Strong 3rd Day For Vachier-Lagrave In St. Louis
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had an excellent third day at the Champions Showdown. | Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club.

Strong 3rd Day For Vachier-Lagrave In St. Louis

| 31 | Chess Event Coverage

During the first two days of the Champions Showdown in St. Louis, Sam Shankland did quite well, but on Thursday Maxime Vachier-Lagrave defeated him three times. Garry Kasparov improved his score slightly vs Veselin Topalov.

The third day in St. Louis saw the most interesting starting position so far. Some of the players expressed how much they enjoyed playing this one, although not all of those got good positions!

Kasparov: "I think we’re making theory or even making history because we’re opening not even a new chapter but basically a new book on the game of chess. That’s why I think all players are excited."

Garry Kasparov vs Veselin Topalov — score after day three: 7.5-10.5

Kasparov was doing a bit better than on the first two days, and made the margin in the match a point less. He started with a good win as White in the first rapid game, where his only regret was taking on d5 too early. Kasparov enjoyed the final position, where the best move was to push the pawn that was the furthest.

Garry Kasparov St Louis Chess960

That was a pretty good game from Kasparov. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

In the next game, Kasparov's rustiness played a role again, as he got a bishop trapped in the early middlegame.

"Blundering a piece is never a good idea but I have to admit that that position was not a good one," he said.

The first blitz game was drawn, and then Kasparov took the second after Topalov blundered a discovered check. The Bulgarian resigned a bit early there, perhaps.

Hikaru Nakamura vs Peter Svidler — score after day three: 9.5-8.5

“Today I really felt like I was not in control whatsoever and I’m very lucky to still be in it somehow,” said Svidler. After a draw in the first rapid game, the eight-time Russian champion played both badly and slowly, and that's asking for trouble against Naka.

Peter Svidler St Louis Chess960

Peter Svidler didn't want to talk long about the second rapid game and that's understandable! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Svidler won the blitz 1.5-0.5 however, and leads in that discipline—to his own surprise. Nakamura missed a chance of giving perpetual with 27.Na5+! in this game.

Wesley So vs Anish Giri — score after day three: 11-7

Anish Giri was one of the players who played better because he liked the starting position better. He won the rapid 1.5-0.5 and played 1-1 in the blitz.

"I think it was because the position was more complicated and I think it suits me better than him," the Dutch GM said. He is not too optimistic about his chances to level the match tomorrow: “To say he’s the heavy favourite is a huge understatement."

24.Rxc6+ was a very nice move in the first rapid game:

Anish Giri St Louis Chess960

Giri did much better than on the first two days. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Giri's play in the last blitz game was pretty impressive too:

Sam Shankland vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave — score after day three: 6.5-11.5

Vachier-Lagrave was quite content with his discovery 1.c4 d5 2.e3, after which White already has some advantage. That's what he used in the first rapid game, where he kept a small edge that he converted all the way in a knight endgame.

Shankland was rather unlucky in the first blitz game, where he built up a winning attack. However, when the moment came to cash in, he did so inaccurately (30.Rg6!), then got a second chance but also missed that one (37.Qxf5! Rxg4 38.Qh5+).

Shankland Chess960

Missed chances for Shankland. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Vachier-Lagrave, who also won the second blitz game, said: “I think today I just enjoyed the position. On the second day I felt I didn’t really quite grasp everything and obviously I was playing quite badly. Today it felt I was playing quite well and really putting the pressure.”

Levon Aronian vs Leinier Dominguez — score after day two: 8-4

Aronian was of course the favorite, and he will win against Dominguez. However, the Cuban player is definitely getting his chances. In the first rapid game, he should have drawn the rook endgame (60...Rh6!):

And it was Dominguez who found a nice combination at the end of the day. He said he almost promoted to a queen, until he saw Rxf8 and Rf1+!

Dominguez Chess960

A nice finish by Dominguez. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Tomorrow is the final day of the Champions Showdown, when we'll see eight more blitz games.

The five matches, which all have a $50,000 prize fund each, include a total of six rapid (30 minutes + 10 seconds delay) and 14 blitz games (five minutes + five seconds delay). For the score, the rapid games count double: each rapid game is worth two points, and each blitz game one point.

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