Korobov Channels AlphaZero, Still Leads Superbet Rapid & Blitz
Korobov drew an exciting game with Caruana in round nine. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Korobov Channels AlphaZero, Still Leads Superbet Rapid & Blitz

| 24 | Chess Event Coverage

Anton Korobov still leads the Superbet Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour after three days of rapid. The Ukrainian grandmaster, who at the end of the day gave his personal explanation of AlphaZero's playing style, is two points ahead of Levon Aronian, Anish Giri and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

The Superbet Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour games start each day at 14:00 CET, which is 8 a.m. Eastern and 5 a.m. Pacific. You can follow them here as part of our live portal. Commentary is provided by GM Robert Hess & IM Danny Rensch at

At the start of day three in Bucharest, Korobov maintained his lead with a draw against Aronian. The runner-up in the leaderboard changed names, though. Anish Giri dropped to third place as he lost, while Vishy Anand took over with a fine win against Fabiano Caruana.

Before going to that game, let's start with a puzzle. In the following position (from analysis), Anand thought he had to play 33.Ke1 as 33.Rxa5 would fail tactically. 

However, 33.Rxa5 is actually possible here. Can you see why?

The game started with Caruana playing a topical and highly aggressive line of the Two Knights (as a way of avoiding the Giuoco Pianissimo) and bringing a novelty, and then Anand finding a good reply to it. It all led to the endgame with rooks and opposite-colored bishops that we saw, and Caruana eventually got his rook trapped:

Vishy Anand 2019 Superbet Rapid & Blitz Bucharest Grand Chess Tour
An excellent first game of the day for Vishy Anand. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Mamedyarov's win against Giri included an instructive moment as well. In a sharp Ragozin, where the black king lost the right to castle, White first traded the light-squared bishops and then created an outpost on f5 for his knight. This determined the outcome of the game.

Mamedyarov-Giri 2019 Superbet Rapid & Blitz Bucharest Grand Chess Tour
Mamedyarov-Giri. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Round eight saw Aronian winning a great game with the black pieces against Wesley So. The Armenian GM has a favorite way of dealing with the Giuoco Pianissimo: playing ...Kh8 and eventually ...f5. It usually looks dangerous, and it usually works in the hands of Aronian!

It worked especially well in this game, which was full of powerful, attacking blows. It was also a game that was potentially important for Aronian in his road to the London playoffs, about which he commented: "I think if I continue getting presents I'll qualify!"

Kasimdzhanov Aronian Caruana 2019 Superbet Rapid & Blitz Bucharest Grand Chess Tour
Aronian arriving with Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Caruana. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

With that win, Aronian joined the group of players trailing Korobov by a point. The leader escaped with a draw against Giri, while Anand couldn't save a slightly-worse queen endgame.

Caruana dropped back further, losing his third game in a row. He blundered a knight, after having worked hard defending a lost position, and at the point where he was about to earn the half-point:

Korobov's game in the ninth round against Caruana started out promising for the Ukrainian. The players followed a very theoretical line in the Queen's Gambit Declined that was seen in many top-level games in recent years (but not in the 2018 world championship, as was suggested in the official broadcast, as there Caruana had opted for 10...Rd8 instead).

Korobov pushed both his h- and a-pawns, and as he went through the game afterward he noted the resemblance with AlphaZero's strategy: "You're eating space, space, and you have to eat all 64 squares in order to win. I am controlling pretty much. I have control over probably 40 squares now so I need 24 more."

He more or less forced Caruana to sacrifice an exchange, but the American got quite good compensation and after more adventures the players eventually drew, with which Korobov kept his lead.

Anton Korobov 2019 Superbet Rapid & Blitz Bucharest Grand Chess Tour
Anton Korobov, still doing great in Bucharest. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

A win would have put Anand in sole second place, but the Indian GM was unfortunate to see Le Quang Liem score his first win in the tournament. Like in his game with Caruana, Anand faced a pawn phalanx on the kingside, which in this game got problematic when he allowed it to advance.

Tactically things remained very difficult, and White had a computer save somewhere, but as it went Anand dropped to fifth place in the standings.

Le Quang Liem 2019 Superbet Rapid & Blitz Bucharest Grand Chess Tour
Wildcard Le Quang Liem played spoiler in round nine. Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Had Korobov lost to Caruana, he would have still been leading after the rapid, with 11 points. This has never happened before. He reached 12 points, which is the lowest number of points someone ever had while leading after day three.

Standings after rapid Superbet Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour Bucharest
The final two days will see blitz, with nine rounds per day. These games count half compared to the rapid games.

Asked about his plan for the coming two days, Korobov replied: "The task for the blitz section is not to lose 18 games in a row. Let's start with this!" 

All games from day 3

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