Superbet Chess Classic: So and Grischuk grab the lead

by André Schulz
6/9/2021 – Wesley So and Alexander Grischuk are now sharing the lead at the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest, as each defeated a former co-leader in Tuesday’s fourth round. So played brilliantly to take down Fabiano Caruana, while Grischuk ground out a win against Bogdan-Daniel Deac from a very slightly favourable queen endgame. | Photo: Bryan Adams

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Kasparov’s aura

The Superbet Chess Classic, the first tournament of the Grand Chess Tour 2021, has been stuck in a draw trap so far. In the first three rounds there were just three decisive games, all three involving the two Romanians. Constantin Lupulescu lost to Fabiano Caruana in round one and won against Anish Giri in round three, while Bogdan-Daniel Deac beat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in round two. On Tuesday, however, Kasparov visited the playing hall. Maybe his aura would make a difference?

Garry Kasparov | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Those who thought the trend would change in the fourth round hopefully didn’t bet a lot of money on getting a decisive result in the game between Azerbaijani colleagues Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Teimour Radjabov. The game ended after 21 moves.

But there were a few interesting questions before the day — for example, whether Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who is obviously not in good form at the moment, or Anish Giri would be able to compensate for their negative scores.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played Constantin Lupulescu, who played the Classical Variation of the French Defence. Oh yes, that variation still exists. If you’ve been watching a lot of online top chess lately, you’ve seen plenty of Modern Italians... New players bring some variety into the programme with other openings.

Lupulescu chose the French ‘Poisoned Pawn’ Variation. Here, too, the black queen captures a pawn on b2 and then has to find a way to ‘get back home’. The variation is quite popular and much played, with Grischuk, Shirov and Ivanchuk, for example, playing it often. Vachier-Lagrave, however, has never had it on the board in a tournament game. On move 14 the Frenchman deviated from the main variation and soon after got and endgame with a good knight against the bad French — light-squared — bishop. Except that, in this case, the bishop was not so bad and the knight not that good. Draw.

Round four

Giri and Levon Aronian also split the point. The Dutchman opened with a fashionable variation in the Catalan Opening and then, after an early exchange of queens, played the novelty 14.a4. White got some pressure, but Black withstood it and eventually freed his position. Again: Draw.

Other questions concerned the players at top of the table: would one of the two leaders, Caruana or Deac, score to get away, or lose to give other players a chance to climb up the standings? The answer was yes, in both cases.

Grischuk defeated Deac

19-year-old Bogdan-Daniel Deac confronted Alexander Grischuk with the ‘So Variation’ of the Semi-Tarrasch. The variation is probably called something else, but Wesley So has been playing it a lot lately, successfully. Black gets an isolani on d5 and good piece play in return. Grischuk, however, managed to capture the isolani. In exchange, he got an extra pawn in the heavy-piece endgame and tried to exploit it.


48.g4 Rd1 [48...Rb1!?]

49.Qf3 Rd4 50.Re3 Qc7+ [50...Qxf3 51.Rxf3 Kg7 52.Ra3 (52.Rc3 Rxa4 53.Rc6 Rb4 54.Rxb6 should be enough for a draw.) 52...h5]

51.Qg3 Qd7 52.Qb8


52...Rxa4? [52...Qd5 The idea is Rd1. 53.Qe5 Qxe5+ 54.Rxe5 Rxa4 55.Re7 Kg7 56.Rb7 Rb4 57.Rxb6 with the same endgame as above.]

53.Qxb6 Rf4 54.Kg3 g5 55.Rf3 Rb4 [55...Rxf3+ 56.Kxf3 The queen endgame is won.]

56.Qc6 Qe6 57.Kg2 Kg8 58.Qa8+ Kh7 59.Qf8 Rf4 60.Rxf4 gxf4 61.Qa8 h5 62.Qc6 1–0

So beat Caruana

Fabiano Caruana faced Wesley So’s English Opening with the black pieces.

The game soon entered uncharted territory. Black won a pawn, but got into a very uncomfortable position. In the endgame, Caruana had to fight for a draw while two pawns down against one of the strongest technical players in the circuit.


Black has an extra pawn, but White has a clear superiority on the kingside. The black queenside majority is currently worthless. And Black’s light-squared bishop is under attack.

20.e4 Bg6 21.Bc3 Na6 22.h4 h5?! [The engines try to trick White: 22...Rad8 23.Qc1 Nd5]

23.Qc1 [Threatens to take twice on the kingside followed by Qh6.]

23...Kh7 24.Rd1 Rad8 25.Qb2 [f6 is no longer defensible.]



26.Bxf6 gxf6 27.Qxf6 Rxd1+ 28.Rxd1 Qc5+ [28...cxb3 29.Rd7 with decisive threats.]

29.Kh2 Qe7 30.Qxe7 Rxe7 31.bxc4 [The tables have turned, now it is White who is a pawn to the good.]

31...Kg7 32.Bh3 Nc5 33.Rd6 f6 34.Ne6+ Nxe6 35.Bxe6 Be8 36.c5 Bf7 37.Bc8 Re5 38.Bxb7 Rxc5 39.Rxc6 Rb5 40.Ba6 Rb2+


41.Kg1 [The endgame cannot be held. Black made a few more moves before resigning.]

41...Be8 42.Rc5 Kh6 43.Kf1 Bd7 44.Be2 Be8 45.Kf2 Rb3 46.Rd5 Ra3 47.Bd3 Kg7 48.Ke3 Rb3 49.Kf4 Rb4 50.Rc5 Bf7 51.Rc7 Kg6 52.g4 1–0

Standings after round 4


All games



André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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