Champions Showdown Chess9LX Day 1: Caruana Leads
GM Fabiano Caruana (left) leads with 2.5/3 after the first day of play. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Champions Showdown Chess9LX Day 1: Caruana Leads

| 14 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Fabiano Caruana leads the Champions Showdown Chess9LX tournament in St. Louis after the first of three days. A surprising result was GM Hikaru Nakamura's 0/3, while GM Garry Kasparov drew twice and lost one.

Round 3 standings

# Fed Name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts
1 Fabiano Caruana 1 ½ 1 2.5/3
2 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 1 1 0 2.0/3
3 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 0 1 1 2.0/3
4 Sam Shankland 0 1 1 2.0/3
5 Wesley So 1 0 ½ 1.5/3
6 Leinier Dominguez 0 1 ½ 1.5/3
7 Levon Aronian ½ 0 1 1.5/3
8 Garry Kasparov 0 ½ ½ 1.0/3
9 Peter Svidler 0 0 1 1.0/3
10 Hikaru Nakamura 0 0 0 0.0/3

For the fourth consecutive year, the Saint Louis Chess Club is hosting a Fischer Random (Chess960) tournament. After two years of matches, last year the event was turned into a round-robin event, albeit played online due to the pandemic. This year, the players are back at the club, playing over-the-board (wearing face masks) in another 10-player round-robin.

The time control is 20 minutes plus a five-second increment. Each round, the players get a different starting position out of the 959 possible options (as the classical RNBQKBNR isn't used here!) 15 minutes in advance to study before getting to play it.

It's another event where 13th world champion Garry Kasparov is participating, which always makes things interesting. However, this also means that we might see a familiar scenario where the legend builds up highly promising positions but lacks the time or energy to convert it into a full point. Hopefully, things will go better for him than at the Croatia blitz!

2021 Champions Showdown 960
Kasparov scored two draws and one loss on the first day. Photo: Bryan Adams/Saint Louis Chess Club.

An early example was Kasparov's round-two game with GM Wesley So:

It was So himself who had won a beautiful game in the first round against GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, where his 10th move was just fantastic. "It's not often that you sacrifice a rook and it works perfectly," said So.

Nakamura's off-day was a combination of bad form and bad luck. Against GM Sam Shankland, he blundered but it was "a beautiful blunder," as Caruana put it.

It's almost a pity that the checkmate position didn't arrive on the board. Commentator GM Maurice Ashley laughed like a little girl when he noticed that Black doesn't even need the rook on d8 there!

2021 Champions Showdown 960
A forgettable day at the office for Nakamura. Photo: Crystal Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

A round later, Shankland was on the receiving end as he blundered 9...Nc5 (typical for Chess960) and got tricked nicely by MVL a few moves later. Shankland shared another fun moment where, in the final position, he briefly thought his opponent had blundered his queen when he realized that it's Chess960 and he didn't have a rook on h1 but a bishop.

The only player who managed to remain undefeated over these three rounds is Caruana, who now leads with 2.5 points. He said he was proud of his game with GM Leinier Dominguez.

Caruana, who is sporting the chess-themed face mask that the organizers of the Wijk aan Zee tournament provided, pointed out how incredibly relaxed it is for the players not to have to prepare for hours in the morning. He went to play tennis instead.

2021 Champions Showdown 960
Caruana leads with 2.5/3. Photo: Bryan Adams/Saint Louis Chess Club.

All games day 1

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