Superbet Poland: Wei continues impressive run, wins rapid section

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/11/2024 – After scoring three wins in as many games on Thursday, Wei Yi grabbed two more consecutive wins (before signing a draw in round 9) to secure first place in the rapid section of the Superbet tournament in Poland. Going into the 18 rounds of blitz, set to take place on Saturday and Sunday, Wei leads Magnus Carlsen by a full point, while R Praggananandhaa stands at a 2-point distance from the world number one. Carlsen was the only player to remain unbeaten in the rapid. | Photo: Grand Chess Tour / Lennart Ootes

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Wei, Carlsen and Pragg the frontrunners

Nine rounds of rapid chess in Warsaw ended with 24-year-old Wei Yi atop the standings of the Superbet Rapid & Blitz tournament. Eighteen rounds of blitz remain to be played, which means even players in the bottom half of the standings have outside chances of claiming the title — the players sharing last place stand at a 6-point distance from the sole leader.

Wei entered the final three rounds of the rapid sharing first place with Magnus Carlsen. The Chinese star had scored three wins in as many games on Thursday, and continued his winning streak with two more victories on Friday. A final draw, against R Praggnanandhaa, allowed the man from Yancheng to claim outright victory in the first section of the inaugurual Grand Chess Tour event of the year.

Standing in sole second place is Carlsen, the perennial favourite who turned out to be the only player to remain undefeated in the 10-player single round-robin. On the final day of rapid action, Carlsen drew with Pragg, beat Vincent Keymer and escaped with a draw after blundering early in the game against Anish Giri.

Pragg is in sole third place, two points further back. After playing decisive games in 5 out of his 6 first encounters, the Indian prodigy collected 3 draws on Friday.

Magnus Carlsen, Praggnanandhaa

Magnus Carlsen and R Praggnanandhaa in what seems to be a lively post-mortem discussion | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Fearless Wei beats Abdusattorov

Nodirbek Abdusattorov made headlines by winning the World Rapid Championship at 17 in 2021. The Uzbek prodigy started the tournament in Warsaw with back-to-back wins, but then failed to keep up the pace with the frontrunners.

In round 7, Abdusattorov played the black pieces against Wei. Amid a strategic battle, the Chinese GM temporarily sacrificed his knight to prevent his opponent from gaining counterplay on the kingside.

18.Nf5 is by no means forced but, as Wei himself explained, it prevents Black from expanding on the kingside via ...f7-f5. After 18...gxf5 19.exf5, Abdusattorov opted not to capture with 19...Bxf5 (the engines’ first choice) but went for 19...Kh8 instead.

The position arising from 20.fxe6 fxe6 21.Qe2 is strategically advantageous for White.

From this point on, Wei managed to create weaknesses on Black’s camp while keeping his army harmoniously coordinated.

White did not get a material advantage in the middlegame, but reached a favourable queen endgame by move 48.

White’s pawns on the kingside will march down the board more quickly than their black counterparts on the opposite flank — speed is a crucial factor in queen endgames.

Wei’s 49.gxh5 was not the most precise continuation here (49.Qe8+ Kg7 50.Qe7+ Kg6 51.gxh5 was stronger), but Abdusattorov blundered immediately with 49...Qxb4, allowing his opponent to simplify into a winning pawn endgame.

50.Qg4+ Qxg4 51.hxg4 Kf7 52.g5 was followed by Black’s resignation.

Wei Yi, Nodirbek Abdusattorov

Wei Yi playing white against Nodirbek Abdusattorov | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Carlsen’s effectiveness on display

After signing a 49-move draw in his game against Pragg, Carlsen first made the most of a blunder by Keymer and then successfully defended an inferior position against Giri.

Keymer’s 28.Qa4 allowed Carlsen to show his great tactical alertness.

28...Nf3+ gains Black a piece. The forcing sequence 29.Bxf3 Rxe2 30.Bxe2 Qxf2+ 31.Kh1 Qxe2 was played over the board.

Crucially, after grabbing the bishop, the queen defends the rook on b5.

Keymer resigned the game two moves later.

Vincent Keymer

In good spirits — Vincent Keymer | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Against Giri, Carlsen erred as early as on move 17. Giri spent over 7 minutes (this was a game with a 25+10 time control) before capturing the pawn his opponent had just left hanging. The Dutchman suspected the pawn ‘sacrifice’ was part of Carlsen’s preparation.

17.Be3 allows 17...Nxe4 18.Nxe4 Bf5, pinning the knight, and Black will emerge a pawn up in all reasonable variations.

Of course, Carlsen was aware of his mistake, and immediately went into defensive mode. The Norwegian managed to deal with all of Black’s threats and eventually simplified the position into a drawn 4 v. 3 rook endgame.

This was the position after 33.f3. Giri continued trying to provoke a mistake by White until move 68, but Carlsen never faltered in defence. Draw.

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Expert analysis by IM Robert Ris

Final standings - Rapid (win = 2 pts. | draw = 1 pt.)

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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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