Grand Swiss: MVL and Sasikiran win, join the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/2/2021 – After six rounds, the participants of the FIDE Grand Swiss will get a rest day on Tuesday. In the open section, five players are tied atop the standings on 4½/6 points, with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Krishnan Sasikiran (pictured) the latest to have joined the leading pack. Among the women, Lei Tingjie reclaimed sole first place by beating Jolanta Zawadzka. | Photo: Anna Shtourman

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No lack of fighting chess

Grand Swiss Chess 2021We have crossed the halfway mark of the FIDE Grand Swiss, with five players sharing the lead in the open section and Lei Tingjie topping the standings in the women’s tournament. While four players are standing a half point behind Lei in the women’s category, no fewer than fifteen grandmasters have a half point less than the co-leaders in the open. With five tense-packed rounds still to go, the players will have a rest on Tuesday, when they will most likely focus on recharging their batteries before the second, deciding half.

It was a rather eventful sixth round in the open tournament. Although only two games from the top 10 boards finished decisively, we could have easily seen a shake-up of the standings table as Alireza Firouzja, Evgeniy Najer and Nihal Sarin got considerable advantages, but saw their winning chances withered down by their opponents’ defensive efforts.  

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Krishnan Sasikiran did manage to win though, and joined the leading pack on 4½/6 points. MVL beat Pavel Ponkratov, while Sasikiran scored a second consecutive win — the Indian had beaten Vladimir Fedoseev on Monday and took down Alexandr Predke in round 6.

Meanwhile, four players obtained full points to join the chasing pack: Andrey Esipenko, Daniil Dubov, Sanan Sjugirov, David Anton and Alexey Sarana will get a chance to catch up with the leaders after the rest day.

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Shirov Alexei 4 ½ - ½ 4 Firouzja Alireza
Najer Evgeniy 4 ½ - ½ Caruana Fabiano
Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 1 - 0 Ponkratov Pavel
Sevian Samuel ½ - ½ Yu Yangyi
Nihal Sarin ½ - ½ Navara David
Korobov Anton ½ - ½ Tari Aryan
Predke Alexandr 0 - 1 Sasikiran Krishnan
Deac Bogdan-Daniel ½ - ½ Sargissian Gabriel
Vitiugov Nikita 3 ½ - ½ Petrosyan Manuel
Aronian Levon 3 ½ - ½ 3 Donchenko Alexander

...54 boards

Evgeniy Najer

Evgeniy Najer had a slight edge in an endgame against Fabiano Caruana when the latter claimed a draw by threefold repetition — Najer blundered that it was possible for his opponent to repeat the position | Photo: Mark Livshitz

Two combative players of different generations faced off on top board. Firouzja went for the Caro-Kann, a defence that has proven to be a good alternative for those wanting to get a full-fledged fight with the black pieces. The youngster castled queenside and got a strong initiative on the opposite flank.

Shirov defended resourcefully to survive the middlegame, but was nonetheless on the back foot in the heavy-piece position that ensued.


White has his rooks lined up on the b-file, but his opponent might potentially line up all three of his heavy pieces on the kingside. At this point, trading down into a queen versus two rooks endgame is actually good for Black, although converting those positions is never easy — Firouzja could have gone for 36...Rxf2+ 37.Qxf2 Rxf2+ 38.Rxf2 and 38...g5 or 38...a6, when White will need to defend his position for quite a while.

Instead, the young star faltered with 36...b6, allowing Shirov to equalize with the precise 37.Qc5


Firouzja had prepared 37...Qb7, looking to infiltrate via h1, but White can now force matters with 38.Rxb6 axb6 39.Rxb6. Black counterattacks with 39...Rxf2+, but after 40.Ke1 he has nothing better than a triple repetition with his rooks giving checks on the first ranks.



Alexei Shirov

Alexei Shirov | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Vachier-Lagrave has been employing a classical approach in Riga, drawing his games with black and pushing for wins when he has the white pieces. Facing Ponkratov’s French Defence in round 6, MVL prioritized the initiative from the get go. His opponent’s 15th move was an imprecision.


