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Aronian Leads After Rapid; Dramatic 3rd Day For Kasparov

Aronian Leads After Rapid; Dramatic 3rd Day For Kasparov

On a dramatic third day at the St. Louis Rapid tournament, Garry Kasparov lost a won game vs David Navara, was given a full rook by Le Quang Liem, and then was beaten by Fabiano Caruana in a difficult endgame. Levon Aronian leads the tournament going into the blitz segment.

Kasparov, just before resigning his game with Navara. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

It wasn't meant to be. Playing with long sleeves this time, Kasparov started the day strongly and was on the brink of winning an excellent game vs Navara. Instead of scoring his first win, he stumbled before the finish line and never really recovered in the remaining two games. Ironically, he won the one game where he was never better, and then got outplayed by both Caruana and the clock.

Whereas he avoided the media on the first two days (going against a premise in his contract) and limited his comments to an appearance in the official broadcast, on the third day Kasparov left the building quickly after his last game and declined the usual talk with Maurice Ashley as well. It was that hard to digest.

Even if you witnessed it live, Garry Kasparov's game with David Navara is still heartbreaking on replay. Navara obviously deserves the respect for putting up a stiff defense, and finding a winning combination several moves ahead. He played well there. However, for most fans it was shocking to see Kasparov losing a game he should have won convincingly.

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Navara was clearly honored to meet his distinguished opponent. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Playing 1.e4 for the first time in this tournament, Kasparov used the 4.Nc3 and 5.g4 variation against Navara's Caro-Kann—a sharp line that used to be in fashion when Kasparov was still active. He had also played it once against Anatoly Karpov, in 2001 in Linares.

The name of the other "K" was in fact mentioned a few times. At some point Kasparov chose a quiet path leading towards a promising endgame, where the middlegame looked very good as well.

"It's so fun to see Kasparov play more and more like Karpov with these prophylactic moves….He learned a lot from those matches," said Ashley. Yasser Seirawan agreed: "I have seen so many echoes of Anatoly Karpov in Kasparov's play. I'm astounded."

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Kasparov playing the "Karpovian" 23.c4. Who would have thought he'd lose this game? | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

In the endgame White's big positional advantage consisted of a beautiful blockading knight on f4 vs a buried bishop on g6 that was blocked by its own pawns. It was only a matter of time until the passed c-pawn would decide the game, but then time itself started to play a role—despite the fact that, for the first time in the tournament, Kasparov was ahead on the clock from the start.

Kasparov's dream position.

Navara managed to activate his rook, but it shouldn't have mattered. However, Kasparov started to see ghosts, missed two clear wins and had to allow his opponent's bishop to finally join the game again.

What should have been a drawn endgame turned into a devastating loss when Kasparov missed a devilish trick from Navara. He thought he made the winning move, but it was the losing move instead. Kasparov leaned with his back against the chair and looked at the ceiling for several seconds before resigning.

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That was by far the most emotional game in the rapid. | Photos: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

"It was clear that something was off in his play," Caruana said to Chess.com. "His position was clearly winning and he had plenty of time to win it."

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Kasparov resigns a game he should have won. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Chess fans were shell-shocked, some participants seemed to feel sorry for the legend, and journalists and commentators were having a hard time staying neutral.

"I feel like I was punched in the gut, and I wasn't even playing the game," said Ashley.

"I wanted to fight on. Since my childhood I've been weak in my openings, so I'm used to playing bad positions. On this level is usually doesn't work," said Navara.

"In rapid chess even the very best players make mistakes," said Navara, a common-sense comment on the dramatic finish. He had seen his combination as early as when he played 42...Rd2+, which makes his tactical sight all the more impressive.

Coming back to the playing hall for another game must have been hard for Kasparov. But he managed to drag himself to the board, where he faced Le Quang Liem. And in this game, Kasparov was back to his bad old self of earlier rounds, showing horrible time management once again.

After 14 moves, Le still had 24 minutes on the clock vs 10 for Kasparov. A few moves later Le had 22 minutes, and Kasparov only 3.

"I haven't seen this disparity in any of the games," said Ashley. It got even worse than that, but at least Kasparov could keep things under control on the board. 

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Another tough battle for Kasparov, vs Le and vs the clock. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

In an equal position, Le avoided several move repetitions. It was mostly his opponent's clock situation that prompted him to continue. Suddenly, and with six minutes on his clock, he placed his rook on a square where Kasparov could just take it with his bishop. A most remarkable blunder.

"I wanted to play on," Le said to Chess.com. "I just forgot about the e8 square."

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Kasparov taking the free rook on e8. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Kasparov didn't just capture the rook. He first pointed at the diagonal leading from his bishop to the rook, then captured, then held the rook sideways in hand to show it to Le while talking to him.

The Vietnamese grandmaster left the playing hall and took one of the seats in the chess club right next to it, where he could still be found 15 minutes later, staring into nothing. With Chess.com he shared that Kasparov had said "sorry," while holding the rook in his hand, and that he was presented "a gift."

