Fabiano Caruana outright winner at Superbet Chess Classic in Romania

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/16/2023 – A draw with black in his game against Richard Rapport was enough for Fabiano Caruana to win the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest. None of the four players sharing second place before the final round managed to score a full point on Monday, thus allowing Caruana to claim clear first place, the $100,000 top prize and 13 GCT points. Meanwhile, world champion Ding Liren beat Bogdan-Daniel Deac with the black pieces. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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A professional showing by the US champion

Fabiano Caruana scored back-to-back wins in rounds 3 and 4 — over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ian Nepomniachtchi — and drew his remaining games to secure clear first place at the Superbet Chess Classic. The current US champion was a deserved winner, as he showed the most stable performance in Bucharest, showing good preparation with black and managing to put pressure on his famed opponents with the white pieces.

Perhaps the one regret for the 30-year-old is his missed chance in round 6, when he failed to convert a clearly superior endgame against world number 2 Alireza Firouzja. Caruana’s 5½/9 performance nonetheless gained him 8.9 rating points, leaving him in sixth place in the live ratings list, only 2 points behind Hikaru Nakamura.

Getting clear first place in the inaugural event of the 2023 Grand Chess Tour also gained him the $100,000 top prize and 13 GCT points.

Following a rather inconsistent 2022, Caruana kicked off this year with a 7/13 performance in Wijk aan Zee. His victory in Bucharest, given the strength of the field, is his best showing TPR-wise since his extraordinary performance at the 2020 Tata Steel Masters.

Caruana’s final draw in Bucharest was not safe nor boring. Facing Richard Rapport, who famously was Ding Liren’s second during the World Championship match in Astana, the eventual tournament winner played a critical line, one that was seen in game 10 of the match. He later explained:

9…Bc5 is the top line if you leave a really powerful engine running for a while. It is a forced draw, but I was just curious what they had prepared against 9…Ba5

Ian Nepomniachtchi’s 9...Bc5 allowed him to get a draw with black while he was still up on the scoreboard in Astana. That was a move that shocked the commentators, since 9...Na5, as played by Caruana, is the sharper attempt.

The ensuing struggle was quite lively, with both players showing great calculation skills to achieve a 30-move draw. Rapport was one of four players who finished the event with a 5/9 score, a half point behind Caruana.

Fabiano Caruana

Fabiano Caruana joined by a few of the organizers and commentator Cristian Chirila, who is also Caruana’s co-host on the C-Squared podcast | Photo: Lennart Ootes

As per the latest contenders for the world title, Ding got to finish the event with a victory, as he defeated underdog Bogdan-Daniel Deac with black.

While the World Champion's 4/9 was disappointing, having lost 9.4 rating points, Nepo's 3½/9 was much more unsatisfactory. Not only did Nepo narrowly lose the world championship match against Ding recently, he also failed to convert a superior position against Anish Giri in his final game in Bucharest.

48...Qg3+ is winning for Black, and one of the two forcing lines that needs to be calculated. Nepo instead went for 48...Ng3, which allows White to escape with 49.Qg1.

With this draw, Nepo’s minus-two performance cost him 15.2 rating points, which left him in fourth place in the live ratings list. The Russian now stands below Alireza Firouzja and Ding, and only 4 points ahead of Nakamura.

Fatigue surely played a role for both Ding and Nepo. In the next event of the Grand Chess Tour, the Superbet Rapid & Blitz in Warsaw, Ding was supposed to participate but decided to withdraw, understandably. Magnus Carlsen will be in Poland’s capital though, where he will play his first over-the-board tournament after giving up the title of world champion.

Bogdan-Daniel Deac, Ding Liren

Ding Liren beat Bogdan-Daniel Deac | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Anish Giri, Ian Nepomniachtchi

Ian Nepomniachtchi could not get the better of Anish Giri | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Results - Round 9

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.