It looks dangerous but grabbing the central pawn with 15...Nxd4 was Black’s best alternative here. Ponkratov’s 15...h5, on the other hand, led to a forced sequence which left him struggling to find precise defensive manoeuvres against one of the best calculators in the circuit — 16.Nf6+ Bxf6 17.exf6 Ng8 18.Qf3


Black has his king stuck in the centre, while his central pawn structure is heavily threatened with the e-pawn pinned to the king. Ponkratov was in deep trouble, and spent almost 15 minutes before playing 18...Rh6, but after 19.Qxd5 Vachier-Lagrave needed no more than seven moves to claim his third victory of the event.

Standings after round 6

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Firouzja Alireza 4,5 20,0
2 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 4,5 18,0
3 Najer Evgeniy 4,5 16,5
4 Sasikiran Krishnan 4,5 16,0
5 Shirov Alexei 4,5 14,5
6 Yu Yangyi 4,0 19,5
7 Caruana Fabiano 4,0 19,0
8 Petrosyan Manuel 4,0 18,5
9 Nihal Sarin 4,0 18,0
10 Korobov Anton 4,0 17,0
11 Tari Aryan 4,0 17,0
12 Sargissian Gabriel 4,0 16,5
13 Navara David 4,0 16,5
14 Sjugirov Sanan 4,0 16,0
15 Sevian Samuel 4,0 16,0

...108 players

All games - Round 6


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Lei reclaims the sole lead

No player in the open section has managed to collect 5 points so far in Riga (i.e. a +4 score), while Lei Tingie has reclaimed the sole lead in the women’s section after reaching that score with a win over Polish WGM Jolanta Zawadzka. 

The seventh seed is followed closely by a group of four players. Former co-leaders Zhu Jiner, Elisabeth Paehtz and Nino Batsiashvili all drew and are now a half point behind Lei, while Natalija Pogonina beat Olga Badelka to join them in the chasing pack.

Also, top seeds Mariya Muzychuk and Nana Dzagnidze faced off on board 5, with Muzychuk getting her second consecutive victory in Riga.

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Lei Tingjie 4 1 - 0 4 Zawadzka Jolanta
Zhu Jiner 4 ½ - ½ 4 Paehtz Elisabeth
Harika Dronavalli ½ - ½ 4 Batsiashvili Nino
Pogonina Natalija 1 - 0 Badelka Olga
Muzychuk Mariya 3 1 - 0 Dzagnidze Nana
Kosteniuk Alexandra 3 1 - 0 3 Vantika Agrawal
Munguntuul Batkhuyag 3 1 - 0 3 Shuvalova Polina
Osmak Iulija 3 ½ - ½ 3 Abdumalik Zhansaya
Girya Olga 3 0 - 1 3 Kashlinskaya Alina
Javakhishvili Lela 3 1 - 0 3 Gunina Valentina

...25 boards

Olga Girya, Alina Kashlinskaya

Alina Kashlinskaya beat Olga Girya with the black pieces | Photo: Mark Livshitz

After a painful loss in round 5, Alexandra Kosteniuk bounced back by beating Vantika Agrawal on board 6. An entertaining Sicilian saw the Russian opening up the g-file in front of her king. A sharp struggle ensued, in which Black failed to find a way to protect her monarch.


Rooks are hanging on h2 and e6, but it is White to play in a wild position — Kosteniuk pounced with 45.Qa7+, as 45...Kxe6 runs into 46.Nd4+ Ke5 47.Nxc2+, grabbing the queen.

Soon after, White got to win the game with mate-in-one on the board.


51...Ke5 52.Nf3+ and Black resigned before allowing 52...Kf5 53.Qg6#

Standings after round 6

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Lei Tingjie 5,0 18,0
2 Batsiashvili Nino 4,5 20,0
  Paehtz Elisabeth 4,5 20,0
4 Zhu Jiner 4,5 20,0
5 Pogonina Natalija 4,5 18,0
6 Harika Dronavalli 4,0 19,0
7 Javakhishvili Lela 4,0 18,0
8 Kosteniuk Alexandra 4,0 18,0
9 Muzychuk Mariya 4,0 17,5
10 Zawadzka Jolanta 4,0 16,0
11 Munguntuul Batkhuyag 4,0 14,5
12 Kashlinskaya Alina 4,0 14,0
13 Dzagnidze Nana 3,5 21,5
14 Assaubayeva Bibisara 3,5 18,0
15 Osmak Iulija 3,5 17,5

...50 players

All games - Round 6


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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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