FIDE Grand Swiss R10: Firouzja Sole Leader Again, Lei Secures Victory
Alireza Firouzja bounced back with a win on Saturday and leads alone again. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

FIDE Grand Swiss R10: Firouzja Sole Leader Again, Lei Secures Victory

| 62 | Chess Event Coverage

With one round to go, GM Alireza Firouzja is back as the sole leader at the FIDE Grand Swiss. Despite missing a brilliant defensive move from the Englishman in time trouble, the French-Iranian GM beat GM David Howell. GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Grigoriy Oparin are trailing the leader by half a point.

GM Lei Tingjie won the women's tournament with a round to spare by drawing her game on Saturday. The Chinese GM has qualified for the 2022 FIDE Women's Candidates Tournament.

How to watch?
You can follow the games and live broadcast live here: FIDE Grand Swiss | FIDE Women's Grand Swiss.
FIDE Grand Swiss LIVE

First things first: the situation for the final round. Firouzja will defend his half-point lead with the black pieces against Oparin, while Caruana has the white pieces vs. GM Alexandr Predke. The other top pairings are Yu-Vachier-Lagrave, Deac-Esipenko, Sargissian-Shirov, Anton-Sevian, and Howell-Keymer.

No. Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. Result Pts. Fed Title Name Rtg No.
39 GM Oparin 2654 7 - GM Firouzja 2770 3
1 GM Caruana 2800 7 - GM Predke 2666 26
11 GM Yu 2704 - GM Vachier-Lagrave 2763 4
50 GM Deac 2643 - GM Esipenko 2720 6
27 GM Sargissian 2664 - GM Shirov 2659 32
33 GM Anton 2658 - GM Sevian 2654 40
34 GM Howell 2658 - GM Keymer 2630 65

Here are the tiebreak criteria for the standings:

  1. Buchholz Cut 1, which is the Buchholz score reduced by the lowest score of the opponents;
  2. Buchholz, which is the sum of the scores of each of the opponents of a player;
  3. Sonneborn-Berger, which is the added scores of every opponent the player beat and half of the score of every opponent the player drew;
  4. Direct encounter between the players in the tie;
  5. Drawing of lots.

Who qualifies for the Candidates?

  • All games end in draws: Firouzja and Caruana.
  • All games are drawn and Yu wins: Firouzja and Yu (because the difference in Buchholz with Caruana is half a point).
  • Oparin wins and Caruana draw: Oparin and Firouzja.
  • Oparin and Caruana win: Oparin and Caruana.
  • Boards 1-2 draw and White wins the rest of the games: Firouzja and Caruana.
  • Boards 1-2 draw Black wins the other games: Firouzja and Oparin (the difference in Buchholz with Caruana is half a point).
  • Firouzja & Predke wins, boards 3-7 all draws: Firouzja and Predke.

Regarding Buchholz, it's important to note that most of Oparin's opponents in the final round have black, which is helpful for Caruana. Also, Caruana is not necessarily qualified if he draws; that depends on Oparin and Yu. One conclusion to make is that at least one of the players on board one (Oparin-Firouzja) will qualify.

Note that it's not about the prizes and Candidates' spots only. Just like at the FIDE World Cup, six players from the Grand Swiss will qualify for the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix.

Saturday's top game between Firouzja and Howell had a slightly unusual start for the Englishman, who was up on the clock for a short while. It was a luxury he doesn't often have, and one that didn't last long.

"I was just choosing whether to go very sharp or just the way I played, very solid and wait for my chances," said Firouzja about that early phase in the game. He pointed out that Howell had played a very safe and topical line in the Italian that he had seen many times in the past year: "He chose a very solid opening. Obviously, it was played a lot in this Champions Tour, and he was commentating all the games!"

But as the game progressed, Howell couldn't avoid getting low on time again, and that led to some unavoidable inaccuracies. However, just when Firouzja seemed close to delivering the knockout blow, he missed a beautiful defensive move by his opponent.

Here, with four seconds left on the clock, Howell found 31...Qc6!!

"Of course, I just missed this 31...Qc6, and it was a shock to me because normally it's very awkward. It's very weird, this setup of mating on the back [rank] when you have a pawn on h3, but the bishop was on g3," explained Firouzja.

At first, he was visually annoyed but then relieved: "I was lucky I had this 32.Bc2, and I was keeping the game going. At least, I was not suddenly losing."

Alireza Firouzja standing
Alireza Firouzja was "shocked" for a moment. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Howell could have saved the game there. However, playing on increment basically until move 40, he lacked the time to calculate all the details, and his next move was a mistake again. After that, he got into a tough endgame a pawn down that he couldn't hold.

Asked about his chances to reach the Candidates, Firouzja said: "I think my chances got very low after yesterday's loss, but I'm happy I managed to get the win today against David because he played very good until here. He had four wins in a row, so he was in a very good mood, so this win was important. In general, I think I will have good chances tomorrow, and we will see."

