After an intense and final day of the Superbet Chess Classic Bucharest, three players tied for first with 5.5/9. However, it was the French Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the “Dark Knight”, winning his last round game, catching up with the two former leaders Wesley So and Levon Aronian, and in the end taking them both down in an exciting playoff round-robin. The French grandmaster was ultimately declared the winner of the event, winning 10 GCT points and pocketing over $77,000. Wesley So and Levon Aronian each got 10 GCT points as well, and a check for $67,667. Tying for the fourth place with 4.5/9 were GM Fabiano Caruana, GM Leinier Dominguez and Romanian star GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac who was the only wild card in this event and has had a brilliant tournament.
GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave after an eventful final day that brought him the win of the Bucharest Chess Classic | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Levon Aronian - Shakhriyar Mamedyarov ½-½
Although he had the white pieces, GM Levon Aronian chose not to take many risks in today’s game. The players followed the well-known opening path in the Four Knights Game, where Black was pretty much safe throughout the entire game. The pieces were traded to a rook endgame where a draw was agreed by threefold repetition on move 36.
Levon Aronian playing it safe in Round 9 | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Richard Rapport - Ian Nepomniachtchi ½-½
Richard Rapport and Ian Nepomnichtchi followed the Classical Variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defense. Somewhere along the way and most likely disheartened by losing from two winning positions in this event, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi found himself in a worse position and could have lost in only 23 moves, should Richard had played 23. b4! Rapport was not in his best form either and returned the favor immediately with 23.Nb5 and, although he kept the pressure, Nepo proved strong enough and held the position to a draw.
Ian Nepomniachtchi, pre-game smile | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Bryan Adams
Leinier Dominguez - Wesley So ½-½
Leinier Dominguez tried to outplay Wesley So in a slow Italian by doubling So’s pawns on the e-file, but his advantage was only symbolic. As the game progressed, So managed to gradually infiltrate into White’s queenside. He could continue pushing in the final position, but instead chose to play it safe and take his chance in the playoffs. Had he known the result of the playoffs, he may have kept the pressure on Dominguez a little longer.
Pre-game handshake between Leinier Dominguez and Wesley So | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Bogdan-Daniel Deac - Fabiano Caruana ½-½
The wild card of the event, Romanian sensation GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac had an impressive performance in this event scoring fifty percent in such a strong field. In his last round against GM Fabiano Caruana, Deac chose a safe line of the Czech Variation of the Slav Defense against the American. The line chosen led to a position where White was up a pawn, but to Black’s bishop pair, which was a sufficient compensation. The players played a good technical game which ended in a draw in an opposite color bishop ending.
“The ‘Old’ meets the ‘New’” - Florin Gheorghiu, the strongest Romanian chess player of all time, shaking hands with Bogdan-Daniel Deac | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Alireza Firouzja - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 0-1
The game between the two French players, GM Alireza Firouzja and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was the longest and the only game that brought a decisive outcome. The players went for a classical variation in the Neo-Grünfeld Defense. The game was balanced for the most part, until the players entered the ending and some inaccurate play by Alireza close to move 40, allowed MVL to take his chance and create the b-passed pawn, which he pushed to win Alireza’s knight. The endgame might not have been immediately winning, but with accurate play, MVL kept his calm and cruised through to victory. It seems that MVL was inspired to return to his petline - the Grünfeld Defense - which brought him the important victory to share the first place and the chance to win the Playoff to be declared the winner of the Superbet Chess Classic Romania.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave after the brutally excruciating win against fellow French compatriot Alireza Firouzja | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
With three players sharing first place, it is only normal to give the spectators some extra excitement and more games to enjoy, in the detriment of the players who have to continue fighting for the title, more GCT points and a bigger paycheck. The players played a round-robin tournament among themselves, where the time control was 10min +5 seconds increment per move.
Wesley So - Levon Aronian 1-0
The first game was between GM Wesley So and GM Levon Aronian. The players chose the Central Variation of the QGA (Queen’s Gambit Accepted). After some inaccuracies by Aronian, once the opening was over, So took control of the game and kept expanding his advantage. He didn’t give it up and converted a nice knight endgame to win the first game of the playoffs.
Wesley So after a brilliant victory in the playoff against Levon Aronian | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - Wesley So 1-0
The next game to be played in the playoffs was between GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Wesley So. If So had won this game he would have clinched the event. The game started as an English Opening and it was balanced for the first part. As soon as the players started burning more and more time, things kept turning in each of their favor on a number of occasions. In the end it was MVL that grabbed advantage, but he didn’t need to find a way to convert, as Wes lost on time.
The tragic moment when Wesley So realized he lost on time | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Levon Aronian - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 0-1
Lastly, the game between GM Levon Aronian and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave started in an exciting manner with both players fighting for something, the first (Aronian) to pull an Armageddon, and the second (MVL) to win the event. Aronian chose an aggressive line against the Sicilian, but pushing the pawns on the kingside too soon proved to be more to his detriment than in his favor. By move 20, MVL was in full control over the position. He did however make some mistakes and almost failed to convert his advantage. Maxime eventually won on time on move 61, though by that time his position was won once again with his b-pawn getting ready to promote.
Post-game handshake. The win that brought MVL the title and trophy of the Superbet Chess Classic Romania | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
The 2022 Superbet Rapid & Blitz Poland will begin on Thursday, May 19th at 6:50AM CDT with live coverage from Grandmasters Yasser Seirawan, Peter Svidler and Alejandro Ramirez in studio. Grandmaster Cristian Chirila with Woman Grandmaster Anastasia Karlovich on location.
Watch all the action live on GrandChessTour.org
Text: WGM Sabina Foisor
Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
And check out the full album of photos from the 2022 Superbet Chess Classic here.
Superbet Chess Classic Romania Sponsors
Venue and dates:
Sheraton Bucharest Hotel, Bucharest, Romania, May 5 - May 14, 2022
Courtesy of Grand Chess Tour and Spectrum Studios
Credits available on Flickr