Grand Swiss: Caruana and Firouzja start off with wins

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/28/2021 – Despite the lockdown-related difficulties in Latvia, the Grand Swiss kicked off on Wednesday at the Hanzas Perons Cultural Centre in Riga. The open section saw draws on 7 out of the top 10 boards, with Fabiano Caruana, Alireza Firouzja and Kirill Alekseenko all winning with the white pieces. A larger number of decisive results was seen in the women’s section, including a few upsets. | Photo: Mark Livshitz

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Nihal to face Caruana in round 2

FIDE Grand Swiss 2021A total of 108 players made their way to Riga to try their chances in the open section of the FIDE Grand Swiss. The first edition of the tournament, in 2019, featured 154 players, and included 18 women in the lineup. This time around, a separate women’s event (with 50 participants) is taking place concurrently. The one woman player that opted to register in the open is Aleksandra Goryachkina, who already has a spot at the next Women’s Candidates and recently became the first woman to play in the “men’s” Russian Superfinal.

Given the fact that this is a Swiss tournament but not an open — in the sense that a player must be of a certain level to participate — tough pairings are seen from the get go. Notwithstanding, top seed Fabiano Caruana kicked off with a win, as he got the better of Maksim Chigaev with the white pieces.

Alireza Firouzja, who at 18 is the third highest-rated player in the field, also won his game with white, needing no more than 28 moves to defeat Nijat Abasov. The one other player from the top 10 who obtained a full point was Kirill Alekseenko. The Russian grandmaster beat Kirill Shevchenko and got off to a promising start — let us remember that his great performance at the 2019 edition gained him the right to be invited to the 2020/21 Candidates.

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Caruana Fabiano 0 1 - 0 0 Chigaev Maksim
Tabatabaei M. Amin 0 ½ - ½ 0 Aronian Levon
Firouzja Alireza 0 1 - 0 0 Abasov Nijat
Niemann Hans Moke 0 ½ - ½ 0 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
Vitiugov Nikita 0 ½ - ½ 0 Dreev Aleksey
Erigaisi Arjun 0 ½ - ½ 0 Esipenko Andrey
Harikrishna Pentala 0 ½ - ½ 0 Kovalev Vladislav
Moussard Jules 0 ½ - ½ 0 Dubov Daniil
Alekseenko Kirill 0 1 - 0 0 Shevchenko Kirill
Ponomariov Ruslan 0 ½ - ½ 0 Fedoseev Vladimir

...54 boards

Amin Tabatabaei

Amin Tabatabaei had a strong World Cup in Sochi and kicked off the Grand Swiss with a draw against Levon Aronian | Photo: Mark Livshitz

The scarcity of decisive results was not only seen on the top boards, as only 20 players got full points on day 1. Among the winners of the day was 17-year-old Nihal Sarin. Back in July, the Indian prodigy won back-to-back tournaments to enter the world’s top 100 and confirm he is very likely to reach the elite of the sport in the coming years.

Nihal employed a London System to beat 55-year-old Kiril Georgiev. Things looked bad for the Macedonian veteran once Nihal gained control over the dark squares on the kingside.


It is certainly scary for Black to exchange the bishops with his pawn already on g6 and White ready to break open the structure with h5 soon. But 24...b5 25.Bf6 Bf8 means it will be a tough defence nevertheless.

Coincidentally, Nihal also used the London to beat Igor Kovalenko with white in the deciding game of the Serbian Open in July. The prodigy once again proved he knows his way around these systems, as he forced his opponent to resign on move 36.


Defending g6 with 36...Qe8 is insufficient, as 37.Rxh5 would be lethal in that case.

The early win by the 41st seed gained him the right to face none other than rating favourite Caruana in round 2, when the youngster will get a second white in a row.

Nihal Sarin

Nihal Sarin | Photo: Mark Livshitz

Caruana’s victory was not as strategical. The American star in fact got to show a thematic, yet courageous, knight sacrifice out of a Sicilian against Chigaev.


