Grand Swiss: Caruana, Deac and Esipenko join Vidit in the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/3/2023 – Four players are sharing the lead with three rounds to go in the open section of the FIDE Grand Swiss after Fabiano Caruana, Bogdan-Daniel Deac and Andrey Esipenko scored full points on Thursday to join Vidit Gujrathi atop the standings. Nine players stand a half point behind, including second seed Hikaru Nakamura and Indian prodigy Arjun Erigaisi. In the women’s tournament, meanwhile, Anna Muzychuk, Antoaneta Stefanova and Vaishali Rameshbabu continue to share first place. | Photo: Anna Shtourman

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Big names (almost) out of contention

With only three rounds to go in Douglas, we can already talk about players falling out of contention — or needing a miracle — in the fight to get one of the two spots in the 2024 Candidates that will be rewarded at the end of the 11-round tournament. And a few big names belong to this group.

In the previous edition of the Grand Swiss, Alireza Firouzja won the tournament outright with 8/11 points, while Fabiano Caruana and Grigoriy Oparin shared second place a half point behind. Thus, it would be a safe bet to predict that 7½ points will be needed to have a shot at grabbing one of the two Candidates’ spots — even if Caruana, who is already qualified, finishes among the top two in the standings.

By that logic, players currently on 4½/8 scores need to collect three wins in a row and hope to get a better tiebreak score than other contenders reaching the 7½ mark. Currently standing in the 25-player group with 4½ points are Alireza Firouzja (3rd seed), Anish Giri (4th), Richard Rapport (6th) and Jan-Krzysztof Duda (10th).

Coincidentally, Firouzja, Rapport and Duda all suffered upset losses on Thursday, against Sam Sevian, Alexey Sarana and Ivan Cheparinov, respectively.

Much like the Qatar Masters, where Magnus Carlsen struggled and finished in 16th place, the Grand Swiss has proven to be an extremely strong event!

Sam Sevian

Sam Sevian beat Alireza Firouzja on board 7 | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Caruana, Deac and Esipenko catch Vidit

Around 63% of the decisive games played so far on the Isle of Man favoured the player with the white pieces. And in round 8, the three players who joined Vidit Gujrathi in the lead all grabbed wins with white.

Caruana took advantage of Etienne Bacrot’s eagerness to simplify the position in an endgame to score his fourth win of the event.

55...Nc6 was the losing mistake by the Frenchman, whose best chance here was 55...Rb3 — of course, he must not have liked the prospect of entering the sequence with 56.Rh8+ Kf7 57.Ra7, although this was objectively better than what happened in the game.

After the text, the forcing 56.Nxc6 Rxc6 57.Ra5 Rxa5 58.bxa5 results in a winning, purely technical position for White.

Advancing the outside passer on the a-file gives White more than enough time to activate his king and get a comfortable win. Bacrot decided to call it a day only two moves later, knowing all too well that his opponent knew how to convert his advantage.

Fabiano Caruana

Fabiano Caruana | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Deac, on his part, saw Polish grandmaster Radoslaw Wojtaszek mistakenly capturing a pawn in a technical, semi-closed position with rooks and minor pieces still on the board.

In classical games, errors often come on moves 39 or 40, when players hastily make decisions to reach the time control. In this case, however, Wojtaszek’s 41...Bxh4 came right after he had received 50 minutes on his clock.

Keeping the bishop on the g1-a7 diagonal was crucial, as after the text move Deac managed to transfer his knight freely to e6.

The bishops soon left the board, and White’s rook and knight tandem was visibly stronger than its much-restricted counterpart

Resignation came after 46...Rd7 47.Ra8 Rb7 48.Nc5. Surely a knightmare for Black, as Karsten Müller would put it!

Bogdan-Daniel Deac

Bogdan-Daniel Deac and Radoslaw Wojtaszek | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

More exciting was Esipenko’s victory over Keymer. Excellent preparation by the Russian grandmaster gave him a clear advantage on the clock as Keymer attempted to avoid making a sudden mistake in a double-edged position in which his opponent was deeply prepared.

White has given up an exchange, but his connected passed pawns in the centre are a permanent, dangerous threat which Black needs to consider almost on every move.

Keymer, in fact, handled the situation superbly at first, but he slowly began to lose the thread as the game progressed.

Moreover, finding the most accurate continuation in the next position — with 5 minutes on the clock and after having calculated tough line after tough line — is certainly a tall order.

White is threatening to play Nd6-f7, gaining a rook, so Black quickly replied by 27...Ke7, which leads to a clearly losing position after Nd6-f5 and d5-d6.

