Duda comes from behind, wins Superbet Rapid & Blitz Poland

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/24/2022 – Jan-Krzysztof Duda won the Superbet Rapid & Blitz tournament in Warsaw. The Polish star collected 6½/9 points on the final day of action to overcome long-time sole leader Vishy Anand in the standings table. Anand tied in second place with Levon Aronian, who scored 13½/18 points in the blitz section and thus climbed to first place in the blitz world ranking. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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The closer

Jan-Krzysztof DudaJan-Krzysztof Duda has already confirmed his status as an elite player. The 24-year-old from Wieliczka reached a peak rating of 2760 in December last year. More importantly, though, he has proven to be capable of displaying some of his best chess in high-pressure situations.

Back in 2020, Duda ended Magnus Carlsen’s 125-game unbeaten streak; a year later, he would knock the Norwegian out of the World Cup before beating Sergey Karjakin in the final of the strenuous event. His victory at the tournament in Sochi granted him a spot in the upcoming Candidates Tournament.

Following this pattern, less than a month ago, the Polish number one had a great final day to get first place ahead of the world champion at the Oslo Esports Cup. Now, at the Superbet Rapid & Blitz Tournament, he once again showed his ability as a ‘closer’, getting 6½ points in the final 9 rounds of blitz to win the whole thing ahead of long-time sole leader Vishy Anand. 

Out of the players fighting for first place in Warsaw, perhaps Duda was the one with the most regular performance throughout the rapid and blitz sections — notwithstanding Anand’s remarkable level during the first four days of action. Unlike Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana, the local hero did not underperform during the rapid, which allowed him to remain close to the leader before his successful final sprint.

In Monday’s first game, Duda correctly assessed that he could grab the pawn Anand sacrificed in an endgame with queens, rooks and bishops still on the board.

 

Anand’s 22...Rf8 left the a7-pawn en prise. Given how well things had been going for the Indian — who displayed an active style of play throughout — perhaps some other opponent would have rejected grabbing the pawn, but Duda trusted his quick calculation and went for it with 23.Qxa7.

It turned out that the Polish star had made the right decision, as Black’s initiative led nowhere after 23...Rxf1+ 24.Bxf1 Qe1 25.Qa8+ Kg7 26.Qxb7+ Kh6 27.Qa6

 

This is the long, forced sequence that Duda had foreseen. The line is not that difficult to spot, but what is remarkable is how the 24-year-old managed to keep his cool even in a 5-minute game, while knowing all too well that this was a crucial encounter.

As for Anand, this was the first of three losses for him on Monday (he also won three games). Once it was all said and done, the multiple world champion finished only a half point behind Duda. It was an incredible performance by the 52-year-old, who outclassed his younger opponents for most of the event.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Vishy Anand

Going strong at 52 — Vishy Anand | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Aronian number one in blitz

The second-oldest player in the field also had much to celebrate once the tournament had ended in Poland. Aronian did not lose a single game in the blitz section, scoring 13½/18 points to finish in shared second place.

Thanks to his amazing performance, the US grandmaster gained 76.6 rating points, which leaves him with 2849.6 points in the live ratings list, just 0.4 points shy of Hikaru Nakamura’s 2850. Since the next official list will round up Aronian’s rating to 2850 and he has been the more active player, the man from Yerevan will be the highest-rated blitz player in the world at least during the next month.

Aronian entered the last round tied for first place with Duda, and had the white pieces against an in-form Fabiano Caruana. In a sharp middlegame, Aronian missed a chance to get a clear advantage.

 

Two black pawns are hanging, one on d6 and one on h4. White here chose to grab the latter with 32.Bxh4, which led to him rushing to give a perpetual check as, in fact, his king is more vulnerable than its counterpart in this position.

Instead, 32.Rxd6 would have left him in the driver’s seat, but only if he found a line involving an exchange sacrifice — 32...Qg1 33.f4 (the key idea) exf4 34.Rxf6

 

White’s dark-squared bishop is stronger than Black’s rook in this position. This variation, however, did not lead to some sort of forced mate, so it made sense for Aronian to take the safer route.

Furthermore, this draw could have easily given him tournament victory, had Kirill Shevchenko found a tactical shot in his game against Duda.

 

29.Rxg7+ is a killer blow — 29...Kxg7 30.Bxh6+ Kh7 31.Nxe6 and the queen will infiltrate on g5 with decisive effect. Shevchenko missed this chance and went on to lose what turned out to be a lengthy, 70-move game

Richard Rapport, Levon Aronian

Colourful shirts — Richard Rapport facing Levon Aronian in round 11 | Photo: Lennart Ootes


Final standings

Superbet Grand Chess Tour Poland 2022


All games - Blitz

 

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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.