Grand Swiss: Seven perfect scores

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/27/2023 – After two rounds, seven players still have perfect scores in the open section of the FIDE Grand Swiss. Joining elite players Fabiano Caruana (pictured) and Arjun Erigaisi in the lead, among others, is IM Ramazan Zhalmakhanov from Kazakhstan, who stunned Bassem Amin on Thursday. In the women’s section, five players are sharing first place on 2/2. Tan Zhongyi and Anna Muzychuk are the highest-rated in this group, while, similarly to the open, a Kazakh representative gave the biggest surprise, as Meruert Kamalidenova beat Valentina Gunina to enter round 3 as one of the co-leaders. | Photo: Anna Shtourman

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Caruana beats Niemann, rejoins 2800 club

Fabiano Caruana is having a great month. The 31-year-old from Miami made his way to the Isle of Man right after winning the U.S. Championship with an impeccable, undefeated performance. In Douglas, he has started with back-to-back wins to become one of seven players sharing the lead, and has surpassed the 2800-rating barrier in the live ratings list.

Having already secured a spot in the Candidates, Caruana is likely to be more relaxed than other title contenders as the tournament progresses, which bodes well for his chances to win a second event in a row.

In round 2, Caruana got the better of Hans Niemann with the white pieces. Niemann found himself in real trouble after erring with 22...Qa6

In this quiet-looking position, Caruana already has a large advantage after 23.Rxd8+ Rxd8 24.Rd1, when the natural 24...Rxd1+ would fail to 25.Qxd1 Nc6 26.Qd7

Black is forced to play 26...h6 to deal with the threat of back-rank mate, and after 27.Qe8+ Kh7 28.Qxf7 White has a winning position.

Of course, Niemann did not enter this line and played 24...Ra8 instead — a major positional concession, which Caruana exploited until getting a clear 41-move victory.

Hans Niemann

Hans Niemann | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Predke, L’Ami and Zhalmakhanov stun strong opponents

Three out of the seven co-leaders grabbed upset wins in the second round. Alexandr Predke (Serbia) obtained an attacking win over Jan-Krzysztof Duda; Erwin l’Ami (Netherlands) got the better of Vladimir Fedoseev a day after beating Vidit Gujrathi; and Ramazan Zhalmakhanov (Kazakhstan), the 111th seed in Douglas, defeated Egyptian star Bassem Amin.

Predke made the most of Duda’s kingside vulnerabilities.

30.Bh6+ is game over. Duda resigned after 30.Kf7 Qg7+, with mate-in-one on the board. Of course, 30...Kxh6 fails to 31.Qg6#

Alexandr Predke

Alexandr Predke | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Zhalmakanov also got to finish his game in style.

Both white knights are under attack, but the threat of g3-g4 checkmate prompted Black’s resignation.

Arjun, Esipenko and Sarana among the co-leaders

Also with 2/2 are Arjun Erigaisi (India), Andrey Esipenko (FIDE) and Alexey Sarana (Serbia). Ranked 16th, 32nd and 33rd in the field, the three youngsters defeated lower-rated opponents in Thursday’s second round.

Arjun saw his opponent, the ever-dangerous David Anton, resign the game a move before checkmate. The black king is doing a fantastic job in the centre of the board in this one.

42...Bg2# is coming. Anton resigned.

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Standings after round 2

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Predke, Alexandr 2 2726
2 L'ami, Erwin 2 2716
3 Zhalmakhanov, Ramazan 2 2680
4 Caruana, Fabiano 2 2667
5 Erigaisi, Arjun 2 2653
6 Esipenko, Andrey 2 2603
7 Sarana, Alexey 2 2592
8 Bacrot, Etienne 1,5 2752
9 Cheparinov, Ivan 1,5 2742
10 Shirov, Alexei 1,5 2720
11 Narayanan, S L 1,5 2716
Tari, Aryan 1,5 2716
13 Melkumyan, Hrant 1,5 2707
14 Ter-Sahakyan, Samvel 1,5 2707
15 Aravindh, Chithambaram Vr. 1,5 2698
16 Najer, Evgeniy 1,5 2696
17 Huschenbeth, Niclas 1,5 2689
18 Kuybokarov, Temur 1,5 2685
19 Rapport, Richard 1,5 2669
20 Maurizzi, Marc`andria 1,5 2668

...114 players

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Kamalidenova among co-leaders

In the 50-player women’s competition, five players still have a perfect score after two rounds.

  • Tan Zhongyi (China, 2517), who beat rising star Divya Deshmukh with the black pieces
  • Anna Muzychuk (Ukraine, 2410), who saw her opponent, Stavroula Tsolakidou, first failing to find a winning move and then blundering a whole rook in a drawish position.
  • Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria, 2424), who outplayed Savitha Shri in an endgame with a rook and two minor pieces per side.
  • Irina Bulmaga (Romania, 2423), who defeated her compatriot Mihaela Sanda with the black pieces.
  • Meruert Kamalidenova (Kazakhstan, 2351), who obtained an upset win with white over the ever-creative Valentina Gunina.

Tan Zhongyi

Tan Zhongyi | Photo: Anna Shtourman

The older of the Muzychuk sisters got lucky twice on Thursday.

Grabbing a pawn while threatening a discovered check with 34.Qxe4 is surely tempting, but it is also a losing blunder.

Black has a major threat of her own, connected to a potential mate on the back rank. Moving the knight would discover this attack, but where to place it? Tsolakidou opted for 34...Nb3, when 34...Nd7 was the winning continuation (in this line, 35.Ree1+, for example, fails to 35...Nf6, blocking the discovered check).

After the text, White survives with 35.axb3, and in case of 35...Rxc1+, White both defends and gives the discovered check with 36.Re1+, as was seen in the game!

A queen and rook endgame with 4 vs 3 pawns emerged from this position, one in which Black surely had drawing chances — until Tsolakidou simply forgot that her rook was under attack on e8.

40...Qh6, played on the last move before reaching the time control, lost on the spot to 41.Qxe8+. Certainly a painful loss for the Greek IM.

Anna Muzychuk

Stavroula Tsolakidou and Anna Muzychuk | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Standings after round 2

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Kamalidenova, Meruert 2 2439
2 Tan, Zhongyi 2 2408
3 Muzychuk, Anna 2 2391
4 Stefanova, Antoaneta 2 2375
5 Bulmaga, Irina 2 2298
6 Guichard, Pauline 1,5 2558
7 Roebers, Eline 1,5 2506
8 Garifullina, Leya 1,5 2484
9 Paehtz, Elisabeth 1,5 2402
10 Muzychuk, Mariya 1,5 2400
11 Vaishali, Rameshbabu 1,5 2390
12 Assaubayeva, Bibisara 1,5 2383
13 Mammadzada, Gunay 1,5 2380
14 Beydullayeva, Govhar 1 2523
15 Narva, Mai 1 2523
16 Hoang, Thanh Trang 1 2519
17 Divya, Deshmukh 1 2517
Fataliyeva, Ulviyya 1 2517
19 Tsolakidou, Stavroula 1 2510
20 Milliet, Sophie 1 2510

...50 players

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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.