News
Paris Rapid & Blitz: So Leads, Firouzja Surges
pport. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Paris Rapid & Blitz: So Leads, Firouzja Surges

PeterDoggers
| 19 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Wesley So is still leading the Paris Rapid & Blitz tournament after the first nine rounds of blitz chess. The American grandmaster is half a point ahead of GM Ian Nepomniachtchi. GM Alireza Firouzja surged in the standings after scoring a fantastic 6.5/9 whereas GM Vladimir Kramnik was struggling.

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

Paris Blitz | Day 1 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts SB
1 Firouzja,Alireza 2759 2934 1 0 ½ 1 1 1 0 1 1 6.5/9
2 Nepomniachtchi,Ian 2792 2885 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 1 6.0/9
3 So,Wesley 2770 2845 1 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 5.5/9
4 Svidler,Peter 2714 2812 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 1 ½ 1 0 5.0/9
5 Aronian,Levon 2781 2767 0 0 1 1 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 4.5/9 18.5
6 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2760 2768 0 ½ 0 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 4.5/9 17
7 Rapport,Richard 2763 2730 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 4.0/9
8 Caruana,Fabiano 2820 2684 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 3.5/9
9 Radjabov,Teimour 2765 2648 0 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ 1 1 3.0/9
10 Kramnik,Vladimir 2753 2604 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 2.5/9

There were two clear storylines for the first day of blitz in Paris. On the one hand, we saw Firouzja doing much, much better than in the rapid and in fact "winning" the first of two single round-robins, scoring 6.5/9. The Iranian-born teenager moved from the last place up to a shared fourth place in the overall standings (see below).

Meanwhile, Nepomniachtchi got 6/9 in the blitz and So 5.5, which meant Nepo got half a point closer to the American with nine more rounds to go. The tournament is likely a two-horse race between these two players now.

On the other hand, the much-anticipated participation of Kramnik in this blitz part of the tournament was disappointing. The 14th world champion could only win one game (though a very nice one) but was otherwise struggling, with big oversights and losses on time.

Kramnik Paris 2021 chess
Kramnik was rusty on Monday in Paris. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

An early example was his game with GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, where Kramnik first survived a lost middlegame position, then was about to save the draw in a rook endgame, and then suddenly flagged:

Vachier-Lagrave Kramnik Paris 2021
The moment Kramnik loses on time. Photos: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Kramnik bounced back, but only very temporarily, in the second round of the day. Using GM Bobby Fischer's (and Veniamin Sozin's) 6.Bc4 against the Najdorf, he won a quick battle against his compatriot GM Peter Svidler:

Kramnik Svidler Paris 2021 chess
Kramnik vs. Svidler. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Firouzja was fast and furious for six rounds. After not winning a single game in the rapid, he started with a fantastic 5.5/6, with wins against GM Teimour Radjabov, MVL, GM Levon Aronian, Kramnik, and GM Richard Rapport.

The main difference was the time control obviously, and Firouzja suggested that the two-second increment suits him better than his opponent. "At least today I managed to play better chess," he said.

The game with Aronian saw some dazzling tactics:

Alireza Firouzja blitz Paris 2021 chess
Alireza Firouzja is doing much better in the blitz. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Firouzja's positive streak came to an end in his game with So, who played the same line against the Trompowaky as Aronian and then managed to refute what was a flawed trick from Firouzja. Tactically outwitting the young boy is not easy, but So managed. Later, the American would call this his only good game of the day.

Firiouzja So Paris 2021 chess
Firiouzja's first loss was against So. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

So himself had been undefeated for 22 rounds in this Grand Chess Tour (nine in Bucharest and 13 in Paris) before he finally lost a game. It was Aronian who won a remarkably smooth game where simple, healthy moves were enough:

Wesley So blitz Paris 2021 chess
Wesley So lost his first game in the Grand Chess Tour in round 14 but is still topping the leaderboard. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

But overall, So has impressed in this Grand Chess Tour so far. Especially his openings seem absolutely top-notch. He explained it as follows:

"I think it helped that just before this tournament several players came from a classical event. In that classical event, I was preparing five hours a game on openings and stuff, so I still have my notes and the memory is fresh. So that's one good thing. For rapid and blitz, opening preparation is not so important, especially for blitz, but I was still able to remember a lot of stuff."

We have to finish with one more Firouzja game though. His battle with Nepomniachtchi was insane, with the evaluation bar going up and down and up and down:

Nepomniachtchi Firiouzja Paris 2021 chess
Nepomniachtchi vs. Firiouzja, a wild game. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Paris Rapid & Blitz 2021 | Combined Standings

Rank Fed Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Rds Pts
1 So 2770 1 ½ 1 ½ 2 1 1 1 1 0 2 ½ 2 ½ 1 1 1 ½ 18 17½
2 Nepomniachtchi 2792 1 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 0 2 1 1 ½ 1 1 2 1 2 1 18 17
3 Svidler 2714 1 ½ 1 ½ 2 1 1 ½ 2 0 0 1 0 ½ 1 1 1 0 18 14
4 Vachier-Lagrave 2760 0 0 2 ½ 0 0 2 0 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 2 ½ 0 1 18 13½
5 Firouzja 2759 1 0 1 1 1 ½ 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 18 13½
6 Aronian 2781 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 2 ½ 18 12½
7 Rapport 2763 0 ½ 1 ½ 2 0 1 ½ 1 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 0 1 18 12
8 Caruana 2820 0 ½ 1 0 2 ½ 1 0 1 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 0 0 ½ 18 11½
9 Radjabov 2765 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 ½ 2 0 1 0 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 18 11
10 Bacrot 2678 1 0 1 2 1 0 2 2 1 9 10
11 Kramnik 2753 ½ 0 1 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 9

All games day 4

The Paris Rapid & Blitz takes place June 18-22, 2021 in Paris. The time control in the rapid is 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 second leg of the Grand Chess Tour and has a $150,000 prize fund with a first prize of $37,500.


Previous report:

More from PeterDoggers
Nepomniachtchi, Caruana Pick Up Wins In Spectacular 6th Round

Nepomniachtchi, Caruana Pick Up Wins In Spectacular 6th Round

Nepomniachtchi Dodges Bullet, Maintains Lead In Madrid

Nepomniachtchi Dodges Bullet, Maintains Lead In Madrid