Firouzja Howel Riga 2021
Howell resigns, Firouzja wins. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana, who had been the only other player on 6.5 points, held the draw against GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave without too much trouble. Black's subtle 11...Rb8 was an old move of GM Efim Geller that modern engines still appreciate and one that MVL had also faced in a game six years ago. In what followed, White's advantage was always minimal, although Caruana needed to be a bit careful in the rook endgame.

MVL Caruana Riga 2021
MVL and Caruana agree to a draw. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

There were four games with players on six points, but just one ended decisively. It was the 24-year-old Russian GM Oparin who beat his compatriot GM Nikita Vitiugov, who became Russian Champion last month and hadn't lost in 33 classical games.

Oparin's 11...Kd7 was a lovely move and a good novelty.

Black has just played 11...Kd7!?N

It's basically a typical idea (bringing the king to the queenside) executed nicely, as the player himself explained after the game. He felt that for both Bc8 and Qd8 it wasn't clear yet which squares they belonged to; therefore, he preferred to start with the king instead of preparing queenside castling.

Oparin, who studies in Missouri, provided a further explanation in excellent English: "It was a crazy game. Nikita went for a very strategically risky opening with White, and then he had to destabilize the position. He went for this 16.Nd4 piece sacrifice, which I did not accept. I think it was the right decision. I just wanted to keep my structure solid and not give him any counterplay. I felt I had the advantage from that point on, to be honest. It wasn't easy, but my pawn structure is so much superior [to] his that I felt that in the end, I should just grab those pawns."

Grigoriy Oparin
We suddenly find Grigoriy Oparin in shared second place. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In this lesson, GM Jon Ludvig Hammer shows you more examples of when an early king advance makes sense!

Study Now!

GM Alexei Shirov once again saved a difficult position vs. GM Yu Yangyi, which was good news for Caruana. According to our calculations, the American GM with the black pieces would have faced the Chinese player, a tougher pairing than his white game vs. Predke on Sunday. (Now it's MVL facing Yu in round 11.)

Shirov's opening setup, with a double fianchetto against the Sicilian, was interesting. Don't miss the opportunity for White on move 40:

Alexei Shirov Riga 2021
Alexei Shirov, still on an unbeaten plus-three score. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

One of the players doing well in the final phase of this tournament is 16-year-old GM Vincent Keymer of Germany. He had won two games in a row, and 2020 Candidate GM Kirill Alekseenko was his victim on Saturday. The two had also played in Biel earlier this year when the game ended in a draw in what was also a Ragozin opening.

"Back then it was a surprise to me, and for this game, I prepared this line," Keymer said. "I think he surprised me with his move 8...h6, but it's always this kind of position that Black needs to find a way to get his counterplay pretty fast. I think in the game he mixed up the move order or forgot about an engine line, and then it was really an uncomfortable position."

Vincent Keymer Riga 2021
Vincent Keymer during his interview. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

We haven't written for a while about GM Aleksandra Goryachkina, the only female player in the open section. After six draws and three losses, she scored her first win in this round. It was a nice one:

Aleksandra Goryachkina Neiksans Riga 2021
A nice first win for Aleksandra Goryachkina. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Round 10 Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 3 GM Firouzja, Alireza 2770 7.5 56.5 60 43.25
2 1 GM Caruana, Fabiano 2800 7 55 59.5 41.75
3 39 GM Oparin, Grigoriy 2654 7 50.5 54.5 37.25
4 11 GM Yu Yangyi 2704 6.5 55.5 60 37.75
5 4 GM Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2763 6.5 54 59 37.25
6 32 GM Shirov, Alexei 2659 6.5 53.5 57 35.25
7 65 GM Keymer, Vincent 2630 6.5 53 57 36
8 26 GM Predke, Alexandr 2666 6.5 52.5 57 34.5
9 27 GM Sargissian, Gabriel 2664 6.5 51 54.5 34.25
10 34 GM Howell, David 2658 6.5 50 53.5 32.5
11 40 GM Sevian, Samuel 2654 6.5 49.5 53 33.25
12 33 GM Anton, Guijarro David 2658 6.5 49.5 53 32.5
13 6 GM Esipenko, Andrey 2720 6.5 48.5 52.5 33.25
14 50 GM Deac, Bogdan-Daniel 2643 6.5 48.5 51.5 32.75
15 89 GM Petrosyan, Manuel 2605 6 54.5 58.5 34.5
16 54 GM Sasikiran, Krishnan 2640 6 54 57.5 32.75
17 41 GM Nihal, Sarin 2652 6 53 56.5 32.5
18 8 GM Dubov, Daniil 2714 6 50.5 54.5 31.25
19 63 GM Shevchenko, Kirill 2632 6 50.5 53 29.75
20 20 GM Korobov, Anton 2690 6 50 54.5 32.25

(Full standings here.)

