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Croatia Rapid & Blitz: Kasparov Scores 0.5/9
Kasparov playing Nepomniachtchi. The game would be his eighth loss. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Croatia Rapid & Blitz: Kasparov Scores 0.5/9

PeterDoggers
| 122 | Chess Event Coverage

It was a painful day of chess for GM Garry Kasparov and his many fans. The 13th world champion, who joined the field at the Croatia Rapid & Blitz today, scored a disastrous 0.5/9. GM Ian Nepomniachtchi still leads but GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is trailing him by just half a point.

How to watch?
The games of the Croatia Rapid & Blitz can be found here on our live events platform.

Croatia Rapid Blitz results
GM Ivan Saric had put Kasparov in a shared second place, an excellent starting position for the remainder of the tournament. But after nine rounds of blitz, the Kasparov/Saric tandem dropped to ninth place on what was a day of tilt for The Boss. Playing under the Croatian flag (having the Croatian nationality, alongside the Russian), Kasparov had possibly the worst single-day performance of his career.

Zagreb Blitz, Day 1

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts
1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2749 2921 1 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 1 6.5/9
2 Ian Nepomniachtchi 2792 2871 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 0 1 1 6.0/9
3 Anish Giri 2776 2831 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 5.5/9
4 Viswanathan Anand 2753 2833 ½ 0 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 5.5/9
5 Alexander Grischuk 2778 2791 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 5.0/9
6 Jan-Krzysztof Duda 2738 2757 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 0 1 4.5/9
7 Anton Korobov 2683 2763 ½ 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 4.5/9
8 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2782 2714 0 1 ½ ½ 0 0 0 1 1 4.0/9
9 Jorden van Foreest 2688 2643 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 0 0 1 3.0/9
10 Garry Kasparov 2812 2257 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 0.5/9

When trying to explain Kasparov's dramatic underperformance, two factors stand out. For starters, his openings, always an important part of his game, just didn't work. Game after game, he hardly got out of the opening without getting into trouble.

The other big factor, obviously related to the first, was his time management. Kasparov, now 58, was clearly very rusty and burned precious minutes on the clock in the early phase of almost every game. In the few rounds where he had a decent position, he just lacked the time to play them.

Garry Kasparov Croatia Rapid Blitz Zagreb 2021
It was a mixed blessing to see Kasparov back at the board again today. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

It all started with the following loss to GM Jorden van Foreest in the first round. The Dutchman, who is at the same age that Kasparov was when he became world champion, didn't give his famous opponent a chance.

In what was a 6.Bg5 Najdorf, Kasparov avoided the deepest theoretical lines with 7...Qc7. This used to be a reasonably playable line for Black, but modern engines have proven that it is basically a nice version of a Rauzer for White.

The stubbornness with which Kasparov then repeated the line in his next two black games, against GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda and GM Vishy Anand (see the annotations below), recalls his unsuccessful attempts to find something for White against GM Vladimir Kramnik's Berlin Wall in 2000.  Duda told commentator GM Maurice Ashley between rounds that this line is hardly playable for Black these days:

Van Foreest Kasparov Zagreb 2021
A devastating start of the day for Kasparov. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Between his games with Van Foreest and Duda, Kasparov drew his game with GM Alexander Grischuk in round two. Few would have predicted that this half-point was all he would have at the end of the day.

After being outplayed with the white pieces by GM Anton Korobov, Kasparov hit an all-time low in his next game. In his first-ever game with GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, he went for the Queen's Gambit Accepted but committed a Fingerfehler early and had to resign after just seven(!) moves.

We can't think of a quicker loss for a reigning or former world champion in an official game. Christiansen-Karpov, Wijk aan Zee 1993 1-0 was 11.5 moves while Zapata-Anand, Biel 1988 1-0, which lasted six moves, was a long time before Anand became world champion.

The 17th round, one before the end, was finally going Kasparov's way: MVL played the opening badly and was lost after 10 moves. But Caissa didn't want to grant the chess legend a single victory this day.

MVL couldn't be too happy with this win: "I just feel bad, but it's a crucial point so of course, I take it."

I just feel bad, but it's a crucial point so of course, I take it.
—Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Game of the Day Alex Yermolinsky

Kasparov wasn't interviewed himself, but the two players at the top of the leaderboard were and gave their thoughts on what happened.

