FIDE Grand Swiss R4: Firouzja Maintains Lead; Lei Sole Leader
Lei Tingjie is the sole leader in the women's section. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

FIDE Grand Swiss R4: Firouzja Maintains Lead; Lei Sole Leader

| 19 | Chess Event Coverage

With a quick draw, GM Alireza Firouzja maintained his sole lead at the FIDE Grand Swiss in Riga on Saturday. Russian GM Evgeniy Najer was close to catching Firouzja but missed a win in the endgame against GM Ivan Saric. China's GM Lei Tingjie grabbed the sole lead in the FIDE Women's Grand Swiss thanks to a win vs. Russian Women's Champion GM Valentina Gunina.

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

The fourth round in Riga started with some players perhaps getting a bit less sleep than they would have liked. At 1 a.m., a fire alarm went off in the hotel that sent everyone downstairs where it was quickly announced that it was a false alarm as one of the guests had a shower malfunction.

Whether related to the incident or not, the top boards saw more draws than ever before in this round. They included the American contest between GM Dariusz Swiercz and GM Fabiano Caruana, and also GM Levon Aronian failed to beat his younger compatriot, GM Robert Hovhannisyan.

It was Najer who, after playing a good game with the white pieces, spoiled a golden opportunity to catch Firouzja. His control over the h-file didn't seem that big of a deal with the queens off the board, but he found some nice tactics to build up a winning position, only to miss a key tactic: 

Ivan Saric
Ivan Saric saw the winning move for White during the game but successfully held up a poker face. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave joined the big group on 3/4 as he defeated GM Anton Demchenko. It helped that the French GM is a bit of a night owl; he hadn't gone to bed yet when the fire alarm went off.

The win came without too much effort, partly because he had prepared for the 3...g6 Ruy Lopez. "Anton was playing a lot of different sidelines in the Ruy Lopez, and this was one of them," said Vachier-Lagrave. "I was actually looking at it right before going to the game."

White was already doing very well after 18.e6, and a star move was 20.Re4!, after which Black's position is beyond repair.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave facemask
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is one of the players who prefer to keep on a facemask at all times. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Another nice win with the white pieces was scored by GM Jorden van Foreest. Also here, the theme was the weakened b1-h7 diagonal and in this case, the Dutchman could give up an exchange for it.

Afterward, Van Foreest kindly joined the studio to show the highlights of the game for the live broadcast. He pointed out that it was his first Grand Swiss win ever after two draws and a loss in this tournament and 11 draws two years ago!

The 17-year-old Danish GM Jonas Bjerre, one of the youngest participants in this tournament, also joined the broadcast for an interview after scoring a big win with the white pieces.

"It was a really nice game. He's probably the highest rated player I've ever won against," Bjerre (2569) said after he defeated GM Baskaran Adhiban (2672). It seems the Indian GM mixed up his lines in the opening as he got under pressure early.

Jonas Bjerre chess
Jonas Bjerre scored the biggest win of his career so far. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

After missing a smothered mate the other day, GM Aryan Tari did beat a higher-rated player the next day. The Norwegian GM won a good game against Iran's GM Parham Maghsoodloo:

Aryan Tari chess
Aryan Tari, successful this time. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

It was a good day for the Nordic countries as Swedish GM Nils Grandelius also won his game, against GM Baadur Jobava.

"It was incredibly messy the whole game," Grandelius said afterward. "I'm just trying to get some grip of what happened, but it's difficult to say."

As always, Jobava played creatively in the opening and took some big risks as his king had to stay in the center. Grandelius, on his turn, sacrificed a few pawns for the initiative.

"I think we both had the feeling that it must be very promising for me, and I thought I was more or less going to win in 15 or 20 moves, but then he started to defend incredibly well," said Grandelius. 

After most of the defensive work had been done, Jobava blundered at the end:

Although GM Alexei Shirov is back to representing Spain these days, his game with GM Arturs Neiksans very much felt like a Latvian contest. Shirov won with a lovely exchange sacrifice in the endgame:

Alexei Shirov Grand Swiss Riga 2021
Alexei Shirov vs. Arturs Neiksans. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Do check out GM Arturs Neiksans' video on Shirov from his series The Latvian School of Chess!

Study Now!

GM Aleksandra Goryachkina, the only female player in the open section, was close to scoring her first win, but GM Hans Niemann eventually got away with a draw. Here's the game and an image of our newly launched Game Review feature:

Game review Goryachkina-Niemann

In round five, the top pairings are Firouzja-Vachier-Lagrave (!), Tari-Yu, Ponkratov-Sevian, Saric-Shirov, Hovhannisyan-Najer, and Petrosyan-Sarin.

