The first day of the Blitz portion of the Superbet Rapid & Blitz Poland saw a drastic shift in the dynamic of the event. While former World Champion Vishy Anand maintained his lead and even extended it to 1.5 points, It was Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian who stole the show today. The former scored a whopping 8 out of possible 9 points while Aronian netted 7 in the same number of games. The two Americans dominated the rest of the field to move to a tie for third, two points behind Anand, and half a point behind the consistent Polish GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda. After a slow start, the Polish hero bagged three consecutive wins toward the end of the day and is now in second place. It surely was not a good day at the office for both Richard Rapport and Wesley So, but it would be a grave mistake to write these two players out of the tournament just yet.
The spectators couldn’t hope for anything better than tons of excitement that kept their eyes glued to the gigantic screens! | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
The American was undoubtedly the sensation of the day. After a disappointing performance in the rapid games, Caruana showed a magnificent form in the blitz. Not only did he go on scoring eight points but his games were an indication of strength rather than ‘a good day at the office’. After his great performance at The American Cup’s blitz event, GM Caruana is now the #3 player in the world ranking for Blitz rating, only .2 Elo shy from GM Levon Aronian with whom he is tied for 3rd. A feat he is dreaming of enhancing by another massive performance on tomorrow’s final day. Whether he will have the same form or not is to be seen but it is clear that Caruana is in hot pursuit to place at the top of the leader board tomorrow.
Fabiano Caruana at the beginning of Day 1 of Blitz games | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Aronian’s performance in the Rapid part wasn’t that great either, although he finished a point ahead of Caruana. Nevertheless, after a good performance on the first part of the Grand Chess Tour in Romania, Aronian knew better than anyone that he needed a massive score to improve his position on the leader boards. His 7 out of 9 wins today were fantastic and he is now the #2 blitz player in the world. Tied for third and two points behind the leader is certainly a tough hill to climb, but it wouldn’t be that difficult should Aronian continue to play the way he played today.
‘I am just simply that good!’ Levon Aronian in a cheerful mode before the round along with Richard Rapport | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Jan-Krzysztof Duda’s story of the day is probably the biggest comeback in this event so far. After finishing in the third place in the Rapid portion, The Polish representative in the upcoming Candidates started the day with two disappointing back-to-back losses. However, the young local hero couldn’t simply let go of it this easily: After holding Caruana in one of his two only draws with Black pieces, Duda bagged 5 points out of the remaining 6 and ended the day on sole second in aggregate. Should he improve on his performance, Duda is a serious contender for the top spot going to the final day. One thing that can make things slightly better for Duda is the fact that he has White pieces against Anand, Caruana, and Aronian.
Another good day at the office. Moving to sole second, GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
If you are the leader and you extend your lead after a tough day by half a point, you have still made progress. That is what Vishy Anand did and I am sure he takes it any other day. In fact, Anand did pretty well against his main rival. He even could consider himself a tad unlucky as he failed to win a winning rook ending against Richard Rapport, and undeservedly lost to Caruana in a game where Anand started making mistakes with a few seconds on his clock, something he could avoid much earlier in the game.
However, what Anand needs is to come up with a plan for his games against the last four of his ‘trailing’ opponents. He only scored 2 out of possible 4 points against the bottom of the field while everyone else who is his direct competition did much better against the last four players in the standing. With three of his white pieces games being against Korobov, Shevchenko, and Wojtaszek, Anand’s strategy could be ‘staying solid against his main rivals while trying to make the most against the tailenders. No matter how the last day pans out for the “Tiger of Madras” it is great to see him in such good form during this entire event. Going to the last day as the favorite Anand is not going to settle for anything but his best to win the event!
‘I am here to stay.’ GM Vishy Anand maintains his lead and even extends it by half a point | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Wesley So and Richard Rapport
The two top-10 GMs did not have a good day at the office. After a disappointing event in Romania, the candidate participant, GM Richard Rapport had a phenomenal rapid portion scoring 13 out of eighteen points, beating GM Vishy Anand in the process. However, things were completely off for Rapport today. After losing his first game against Caruana, Rapport never made it back to the event and ended the event with a disappointing 3.5 out of 9 possible points. It surely dragged him down in the standings but he remains among the mix of the leaders' thanks to his great performance during the rapid portion. Yet, if the Hungarian wishes to finish on a better spot he needs to come up with a better strategy, as his current one with off-beat openings is backfiring severely.
Richard Rapport’s flamboyance is not working in the Blitz section | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Wesley So on the other hand was very inconsistent with his games today. His on and off mode had relegated him down to the sixth spot. While a three points gap makes it very hard for us to imagine him having a chance to win the event, it would be a big mistake to write off Wesley So just yet. Having tied for second in the recent Superbet Chess Classic Romania, the defending 2021 Grand Chess Tour champion is certainly going to try his best tomorrow to make up as many points as possible. Yet, his task is not an easy one to be sure.
The 2021 Grand Chess Tour champion Wesley So | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Anton Korobov and Radoslav Wojtaszek
These two seasoned GM’s are having two different paths in this event. While Wojtadszek may just be tired after winning the Polish championship and his results may only be slightly below his strength (given how underrated the youngsters are), Anton Korobov is definitely hoping for things to come to an end soon. While he was on a 50% score halfway through the rapid the Ukrainian strong player started shedding points right and left scoring only one point out of the last seventeen points. That in itself is a disappointment especially after he had a great run in the last year’s tour. Yet, these two players are both very experienced, and should they come to the games with a clear head, they could still pull an upset.
Anton Korobov has been struggling here in Poland | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Kirill Shevchenko and David Gavrilescu
The two youngsters are still learning the ropes but they surely are getting more confident. GM Gavrilescu pulled the biggest upset in the event beating former world champion Vishy Anand with the Black pieces and scoring 3.5 out of 9 games, a far better result than his rapid games. GM Shevchenko gets good positions but he needs to come up with a new plan for his time management strategies. Should the players come fresh to the board tomorrow and fueled by their motivation they may still have a decisive effect on the final standings.
The coverage of the 2022 Superbet Rapid & Blitz Poland Day 5 continues on Monday, May 23rd at 6:50 AM CDT with live studio coverage from Grandmasters Yasser Seirawan, Peter Svidler, and Alejandro Ramirez, and on-location coverage with Grandmaster Cristian Chirila and Woman Grandmaster Anastasia Karlovich.
Watch all the action live on GrandChessTour.org.
Text: GM Elshan Moradiabadi
Photo: Courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes and Bryan Adams
Superbet Rapid & Blitz Poland Sponsors
Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland
May 19 - May 23, 2022
Courtesy of Grand Chess Tour and Spectrum Studios
Credits available on Flickr