Superbet Poland: Shevchenko leads with perfect score

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/9/2024 – Kirill Shevchenko, the clear rating underdog, grabbed the lead after the first day of action at the Superbet Rapid & Blitz tournament in Poland. Shevchenko defeated D Gukesh, R Praggnanandhaa and Vincent Keymer to end the day with a perfect 6/6 score (wins grant 2 points in the rapid section of the event). Standing at a 2-point distance are Magnus Carlsen and Nodirbek Abdusattorov. | Photo: Grand Chess Tour / Lennart Ootes

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Underdog stuns Pragg, Gukesh and Keymer

Kirill Shevchenko entered the Superbet Rapid & Blitz tournament in Warsaw as the clear underdog. One of six wildcards in Poland, he will only play this tournament throughout the Grand Chess Tour’s 2024 season. And the 21-year-old seems to be motivated to make the most of this one chance, as he started the event with three consecutive wins to grab the lead after the first day of action.

The Ukrainian-born GM now representing Romania defeated three of the four formidable junior players participating at the event: D Gukesh, R Praggnanandhaa and Vincent Keymer, i.e. world’s numbers 2, 3 and 4 in the (very competitive) junior ranking.

Shevchenko has already demonstrated that he is capable of outscoring stronger opposition in quick-play formats, as he claimed outright victory at the 2022 Lindores Abbey Tournament, a blitz event organized right after the Grand Swiss in Riga. Participating in that event were the likes of Fabiano Caruana, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian.

In Warsaw, Shevchenko started with a lucky win over Gukesh. The recent winner of the Candidates blundered horribly by giving up his queen for a supposed checkmating attack that was not really there. The Ukrainian GM then took advantage of Pragg’s faulty opening play in the second round, before outplaying Keymer in a technical, 84-move encounter.

Two players are sharing second place at a 2-point distance from the leader: Magnus Carlsen and Nodirbek Abdusattorov. While Abdusattorov made the most of his two whites in the first rounds of the event and then lost to Pragg, Carlsen collected two draws and a win on the first day of action.

Shevchenko has yet to face both Carlsen and Abdusattorov. The tournament leader will play Carlsen with white in Thursday’s first round, while his encounter against Abdusattorov is set to take place in the rapid section’s final round on Friday.

Rey Enigma

Rey Enigma was the guest of honour at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Gukesh blunders twice

17-year-old Gukesh could not have guessed that he was going to win the Candidates Tournament when he signed up to be one of the nine ‘regulars’ at this year’s Grand Chess Tour. It remains to be seen whether he will play in four events of the Tour as planned, since he will need to prepare for a very demanding World Championship match against Ding Liren.

The youngster’s shocking victory in Toronto and the ensuing repercussions in India might have temporarily altered Gukesh’s ever-serene state of mind, as he made uncharacteristic blunders in the first two rounds of the event in Warsaw.

34.Qd3 loses at once to 34...Rxd3, since 35.Re8+ Kg7 36.h6 is not checkmate due to 36...Nxh6, as played by Shevchenko. 0-1

40...Rg6 loses by force to 41.h4 Nf7 42.Qxg6+ Qxg6 43.Rxg6+ Kxg6 44.Ng2, and the knight endgame is easily winning for White.

Even if Black saves his pawn temporarily with 44...f3, the knight is ready to infiltrate Black’s camp decisively via f4-e6 (or d5). Black continued playing until move 62, but Abdusattorov did not falter in the technical phase of the game and thus grabbed his second win of the event.

Gukesh drew his round-3 encounter against Anish Giri and, given his tried-and-true mental strength, is likely to recover his form in the coming days of the competition.

Dommaraju Gukesh

Dommaraju Gukesh | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Keymer and Wei’s wild draw

Playing black against Keymer, Wei employed a sharp (and mistaken) approach in the opening. A doubled-edged battle ensued, with Keymer playing a few tactical brilliances but failing to find precise continuations to convert his advantage into a win. At some point, it was Wei who missed a tactical chance to get the upper hand.

The game turned out to be a memorable 130-move draw.

Vincent Keymer

Vinecnt Keymer and Wei Yi during their remarkable struggle | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Standings after round 3 (win = 2 pts., draw = 1 pt.)

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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