Grand Swiss: Firouzja scores third straight win

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/30/2021 – For the first time in the 2021 FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss a sole leader has emerged in either section, as Alireza Firouzja is the only player to have kicked off the event with three straight victories. The 18-year-old beat Alexandr Predke with the white pieces on Friday. In the women’s section, nine players are sharing first place on 2½/3 points. | Photo: Mark Livshitz

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On his way to the Candidates?

Grand Swiss Chess 2021Thanks to a win with the white pieces over Alexandr Predke, Alireza Firouzja grabbed the sole lead in the open section of the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss. The 18-year-old is the only player in either section to have won his initial three games in Riga. His three consecutive wins have left him 20 points away from becoming only the 14th player in history to reach a 2800 Elo rating, as he is currently ranked 6th in the world in the live ratings list.

With two spots in the next Candidates Tournament up for grabs, odds are on his side for the time being. Notwithstanding, there are eight more rounds to play in Latvia, and as expected, the playing level has been outstanding, with Firouzja himself struggling in round 2 against 46th seed Dariusz Swiercz.

Six players are sharing second place a half point behind the Iranian (who now represents France), with Yu Yangyi the highest-rated player in the pack. The experienced Yu beat Matthias Bluebaum in round 3, and will get a chance to face the undefeated leader in Saturday’s fourth round. 

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Firouzja Alireza 2 1 - 0 2 Predke Alexandr
Caruana Fabiano ½ - ½ 2 Saric Ivan
Demchenko Anton ½ - ½ Aronian Levon
Donchenko Alexander ½ - ½ Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
Tari Aryan ½ - ½ Fedoseev Vladimir
Yu Yangyi 1 - 0 Bluebaum Matthias
Sasikiran Krishnan ½ - ½ Maghsoodloo Parham
Gukesh D ½ - ½ Artemiev Vladislav
Wojtaszek Radoslaw ½ - ½ Dreev Aleksey
Ponomariov Ruslan ½ - ½ Korobov Anton

...54 boards

Ivan Saric

Ivan Saric held Fabiano Caruana to a draw | Photo: Mark Livshitz

After beating Nijat Abasov in 28 moves on opening day, Firouzja battled through a rollercoaster 58-move game in the second round, and needed 63 moves on Friday to defeat Predke, who came from scoring a remarkable victory the day before. Fatigue will doubtlessly be a factor in this tournament, so being 18 and motivated might end up helping the youngster greatly in the days to come.

Firouzja got the initiative out of the opening, and eventually turned his positional advantage into an extra pawn in a queenless middlegame position.

 

This was the situation when the players received 50 extra minutes on move 40. White is a pawn up, but Black has the bishop pair, with the engines giving White only a slight edge. 

Here is when Firouzja began to show that he is not only a tactical wizard who can outplay anybody in a 1-minute game. After all, the youngster did not enter the world’s top 10 without proving he can transform small edges into wins in technical positions. 

Not long after, White had centralized his king, and his passed b-pawn had turned into a real menace.

 

After 58.b6, there followed 58...Bb8 59.Nxb8 Bxf3, when White should not capture the bishop as that would throw away the win due to Black’s passer on the g-file. Instead, 60.Nc6 is the way to go, and Black’s passed pawn will only reach the second rank. Predke resigned three moves later.

Baadur Jobava

Baadur Jobava looking at the games in both sections | Photo: Mark Livshitz

For a third day in a row, we got to see only a few decisive results on the top boards of the open section. But some of the draws have been reached after remarkable tactical fights, as was the case in the game between Aryan Tari and Vladimir Fedoseev.

 

This wild position arose from a Caro-Kann. Black’s setup looks a bit less manic, but he still needs to deal with some immediate threats. Tari went for 19.h6 here, and after 19...Qxf4 20.hxg7 Rg8 it seemed unlikely Black would get to get his king to safety anytime soon.

The mayhem continued. On move 35, Black got a chance to force a draw by perpetual check but decided to go for the win.

 

It is not difficult to calculate here — especially for a player of Fedoseev’s calibre — that 35...Rb3+ forces a draw. In that line, White is forced to play 36.Ka1, and after 36...Qxd1, threatening mate on b1, White has nothing better than 37.Qb8+ Bc8 38.Qd6+, with a perpetual check.

What is difficult to foresee (for a human) is whether White has a forced win after 35...Qc2+, Fedoseev’s choice. There followed 36.Ka1 Qxd1 37.Re7 Qg4 38.Qf6 Rc4

 

Not going for a draw had been a mistake by the Russian, and Tari had played precisely up to this point — he just needed to find the way to finish his opponent off. As the engines show, the only winning move here is 39.Re4+, simply entering a position with queen and knight against two rooks and a bishop via 39...Kc7 40.Rxg4 Rxg4 41.Nc3, which is winning for White.

