So Leads Saint Louis Tournament Before Blitz Games
Wesley So. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

So Leads Saint Louis Tournament Before Blitz Games

| 18 | Chess Event Coverage

As the only undefeated player, GM Wesley So leads the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz tournament after nine rounds of rapid chess. Going into the blitz, the American grandmaster is a point ahead of GM Magnus Carlsen, who lost to GM Alexander Grischuk in the ninth round.

The Russian grandmaster, who said he came into the tournament "extremely tired and ill," is now in shared third place with his compatriot GM Ian Nepomniachtchi. Speed chess specialist GM Hikaru Nakamura scored 50 percent. With 18 rounds of blitz to go, he is four points behind the leader together with GMs Levon Aronian and Pentala Harikrishna.

Saint Louis Rapid | Round 9 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pst SB
1 So, Wesley 2770 2938 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 1 13/18
2 Carlsen, Magnus 2863 2882 1 0 0 2 2 2 1 2 2 12/18
3 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2784 2809 1 2 1 2 2 1 0 0 1 10/18 24.25
4 Grischuk, Alexander 2777 2810 1 2 1 1 0 0 2 2 1 10/18 21.75
5 Nakamura, Hikaru 2829 2766 1 0 0 1 1 2 1 1 2 9/18 18.25
6 Harikrishna, Pentala 2732 2776 0 0 0 2 1 1 2 2 1 9/18 17.25
7 Aronian, Levon 2773 2773 0 0 1 2 0 1 1 2 2 9/18 17
8 Xiong, Jeffery 2709 2701 0 1 2 0 1 0 1 1 1 7/18
9 Dominguez Perez, Leinier 2758 2654 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 1 2 6/18
10 Firouzja, Alireza 2728 2612 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 5/18

The day started well for Carlsen, who added another win to his streak of three from the previous day. The world champion outplayed the tailender GM Alireza Firouzja from the black side of a Nimzo-Indian. In the final position, the bishop on e6 is threatening both the knight on f5 and via b3 the pawn on a4.

But then and there, Carlsen's smooth riding ended. He either blundered or sacrificed a big pawn against GM Jeffery Xiong in the opening (a Winawer French) and initially was lucky to get away with a draw, but in the end, both players got into terrible time-trouble, and there was even a win for Carlsen.

In the same round, Aronian and Nakamura played an epic game as well that deserves a deeper analysis. Here it is with some light notes:

The day didn't end well for Carlsen, who played the offbeat Dragondorf vs. Grischuk, sacrificed on c3, but got into trouble when he allowed White's queen into his camp.

"I thought that he will play something adventurous because when he’s doing good, he plays like he cannot lose. He even said it himself yesterday in the interview," said Grischuk. "I didn’t know how to proceed. I was just happy that we were having an interesting position, but then I feel like I misplayed it. I didn’t like it when he castled."

The middlegame remained unclear though, according to the three-time world blitz champion: "Then he sacrificed an exchange which is very tempting, and actually I thought he will, but I guess he missed 22.Ba5."

That move made it possible for the white queen to penetrate. "It’s not even that Black loses his a6-pawn. The problem is that white’s knight starts to harass his pieces," Grischuk said.

Magnus Carlsen Saint Louis Rapid Blitz
Carlsen after his loss. Image: Saint Louis Chess Club.

Grischuk: "Coming to the tournament, I had only one ambition, which is the ninth place because taking last place is never nice, but I was extremely tired and ill and so on. You could see, the first day I was playing like a beginner."

Alexander Grischuk
Alexander Grischuk. Image: Saint Louis Chess Club.

So drew one game and won two on the third day. "Today has been a great day," he said. "I’m starting to play some quality chess so far, and obviously the rapid portion means a lot more than the blitz because it counts as two."

The American GM even managed to squeeze out the full point as Black in a Berlin as GM Leinier Dominguez took too much risk on the kingside.

Yesterday's tweet with his cat is embedded again here, as it is too cute. Asked about it, So said the cat is named Zanzibar and is 18.5 years old. "He always sits on my lap when I’m studying, and he always wants to be around."

As for the tournament, So said: "It’s always hard to win tournaments with Magnus around unless he’s in a really bad shape. Still, anything can happen, and as many players have pointed out, I am not by any means the best blitz player. In order to try to win this tournament, I’m gonna have to need stability and not to lose too many games."

Saint Louis Rapid, Day 3 | 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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