Kasparov was not too happy with the situation either. His face revealed a state of mind that said: "Does it really have to be this way, for me to win a game?"

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Kasparov apologizing to Le for receiving a gift. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

As if there hadn't been enough drama, now the weather started to have its say. During the start of the 9th round it started to rain heavily (for the first time in two weeks of chess in St. Louis) and loud thunder could be heard.

Not affected by the weather, but all the more by the events in the first two rounds, Kasparov couldn't find his best form against Fabiano Caruana either. Although the opening went fine, he needed a lot of time once again.

"I had the feeling he wasn't entirely confident," Caruana told Chess.com. "Although the position was equal I didn't have the feeling he liked it too much."

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The handshake before the Caruana-Kasparov game. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Not only did Kasparov's time management get punished, but also his sense of danger. Going for the endgame was tricky (Caruana evaluated it as dangerous for Black), although he might have been able to hold it with more time on the clock. In the game he made several inaccuracies and got outplayed.

Getting less than he had hoped, and perhaps deserved, Kasparov left the playing hall using the emergency exit, and was not seen in the club after that.

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After drawing Nakamura, Aronian and Anand, Kasparov didn't manage against his fourth top-10 opponent. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

After the first day he was on 50 percent, after the second day on minus-one and after the third on minus-two. With that score Kasparov is in fact shared last, together with a player from his generation (Anand) and a player who beat him (Navara).

It's Levon Aronian who is leading the pack after the rapid. Thanks to the double point system for the rapid (it's back to normal in the blitz), the Armenian grandmaster is a full point ahead of Nakamura and Caruana.

Aronian's third day was his best. He scored 2.5/3 vs Karjakin, Nakamura and Dominguez. His win vs Karjakin was a fine one with the black pieces.

"I am trying to complicate matters in every game to have some chances. Sometimes it works in the opposite direction but today everything worked well," said Aronian.

Ian Nepomniachtchi is right behind Caruana and Nakamura and definitely in contention for tournament victory. He had wild games against both the American grandmasters. 

His game with Caruana was a very interesting draw that saw a pretty rook sac that clearly couldn't be accepted. Caruana found the right defense and started walking around calmly, only to be brought back to his seat by another blow on move 23. 

"I don’t know what he did between the two events but he sure is impressing us with his play," Seirawan said about Nepomniachtchi.

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Nepomniachtchi's imaginative play was less rewarded than he would have liked. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Before the ninth round, Nepomniachtchi was sharing the lead with Aronian, and a full point ahead of Nakamura. The latter couldn't really afford a loss, and a win would be most welcome, obviously. 

Nakamura got that desired win, after a long and "very up-and-down game," as he described it. "He was blitzing all the moves so I don’t know if he didn’t see 34.Nd6 or he saw but was getting all the pawns."

Nakamura shared a lot of interesting variations, which are included in the annotations:

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The remains of what was another tough battle between the two "N's." | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

Nakamura said unequivocally that three rapid games are more tiring than nine blitz games, since rapid losses "stick with you" much longer. Although he had "slightly higher hopes" about his final rapid placement, he is not worried. "If I picked up anything from the Paris [Grand Chess Tour] event, it's that if you are within two points or so, you have chances of catching up," he said. 

Aronian remains optimistic about Kasparov's next games. "He's a bit shy yet. I mean, chess -ise. He's yet not playing the most obvious moves. He's trying to control it too much. That normally leads not to the best results, when you're too concerned about your result. I think in the blitz he'll let go and he'll win many good games."

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The tournament leader is still rather optimistic about Kasparov's chances. | Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.

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Saint Louis Rapid | Crosstable

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Aronian,Levon 2799 2890 1 2 0 2 0 2 1 2 2 12
2 Nakamura,Hikaru 2792 2849 1 1 2 1 0 1 1 2 2 11 23.75
3 Caruana,Fabiano 2807 2847 0 1 1 2 0 2 2 1 2 11 22.50
4 Nepomniachtchi,Ian 2751 2814 2 0 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 10
5 Dominguez,Leinier 2739 2777 0 1 0 1 2 1 1 1 2 9
6 Le,Quang Liem 2739 2739 2 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 8 21.25
7 Karjakin,Sergey 2773 2735 0 1 0 1 1 2 1 2 0 8 16.75
8 Kasparov,Garry 2812 2691 1 1 0 0 1 2 1 1 0 7 15.75
9 Anand,Viswanathan 2783 2694 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 2 7 14.75
10 Navara,David 2737 2699 0 0 0 1 0 2 2 2 0 7 14.00

You can follow the games live at Chess.com/Live and watch the live broadcast at Chess.com/TV with commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Maurice Ashley and WGM Jennifer Shahade. Games start every day at 1 p.m. local time (11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern, 8 p.m. CET).

Download Rapid PGN

FM Mike Klein contributed to this report.


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