Carlsen Wins All On Saint Louis Rapid Day 2
Magnus Carlsen. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen Wins All On Saint Louis Rapid Day 2

| 31 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen bounced back from his unfortunate loss by disconnect as he won all three games on the second day of the Saint Louis Rapid tournament. The world champion is now the sole leader with 9 points out of a possible 12.

GMs Ian Nepomniachtchi and Wesley So both scored "plus one" on Wednesday and are now tied for second place. The two first-day leaders, GMs Levon Aronian and Pentala Harikrishna, dropped to fourth and fifth places. GM Alireza Firouzja is still waiting for his first win.

Saint Louis Rapid | Round 6 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Carlsen, Magnus 2863 2965 0 1 2 2 2 2 9/12
2 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2784 2900 2 1 2 1 0 2 8/12 13
3 So, Wesley 2770 2897 1 1 2 1 2 1 8/12 10
4 Aronian, Levon 2773 2823 0 1 1 2 1 2 7/12
5 Harikrishna, Pentala 2732 2780 0 0 1 2 2 1 6/12
6 Grischuk, Alexander 2777 2708 1 1 0 0 2 1 5/12 7.75
7 Xiong, Jeffery 2709 2707 2 0 1 0 1 1 5/12 7.5
8 Nakamura, Hikaru 2829 2722 0 0 1 1 1 2 5/12 5.75
9 Dominguez Perez, Leinier 2758 2652 0 0 0 1 1 2 4/12
10 Firouzja, Alireza 2728 2571 1 0 1 1 0 0 3/12

"I was obviously very upset yesterday," said Carlsen. "Losing because of something that's a little bit out of my control.... My main prep today was just making sure there were backups, backups, and more backups in terms of internet."

It must be noted that Carlsen's first win of the day was largely based on an opening gift from his opponent. Aronian's treatment of the Russian variation (5.Qb3) in the Grunfeld was remarkably weak for a player of his caliber, and he was basically lost by move 11.

Kudos should go to Carlsen, though, for quickly spotting an important tactical concept on move 13 and also calculating accurately later on. 

Carlsen's round-six game also included a gift from his opponent. In this case, big material was blundered by Harikrishna in an equal position. The world champion was more proud of his win in round four against GM Leinier Dominguez and rightly so:

Carlsen said he is not really looking at the leaderboard just yet: "I'm just trying to have fun and play well. I feel like I'm in decent shape. I generally get a lot of points, so I'm not too worried about this. Obviously it would have been even better with an extra half-point yesterday but nevertheless, I was never particularly worried about my scoring."

I feel like I'm in decent shape. I generally get a lot of points.
—Magnus Carlsen

Commentator GM Maurice Ashley took the Los Angeles Clippers' 3-4 loss to the Denver Nuggets in the NBA's Western Conference (having led by 3-1) as a starting point for the question of how hard it is to hold on to a lead. Carlsen gave an insightful answer:

"I tell you what. It's very difficult. Being a frontrunner in chess is unbelievably hard. I will just say that I think that just applies to everybody. It's very easy to play well when you're winning and you don't have too many scares, but as soon as you lead such a tournament and you lose one important game, then you make a draw, then you lose one more... even though you still might have the lead at that point, but it's very easy to collapse.

"I would say I still haven't figured it out. I see a lot of other guys in tournaments that when they're way up in the standings in these rapid and blitz events, then they sort of freeze. That's about what I can say. My best advice is: just don't mess up at any point, and you will be fine. [Laughs.] I'm telling you, as soon as you start messing up, it's a slippery slope."

Magnus Carlsen Clippers Nuggets
Magnus Carlsen: "My best advice is: just don't mess up at any point, and you will be fine." Image: Saint Louis Chess Club.

The round earlier, So had beaten the same opponent in a nice attacking game that originated from an Open Spanish:

Another spectacular game was GM Jeffery Xiong's 21-move win vs. Nepomniachtchi.

"I think it was certainly a gift from Nepo," said Xiong. "OK, I played the Alekhine's Defense hoping to get a game, not imagining anything like this. Basically I think he wanted to punish me, so he decided to take on b7 because it's probably the only way he can hope for an advantage. Unfortunately for him, it's just busted after 10...Ndb4."

In a tweet, Nepomniachtchi suggested he had been stealing from the rich (his free point vs. Carlsen the other day) and giving to the poor (the lowest rated player in the field).

Meanwhile, Xiong expressed his gratitude for being able to play in this event. Facing Carlsen in the next round, he said: "Obviously I'm very happy to get this opportunity. It's always been a dream of mine to compete in the Grand Chess Tour, so to receive this, I really hope to make the best of it and learn a lot from playing these top guys."

Saint Louis Rapid, Day 2 | All games

The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz is being played September 15-19 on lichess with a $250,000 prize fund. The time control is 25 minutes plus a 5-second increment for the rapid (nine rounds) and 5 minutes plus a 3-second increment for the blitz (18 rounds).

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