The women's tournament has been decided one round before the end. GM Lei had no trouble drawing her game with Muzychuk (and even tried for more), which was enough to be untouchable on Sunday.

"I tried to play for a draw but my opponent, I think she forgot some lines because 14...Rxc6 instead of 14...bxc6 and 15.Qxb7 Qc8, and this must be drawish," said Lei. "But she played 14...bxc6 and I thought: OK, this position, I can't lose it so I want to play, and I just want to enjoy playing chess. So right now, I'm a little confused about it because I don't know if the endgame is good for me or just no chance."

Lei Muzychuk Riga 2021
Lei vs. Muzychuk. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Lei added: "I think this tournament is a good opportunity to [get some exercise], and I think this time I learned a lot in Riga, and I also got some confidence from this tournament, so I'm quite happy about it."

Apart from the $20,000 first prize, Lei has now also qualified for the 2022 Women's Candidates where she will play for a chance to face GM Ju Wenjun in a match. The other candidates are Goryachkina (as the runner-up of the last match); GMs Kateryna Lagno and Humpy Koneru (who both qualified from the FIDE Women's Grand Prix); GMs Alexandra Kosteniuk, Tan Zhongyi, and Anna Muzychuk (who qualified via the FIDE World Cup); and most probably GM Mariya Muzychuk (as the qualifier on rating).

At this point, three women have scored a GM norm in the tournament so far. IM Lela Javakhishvili did so after nine rounds, and her opponent on Saturday, WGM Zhu Jiner, got one. Black's 20th and 21st moves were great resources. In the end, White was already in trouble when she blundered:

Javakhishvili Jiner Riga 2021
Javakhishvili (right) vs. Zhu. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

A GM norm was also scored by IM Bibisara Assaubayeva, who beat IM Polina Shuvalova convincingly:

Bibisara Assaubayeva
Bibisara Assaubayeva. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Round 10 Women Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 7 GM Lei Tingjie 2505 8.5 51.5 56 46.75
2 15 WGM Zhu Jiner 2455 7 53.5 57.5 38.75
3 12 IM Paehtz, Elisabeth 2475 6.5 58.5 63.5 40.25
4 1 GM Muzychuk, Mariya 2536 6.5 57.5 61.5 39.5
5 4 GM Harika, Dronavalli 2511 6.5 52 56 35.25
6 34 IM Assaubayeva, Bibisara 2400 6.5 51.5 56 35.5
7 37 WGM Cori, Deysi 2382 6.5 45 45 27
8 10 GM Batsiashvili, Nino 2484 6 58.5 63.5 35.75
9 3 GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra 2518 6 57 61 35
10 13 WGM Pogonina, Natalija 2467 6 53.5 58 32.5
11 18 IM Javakhishvili, Lela 2446 6 51.5 55.5 30.75
12 20 IM Badelka, Olga 2438 6 49 51 28.25
13 21 IM Munguntuul, Batkhuyag 2433 6 47 51 28.75
14 23 IM Osmak, Iulija 2423 6 46 50 28.25
15 46 WIM Vantika, Agrawal 2322 6 44.5 48.5 27.5
16 2 GM Dzagnidze, Nana 2524 5.5 58 62 32.25
17 22 WGM Zawadzka, Jolanta 2428 5.5 51 55 27.5
18 11 GM Stefanova, Antoaneta 2475 5.5 48.5 52.5 26.25
19 32 IM Sukandar, Irine Kharisma 2406 5.5 47.5 50 22
20 9 IM Saduakassova, Dinara 2491 5.5 47 51 26.75

(Full standings here.)

In round 11, the top pairings are Zhu-Lei, Muzychuk-Dronavalli, Paehtz-Assaubayeva, and Badelka-Cori.

You can find all games of the tournament here for replay and download: FIDE Grand Swiss | FIDE Women's Grand Swiss.

Mikhail Tal Memorial: Lindores Abbey Blitz
Many of the Grand Swiss participants will also be participating in the Lindores Abbey Blitz, a nine-round blitz tournament on November 8, a day after the Grand Swiss finishes and a day before the anniversary of Mikhail Tal's 85th birthday. You can follow the games and live broadcast live here. Don't miss it! 
Mikhail Tal Memorial Lindores Abbey Blitz

The FIDE Grand Swiss and Women's Grand Swiss take place October 27-November 7, 2021 in Riga, Latvia. The format is an 11-round Swiss. The time control for the open group is 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 50 minutes for the next 20 moves, and finally 15 minutes for the rest of the game, with a 30-second increment starting from move one. For the women, it's 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, with a 30-second increment starting on move one. The top two finishers in the open and the winner among the women (Lei Tingjie) qualify for their respective 2022 Candidates tournaments.

Earlier reports:

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