Superbet Chess Classic: Mamedyarov Closes In With Grunfeld Move Repetition
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, on the threshold of winning the tournament. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Superbet Chess Classic: Mamedyarov Closes In With Grunfeld Move Repetition

| 17 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov used a now-infamous variation in the Grunfeld to force a draw with GM Anish Giri in round eight of the Superbet Chess Classic. Mamedyarov is half a point away from sole tournament victory.

While three more games ended in draws, GM Levon Aronian scored his second win in a row by defeating GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac.

How to watch?
The games of the Superbet Chess Classic can be found here on our live events platform.

2021 Superbet Chess Classic final round
Final round pairings: Vachier-Lagrave vs. Mamedyarov, Giri vs. Grischuk, Aronian vs. Radjabov, Lupulescu vs. So, Caruana vs. Deac.

The early rounds of the Superbet Chess Classic were marred by quick draws, and it wasn't great to see another one in round eight—especially since it happened in the exact same Grunfeld that had led to quick draw-by-repetitions twice before in this tournament. 

At the same time, it was professionalism to the max for Mamedyarov, who basically needed to avoid losing in the final two rounds to be certain of tournament victory. He decided to force a draw right from the opening in a game that lasted less than six minutes.

Afterward, Mamedyarov said he was inspired by how his compatriot GM Teimour Radjabov had drawn with GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave earlier in the tournament.

"With the tournament situation, a draw for me is a very good result," commented Mamedyarov. "I understand, for Anish also. He played with black, and yesterday he had not an easy game, a long game."

The Azerbaijani added: "I know for myself, I want to win too much. I take some risks and sometimes something goes wrong. For this reason, today a draw, and tomorrow we will see."

Giri said he didn't know if Mamedyarov would go for this line, but he "wanted to have it clear" and indeed he was happy with a draw as well.

Mamedyarov Giri quick draw Superbet
Mamedyarov got what he needed in just six minutes. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Luckily, there was enough fighting chess to witness in the other games. At the end of the day, the only winner was Aronian, who moved to plus one with a win against the young Deac who defended brilliantly before blundering terribly, a move away from a draw. 

A 1...e5 player all his life, Aronian went for the Sicilian instead in this game. "I was just trying to play, not necessarily playing for a win but just to get a game," he said. "But my opponent knew the opening very well, and I think I got a slightly worse position out of the opening."

The soon U.S. resident Aronian played a number of interesting rook moves, the first being 18…Rd7. "I thought I need to start confusing myself and my opponent," Aronian said.

I thought I need to start confusing myself and my opponent.
—Levon Aronian

The idea is that if White plays 19.Be3 to attack the knight on b6, Black would reply 19…Bd8. Aronian: "Of course, it doesn't make any sense, but at least it's confusing!"

Aronian knew that the endgame that appeared on move 43 was very close to a draw. He said he was impressed by Deac's 48.Nd3! that gives up another pawn to get the knight to the dream square e5.

"I have to admit I underestimated my opponent," said Aronian, who pointed out that another knight move, instead of Deac's blunder, would have immediately forced the draw. Chess is tough, and there's no justice. (Just luck, if we may believe Giri!)

Aronian: "The thing is, my opponent is a very good player, but I think he was blitzing too much. That was my only hope. I got lucky today."

Aronian Deac Superbet Bucharest 2021
Aronian: "I got lucky today." Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

While Aronian was quite creative in the rook department, Vachier-Lagrave's knight handling was remarkable in the same round. In a well-known line in the Symmetrical English, his king's horse followed the route g8-f6-d5-b4-d3-f4-e6-d4-c6.

Once again, GM Wesley So in his interview showed the incredible depth of the preparation of top GMs these days and summed up why lots of people like Chess960: "I had some ideas, but I was hoping he wouldn't know it this far. Unfortunately, he knew the line very well." 

Wesley So portrait
Chess960 world champion Wesley So is a fierce opening theoretician in standard chess, like all of his colleagues these days. Photo: Bryan Adams/Grand Chess Tour.

GM Constantin Lupulescu scored a comfortable draw against Radjabov with the black pieces and was applauded for avoiding an early move repetition. Radjabov hadn't achieved anything in the opening and made a silent draw offer by repeating on move 22, but Lupulescu decided to play on.

The Romanian GM can take credit for that as well as being one of the few people who managed to put real pressure on Radjabov in this tournament. The latter survived quite a heavy time-trouble about 20 moves later when a draw was agreed upon after all. 

"Somehow I felt I could be slightly better, but I couldn't find it," said Lupulescu. He had drawn smoothly with the French defense after losing quickly at the first attempt, and now he drew quickly with the Classical Sicilian, also after losing quickly to it before.

Lupulescu: "I thought the second time should be a charm." 

Radjabov Lupulescu Bucharest 2021
While Radjabov looks for the arbiter to claim a draw, Lupulescu looks right into the photographer's lens. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The longest game was GM Alexander Grischuk vs. GM Fabiano Caruana, and it was another disappointing one for the world number-two. Caruana was close to winning out of the opening but failed to capitalize and later even had to suffer in an endgame a pawn down. This is definitely a tournament of missed chances for Caruana.

Grischuk Caruana Superbet Classic 2021
Grischuk-Caruana. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Superbet Chess Classic 2021 | Round 8 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2770 2883 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 5.5/8
2 Wesley So 2770 2803 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 4.5/8 18
3 Levon Aronian 2781 2788 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 4.5/8 17
4 Alexander Grischuk 2776 2787 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 4.5/8 16.75
5 Anish Giri 2780 2744 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 0 4.0/8 15.75
6 Teimour Radjabov 2765 2745 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.0/8 15.75
7 Bogdan-Daniel Deac 2627 2713 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 3.5/8 13.5
8 Fabiano Caruana 2820 2714 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 3.5/8 13
9 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2760 2659 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 3.0/8 12
10 Constantin Lupulescu 2656 2671 0 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ 3.0/8 11.5

All games

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.

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