5 Straight Wins By Carlsen Set Up Title Race With Duda
Carlsen scorched the field on the first day of blitz with 7/9. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

5 Straight Wins By Carlsen Set Up Title Race With Duda

| 45 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda leads the Superbet Poland Rapid & Blitz 2023 heading into the final nine rounds of blitz after a strong showing on the fourth day when he scored 5/9 and moved to 17.5 points.

GM Magnus Carlsen is hot on the heels of the Polish GM and scored five straight wins, including one against the leader in the final round of the day, setting up a nail-biting finish with only half a point separating the pair. GMs Wesley So and Kirill Shevchenko also performed well on the first day of the blitz, both amassing 5.5/9.

The Superbet Poland Rapid & Blitz will conclude with rounds 10-18 of the blitz portion on Thursday, May 25, at 5:00 a.m. Pacific/14:00 CEST.

How to watch
You can watch live games of the Superbet Poland Rapid & Blitz 2023 on our Events Page. The rounds start each day at 5:00 a.m. Pacific/14:00 CEST.

The first round of the blitz was tumultuous and set the tone of the day; several frontrunners were ousted by players lower in the standings. A win for the "rockstar" GM Richard Rapport over Duda was the key game of the round and opened the floodgates for the other participants to reduce his lead.

GM Levon Aronian, who finished the rapid in second place, was left ruing a chance to catch Duda after missing a winning tactic against GM Anish Giri while his own queen was pinned.

The miss ended up reversing the result, leaving Carlsen as the only player in the top five to win in the first round, which he did in a clean fashion over GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The victory was short-lived though as So was able to beat down his Scandinavian Defense in the following round when the American led from start to finish.

So took some credit for Carlsen's five-game streak that eventually transpired, stating: "Magnus got motivated after losing to me."

With wins in rounds two and three, including a messy win over the leader Duda, Aronian attained the sole lead by half a point. Sadly for the recent winner of the Satty Zhuldyz Rapid & Blitz tournament, he would be plagued by blunders for the rest of the day and only score 2/6 in the remaining games, slipping to fourth place in the overall standings.

Aronian led for a single round before slipping away from the leaders. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

After a slow start, Duda won his first game in the fifth round over Vachier-Lagrave. The position that arose out of the English Opening: Reversed Sicilian, Kramnik-Shirov Counterattack featured few imbalances, but a curious decision by Vachier-Lagrave in the endgame left Duda up by a pawn.

The leader's day continued to improve as he won games in rounds six and seven over GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac and countryman GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek, respectively. 

Poland vs. Poland! The number-one and two rated players of the host country fell in favor of Duda. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

In the middle of Duda's turnaround, though, a beast began to awaken. Carlsen, who had begun the day with a meager 2/4, started an astounding five-game streak with a win over Shevchenko on the white side of the Sicilian Defense: Accelerated Dragon Variation.

Dominant wins over Rapport and Aronian in rounds six and eight plus a heartbreaking queen blunder by Giri in round seven allowed the Norwegian to close the gap with Duda to just one and a half points heading into the final round.

Excited fans, who would later get to meet the former world champion outside the playing hall, began to gather for the most important match of the day.

The fan-favorite would later be swamped by spectators after leaving the playing hall. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The ninth round truly set the scene for the fifth and final day of the Superbet Poland Rapid & Blitz 2023 as the first- and second-placed competitors were paired against each other. Playing with the white pieces, Duda stuck to his trusty English Opening but quickly found himself with spatial weaknesses on the queenside. 

Carlsen was able to outmaneuver Duda on the queenside early in the game. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Carlsen was able to capitalize on this in his usual uncompromising style; however several inaccuracies allowed Duda to exchange into an opposite-colored bishop and rook endgame that Stockfish evaluated as drawn. True to his reputation, Carlsen seemed to squeeze water from a stone and eventually prevailed, closing the gap to just half a point.

Annotations for our Game of the Day by GM Rafael Leitao are below.

Worthy of mention on Wednesday is the outstanding performance of Shevchenko, whose 5.5/9 score—which included wins over Deac, Wojtaszek, Rapport, and Giri—garnered him 30 rating points and was a positive turnaround after he was winless in the rapid portion.

Shevchenko's live FIDE blitz rating of 2592 is quickly catching up to his classical one. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

With one day of play left in Warsaw and nine rounds of blitz remaining, form and momentum are likely to play huge roles in determining the eventual champion. Just two points separate the first-placed Duda from the fifth-placed Vachier-Lagrave, and three of the world's pre-eminent blitz players—Carlsen, So, and Aronian—fill the spots in between.

If the final day plays out in a similar way to the penultimate one, there is a reasonable likelihood that the tournament will come down to the very last game. Interestingly, Carlsen with the white pieces will once again face Duda in this matchup. As Carlsen said at the end of the day's play: "Obviously now, it's anyone's game."

With $40,000 and 13 Grand Chess Tour points on offer for first place, be sure to expect fighting chess on the final day.

Standings - Day 4

Image: Grand Chess Tour.

All Games - Day 4

The Superbet Poland Rapid & Blitz 2023 is the second leg of this year's Grand Chess Tour (GCT) and features 10 of the best players in the world. Players, including GMs Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, and Anish Giri, will battle it out for their share of the $175,000 prize fund.

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