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Superbet Chess Classic: Giri Escapes In Peaceful Opening Round
Bogdan-Daniel Deac almost beat Anish Giri in round one. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Superbet Chess Classic: Giri Escapes In Peaceful Opening Round

PeterDoggers
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36 | Chess Event Coverage

The Superbet Chess Classic, the first leg of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour, began on Saturday with draws on all five boards. GM Anish Giri lived dangerously in his game with GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac but survived in the end.

How to watch?
The games of the Superbet Chess Classic can be found here on our live events platform. GM Hikaru Nakamura provides live commentary on his Twitch channel starting at 5:00 a.m. Pacific / 14:00 Central Europe.

Pairings round 2: Caruana vs. Lupulescu, So vs. Aronian, Giri vs. Radjabov, Mamedyarov vs. Grischuk, Vachier-Lagrave vs. Deac.

After the many online speed chess events that we've seen during the pandemic, with all the drama that is connected to faster time controls and inevitable blunders, the opening round of the Superbet Chess Classic showed us the other side of our beloved board game. In classical chess, at the highest level, mistakes are few, and draws are plenty.

What has also become clear is that the rule that forbids players to offer a draw has little effect. If the position is reaching the status of "dead equal," the players will find a way to circumvent that rule: by repeating moves. (It would be interesting to see what would happen if repeating moves weren't allowed!)

The first two to draw were GM Constantin Lupulescu, one of the two local players, and GM Levon Aronian. Lupulescu played a solid line with 4.Qc2 against the Nimzo-Indian. Since Aronian didn't push for more either, after about half an hour the players called the arbiter, pointed out the move repetition, and shook hands.

(Yes, they did shake hands. Last year that would be a sign of carelessness; these days it's preferable to see it as a sign that the pandemic is slowly coming to an end, at least in parts of the world.)

Ilie Dumitrescu chess Superbet Romania
Football trainer and coach Ilie Dumitrescu made the first move in Lupulescu-Aronian. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Dumitrescu is best known for scoring two goals for Romania at the 1994 World Cup in their round-of-16 match, won 3-2 vs. Argentina.

Less than half an hour later, the second game ended. GM Alexander Grischuk played one of the main lines (8.Rb1) against GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's Grunfeld, a variation that now almost without exception leads to a quick draw at this level. We also saw it being used a few times in the FTX Crypto Cup last week.

When commentator GM Cristian Chirila asked for some further insights, Grischuk replied in all honesty: "There is nothing to discuss. It's a forced draw, more or less."

So, did the Russian GM actually play for that draw from the very start? Kind of.

"I did a research," said Grischuk. "In my last 10 first-round games, I think I played four draws and lost six. So I thought, a draw is better than losing."

Grischuk Vachier-Lagrave Superbet 2021
It's hard to argue with Grischuk's "a draw is better than losing." Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

In my last 10 first-round games I think I played four draws and lost six. So I thought, a draw is better than losing.
—Alexander Grischuk

Around the same time, GM Teimour Radjabov and GM Fabiano Caruana also called it a day. Their game was the least entertaining as the move repetition came rather early.

This specific opening variation in the Ragozin was played many times, perhaps most prominently at the 2015 Wijk aan Zee tournament when GM Vasyl Ivanchuk used it as White to draw quickly with GM Magnus Carlsen.

At the time, the world champion was quite annoyed (saying: "This is not chess; this is just nonsense!") because he had just won six games in a row and this draw deprived him of doing what GM Caruana had done half a year before: winning seven in a row.

Superbet Chess Classic Romania round 1
The beautifully lit playing hall of the Sheraton Bucharest Hotel. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and GM Wesley So played a longer game, but also here the balance was never disturbed in a fairly quiet Queen's Gambit Accepted. So had lost a game to Carlsen in the same endgame last week in the FTX Crypto Cup but, as said, classical time control allows for much more accurate play.

Mamedyarov-So Superbet Romania chess
The fourth draw: Mamedyarov-So. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

That brings us to an easy choice for Game of the Day: Deac vs. Giri.

"I wanted to try to play," said Giri afterward. "As we had seen very early in the round, the weight was on my shoulders. I had to carry this tournament forward; there was nobody else who wanted to play chess!"

Deac Giri Superbet 2021
Deac and Giri shaking hands before their game. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The weight was on my shoulders. I had to carry this tournament forward; there was nobody else who wanted to play chess!
—Anish Giri

On a more serious note, Giri did admit that he felt obliged to play for a win as the higher-rated player. He had trouble remembering all the details in the complex Anti-Moscow variation and also felt he was too optimistic in his evaluations later.

Meanwhile, last-minute substitute Deac showed his talent with an excellent first game where he had one of the strongest players in the world on the ropes.

Giri summarized the whole round nicely, saying that there's nothing wrong with draws "as long as there's content."

Bogdan-Daniel Deac Superbet 2021
A good start for Bogdan-Daniel Deac. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

All games round 1

The Superbet Chess Classic takes place June 5-14, 2021 in Bucharest, Romania. The time control is 90 minutes for 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with a 30-second increment per move, starting from move one. It is the first leg of the Grand Chess Tour and has a $325,000 prize fund.

Superbet Chess Classic opening ceremony 2021
The opening ceremony on Friday night. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.
Superbet Chess Classic opening ceremony 2021 Kasparov
One of the speakers was Garry Kasparov... Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.
Kasparov simul Superbet 2021
...who also gave a simul... Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.
Kasparov ceremonial move Superbet classic 2021
...and who played the ceremonial first move for Radjabov the next day. Kasparov also joined the official broadcast for a while, where he announced that he will be playing in the blitz segment of the Croatia Rapid & Blitz in Zagreb on July 10 and 11. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

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