International Chess Federation
Monday, 25 Jul 2022 09:41
Magnus Carlsen wins 2022 SuperUnited Rapid and Blitz

The 2022 SuperUnited Rapid and Blitz the 3rd stage of the 2022 Grand Chess Tour has come to an end. Magnus Carlsen did it again clinching the victory with two rounds to spare.

The 10-player event took place in the Westin Hotel in Zagreb from July 20-24, 2022. The rapid was a 10-player single round-robin with 3 rounds each day on the first 3 days at a time control of 25 minutes for all moves and a 10-second increment from move 1. The final two days were a blitz double round-robin, with 18 rounds of 5+2 blitz. Rapid games counted double, with 2 points for a win and 1 for a draw.

A Test of Endurance

While Magnus had a couple of nice games on the final day, he really paved the way in Day 4 after his 5-game winning streak. After securing the title he lost his last two games and scored 4.5/9. It just goes to show what a moment of relaxation can mean, even for the best player in the world. Not long into Day-5 it became clear that everybody else was fighting for second place.

The first casualty to exhaustion was Jorden Van Foreest, who had finished the Rapid in clear 1st and began Day-5 in clear 3rd, but eventually finished 6th.

Van Foreest was one of the many that saw his play suffer due to exhaustion | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

The Dutchman had an incredible display of fighting spirit. He came back after every one of his losses, up until round 24, which is when it all went wrong for him. He was not able to recover from that blow and finished scoring 0.5/4 in the last rounds.

Van Foreest - Vachier-Lagrave, Round 24

24.Bxe7+? [24.Nc5!! Bxc5 (24...Bxg5 25.Nxe6+ recovers the bishop with a winning position) 25.Rxc4+- Black cannot defend the minor pieces along the c-file] 24...Kxe7 and soon Black’s queenside pawns became overwhelming 0–1     

Perhaps the greatest casualty to exhaustion was Wesley So, who began the day (and had spent the entire tournament at the top of the standings) in clear second and finished in a disappointing tie for 4-5 place. He seemed to have finally solved his problem with White (he won three games, more than in all the other days combined!). However, he conceded too many draws and in the final stretch only managed 0.5/3.

Dominguez - So, Round 25

After endless maneuvering, Wesley takes the bait 85...Nxa5?? [85...Ne3 would have held on] 86.Bd5! the knight is dominated and was eventually lost. 1–0

Always with a cheerful disposition, Wesley’s final place in the standings did not reflect his protagonist throughout the event | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

The final day was all about the Frenchmen. Alireza Firouzja scored an impressive 7.5/9, while Maxime Vachier-Legrave an unbelievable 8/9. While most struggled to keep a grip on themselves, the Frenchmen were frantically pouring energy into their games.

Carlsen - Firouzja, Round 26

46.Bxh3?? [46.Rg4! Ne4+ (46...g2 47.Bxg2= White will happily give up the bishop for the two pawns; 46...h2 47.Bg2 now the pawns go nowhere) 47.Kb2 g2 48.Bxg2 hxg2 49.Rxg2=] 46...Nxh3 47.Rg4 Nf2!-+ White cannot take the pawn on g3 because of the fork on e4. 0-1

MVL displayed tremendous endurance and scored a whopping 8/9! | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

Firouzja - MVL, Round 22

After defending tenaciously, Firouzja lets his guard down and allows the draw to slip away after 48.Kh4?? [48.Ra1 Rc7 49.Bf3 there is no way for Black to make progress] 48...Rc7 White cannot stop 49…Rh7 mate! 0–1

Firouzja scores a crucial win against Carlsen in the penultimate round on his way to shared 2nd place | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

No one would dare accuse the MVL or Alireza of lacking fighting spirit. And they certainly proved they have endurance as well. But unlike Magnus (at least in the case of Alireza and Van Foreest), they played better chasing the lead than when they had it. While Magnus, once he had it, took off with it.

A lot has happened in the past five days. One of the main takeaways from the event is that despite the new format, the traditional virtues that define chess greatness remain the same: fighting spirit and endurance.

From left to right: Grand Master and event organizer Zlatko Klaric, GCT Executive Director Michael Khodarkovsky, GCT Founder Garry Kasparov, tournament winner Magnus Carlsen, President of Super United Marin Marusic and President of Superbet Foundation Augusta Valeria Dragic | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

The Grand Chess Tour will conclude with the final two legs of the tour being held in Saint Louis, MO the Chess Capital of the USA. The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz from August 25th - August 30th and Sinquefield Cup from September 1st - September 13th. Fans can follow all the action live on and on the Saint Louis Chess Club's YouTube and channels.

Text: GM Robert Hungaski

Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

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The Westin Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia
July 20 - July 24, 2022 

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Courtesy of Grand Chess Tour and Spectrum Studios
Credits available on Flickr.