Understandably, the players had been spending copious amounts of time since move 10, and here came 23.Nd5 — not an easy move to respond to while facing one of the strongest players of this generation. The idea is that after 23...exd5 White gets a massive initiative by placing his other knight on the strongest outpost of the board with 24.Nf5.

Chigaev did not leave the tactical skirmish unscathed, and by the time he gave back the piece it was already too late, as Caruana had a winning position with the black king still in the centre.

Standings after round 1

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Caruana Fabiano 1,0 0,0
  Firouzja Alireza 1,0 0,0
  Alekseenko Kirill 1,0 0,0
  Maghsoodloo Parham 1,0 0,0
  Artemiev Vladislav 1,0 0,0
  Wojtaszek Radoslaw 1,0 0,0
  Kryvoruchko Yuriy 1,0 0,0
  Predke Alexandr 1,0 0,0
  Ponkratov Pavel 1,0 0,0
  Howell David W L 1,0 0,0
  Nihal Sarin 1,0 0,0
  Swiercz Dariusz 1,0 0,0
  Saric Ivan 1,0 0,0
  Bluebaum Matthias 1,0 0,0
  Gukesh D 1,0 0,0

...108 players

All games


Only seven draws in the women’s section

It was a much more bloody round in the women’s tournament, with 18 out of 25 games finishing decisively. The top seed in this section is Mariya Muzychuk, who was one of the 14 players that finished the day with a half point, after drawing Russian WGM Aleksandra Maltsevskaya with the black pieces.

On the top 10 boards, half the games favoured the rating favourites — i.e. Nana Dzagnidze, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Polina Shuvalova, Lei Tingjie and Nino Batsiashvili.

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Maltsevskaya Aleksandra 0 ½ - ½ 0 Muzychuk Mariya
Dzagnidze Nana 0 1 - 0 0 Girya Olga
Milliet Sophie 0 0 - 1 0 Kosteniuk Alexandra
Harika Dronavalli 0 ½ - ½ 0 Buksa Nataliya
Cyfka Karina 0 0 - 1 0 Shuvalova Polina
Abdumalik Zhansaya 0 0 - 1 0 Garifullina Leya
Sukandar Irine Kharisma 0 0 - 1 0 Lei Tingjie
Kashlinskaya Alina 0 0 - 1 0 Sargsyan Anna M.
Assaubayeva Bibisara 0 ½ - ½ 0 Saduakassova Dinara
Batsiashvili Nino 0 1 - 0 0 Socko Monika

...25 boards

Sophie Milliet, Alexandra Kosteniuk

Alexandra Kosteniuk beat Sophie Milliet with the black pieces | Photo: Mark Livshitz

Alina Kashlinskaya, the 8th seed and one of 10 Russians in the 50-player field, was upset by Armenian WGM Anna Sargsyan. Kashlinskaya mistakenly thought she could sacrifice her rook for a winning attack.


35.Bd5 allowed 35...Rxc1, when White had 36.Qe8 planned, threatening mate-in-one on g8. But Black’s attack with queen and rook is decisive.


Surely Kashlinskaya had foreseen that Black has 36...Rg1+ here, but what she probably missed in her calculations is Sargsyan’s follow-up combination after 37.Kh3


37...Rxg3+ 38.Kxg3 and 38...Qd6+ in fact leave Black a piece to the good. Kashlinskaya continued fighting until move 58, but Sargsyan did not put a foot wrong in the winning queen endgame.

Standings after round 1

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Dzagnidze Nana 1,0 0,0
  Kosteniuk Alexandra 1,0 0,0
  Shuvalova Polina 1,0 0,0
  Lei Tingjie 1,0 0,0
  Batsiashvili Nino 1,0 0,0
  Paehtz Elisabeth 1,0 0,0
  Pogonina Natalija 1,0 0,0
  Gunina Valentina 1,0 0,0
  Zhu Jiner 1,0 0,0
  Javakhishvili Lela 1,0 0,0
  Badelka Olga 1,0 0,0
  Osmak Iulija 1,0 0,0
  Atalik Ekaterina 1,0 0,0
  Vaishali R 1,0 0,0
  Garifullina Leya 1,0 0,0

...50 players

All games



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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