Shakhriyar Mamedyarov wins Superbet Chess Classic

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/15/2021 – In the last round of the Superbet Chess Classic, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov safely drew Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with the black to secure tournament victory. Wesley So, Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk shared second place a full point behind the Azerbaijani. The second event of the tour, the Paris Rapid & Blitz Tournament, kicks off on Friday. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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A clear winner

Shakhriyar MamedyarovMuch like in the first round, all five games finished drawn in the ninth and final round of the Superbet Chess Classic. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who entered the last day of action a full point ahead of his closest pursuers, drew Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to secure first place in the capital of Romania. Three players scored 5 out of 9 points to finish in shared second place — i.e. Levon Aronian, Alexander Grischuk and Wesley So.

This was Mamedyarov’s first classical, over-the-board tournament since his participation at the 2020 German Bundesliga in September, when he scored 3/4 points on top board for second-placed SC Viernheim — he defeated Laurent Fressinet and Gata Kamsky in Karslruhe. Before that, he had withdrawn from the Gibraltar Masters in January due to illness. His latest major tournament victory was achieved in July 2019, when he won the Riga Grand Prix after beating none other than Vachier-Lagrave in Armageddon.

So, for a second time in a row, the Azerbaijani obtained tournament victory in a classical tournament after playing black against MVL. This time around, there was no drama, as he kept things under control after getting a full-point lead by scoring three consecutive wins in rounds 5 to 7 — 25-move draws against Anish Giri and Vachier-Lagrave were enough to claim the $90,000 first prize.

Mamedyarov gained 12.4 rating points in Bucharest, which prompted him to fifth place in the live ratings list. This might be the start of another sharp ascent to the very top of the world ranking — let us not forget that Shakh was the second highest-rated player on the planet in February 2018; later that year, he achieved his highest-ever official rating at a dizzying 2820 points in the September FIDE list. 

The clear victory also gained Mamedyarov 13 points in the overall Grand Chess Tour standings. Though he will not be playing at the Paris Rapid & Blitz Tournament that kicks off Friday, he will feature alongside Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand at the Zagreb leg of the tour, starting July 7.

Grand Chess Tour 2021

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Three players in shared second place

Prize money and GCT points were equally split between Grischuk, So and Aronian, as the three elite grandmasters shared second place on a +1 score. While So finished undefeated, Grischuk and Aronian each suffered a single defeat in the tournament — Aronian beat Grischuk in their round-7 direct encounter to bounce back from a rather unfortunate defeat against the eventual tournament winner.

A further half point behind finished Anish Giri and Teimour Radjabov. While Giri beat MVL and lost to Lupulescu, Radjabov signed nine draws in Bucharest, mostly using a safety-first approach — similar nine-game string of draws were collected by the Azerbaijani in the 2018 and 2019 editions of the Shamkir Masters Tournament.

Anish Giri

Anish Giri | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The most exciting encounter of the final round saw Fabiano Caruana fighting to end the tournament on a high in his white game against Bogdan-Daniel Deac. The American star decided to enter a slightly favourable ending soon after the time control.

 

Caruana invested 12 minutes considering whether to allow a queen swap or not. Instead of avoiding the exchange with 44.Qd2, he went for 44.Rc1 and the game continued 44...Qxb2 45.Rxb2 Ne5 

 

It was an understandable decision by Caruana, who after 46.Rd1 Rd8 went on to advance his d-pawn with 47.d4 Nc6 48.d5 to soon after transfer his bishop to e6, with a good-looking and promising position.

Of course, the computers coldly evaluate the position as equal, but Deac had to defend until move 72 before finally signing a draw against the highest-rated player in the field. Coincidentally, Caruana and Deac both finished on 4/9 — the latter joined the event as a late replacement after Richard Rapport had to withdraw.

Fabiano Caruana, Bogdan-Daniel Deac

A long struggle — Fabiano Caruana vs Bogdan-Daniel Deac | Photo: Lennart Ootes


Final standings

 

All games

 

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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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