Your Next Move Blitz: So's Lead Narrows
So facing Nakamura in the last round of the day. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Your Next Move Blitz: So's Lead Narrows

| 20 | Chess Event Coverage

Wesley So lost his last two games today and saw his lead at the Your Next Move tournament shrink to 1.5 points. Levon Aronian and Sergey Karjakin have the best chance to catch him in the remaining nine rounds. 

The fourth day in Leuven, Belgium was the first of two days of blitz. The time control was five minutes with a delay of three seconds each move. Nine rounds were played; tomorrow we'll see the same pairings with colors reversed.

His rapid wasn't good, but Anish Giri started the blitz well with a win vs Hikaru Nakamura. In a quiet Berlin, he got a crushing kingside attack remarkably quickly. After the dark-squared bishops were traded, Nakamura was suffering from a complex of weak squares around his king, and he couldn't coordinate his pieces.

Anish Giri

Anish Giri started well but would score 4/9 today. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

In a position where he was already clearly better, Levon Aronian managed to avoid a long, technical phase by trapping Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's knight. 

Aronian Leuven

Aronian, who is in Leuven with his father, scored plus-two today. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Fabiano Caruana's misery continued on Friday with first a loss against Viswanathand Anand, and then another one against Alexander Grischuk. The Russian GM played a masterpiece in a Sicilian where Caruana's pawn grab on f4 should be OK, but was still quite dangerous for a blitz game. White was in total control throughout.

Grischuk Leuven

A great game by Grischuk. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Round 12 (the third blitz round) saw three draws, and another loss for Nakamura, who was clearly struggling to find his top form. He lost on time against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in what was a hopeless position anyway. Black's pawn sac was interesting, but in the long run it didn't work out.

In between rounds (which were held every half hour) the players could enjoy some football as Egypt-Uruguay, the second match in the FIFA World Cup, was underway in Ekaterinburg.

The next round started with a huge blunder by Anand, who went for a small combination that had a big flaw: Karjakin's queen on f5 was protected by the knight on e7. A rare oversight for a legendary player like Anand (who later told that, indeed, somehow he hadn't counted on 19...Nf6). 

Anand Leuven

A strange oversight by Anand. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Nakamura finally got some of his mojo back as he beat Aronian in a long and good game, where his extra pawn in a knight ending was a doubled pawn, but eventually it was enough.

Giri plays 1.e4 every now and then, and against Mamedyarov that worked pretty well. A slightly better structure followed by the complete domination of Black's bishop resulted in a Karpovian victory.

Round 14 saw one of the most exciting games of the day, but sadly for the Indian fans it was another loss for Anand. After the opening he went for a line where he gave two pieces for a rook and three pawns, and from that moment it was a matter of who would be first: White with an attack on the king, or Black with his pawn phalanx. Aronian got to the enemy king first with a beautiful sacrifice.


The Indian fans didn't need to be sad for long, as Anand bounced back with a win against Nakamura the next round. 

In round 15, Aronian was involved in another candidates for game of the day, against Grischuk. The evaluation went back and forth, and the tactics were amazing.

Aronian LeuvenAronian played some very creative games today, exactly the goal he had in mind for this event. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Round 16 saw a very odd end of the game between Anand and Grischuk, in which Anand had been lost at several points in the game, and was rather lucky to suddenly have a draw after playing 70.Qf3. 

Dejected, Grischuk took the rook on d2 and his body language suggested that he accepted that the game was going to end in a draw. But then, instead of playing 71.Qf7+ and give perpetual, Anand accidentally put his queen on f8. Before he noticed that, Grischuk had already touched his king to play Kb8, and in this bizarre situation the players agreed on a draw. 

Anand Grischuk Leuven

Anand plays 71.Qf8 and offers a draw... | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Anand Grischuk Leuven

...which Grischuk accepts before noticing where that queen is. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

So is still leading, but tomorrow's last day of blitz could be quite exciting because the American GM is only 1.5 points ahead of the pack, with nine rounds to go. That's because he unexpectedly lost his last two games today.

He suffered his first loss of the whole tournament against Mamedyarov, which was a pretty straightfoward win for the Azerbaijani. So's loss in the last round however, to Nakamura, was completely unnecessary and the result of a huge blunder.

Karjakin is one of the players trailing by 1.5 points (together with Aronian). He was in fact the "winner" of today's single round robin of blitz, scoring 6.5/9—a point more than Aronian and 2.5 points more than So.

His win vs MVL was arguably his best game today.

Karjakin Leuven

Karjakin is still in the running. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Nakamura will need a very big score to overtake So, but normally speaking he is out of contention. His wild win vs Grischuk was great to watch, from the very start. Nakamura had played this opening line against MVL in Norway, inspired by Carlsen-Wojtaszek from last month.

Grischuk Leuven

Grischuk, with just a few second left on the board, realizes he's in trouble vs Nakamura. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The last day starts two hours earlier, at noon CEST (6 a.m. New York, 3 a.m. Pacific).

Leuven Standings

Games via TWIC.

Earlier posts:

More from PeterDoggers
Honorary Grandmaster Title Posthumously Awarded To Sultan Khan

Honorary Grandmaster Title Posthumously Awarded To Sultan Khan

Wei Yi Wins 2024 Tata Steel Chess Masters In Thrilling Tiebreak

Wei Yi Wins 2024 Tata Steel Chess Masters In Thrilling Tiebreak