FIDE Grand Swiss R9: 3-Way Tie As Caruana Beats Firouzja
Caruana accepts Firouzja's resignation. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

FIDE Grand Swiss R9: 3-Way Tie As Caruana Beats Firouzja

| 69 | Chess Event Coverage

Calling the game "super important" but also "a total mess," GM Fabiano Caruana defeated GM Alireza Firouzja to catch his opponent in first place in round nine of the FIDE Grand Swiss. The two are now sharing the lead together with GM David Howell, who was the only other player on 5.5 points to win his game. GM Lei Tingjie won again and now needs a draw on Saturday to clinch the women's tournament with a round to spare.

How to watch?
You can follow the games and live broadcast live here: FIDE Grand Swiss | FIDE Women's Grand Swiss.
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It's crunch time for the FIDE Grand Swiss: the tournament has finally reached that very exciting phase where the results on the top boards are going to be crucial for the final outcome. Caruana's win against Firouzja could be one of those key games, but we'll only know after two more rounds.

The 2018 world championship challenger fittingly scored his big win while using the Mikhail Tal variation of the Advance Caro-Kann.

Caruana vs Firouzja 2021
Caruana-Firouzja was a Caro-Kann Advance. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Perhaps inspired by the Dutch GM Jorden van Foreest, who had played the same move yesterday as early as move seven, Caruana pushed his b-pawn up the board early as the novelty in this game. The queens were soon traded and a rather complicated, queenless middlegame ensued.

"I don't know exactly when it got worse for him," said Caruana. "I felt the endgame was kind of pleasant for me because he has a lot of squares but he also has a lot of weak pawns. It was complicated, but my moves were always easier, at least."

Although Firouzja's position looked fairly solid, his clock didn't. When the French GM made his 20th move, he had a bit less than eight minutes left (with a 30-second increment) versus more than an hour for Caruana.

Caruana Firouzja Grand Swiss 2021
Firouzja got into time trouble vs. Caruana. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

While the players were approaching the first time control, the position on the board became sharper and sharper. Firouzja initially found all the right moves (including the sacrifice of his g-pawn) despite the time pressure, until he erred on the 38th move.

Caruana, on his turn, then used up almost all his time to find the narrow winning path. After the time control was reached, the American GM continued to play accurately to bring the full point home.

Afterward, it became clear that he didn't always feel in control, calling the time-trouble phase"a total mess." He felt he was winning after move 40.

"The last two rounds went better than I could have hoped for," he said. "Especially this game was super important."

Annotations by GM Robert Hess:

Caruana Firouzja Riga 2021
Caruana and Firouzja chatted for quite a bit afterward. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

How did Fabiano Caruana become the third highest-rated player of all time and produce the best tournament result ever? Find out in the lesson Play like Fabiano Caruana!

Study Now!

While the names of Caruana and Firouzja could have been expected at the top at this point of the tournament, the name Howell, the 34th seed in the tournament, is slightly surprising. Besides Caruana, there were nine other players on 5.5 points but the 30-year-old English grandmaster was the only one among them to win his game today.

Whereas he had played a lot of very long games up till now, Howell only needed about three and a half hours to beat the Ukrainian GM Anton Korobov

"I played the game a bit too slowly and that made the game finish quicker if that makes sense," he said. "I was down to less than 10 minutes after 20 moves. I could see he was looking at the clock, he was trying to rush me. So maybe it was a blessing in disguise that I spent a lot of time."

Howell felt that the lack of familiarity with the arising structure affected both players, but more his opponent, who ended up trapping his own rook on d3:

David Howell Grand Swiss
David Howell is now among the leaders as well. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The game Shirov-Vitiugov ended in a draw after just 20 minutes, and the same result came on the scoreboard later as well for Oparin-Predke, Harikrishna-Sevian, and Anton versus Vachier-Lagrave. The latter game was the most interesting and especially the opening phase:

Anton Vachier-Lagrave
Vachier-Lagrave was ready for Anton's Anti-Grunfeld approach. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Behind the three leaders, there are now 10 players trailing by half a point. One of them is the Armenian grandmaster Gabriel Sargissian, who played a lovely combination today:

Gabriel Sargissian Riga Grand Swiss
Gabriel Sargissian. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Veteran GM Boris Gelfand, a world championship challenger in 2012, was having a disappointing tournament with six draws and two losses. Today the Israeli player scored his first win, and what a win it was. In the opening, both players promoted to an extra queen, and after many adventures, White even got to promote to another one.

"I'm happy to play this game... The tournament doesn't go well for me but such a victory is a good consolation," said Gelfand. "There were a lot of beautiful lines. At a certain moment in the game, I was a rook and two pieces down and then I put a fifth queen. I hope it's a worthy homage to Mikhail Tal playing in his city."

Boris Gelfand
Boris Gelfand hoped to have played an homage to Tal. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Having the Dutch football club Ajax' second win against Dortmund in mind, Gelfand jokingly said his win was "in the style of Ajax" and he explained:

"I am a big fan, as probably everybody knows, of Johan Cruijff and his legacy, so I support Barcelona and Ajax and the Dutch national team. Ajax and Barcelona are more than football... a trademark. It's a certain approach. Maybe things don't go well, but one has to be loyal to his own style."

