Grand Swiss: Lei keeps on winning, Firouzja reclaims the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/4/2021 – Both sections of the FIDE Grand Swiss have sole leaders going into round 8 (out of 11). Alireza Firouzja made the most of a slight edge in an endgame against Evgeniy Najer to reclaim the sole lead in the open section, while Lei Tingjie got the better of Nino Batsiashvili to collect her fifth victory of the event. | Photo: Anna Shtourman

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Paehtz in sole second place

Grand Swiss Chess 2021The women’s section of the FIDE Grand Swiss has a clear frontrunner in Lei Tingjie. The Chinese grandmaster scored a second consecutive win on Wednesday, as she needed no more than 30 moves to take down Nino Batsiashvili with the black pieces.

Only one player stands a half point behind the leader in the women’s tournament: Elisabeth Paehtz collected her fourth victory of the event in round 6 to reach sole second place. Paehtz already faced Lei in the second round, when she split the point with the in-form Chinese star. In a post-game interview, the German star described her performance so far as “the tournament of her life”.

Sharing third place on 5/7 are Alexandra Kosteniuk and Alina Kashlinskaya. Coincidentally, both Russians lost in round 5 and got back into the fight for first place by scoring back-to-back wins. Kosteniuk already secured a spot in the next edition of the Candidates Tournament by winning the World Cup back in August, but we can expect the fierce competitor to continue fighting for the $20,000 first prize.

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Batsiashvili Nino 0 - 1 5 Lei Tingjie
Paehtz Elisabeth 1 - 0 Pogonina Natalija
Kosteniuk Alexandra 4 1 - 0 Zhu Jiner
Muzychuk Mariya 4 ½ - ½ 4 Javakhishvili Lela
Zawadzka Jolanta 4 ½ - ½ 4 Harika Dronavalli
Kashlinskaya Alina 4 1 - 0 4 Munguntuul Batkhuyag
Dzagnidze Nana 1 - 0 Maltsevskaya Aleksandra
Abdumalik Zhansaya 0 - 1 Assaubayeva Bibisara
Badelka Olga 1 - 0 Osmak Iulija
Rogule Laura 0 - 1 3 Stefanova Antoaneta

...25 boards

Alexandra Kosteniuk, Zhu Jiner

Alexandra Kosteniuk defeated Zhu Jiner | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Up to this point, Lei had employed the same approach that has been working for Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the open, as she had won all her games with white and drawn every time she had the black pieces. In round 7, the Chinese broke the cycle by winning with black, out of a Queen’s Gambit Accepted.

The position turned sharp early on, with Lei getting better piece coordination in the complex middlegame.


Both black bishops are pointing in the white king’s direction. Moreover, Lei quickly activated her queen with 16...Qb6 17.Rf1 0-0 18.a5 Qc6.

Batsiashvili tried to find a way to coordinate her pieces in defence, but Lei’s energetic play in the centre proved impossible to handle. Once Black’s e-pawn reached the third rank, things looked bleak for the Georgian.


After 24...e3 25.Nxe3 Bxe3 26.Bd5, trying to give away material to prevent mate, Lei did not grab the piece but continued to up the pressure — 26...Bxf2 27.Kxf2 Qc5+


White’s king is way too exposed. There followed 28.Qe3 Nd3+ 29.Kf1 Nxg3+ 30.Qxg3, and Batsiashvili resigned after 30...Rxe1+


As Lei noted later on, her opponent probably mixed up her preparation, as she was on the back foot as early as move 10.

Nino Batsiashvili, Lei Tingjie

Nino Batsiashvili facing sole leader Lei Tingjie | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Paehtz’s win came much later. She got an edge in the early middlegame against Natalija Pogonina, which slowly turned into a winning advantage. The German grandmaster carefully converted her position into a win.


45.d6 was a good-looking pawn push, which threatens to capture the rook by giving a check with the knight on the next move. However, White still needs to keep an eye on Black’s passer — 45...Qa4 46.Ne7+ Kf8 followed.


Paehtz spent a bit over five minutes calculating whether 47.Bxa8 was winning, and she correctly assessed it was, as there are no tricks after 47...c2. The game lasted seven more moves, with White showing a clean pathway to victory.

On Thursday, Paehtz will face Kosteniuk with the white pieces on second board.

