Grand Swiss: Firouzja beats Howell

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/7/2021 – Alireza Firouzja beat David Howell to reclaim the sole lead in the open section of the FIDE Grand Swiss. Two players stand a half point back before the last round — Fabiano Caruana and Grigoriy Oparin. Lei Tingjie secured tournament victory in the women’s section with a round to spare. | Photo: Anna Shtourman

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Oparin scores crucial victory

Grand Swiss Chess 2021After suffering his first defeat of the tournament in round 9, Alireza Firouzja bounced right back by beating David Howell on Saturday to reclaim the sole lead in Riga. The 18-year-old thus only needs a half point to secure a spot in the next edition of the Candidates Tournament. In the last round, he is facing Grigoriy Oparin, the 39th seed in the Grand Swiss, who surprisingly beat Nikita Vitiugov with the black pieces to climb to shared second place.

Oparin has as many points as Fabiano Caruana, with Caruana almost certain to get into the Candidates by drawing his last game of the event — in the last round, the top seed faces another Russian who over-performed in Riga, Alexandr Predke.

The eleven players standing on 6½/11 points, a half point behind Caruana, still have an outside chance of making it into the Candidates. They will be wishing for a win by Firouzja and will need for the tiebreak criteria to favour them in case they win their games. They cannot go all-in carelessly, though, as they are also fighting for one of the six spots in the Grand Prix series that are also up for grabs in Latvia’s capital.

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Firouzja Alireza 1 - 0 Howell David W L
Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 6 ½ - ½ Caruana Fabiano
Vitiugov Nikita 6 0 - 1 6 Oparin Grigoriy
Shirov Alexei 6 ½ - ½ 6 Yu Yangyi
Predke Alexandr 6 ½ - ½ 6 Anton Guijarro David
Sevian Samuel 6 ½ - ½ 6 Sargissian Gabriel
Esipenko Andrey 1 - 0 6 Sasikiran Krishnan
Sjugirov Sanan ½ - ½ Harikrishna Pentala
Dubov Daniil ½ - ½ Kryvoruchko Yuriy
Keymer Vincent 1 - 0 Alekseenko Kirill

...54 boards

Grigoriy Oparin

Grigoriy Oparin | Photo: Anna Shtourman

In a tough strategical struggle out of an Italian, Firouzja decided to play calmly with the white pieces against a well-prepared Howell. The youngster got the upper hand in the middlegame, which he turned into a material advantage on move 28.


28.Nxh6+ is justified tactically by 28...gxh6 29.Bxg6 Bxg3 30.Rxe8+ Rxe8. This deep into the line, however, White played somewhat inaccurately by going for 31.Qf3 instead of 31.fxg3


Here Howell found the surprising 31...Qc6, which had been missed by Firouzja in his calculations. The queen cannot be captured due to back rank mate along the e-file. After thinking for a bit over 11 minutes, Firouzja responded with the correct 32.Bc2.

Howell saved his dark-squared bishop with 32...Bb8, which was not the most resilient defensive move — 32...Qxc2, still using the threat of back rank mate, was better, since after 33.Qxg3+ Qg6 34.Qxg6 fxg6 35.Bxf6 Black would get some drawing chances in the ensuing opposite-coloured bishop endgame.


After the text, on the other hand, White was simply a pawn up. A number of exchanges followed, with the players entering a 4-bishop endgame. When the time control had passed, Firouzja was capable of regrouping, and showed fine technique until obtaining what was his sixth win of the event.

Standings after round 10

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Firouzja Alireza 7,5 56,5
2 Caruana Fabiano 7,0 55,0
3 Oparin Grigoriy 7,0 50,5
4 Yu Yangyi 6,5 55,5
5 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 6,5 54,0
6 Shirov Alexei 6,5 53,5
7 Keymer Vincent 6,5 53,0
8 Predke Alexandr 6,5 52,5
9 Sargissian Gabriel 6,5 51,0
10 Howell David W L 6,5 50,0
11 Sevian Samuel 6,5 49,5
12 Anton Guijarro David 6,5 49,5
13 Esipenko Andrey 6,5 48,5
14 Deac Bogdan-Daniel 6,5 48,5
15 Petrosyan Manuel 6,0 54,5

...108 players

All games - Round 10


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Lei cruises to victory

By drawing top seed Mariya Muzychuk with the white pieces, Lei Tingjie secured tournament victory in the women’s section of the Grand Swiss. The Chinese grandmaster thus gained the one ticket to next year’s Women’s Candidates made available by FIDE for the winner of the event. This draw followed a streak of four consecutive wins by the 24-year-old.

The other Chinese participant in the women’s event, Zhu Jiner, stands in sole second place on 7/10 points after beating Lela Javakhishvili on board 3. She is followed by a 5-player group a half point back, which includes 17-year-old Bibisara Assaubayeva and Peru’s Deysi Cori, who remarkably bounced back from her first three losses by scoring 6½ out of 7 points in the following rounds.

Zhu, Assaubayeva and Javakhishvili all obtained GM norms in Riga, as did Elisabeth Paehtz, who in fact got her third and final norm in the 11-round event.

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Lei Tingjie 8 ½ - ½ 6 Muzychuk Mariya
Harika Dronavalli 6 ½ - ½ 6 Paehtz Elisabeth
Javakhishvili Lela 6 0 - 1 6 Zhu Jiner
Cori T. Deysi 1 - 0 Dzagnidze Nana
Pogonina Natalija ½ - ½ Kosteniuk Alexandra
Munguntuul Batkhuyag ½ - ½ Batsiashvili Nino
Assaubayeva Bibisara 1 - 0 5 Shuvalova Polina
Osmak Iulija 5 1 - 0 5 Kashlinskaya Alina
Girya Olga 5 ½ - ½ 5 Saduakassova Dinara
Stefanova Antoaneta 5 ½ - ½ 5 Vaishali R

...25 boards

Bibisara Assaubayeva, Polina Shuvalova

Bibisara Assaubayeva defeated Polina Shuvalova | Photo: Anna Shtourman

On board 6, the game between Batkhuyag Munguntuul and Nino Batsiashvili featured a very instructive pawn race in the endgame.


In his analysis below, Karsten Müller explains why 58...Ra1 — and not Batsiashvili’s 58...Rg1 — wins for Black. After the text, Munguntuul found the refutation: 59.Kf6! — and not the natural-looking 59.f4.

Standings after round 10

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Lei Tingjie 8,5 51,5
2 Zhu Jiner 7,0 53,5
3 Paehtz Elisabeth 6,5 58,5
4 Muzychuk Mariya 6,5 57,5
5 Harika Dronavalli 6,5 52,0
6 Assaubayeva Bibisara 6,5 51,5
7 Cori T. Deysi 6,5 45,0
8 Batsiashvili Nino 6,0 58,5
9 Kosteniuk Alexandra 6,0 57,0
10 Pogonina Natalija 6,0 53,5
11 Javakhishvili Lela 6,0 51,5
12 Badelka Olga 6,0 49,0
13 Munguntuul Batkhuyag 6,0 47,0
14 Osmak Iulija 6,0 46,0
15 Vantika Agrawal 6,0 44,5

...50 players

All games - Round 10


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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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