Vachier-Lagrave: "It's so difficult. You come in, you're not prepared to play rated games against guys who are angry, who want it all. And he's a bit rusty; of course, he played very slowly. That didn't help. According to his standards, of course, he should do much better. But on a day of tilt in blitz, this can happen to basically everyone."

Vachier-Lagrave Kasparov Zagreb 2021
Vachier-Lagrave escaped vs. Kasparov. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Nepomniachtchi: "I guess it's very simple. Garry, at least mentally, used to always have a big advantage in the opening part, out-preparing opponents. This was one of his main strengths in his career, especially in the last years. Now, he's trying to go for some principled lines, and actually everyone spent dozens of hours analyzing some new, sharp lines, and he constantly runs into some trouble. I guess once he's trying to compete in the opening, it would be tricky.

"OK, it's completely unnecessary to score like this but in general, I really hope he will do much better tomorrow. The level of his play is high enough if we exclude these two or three opening catastrophes. It really affects your moral part; you become upset, tilted, and so on. You can't play on full steam; you're playing under emotions. I think tomorrow he'll do much better."

Asked about his own tournament, Nepo replied: "I'm rooting more for Garry than for myself!"

I'm rooting more for Garry than for myself!
—Ian Nepomniachtchi

It was Vachier-Lagrave who "won" the first day of blitz with a 6.5/9 score, half a point more than Nepomniachtchi. The Frenchman was quite content with his win in the first round against Mamedyarov, saying: "For a blitz game, it was a masterpiece."

Vachier-Lagrave interview chess
Vachier-Lagrave getting mic'ed up for an interview with Maurice Ashley, who congratulates him on a good day of chess. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Part of playing good chess is defending well. It is there where MVL made the difference, compared to other tournaments this year.

"At least I'm glad that in this tournament my defensive skills are put to the test, and I'm doing much better than in the past few months in that sense," he said. "But there are still some things I need to work on."

Here's his incredible escape against Duda:

Nepomniachtchi had a slow start, with losses to Mamedyarov and MVL in rounds 11 and 13. By finishing with 4.5/5, Nepo managed to keep his sole first place after all.

"I just got very angry with myself," he said. "I basically lost two normal positions with two big blunders, against Shakh and Maxime. So first of all, I tried to stop blundering and pull myself together. In general, I don't think I played too good, but it was enough to change the flow and score some wins."

One of his wins involved a blunder by Van Foreest:

Ian Nepomniachtchi chess portrait suit
Ian Nepomniachtchi, still the leader. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Zagreb Rapid & Blitz 2021 | Day 4 Standings

Rank Fed Player Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Rds Pts
1 Ian Nepomniachtchi 2792 1 0 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 2 0 2 ½ 2 1 0 1 1 1 18 17
2 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2749 1 1 1 0 2 ½ 2 ½ 0 1 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 18 16.5
3 Anish Giri 2776 1 ½ 1 1 2 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 2 0 0 1 ½ 1 18 15.5
4 Viswanathan Anand 2753 1 0 0 ½ 0 0 1 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 2 1 1 2 1 1 18 14.5
5 Jan-Krzysztof Duda 2738 1 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 0 2 1 1 ½ 2 1 1 1 0 1 18 14.5
6 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2782 0 1 2 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 2 1 1 18 13
7 Alexander Grischuk 2778 0 ½ 1 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 1 1 ½ ½ 18 13
8 Anton Korobov 2683 0 0 1 ½ 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 2 2 1 1 18 11.5
9 Ivan Saric 2653 2 1 2 1 1 1 1 0 1 9 10
10 Jorden van Foreest 2688 1 0 1 0 1 ½ 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 ½ 0 0 1 1 18 9
11 Garry Kasparov 2812 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 9 0.5

All games day 4

The Croatia Rapid & Blitz takes place July 7-11, 2021 in Zagreb, Croatia. The time control in the rapid was 25 minutes for each player with a 10-second increment per move, starting from move one. The time control in the blitz is five minutes for each player with a two-second increment per move, starting from move one. The rapid counts double for the final standings. The tournament is the third leg of the Grand Chess Tour and has a $150,000 prize fund with a first prize of $37,500.


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