9LX

Top grandmasters analysing the deciding game of the tournament — while sharing a laugh! | Photo: Crystal Fuller

Champions Showdown, Chess 9LX

Final standings

All games

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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