Instead, Keymer would have reached a position with better drawing chances (according to the engines) after 27...Rxd5 28.Nf7+ Ke7 29.Nxh8 g5 30.Be3 Kxe6, giving up the rook for the connected passers — i.e. not a human-like decision at all!

In the game, Esipenko eventually simplified into a rook and bishop endgame with two extra pawns, and had little trouble converting his advantage.

Black is doomed.

Vincent Keymer, Andrey Esipenko

Andrey Esipenko showed astounding opening preparation to take down Vincent Keymer | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Game analysis by Robert Ris

Standings after round 8

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Esipenko, Andrey 6 2691
2 Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi 6 2667
3 Caruana, Fabiano 6 2663
4 Deac, Bogdan-Daniel 6 2638
5 Predke, Alexandr 5,5 2715
6 Cheparinov, Ivan 5,5 2685
7 Nakamura, Hikaru 5,5 2673
8 Kuzubov, Yuriy 5,5 2669
9 Sarana, Alexey 5,5 2668
10 Erigaisi, Arjun 5,5 2664
11 Sevian, Samuel 5,5 2648
12 Maghsoodloo, Parham 5,5 2646
13 Fedoseev, Vladimir 5,5 2623
14 Bacrot, Etienne 5 2705
15 Sindarov, Javokhir 5 2704
16 Niemann, Hans Moke 5 2703
17 Wojtaszek, Radoslaw 5 2653
18 Keymer, Vincent 5 2652
19 Aronian, Levon 5 2652
20 Vitiugov, Nikita 5 2647

...114 players

All games - Round 8

Find games from all rounds at

Tan beats Goryachkina

In the previous edition of the Women’s Grand Swiss, only one spot in the Candidates was granted by the organizers. Lei Tingjie obtained a dominating win with a whopping 9/11 score and went on to win the Candidates, thus gaining the right to challenge Ju Wenjun in the match for the world title.

Now that two spots are up for grabs, we can look back at the final standings of the 2021 Women’s Grand Swiss and note that, much like in the open, two players shared second place with 7½ points. Following that logic, we can say that the likes of Mariya Muzychuk, Harika Dronavalli and Elisabeth Paehtz (all with 4 points currently) are out of contention for the top two spots in the 50-player event.

It surely has not been easier for the women in the demanding, high-stakes tournament!

Valentina Gunina, Elisabeth Paehtz

Valentina Gunina and Elisabeth Paehtz drew their round-8 game | Photo: Anna Shtourman

Atop the standings, the same three players who were sharing the lead going into round 8 remain tied for first after drawing their games on Thursday: Anna Muzychuk, Vaishali Rameshbabu and Antoaneta Stefanova.

None of the chasers grabbed full points either, but a couple of contenders did climb up in the standings to join the chasing pack by winning their round-8 encounters — i.e. Leya Garifullina, who got the better of Polina Shuvalova, and Tan Zhongyi, who inflicted a first loss on top seed Aleksandra Goryachkina.

Tan made the most of a strong pair of bishops to beat Goryachkina.

Black’s decision to invite a rook trade via 27...Kf8 28.g5 Re8 29.Rxe8+ Kxe8 only made things easier for the Chinese grandmaster, who first gained a pawn and then showed good technique to convert her advantage — even when Goryachkina tried to escape with a draw by entering an endgame position with bishops of opposite colours.

55.h4 was the final move of the game, as Black accepted that her dark-squared bishop cannot deal with the two passed pawns on opposite sides of the board, and resigned.

Tan Zhongyi

Tan Zhongyi | Photo: / Maria Emelianova

Standings after round 8

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Vaishali, Rameshbabu 6 2463
2 Muzychuk, Anna 6 2461
3 Stefanova, Antoaneta 6 2438
4 Garifullina, Leya 5,5 2469
5 Milliet, Sophie 5,5 2466
6 Tan, Zhongyi 5,5 2452
7 Munguntuul, Batkhuyag 5,5 2441
8 Tsolakidou, Stavroula 5 2479
9 Narva, Mai 5 2462
10 Cori T., Deysi 5 2460
11 Assaubayeva, Bibisara 5 2453
12 Goryachkina, Aleksandra 5 2433
13 Efroimski, Marsel 5 2396
14 Ushenina, Anna 5 2382
15 Guichard, Pauline 4,5 2463
16 Socko, Monika 4,5 2437
17 Bulmaga, Irina 4,5 2419
18 Cramling, Pia 4,5 2398
19 Shuvalova, Polina 4,5 2389
20 Mammadzada, Gunay 4,5 2387

...50 players

All games - Round 8

Find games from all rounds at


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.