Superbet: Mamedyarov joins the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/10/2021 – Shakhriyar Mamedyarov joined Wesley So and Alexander Grischuk in the lead of the Superbet Chess Classic after beating local hero Constantin Lupulescu in round 5. The Romanian, who played with the white pieces, faltered in time trouble and is now sharing last place with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Anish Giri — a single point behind the leaders, though! | Photo: Bryan Adams

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Theoretical battles

Aside from Shakhriyar’s Mamedyarov victory over Constantin Lupulescu in round 5, three of the four remaining (drawn) games saw the contenders showing strong theoretical preparation mostly in topical lines — this is made evident by the fact that novelties were only seen on moves 16, 20 and 23.

The one exception, out of the four draws, was the game between Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri, as the American grandmaster circumvented the main line of the Berlin Defence.


Instead of the usual 8.Qxd8, Caruana played 8.Qe2, trying to take his opponent away from the most trodden paths. The queens were only traded on move 31, in fact, although precise play by both sides nevertheless led to a 45-move draw.

Fabiano Caruana

Not one to shy away from a fighting game — Fabiano Caruana | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The clash between Mamedyarov and Lupulescu was the one that provided most of the excitement on Wednesday, with the Romanian playing a novelty as early as move 8.


Lupulescu went for 8.Na4, deviating from a 2018 game in which White had played 8.a3. A strategical battle ensued, as Black was left with doubled pawns on the f-file after 8...b6 9.Bxf6 gxf6

This is the kind of battle in which Shakh’s excellent feel for the initiative and dynamic play really come to the fore. By move 32, Lupulescu was in deep time trouble while the Azerbaijani had all but maximized the power of his pieces.


32.Be2 was responded by 32...Nd5, threatening ...Nxe3 as the white queen is protecting a potential invasion along the g-file. The best continuation here for White would have been 33.Rg1, while Lupulescu’s 33.Bf1 — returning with the bishop — proved how dangerous Black’s threats actually are.

Both against 33.Rg1 or the text move, Mamedyarov’s response was the best in the position.


33...e5 makes way for the rook to be transferred to the kingside, fully unleashing the potential of Black’s well-coordinated pieces. At this point, White needed to make a difficult decision with little time on the clock, and Lupulescu erred with 34.fxe5 — the engines suggest 34.Rb2 and 34.Nh4 as the best continuations.  

There followed 34...Rg6 35.Nh4 and the very strong 35...Rxg3


The crucial point here is that White cannot play 36.Nxf5 due to 36...Rf3 37.Nxg7 Rxf2+ 38.Kg1 Rf3 and Black will gain a piece.


Instead, Lupulescu went for 36.d4 and resigned two moves later, with Black ready to wreak havoc on the kingside with his heavy pieces lined up on the g-file and his excellent centralized pair of knights.


Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Constantin Lupulescu

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov playing black against Constantin Lupulescu | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Going into the rest day, three players are sharing the lead with a +1 score, while no one has scored less than 2 out of 5 points, so everything is still up for grabs. In Friday’s sixth round, Levon Aronian will play black against Mamedyarov. The Armenian star has so far drawn all his games in Bucharest — much like Teimour Radjabov — but we certainly expect him to choose a fighting opening against his ever-combative opponent.

The other two co-leaders will also have the white pieces in round 6. So will face Giri, while Alexander Grischuk will play against Lupulescu.

Levon Aronian

A fan favourite — Levon Aronian | Photo: Bryan Adams

Standings after round 5


All games



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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