Apparently Tari wanted more, though, and opted for the more refined (albeit mistaken) 39.b6, which was quickly refuted by 39...Qg6, both dealing with any potential discovered checks and preparing to respond to 40.Qf8+ with 40...Be8

 

Incredibly, Black can neutralize all of White’s threats, even after 41.bxa7 Ra4 42.Rxb7 — the players had already passed the time control, and Fedoseev had calmly calculated that 42...Qxg7+ 43.Qxg7 Rxg7 44.Rxg7 is a draw due to 44...Bd7 45.Rg8+ Be8.

 

It was a spectacular fight, of the kind that can be more often seen in a classical tournament with particularly strong players in the lineup!


Standings after round 3

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Firouzja Alireza 3,0 4,0
2 Yu Yangyi 2,5 3,5
  Ponkratov Pavel 2,5 3,5
4 Hovhannisyan Robert 2,5 3,5
5 Nihal Sarin 2,5 3,5
6 Saric Ivan 2,5 3,5
7 Najer Evgeniy 2,5 3,0
8 Caruana Fabiano 2,0 5,0
9 Korobov Anton 2,0 4,5
  Keymer Vincent 2,0 4,5
11 Predke Alexandr 2,0 4,5
12 Petrosyan Manuel 2,0 4,5
13 Artemiev Vladislav 2,0 4,0
  Neiksans Arturs 2,0 4,0
15 Fedoseev Vladimir 2,0 4,0

...108 players


All games

 

Nine co-leaders in the women’s section

Round 3 in the women’s tournament saw four draws on the top boards, which ended up allowing Harika Dronavalli and Lela Javakhishvili to join the leading pack. Harika beat former women’s world champion Antoaneta Stefanova on board 5, while Javakhishvili defeated Russian star Polina Shuvalova on board 6.

There was no lack of fighting chess on the four top boards though, as three of those games lasted over 50 moves.

 
Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Dzagnidze Nana 2 ½ - ½ 2 Pogonina Natalija
Paehtz Elisabeth 2 ½ - ½ 2 Lei Tingjie
Batsiashvili Nino 2 ½ - ½ 2 Zhu Jiner
Gunina Valentina 2 ½ - ½ Kosteniuk Alexandra
Harika Dronavalli 1 - 0 Stefanova Antoaneta
Javakhishvili Lela 1 - 0 Shuvalova Polina
Badelka Olga ½ - ½ 1 Muzychuk Mariya
Abdumalik Zhansaya 1 1 - 0 1 Buksa Nataliya
Kashlinskaya Alina 1 1 - 0 1 Cyfka Karina
Sukandar Irine Kharisma 1 ½ - ½ 1 Saduakassova Dinara

...25 boards

Nino Batsiashvili

Nino Batsiashvili | Photo: Mark Livshitz

Sixth seed Zhansaya Abdumalik was upset in round 1 by Leya Garifullina, but she is gaining back some ground, as she got the better of Nataliya Buksa on the third day of action.

 

Black had defended resourcefully from an inferior position out of the opening, but she had a difficult technical task ahead. At this point, she needed to play 32...fxe4, when White will have trouble trying to make progress — despite her rook and knight looking menacing.

Buksa went for the passive 32...Bh8 instead, allowing White to gain a pawn by force with 33.exf5 gxf5 34.Nd6, attacking the rook and the f5-pawn.

 

Abdumalik grabbed the pawn and went on to comfortably convert her advantage into a 55-move win, which leaves her in a crowded 11-player chasing pack going into round 4.


Standings after round 3

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Zhu Jiner 2,5 4,5
2 Pogonina Natalija 2,5 4,5
3 Javakhishvili Lela 2,5 4,0
4 Dzagnidze Nana 2,5 4,0
5 Gunina Valentina 2,5 4,0
6 Lei Tingjie 2,5 4,0
7 Paehtz Elisabeth 2,5 4,0
8 Batsiashvili Nino 2,5 3,5
9 Harika Dronavalli 2,5 2,5
10 Kosteniuk Alexandra 2,0 5,0
11 Sargsyan Anna M. 2,0 4,5
12 Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan 2,0 4,0
13 Padmini Rout 2,0 3,5
  Lujan Carolina 2,0 3,5
15 Assaubayeva Bibisara 2,0 3,0

...50 players


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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