Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Day 1: Caruana, Dominguez Take Lead
GM Fabiano Caruana takes a stroll on day one. Photo: Nigarhan Gurpinar/

Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Day 1: Caruana, Dominguez Take Lead

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The Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz leg of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour produced many surprises even before the first move was played. Four of the regular participants of the tour, GMs Anish Giri, Levon Aronian, Teimour Radjabov, and Alexander Grischuk, did not make it to Saint Louis and have been replaced by wild-card invitees.

That list includes three more U.S. players, GMs Leinier Dominguez Perez, Sam Shankland, and Jeffery Xiong, to complement the "Big Three." This kind of heavy home-team representation bodes well for American chances to do well in the event.

The action starts with three days of rapid games, a single round-robin with two points awarded for wins and one point for draws. The final two days consist of a double round-robin in blitz, played over two days and scored conventionally. There is no separate placement for individual events; the scores are combined to determine the winners.

How to watch?
The games of the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz can be found here as part of our live events platform. Daily commentary is available on starting at 1:00 p.m. Pacific / 22:00 Central Europe.

Saint Louis Rapid | Day 1 Standings

2021 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz standings
2021 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz standings after day 1.

The American duo of GM Fabiano Caruana and Dominguez are tied for first place, with two more Americans, Naka and So, chasing them.

The first round started with a shocking development, as Shankland who played so well in the World Cup, blundered on move 14 and immediately arrived in a lost position. His opponent, GM Richard Rapport, easily brought the point home.

A big-time theoretical battle between Mamedyarov and GM Hikaru Nakamura saw Hikaru being well-prepared to meet the hyper-aggressive g-pawn push by Shakh. Soon it was the white king that appeared to be in danger. I have a feeling Nakamura didn't take full advantage of his chances.

As pointed out by commentator GM Krikor Mekhitarian, Dominguez had a surprising early exit from the World Cup, but there's no doubt about his ability. A quick confirmation of that was delivered at the expense of Xiong.

The other two games, GM Wesley So versus GM Le Quang Liem and Caruana versus GM Peter Svidler were solid draws, although the latter featured a sharp opening line. Still, two decisive games made for a good start on day one.

Round two kicked off with a theoretically known drawn game between Rapport and Nakamura. As our commentators agreed, both players took something positive out of it, Hikaru was happy to hold his second game with Black in a row, while Richard wanted a bit more time to enjoy his win in the previous round.

2021 St. Louis Rapid and Blitz
Rapport (left) and Nakamura had a peaceful draw in round two. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Xiong-So was also a theoretical line, in this case of the Marshall. There were more moves played, but the game never left the bounds of equality. Things quickly got serious on the other boards.  First, it was Shankland who went for a sacrificial line to challenge Dominguez's Queen's Gambit Accepted. Dominguez was well-prepared, and he managed to get his king out of the danger zone before anything bad happened to him. A lively exchange of bishop blows on move 17 was enthusiastically discussed in the commentators' booth, but the outcome was another equal endgame.

Fabiano Caruana scored a great win with Black over Le Quang Liem. I will leave this one to be analyzed by my esteemed colleague, GM Dejan Bojkov.

2021 St. Louis Rapid and Blitz

Instead, I will focus my efforts on the drama that ensued at the end of the following encounter between Svidler and Mamedyarov, although the video speaks for itself.

Round three was all blood and gore. All five games ended with a decisive result, with the top U.S. players all obtaining a large advantage out of the opening and converting it into winning attacks. Caruana, So, and Nakamura did just that, but it took a bit longer for Dominguez who had to trade down into a won ending because of minor clock issues.

I chose the remaining game for my highlight, making it a full day of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

All Games Day 1

The 2021 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz is the last rapid and blitz tournament of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour. Games started on August 10 at 1 p.m. PT/22:00 CEST, with 10 of the best chess players in the world competing for a piece of the $150,000 prize fund.

You can read more information about the event here.

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