Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz: Carlsen Leads Ahead Of So
Carlsen leads before the final day of blitz. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz: Carlsen Leads Ahead Of So

| 21 | Chess Event Coverage

The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz tournament seems to be a two-horse race between GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Wesley So, who have separated themselves from the field. Carlsen is half a point ahead with nine rounds of blitz to go.

Their closest rival, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, is three points behind So. Both GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Alexander Grischuk have half a point less. GM Alireza Firouzja is still in last place.

Carlsen had the best score on the first day of blitz: 6.5/9. That was a point more than Nakamura (5.5/9). So dropped to second place in the standings with a 5/9 score that included six draws.

Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz standings
Image: Spectrum Studios.

The blitz follows the rapid pairings, which means the first round (or rather, 10th round) started with the big clash between Carlsen and Nakamura. Again it was the world champion who came out on top. In a Taimanov Sicilian with reversed colors, he won a pawn in the opening and converted 42 moves later in trademark style.

Carlsen also beat GM Jeffery Xiong, but then it became clear the day wasn't going to be an easy one. He lost to GM Pentala Harikrishna, beat GM Levon Aronian, but then lost to Nepomniachtchi.

The Russian GM opened with 1.b3, turned it into a sideline of the Sicilian, got a promising endgame, and played strongly there as well.

Carlsen finished with three wins before securing his half-point lead by drawing with So. Firouzja was one of the victims, but he was really close to beating Carlsen. Getting down to 10 seconds on the clock became fatal for the top junior player in the world.

"I don't know how I could lose that position, but it happened, I guess," said Firouzja.

Speaking of juniors, Xiong impressed early in the day with a superb rook endgame in which he took down none other than So. There were a few mistakes here and there, but that's almost unavoidable in blitz and only makes it more instructive:

Nepomniachtchi won the initial fight for third place by beating Nakamura, again using 1.b3. As the American GM has played that opening move many times as well, it was interesting to see how he would meet it as Black. He was better indeed but then allowed his opponent to steal the victory.

Ian Nepomniachtchi Saint Louis Rapid Blitz
Ian Nepomniachtchi. Image: Saint Louis Chess Club.

"Probably I should try 1...b6; perhaps this would bring me more points than today with black. Clearly, there is some potential!" Nepomniachtchi quipped.

He revealed that against Carlsen he also considered the King's Gambit, but there were too many ways for his opponent to duck that. "1.b3 limits the options for my opponent; this is very clever."

It's been a tough tournament so far for Firouzja, who said: "Today I was happy with my play, but I don't know why I still didn't get results." His game with Harikrishna in the ninth round was nice:

Firouzja remained cheerful and optimistic. "It is a good lesson for me," he said. "It is also good preparation for Norway Chess. It was very important for me to play well and get some experience."

Alireza Firouzja Saint Louis Rapid Blitz
Alireza Firouzja during the live broadcast. Image: Saint Louis Chess Club.

Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz, Day 4 | All games

The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz is being played September 15-19 on lichess with a $250,000 prize fund. The time control is 25 minutes plus a five-second increment for the rapid (nine rounds) and five minutes plus a three-second increment for the blitz (18 rounds).

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