Vachier-Lagrave Shines In St. Louis As Nakamura, Mamedyarov Still Lead
Pickle MVL was in great shape in St. Louis. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Vachier-Lagrave Shines In St. Louis As Nakamura, Mamedyarov Still Lead

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To begin day one of the St. Louis blitz, Hikaru Nakamura and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov led the field. To end day one, they were still tied for the lead. However, the day could not have been more dramatic as the lead changed hands in eight of the day's nine rounds. 

Both players missed key opportunities and Mamedyarov's blunder in his game with Nakamura was a brutal oversight.

Meanwhile as Nakamura and Mamedyarov battled to be king of the hill, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave put on an amazing chess display, scoring five wins and four draws, putting himself in position to make a push for first tomorrow if his flawless form continues.

Vachier-Lagrave told our reporter on the site, FM Mike Klein, that he considers himself the equal of Nakamura in over-the-board blitz. Nakamura agreed and added that Karjakin is also in that tier, and Magnus Carlsen is clearly a step above the rest of the world's elite in the format.

The Games

Caruana got a great start in round one as he won convincingly against Wesley So as Black. Caruana avoided some clever traps en route to victory.

Nakamura had a shared lead for first emerging from the rapid half of the event, and many thought that he had all but won the event, but Sergey Karjakin immediately challenged that assumption by defeating Nakamura in round one. Karjakin also has a ferocious reputation in blitz chess.

While Nakamura bounced back by handing So his second consecutive loss, the big story in the second round was Caruana making his second huge blunder involving a simple pin tactic. Fortunately for him, he eventually salvaged a half-point in one of the most amusing blunderfests ever contested by this caliber of player.

Co-leader Mamedyarov lost in round three to Aronian, but he bounced back in round four with the sole win of that round by outplaying Fabiano Caruana from start to finish on the black side of the Caro-Kann.

Fabiano Caruana, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Saint Louis Chess

Mamedyarov demonstrated patience and positional control. | Photo: Austin Fuller.

The fifth round saw the rise of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who vanquished Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in an endgame as his king was faster to the queenside.

Vachier-Lagrave, Nakamura, and Mamedyarov all won in round six, but the most thrilling win was notched by Viswanathan Anand when he crashed through in a messy Najdorf against Alexander Grischuk after 25.f6!!

Vachier-Lagrave continued with another fantastic win against Karjakin in round seven. His initially patient play was converted into clear aggression with f4!

In terms of standings, the craziest and most critical game of the round was Aronian defeating Nakamura after the latter missed a free piece!

Hikaru Nakamura, Saint Louis Chess

Nakamura had a good day and finished tied for first, but he had his errors too. | Photo: Spectrum Studios.

In the same round, Caruana achieved a winning position against Grischuk, but he allowed his flag to fall as he made the winning move.

Yesterday, Caruana cost himself the tournament lead with an astonishing error involving a pin. Today, Mamedyarov did the same in round eight as he pushed his pawn to e4 to defend the rook and then immediately bashed the table in a case of understandable frustration.

After eight rounds, the players could have been forgiven for "coasting" a bit in the final round with some draws, but that wasn't the case as four games out of five were decisive. The big success at the finish was Mamedyarov's sudden victory over Anand. With this success he managed to catch a drawing Nakamura to close the day where both started, sharing the lead.

Vachier-Lagrave gave an interview to the journalist FM Mike Klein. It wasn't enough to catch the leaders, but if his form continues, he will have another opportunity to tomorrow.

Watch Maxime Vachier-Lagrave On A Great Day of Blitz Chess from Chess on


Graphic 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 1 p.m. Central U.S. time daily (8 p.m. Central Europe).

Earlier reports:

NM Sam Copeland

I'm the VP of Chess and Community for I earned the National Master title in 2012, and in 2014, I returned to my home state of South Carolina to start Strategery: Chess and Games. In late 2014, I began working for and haven't looked back since.

You can find my personal content on Twitch , Twitter , and YouTube where I further indulge my love of chess.

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