St. Louis Rapid & Blitz Day 2: Caruana In Stasis As Shark Pool Grows
GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is one of the men who inched closer to the leader today. | Photo: Mike Klein/

St. Louis Rapid & Blitz Day 2: Caruana In Stasis As Shark Pool Grows

| 10 | Chess Event Coverage

If chess had off-board-betting facilities, today would have ended with tickets strewn over the floor. It was that unpredictable in day two of America's chess capital.

GM Fabiano Caruana still leads the 2018 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz by two points after drawing all of his games today. He again got black twice, and was never in much trouble, although now the number of players only one two-point win back has grown to four: GMs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura, Sergey Karjakin, and Shakhriyar Mamadyarov.

Wesley So

Avert your eyes, children. Some of today's moves were not kid-friendly. (So's stepmother Lotis Key told that he wore them to help block out the proximity of the crowds.) | Photo: Mike Klein/

So for those that like to prognosticate based on small sample sizes, do what you wish with today's info. A day after many lauded Caruana's newfound rapid skills and guessed how that might play out in case of a world championship tiebreak, the challenger told that he doesn't play the comments game.

"I don't really care what people say," he said. "I think people have very short memories...Sometimes you can read what people say and it doesn't bear any reference on your play. It can only affect you in a negative way."


Not "Fabulous" but instead "Pragmatic" Fabi held his lead today. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Caruana added that it's helpful for him to sometimes have a limited remembrance as well. "It's good to be able to forget your losses and not dwell on them," he said.

Well, he still doesn't have any of those this week, so pretending to be the lead character from "Memento" isn't yet necessary. As for many of the other players, they may wish for such memory loss after this Sunday.

Despite his all-draws day (he admitted being both winning and losing in the middle game and called his final game's opening "dubious"), Caruana called it "perfectly satisfactory" as he saw the other members of the field play even more erratically. 

"I did see some really surprising mistakes," he said. 


Both GM Hikaru Nakamura and the blitz portion lurk. "It's good to be in striking distance," he said of his +1 day with two blacks. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Round 4

Unlike on day one, which began with a flourish but ended on more of whimper, today the chess elite inverted the structure. Maybe the blue laws of Missouri forbid early checkmates on Sundays? In any case, only one win came from the early round.

For GM Levon Aronian, it wasn't for a lack of trying. Like in yesterday's doomed game against Caruana, he captured an early b-pawn and again had to part with his queen. Of course today it was all by design, and he ended up splitting the point with Mamedyarov. (For more on this game, make sure to listen to Mamedyarov's interview below.)

Nakamura and Caruana also drew, as well as all of the other games, save one. Vachier-Lagrave pulled to within one point of Caruana when GM Alexander Grischuk again dwindled his clock too far to hold the ending.

MVL Grischuk

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Alexander Grischuk discuss their game afterward. | Photo: Mike Klein/

This time the discrepancy was especially pronounced, as just before the Russian attempted to hold the pawn-down ending, he had only 30 seconds to Vachier-Lagrave's 15 minutes. (Nakamura's guess: Grischuk had not yet come to terms with the time control being delay and not increment.)

Round 5

Giddy-up. Now the fun began. Sure, only two winners came from this hour, but both were complete reversals of fortune. And the three draws may have all been even more exciting anyway!

Of all the oversights, Caruana mentioned GM Wesley So's as the most prominent. His teammate's final move of this game was his worst of the event.

"It's important just to hang in there, even if you are worse, or even in sometimes lost positions," Dominguez said.

Dominguez So

Hey guys did you not learn anything last year? One player at a time touching the pieces! | Photo: Mike Klein/

Don't get the joke in the caption? This video may refresh your memory, when the two played "hot potato" at the 2017 Champions Showdown.

Aronian also turned a likely loss into a win. His result came full circle after taking control of the h-file and hunting down GM Viswanathan Anand's king.

"I think I was getting outplayed gradually," Aronian said. "Vishy plays this line against me. And I know that I have an option to go for a slightly passive but drawish position, but every time I choose something else I get in huge trouble."

"Vishy saw that he is probably winning and maybe he kind of lost concentration," was Aronian's summation of the critical moments.

But how about the two leaders? Caruana versus Vachier-Lagrave was the spirited Najdorf that everyone hoped for, and the game did not disappoint. When the Frenchman pushed 18...h5 to loosen the leader's light squares, Caruana went into a long think.

Vachier-Lagrave became the aggressor and offered an exchange to keep up the attack. He briefly had two queens on the board in the king hunt, but just when he might have finished off White, he toggled his rook for a repetition. With all that going on, clearly this is a game for the experts.


The action was far from done. Not long after he was offered Aronian's queen, Mamedyarov "gifted" his to Nakamura. Maybe even in chess it's better to give rather than receive?

Mamedyarov Nakamura

Queens were optional in a confusing day all around. | Photo: Mike Klein/

And if that's not enough, how about Grischuk again in time pressure (no news there) missing several clean wins against his countryman Karjakin? To be fair, the first and prettier win was shown as a puzzle to Aronian, and he didn't solve it in the 15-second window offered by GM Maurice Ashley.

"Actually, h6 is much easier [to find] than Qd8," Aronian said of the two wins.

Round 6

While So got his first win of the event (over Anand), and Black won three games in the round, it was yet another result reversal that focused the attention, and a surging player getting stalled.

Nakamura went from losing to winning against Aronian in a sharp Sicilian, while Vachier-Lagrave got a dreadful position in the first 10 moves and was eventually punished by Mamedyarov.


GM Levon Aronian would have been tied for second instead of Nakamura, were it not for being too eager with his passer. | Photo: Mike Klein/

For Aronian, he got a little too feisty with his d-pawn, as Nakamura's rook lift to b4 upended the expected win for White.

"If White does anything wrong, he can get in trouble," Nakamura said, admitting he got "a little bit lucky."

And for Vachier-Lagrave, it's a minor miracle he didn't get mated in the first dozen moves. The Azeri's early ...g5 reminded of Aronian at the Candidates'. Just like in Berlin, White didn't react well, and while Vachier-Lagrave made a game of it, Mamedyarov eventually was rewarded for his enterprising opening play.

Here's's interview with Mamedyarov on the two queen sacs he was a part of today:

Watch Mamedyarov Discusses His First Time Playing Chess in the USA from Chess on

And so after quite an eventful day, Caruana kept his nose clean and remains two points clear, although now there are a quartet of chasers:


Here's the pairings for the final day of rapid, which will be followed by two days of blitz.




All graphics courtesy Spectrum Studios.

The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz is a five-day event from August 11-15. The first three days are a rapid round robin and the final two days are a blitz double round robin. The games begin at 1pm Central U.S. time daily (8pm Central Europe).

Earlier reports:

More from FM MikeKlein
Ian Nepomniachtchi On The World Chess Championship

Ian Nepomniachtchi On The World Chess Championship

New ChessKid Adventure App Released

New ChessKid Adventure App Released