Blunders, Fumbles Haunt Champions Showdown
The showdown underway at the Saint Louis Chess Club | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club.

Blunders, Fumbles Haunt Champions Showdown

A few inaccuracies and some blunders took a harsh toll on contenders for the Champions Showdown on the second day of the rapid section in St. Louis. As most rapid matchups are nearly decided with a day to spare, two head-to-head encounters will be resolved by photo-finish.

Wesley So retaliates:

A relieved Wesley So talking to journalists. | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club.

A time-trouble incident knocked out David Navara to a third consecutive loss against Wesley So in the most exciting match of the day. The Czech GM’s flag fell as he was on his way to salvage a difficult endgame. Talking about time issues, So commented: "In a normal game, if you think more than 15 minutes you're probably going to play a bad move. In the rapid it’s probably thinking more than four minutes for a move."

The match took an unexpected turn after a first convincing win by Navara. So’s Semi-Tarrasch was under siege from the opening, showing some flaws in his repertoire: "I'm having a lot of problems with my black openings,” he admitted, “so I have to change to more solid lines."

However, the world’s number-10 managed to turn the odds in his favor with clinical precision in the following game. Navara’s attempt to come back didn’t give the expected results but rather exacerbated the gap.

Richard Rapport gets away with one:

Navara’s loss on time wasn’t the only accident of the day. In fact, almost every game of round eight was ended by an abrupt blunder. Thrown off by missed opportunities to redeem yesterday’s poor performance, Sam Shankland missed a skewer and had to resign on the spot.

As he manages the lead, Richard Rapport himself is not satisfied with his play: “I was quite upset with the first game, because it seemed like I missed several wins while he was running with his king in the middle of the board. After that I might even be lost, it was very chaotic.” Shankland went for a perpetual check missing a straightforward win:

Shankland now needs four consecutive wins to catch up with his young opponent before the blitz portion of the tournament.

Hard times for Sam Shankland. | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club.

Fabiano Caruana’s rating boost:

Another hanging piece gave Fabiano Caruana the opportunity to reach the world’s number two spot in rapid, with a whooping +47 in the live rating list. Sure, some may say that it all gets easier when you get to choose your opponents! Truth be told, Caruana had to create his own luck and showed an increasing familiarity with the rapid time control. "For me rapid is very much up and down,” he explained “but I don’t think that I’m any weaker in rapid and blitz than other top players, with the exception of a few who have proved a lot more: of course Magnus, Hikaru and Maxime.”

Fabiano Caruana now has a rapid live rating of 2819. | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club.

His unfortunate opponent Pentala Harikrishna could hardly get away with another draw in four rounds. At the end of the day, his stern defense in a very delicate position cracked on account of a painful blunder.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda’s king waltz

Troubleshooting the Italian. | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda might revise his notes on the Italian after getting escalating pressure on his kingside from Hikaru Nakamura. His opponent seemed more confident: “I think that he probably underestimated how dangerous this line in general is, playing Bh5 and Bh4. If Black plays the way I did yesterday it can look brilliant, but in general there is a lot of danger,” said Nakamura.

The dynamic and entertaining matchup confronts two of the strongest speed players in the world. While Nakamura is currently sitting on +1, anything can happen in the last rapid day and in the 24 blitz games to follow.

Leinier Dominguez brings it back to square one:

If you really have to drop a piece, you might as well do it in a lost position. No regrets for Veselin Topalov’s sudden blunder in game eight, since the position was already lost!

Leinier Dominguez caught up with Topalov as a result of an efficient restrictive plan (23.g4!). The former world champion now regrets a few missed opportunities, which led to six consecutive draws. The two are now tied and will both have to show some more pragmatic play to grab the bigger share of a $60,000 prize fund.

Too many missed chances for Veselin Topalov. | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club.

The winner of each matchup is decided by the sum of the rapid (where each result is doubled) and blitz score.

Here are the overall standings:

Graphics: Saint Louis Chess Club.

Previous reports:

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