Round 4 Standings (Top 21)

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 3 GM Firouzja Alireza 2770 3,5 8,0 10,0 8,50
2 11 GM Yu Yangyi 2704 3,0 8,0 9,5 6,50
2 31 GM Ponkratov Pavel 2659 3,0 8,0 9,5 6,50
4 49 GM Saric Ivan 2644 3,0 8,0 8,5 5,75
5 74 GM Hovhannisyan Robert 2622 3,0 7,5 9,5 7,00
6 41 GM Nihal Sarin 2652 3,0 7,5 9,0 6,25
6 89 GM Petrosyan Manuel 2605 3,0 7,5 9,0 6,25
8 4 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2763 3,0 7,0 8,5 6,50
9 32 GM Shirov Alexei 2659 3,0 6,5 8,0 5,75
9 38 GM Najer Evgeniy 2654 3,0 6,5 8,0 5,75
11 48 GM Tari Aryan 2646 3,0 6,0 6,5 4,50
12 40 GM Sevian Samuel 2654 3,0 5,5 7,0 5,25
13 1 GM Caruana Fabiano 2800 2,5 8,5 11,0 6,75
14 10 GM Fedoseev Vladimir 2704 2,5 8,0 10,0 6,00
14 20 GM Korobov Anton 2690 2,5 8,0 10,0 6,00
14 65 GM Keymer Vincent 2630 2,5 8,0 10,0 6,00
17 76 GM Brkic Ante 2621 2,5 8,0 9,5 5,50
18 26 GM Predke Alexandr 2666 2,5 8,0 9,0 4,25
19 59 GM Dreev Aleksey 2635 2,5 7,5 10,0 6,25
20 64 GM Ponomariov Ruslan 2631 2,5 7,5 9,5 5,75

(Full standings here.)

The women's tournament was also somewhat peaceful on the top boards, with four out of the top five games ending in draws. This way, Lei's win vs. Gunina was enough for the Chinese GM, who is playing her first classical OTB event since Gibraltar 2020, to move to sole first place.

The game was tough and tiring for Lei, who said she had difficulty thinking about it afterward. With careful maneuvering, she had gained an overwhelming advantage during the middlegame and, after avoiding many pitfalls, she reached an endgame three pawns up that was still not so easy to win.

Lei Tingjie interview
Lei Tingjie during her interview. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Former women's world champion and director of Russian content for GM Alexandra Kosteniuk is one of the 10 players trailing Lei by half a point. She beat the talented IM Bibisara Assaubayeva, whose combination of ...g6 and ...e6 in the opening probably wasn't a good idea. "She is kind of weakening too much," said Kosteniuk.

Alexandra Kosteniuk
Alexandra Kosteniuk. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Round 4 Women Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 7 GM Lei Tingjie 2505 3,5 7,5 9,0 7,50
2 2 GM Dzagnidze Nana 2524 3,0 8,5 10,5 7,50
3 13 WGM Pogonina Natalija 2467 3,0 8,5 10,0 7,00
4 12 IM Paehtz Elisabeth 2475 3,0 8,5 9,5 6,25
5 15 WGM Zhu Jiner 2455 3,0 8,0 10,0 7,00
6 10 GM Batsiashvili Nino 2484 3,0 8,0 9,5 6,50
7 18 IM Javakhishvili Lela 2446 3,0 7,5 9,5 6,75
8 3 GM Kosteniuk Alexandra 2518 3,0 7,5 8,5 5,75
9 4 GM Harika Dronavalli 2511 3,0 6,0 7,0 5,00
10 8 IM Kashlinskaya Alina 2493 3,0 6,0 7,0 4,50
11 22 WGM Zawadzka Jolanta 2428 3,0 4,5 5,5 4,50
12 14 GM Gunina Valentina 2462 2,5 9,0 10,5 5,50
13 33 WGM Sargsyan Anna M. 2402 2,5 8,5 10,0 5,75
14 27 GM Girya Olga 2410 2,5 7,0 8,5 4,50
15 41 GM Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan 2376 2,5 6,5 8,0 4,25
16 20 IM Badelka Olga 2438 2,5 6,5 7,0 3,75
17 46 WIM Vantika Agrawal 2322 2,5 6,0 7,0 4,00
18 6 GM Abdumalik Zhansaya 2507 2,5 6,0 7,0 3,50
19 9 IM Saduakassova Dinara 2491 2,5 5,5 7,0 4,25

(Full standings here.)

In round five, the top pairings are Dzagnidze-Lei, Batsiashvili-Kosteniuk, Dronavalli-Pogonina, Kashlinskaya-Zhu, Javakhishvili-Paehtz, and Zawadzka-Saduakassova.

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

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 will qualify for their respective 2022 candidates tournaments.

Female chess players
Left-right Lela Javakhishvili, Nino Batsiashvili, Elisabeth Paehtz, and Zhansaya Abdumalik, chatting before the round. Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Muzychuk Conquest
Anna Muzychuk and Stuart Conquest, commentators for the broadcast. Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Volokitin Yakkuboev
Andrei Volokitin and Nodirbek Yakubboev, who drew their game, analyzed afterward. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Earlier reports:

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