Vachier-Lagrave Grabs Sole Lead At Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour
MVL beat Aronian in the last round of the day to take over first place. | Photo: Austin Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.

Vachier-Lagrave Grabs Sole Lead At Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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40 | Chess Event Coverage

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave took over the lead from Levon Aronian at the end of the first day of blitz at the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour. Magnus Carlsen scored disappointingly again and is out of contention.

MVL and Carlsen both scored 4.5/9 in the blitz, but for the Frenchman that was enough to overtake Aronian, who made 4/9. MVL also scored 4.5/9 on the first blitz day in Paris, and his 3.5/9 on the last day was just enough to win the tournament. Today he'll likely need to do better.

Vachier-Lagrave now leads with 17.5 points, followed by Aronian with 17, Ding Liren with 16.5 and Yu Yangyi with 15.5. Ding and Sergey Karjakin did best on Tuesday with 6.5/9, while Fabiano Caruana, who lost three rapid games on the third day, only made 1.5/9 on day four.

Chess clock blitz. | Photo: Austin Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.
The time control changed to five minutes plus three seconds delay. | Photo: Austin Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.

The biggest news perhaps is Carlsen's bad form. In the blitz he lost three more games, making it seven in total. Norwegian reporter Tarjei Svensen made a knowing remark: he has less points after 18 rounds than he had after nine rounds in Abidjan.

At the end of the day Carlsen spoke to Maurice Ashley:

"Everything's going wrong," Carlsen said. "My confidence is long gone and now I just don't really care anymore. To be honest, my number-one wish now is for the tournament to be over—it cannot come soon enough. So, yeah, you're probably going to see more of the same tomorrow. I just cannot really be bothered at this point."

My number-one wish now is for the tournament to be over.

—Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen cannot be bothered anymore and is already looking forward to the Sinquefield Cup. | Photo: Crystal Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.
Carlsen cannot be bothered anymore and is already looking forward to the Sinquefield Cup. | Photo: Crystal Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.

Asked for an explanation, Carlsen said: "I feel OK in general but I guess when things start to go wrong it’s easy to start doubting yourself. I’ve tried to play more aggressively, then I tried to play a bit safer but it doesn’t really seem to work out anyway. When I’m playing I am constantly doubting myself."

After the first round of blitz, a strong comeback was still possible for Carlsen, especially since he defeated one of the favorites, Vachier-Lagrave. The latter's typical positional exchange sacrifice didn't work in the long run:

Carlsen Vachier-Lagrave 2019 Saint Louis Rapid Blitz Grand Chess Tour.
Carlsen vs. Vachier-Lagrave. | Photo: Austin Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.

Vachier-Lagrave was planning to do better than in Paris, but failed. Scoring 50 percent was not that bad considering the fact that he also lost in round two, to Richard Rapport. The Hungarian GM is a wild card in St. Louis but he's holding his own very well.

Richard Rapport. | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour.
Richard Rapport is currently in sixth place. | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour.

After three rounds and also after five rounds, Aronian was 1.5 points ahead of MVL. He had managed to beat Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in a four vs. three rook endgame and drawn his other four games.

In round six Aronian suffered his first blitz loss, to former blitz world champion Leinier Dominguez, after allowing a strong exchange sacrifice that ripped open his kingside. The game was a textbook example of attacking with opposite-colored bishops as Aronian was helpless in defending his dark squares:

Leinier Dominguez chess. | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour.
Leinier Dominguez played spoiler for a few rounds. | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour.

Aronian drew his next game with Rapport. Vachier-Lagrave caught him in first place again as he defeated Caruana and then also Yu, after a fight of 98 moves:

Aronian then took a half-point lead once again in round eight as he drew with Carlsen, and saw his main rival also losing to Dominguez:

MVL grabbed the lead in the very last round as he defeated Aronian in their direct encounter. If these two players continue to do well, the last-round game today, with colors reversed, will be critical.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave goes into the final nine rounds of blitz with a half-point lead over Aronian. | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour.

After doing well at Norway Chess, Yu is again proving himself to be quite comfortable in this field of elite players. He is one too.

Ding had an excellent first day of blitz, with 6.5/9. Among his victims was Carlsen:

Ding Liren Yu Yangyi together Saint Louis Grand Chess Tour
Ding Liren and Yu Yangyi both won against Carlsen. | Photo: Austin Fuller/Grand Chess Tour.

Things were going so badly that at some point Carlsen even played 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5, against Dominguez. That game ended in a draw.

Beating Carlsen is never an easy task, even when he is in bad shape. The other player who got to 6.5/9, Karjakin, also managed, just like in the rapid:

Last but not least...well, maybe it was the least, in terms of quality. In the following game two super-grandmasters missed a basic back-rank mate. It was a not an error in the transmission.

Vachier-Lagrave, at the end of the day: "I feel like compared to Paris my level of play hasn’t been generally not as bad, for lack of a better way to put it. I’m losing maybe another 50 points but that’s OK! I want to add that the fields here, at least in the blitz format, is much more competitive than in Paris. You can see it for instance with Richard going plus three."

The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Standings
The standings with nine rounds of blitz to go. | Image: Spectrum Studios.

The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour takes place August 10-14 at the Saint Louis Chess Club. After three days of rapid (nine rounds), two days of blitz follow with nine rounds on each day. Chess.com provides daily coverage on Twitch.tv/Chess and Chess.com/TV.

Day 4 coverage:

All games of blitz rounds 1-9 for replay/download:


You can find all games here as part of our live portal. More photos from the event can be found here. The official site is here.


Previous reports:

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