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So 1st In Rapid At Paris Grand Chess Tour
Nakamura, in second place, watching leader So. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

So 1st In Rapid At Paris Grand Chess Tour

PeterDoggers
| 25 | Chess Event Coverage

Despite drawing all his games today, Wesley So retained his lead at the Paris Grand Chess Tour. Before the start of the blitz, Sergey Karjakin and Hikaru Nakamura are trailing him by one point.

"So" mostly stood for "solid" today, as the tournament leader split the point with three of his closest rivals: Nakamura, Karjakin, and Anand. Asked whether he was happy with his score, So replied: "I don't think it could have gone any other way."

In round seven (today's first round), two players scored their first win here in Paris. First was local hero Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

The latter tried another variation of the early ...b5 and ...g6 lines in the Ruy Lopez that he's been playing lately, but this one didn't work out well. MVL wasn't sure if his approach with 10.d4 was the best, but it was already very good for White in the opposite-colored bishop middlegame.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

A good begin for MVL today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Fabiano Caruana won his first game of the tournament against a player who was not in great shape either: Vladimir Kramnik. Black's move 8...c6 might have been a slip of the finger, because it was new and doesn't look great.

Caruana won an exchange and seemed winning all the way, but at one point it was a draw, and at another Kramnik could even have won. Caruana called it "a tough game."

Caruana vs Kramnik Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Caruana: "A tough game." | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Vishy Anand vs Hikaru Nakamura, in round eight, was a fascinating battle from which the winner would move up to shared second/third place. Things got exciting when Anand sacrificed an exchange, and then traded his queen for two rooks.

In the remaining RBN-vs-QN position (with pawns), White seemed in control as he had the time to walk his king to the queenside. However, bringing his queen to the active d1 square, keeping the d-pawn in control from there, was a good answer by Nakamura. 

Anand vs Nakamura Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Anand was playing a great game, but then faced a strong counter. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Right when there was a win for White, Anand missed a nice defensive trick by his opponent and then the tables suddenly turned. Nakamura found the right queen maneuvers and then a fantastic pawn move that sealed Anand's fate: a loss, instead of a draw.

"It was very tricky to play for both sides. I felt that I defended quite well so I'm pretty pleased," said Nakamura. 

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With this win, Nakamura got to a point behind the tournament leader. "This is what I should have done in Leuven," he said, meaning that his base score going into the blitz is more promising now.

Nakamura Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Nakamura still has good chances to repeat his success of two years ago. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Momentum, and perhaps a bit of luck, was on Caruana's side as he profited from a blunder by Aronian, which allowed a nice little tactic. "This game I think was pretty OK. He blundered but before that it was pretty well played and I converted pretty accurate," Caruana said.

"At some point I was just done with the tournament and done with chess in general. Last night I got seriously ill [Caruana had stomach issues —PD] but today I felt better."

Chess.com's interview with Caruana.

Caruana  Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Caruana scored 2.5/3 on a much better day for him. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Aronian lost back-to-back games as he was also beaten by MVL in round nine.  At first it was White's bishop pair, but eventually the far-advanced g-pawn kept on bugging the Armenian. 

The diagram position is take from an instructive moment where Aronian could have escaped with a draw, reminding us that even in the most hopeless positions there might be a tactic that can save the day.

Vachier-Lagrave Paris 2018

Like Caruana, MVL scored 2.5/3 today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Against Alexander Grischuk, Vladimir Kramnik went for a piece sacrifice that few would have been able to resist. And it was probably correct, but not how he played it, except that Grischuk also missed the best defense. After that he blundered into a bad rook endgame, where Kramnik got to show his superb technique. 

Kramnik Paris Grand Chess Tour 2018

Kramnik scored 3.5/9 in the rapid. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Inspired by his two wins, Caruana played a good game against Karjakin and held on to a slight edge throughout, with RB-vs-RN and an extra, passed pawn. It just wasn't enough to win.

MVL, Aronian, Caruana, Karjakin, Paris 2018

MVL and Aronian watching Caruana vs Karjakin. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

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Tomorrow, round 10 (the first round of blitz) starts at 2 p.m. Paris, 1 p.m. London, 8 a.m. Eastern and 5 a.m. Pacific. There will be nine blitz games on Saturday, and another nine on Sunday.

Games via TWIC.


Earlier posts:

PeterDoggers
Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by Chess.com in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!


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