Boris Gelfand interview
Boris Gelfand is a big fan of Johan Cruijff and his legacy. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In round 10, the top pairings are Firouzja vs. Howell and Vachier-Lagrave vs. Caruana.

Round 9 Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 3 GM Firouzja, Alireza 2770 6.5 46.5 50 34.5
2 1 GM Caruana, Fabiano 2800 6.5 44.5 49 35.75
3 34 GM Howell, David 2658 6.5 38.5 42 29.75
4 54 GM Sasikiran, Krishnan 2640 6 43.5 46 29.75
5 11 GM Yu Yangyi 2704 6 43 47.5 31
6 4 GM Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2763 6 43 47 30
7 26 GM Predke, Alexandr 2666 6 42 46 28.25
8 32 GM Shirov, Alexei 2659 6 41 44.5 28.25
9 39 GM Oparin, Grigoriy 2654 6 40.5 43.5 28
10 33 GM Anton Guijarro, David 2658 6 40 42.5 26.5
11 27 GM Sargissian, Gabriel 2664 6 39.5 43 28
12 40 GM Sevian, Sam 2654 6 39 42.5 27.5
13 5 GM Vitiugov, Nikita 2727 6 38 41.5 28
14 89 GM Petrosyan, Manuel 2605 5.5 44.5 48 28.75
15 65 GM Keymer, Vincent 2630 5.5 43 47 27.75
16 41 GM Nihal, Sarin 2652 5.5 42.5 46 27
17 63 GM Shevchenko, Kirill 2632 5.5 40.5 43 23.5
18 20 GM Korobov, Anton 2690 5.5 39.5 43.5 25.5
19 6 GM Esipenko, Andrey 2720 5.5 39.5 43 25.25
20 8 GM Dubov, Daniil 2714 5.5 39.5 43 25

(Full standings here.)

The story in the women's tournament has almost been told. Lei just keeps on storming through the field and added a seventh win to her score, besides just two draws. The Chinese GM is now two full points ahead of the rest.

This time Lei beat former world champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, who couldn't find a good way to deal with her opponent's Caro-Kann and was already slightly worse when the queens were traded. The endgame, with Black having such a strong knight and the open g-file, was just really unpleasant for White:

Kosteniuk Lei Riga 2021
A special chess outfit couldn't help Kosteniuk in her game with Lei. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

IM Elisabeth Paehtz suffered her first loss of the tournament, to GM Mariya Muzychuk, which was extra painful because a draw would have almost certainly secured Paehtz the GM title. She has two earlier GM norms and her rating has been over 2500. According to the chief arbiter, the German player will get there after all if she wins her game in round 10.

Muzychuk Paehtz
Muzychuk vs. Paehtz before their game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

A highly interesting game was GM Nino Batsiashvili vs. WGM Deysi Cori, who had started with three losses and then scored five wins in a row. The Peruvian player finally drew her first game while surviving a lost position and promoting to a knight along the way:

Deysi Cori Riga 2021
Deysi Cori's tournament has been a wild ride so far. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Round 9 Women Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 7 GM Lei Tingjie 2505 8 41.5 45.5 39.75
2 12 IM Paehtz, Elisabeth 2475 6 48 53 34.5
3 15 WGM Zhu Jiner 2455 6 44 47.5 30.25
4 1 GM Muzychuk, Mariya 2536 6 43.5 47.5 31.75
5 4 GM Harika, Dronavalli 2511 6 41.5 44.5 28.75
6 18 IM Javakhishvili, Lela 2446 6 41 44 27.5
7 2 GM Dzagnidze, Nana 2524 5.5 47 51 29.5
8 10 GM Batsiashvili, Nino 2484 5.5 47 51 28.75
9 3 GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra 2518 5.5 46 50 28.5
10 34 IM Assaubayeva, Bibisara 2400 5.5 43 47 28
11 13 WGM Pogonina, Natalija 2467 5.5 43 47 26.5
12 21 IM Munguntuul, Batkhuyag 2433 5.5 37.5 41 23.75
13 37 WGM Cori, Deysi 2382 5.5 36 36 19.75
14 8 IM Kashlinskaya, Alina 2493 5 42.5 46 22
15 22 WGM Zawadzka, Jolanta 2428 5 41 44 21.25
16 20 IM Badelka, Olga 2438 5 40.5 42.5 21
17 5 IM Shuvalova, Polina 2509 5 39.5 42.5 20.75
18 11 GM Stefanova, Antoaneta 2475 5 37.5 41 20.25
19 23 IM Osmak, Iulija 2423 5 36.5 39.5 19.75
20 9 IM Saduakassova, Dinara 2491 5 36 39.5 20.75

(Full standings here.)

In round 10, the top pairings are Lei-Muzychuk, Harika Dronavalli-Paehtz, and Javakhishvili-Zhu. Like Paehtz, the latter needs a win to score a GM norm.

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 will qualify for their respective 2022 Candidates tournaments.

Earlier reports:

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