Standings after round 7

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Lei Tingjie 6,0 25,5
2 Paehtz Elisabeth 5,5 28,0
3 Kosteniuk Alexandra 5,0 25,0
4 Kashlinskaya Alina 5,0 19,5
5 Batsiashvili Nino 4,5 28,0
6 Zhu Jiner 4,5 28,0
7 Dzagnidze Nana 4,5 27,5
8 Pogonina Natalija 4,5 26,0
9 Harika Dronavalli 4,5 25,5
10 Javakhishvili Lela 4,5 25,5
11 Muzychuk Mariya 4,5 25,0
12 Assaubayeva Bibisara 4,5 24,5
13 Zawadzka Jolanta 4,5 24,0
14 Badelka Olga 4,5 21,5
15 Munguntuul Batkhuyag 4,0 24,0

...50 players

All games - Round 7


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Firouzja retakes the sole lead

For quite a while it seemed like all top ten boards in the open section were going to finish drawn, but in the end it was Alireza Firouzja who managed to score the only win among the players who entered the seventh round with 4 points or more. In a rook endgame, Firouzja’s rival Evgeniy Najer faltered on move 50 after having kept the balance for over an hour.

Draws on boards 2 to 10 mean former co-leaders Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Alexei Shirov and Krishnan Sasikiran are now Firouzja’s closest chasers. David Navara and Aryan Tari could have joined this group, but they failed to make the most of their advantages in technical endgames.

Contrary to what was seen on the top boards, many decisive results were seen in the games between the players who were a full point behind the leaders going into Wednesday’s round. In fact, boards 11 to 16 all saw decisive results, with Andrei Volokitin upsetting second seed Levon Aronian on board 11. 

Nikita Vitiugov, Pentala Harikrishna, Vladimir Fedoseev, Parham Maghsoodloo and Kirill Shevchenko also won to keep alive their chances of qualifying to the Candidates.

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Firouzja Alireza 1 - 0 Najer Evgeniy
Sasikiran Krishnan ½ - ½ Vachier-Lagrave Maxime
Esipenko Andrey 4 ½ - ½ Shirov Alexei
Caruana Fabiano 4 ½ - ½ 4 Sevian Samuel
Anton Guijarro David 4 ½ - ½ 4 Dubov Daniil
Yu Yangyi 4 ½ - ½ 4 Deac Bogdan-Daniel
Navara David 4 ½ - ½ 4 Sarana Alexey
Petrosyan Manuel 4 ½ - ½ 4 Korobov Anton
Sargissian Gabriel 4 ½ - ½ 4 Nihal Sarin
Tari Aryan 4 ½ - ½ 4 Sjugirov Sanan

...54 boards

David Anton, Daniil Dubov

David Anton and Daniil Dubov drew their round-7 encounter | Photo: Anna Shtourman

It has been a tough tournament for Najer, who missed a big chance to beat Ivan Saric in round 4 and now failed to defend a drawn rook endgame against one of the favourites to win the event. The Russian’s mistake came on move 50.


Black will almost inevitably give up his rook on the a-file, but he counts on his king supporting the h-pawn down the board to hold the draw. Najer here miscalculated that he could force a draw with 50...f1Q, when keeping the tension with 50...Kg6 was the way to go.

Endgame specialist Karsten Müller explains in detail why the Russian’s move was the deciding mistake. As he demonstrates, Najer probably failed to foresee a brilliant 58th move (!) by his opponent in one of the variations.


FIDE Chess Grand Swiss 2021

The playing hall during Wednesday’s round | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Aronian was also defeated from a technical position, as his Ukrainian opponent had more active pieces in an endgame with rooks and knights still on the board.


Black was already in trouble at this point, but 23...Rbd8 was the way to limit the damage — Aronian played 23...c6 instead. Volokitin knew this was a major opportunity to beat a super-GM, and carefully considered whether to play 24.Rc5 or 24.Rd7 (his choice) here, grabbing the initiative for good.

White slowly improved his position, and was rewarded with a remarkable 39-move win. Karsten Müller also took a closer look into this game.


Standings after round 7

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Firouzja Alireza 5,5 27,0
2 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 5,0 27,0
3 Sasikiran Krishnan 5,0 25,0
4 Shirov Alexei 5,0 22,0
5 Petrosyan Manuel 4,5 27,0
6 Yu Yangyi 4,5 26,0
7 Nihal Sarin 4,5 26,0
8 Ponkratov Pavel 4,5 25,5
9 Caruana Fabiano 4,5 25,0
10 Tari Aryan 4,5 25,0
11 Korobov Anton 4,5 24,0
12 Fedoseev Vladimir 4,5 23,5
13 Predke Alexandr 4,5 23,5
14 Najer Evgeniy 4,5 23,5

...108 players

All games - Round 7


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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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