It was a pivotal day for the standings as Alireza Firouzja survived a difficult position to score an important victory over Wesley So, overtaking the lead in the penultimate round of the Sinquefield Cup. It was then not long after that Ian Nepomniachtchi joined Firouzja in first place, after he defeated Levon Aronian in a highly tactical game.
Going into tomorrow’s final round, Firouzja is now a heavy favorite to win the 2022 Grand Chess Tour, as his performance in the Sinquefield Cup will likely place him ahead of current leader Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the overall standings.
Standings after Round 8 (Caruana will have a bye-round tomorrow and finish on 4.5/8)
FIROUZJA - SO | 1-0, 32 moves
A theoretical Italian saw Firouzja surprisingly get into trouble out of the opening, as So snagged the initiative with the strong attacking plan of 14…Nh5 & 15…Qf6. Going after White’s king, So then sacrificed a bishop on h3, which was not the most promising continuation but one that left Black with a comfortable game, as Firouzja was forced to give back the piece in order to avoid getting mated. But an uncharacteristic blunder by So allowed Firouzja an immediate tactical win, ending up with two extra pawns and a completely winning endgame.
After 25.Ba3!, forcing the queen back with 25…Qb6, Firouzja blew Black’s position wide open with 26.e6!, winning after 26…c5 27.exf7+ Kxf7 28.Qd7+ Kf8 29.Qd5+-
A second “come-from-behind” win by Firouzja, who now seems very likely to win the 2022 Grand Chess Tour. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
ARONIAN - NEPOMNIACHTCHI | 0-1, 52 moves
Opting for a sharp line against Nepomniachtchi’s Petroff Defense, Aronian seemingly mixed something up in the opening, as after 12.Nbd7 f5 13.Qb3 Rf7! Black already stood better, with an extremely powerful knight in the center. Aronian’s situation then went from bad to worse as Nepomniachtchi capitalized on his large strategic advantage to win two healthy pawns, but a later slip by Ian allowed White back into the game. Aronian had compensation for the missing pawns, but a crucial mistake on move 40 allowed Nepomniachtchi to consolidate his material advantage.
After 43…Ne6, although Black’s king looks open, White can’t generate any real threats, and Black is winning thanks to the powerful passed pawns in the center.
Nepomniachtchi is now tied for first overall, and will face Niemann with White in the last round. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Bryan Adams
NIEMANN - CARUANA | 0-1, 69 moves
A somewhat unorthodox line in the English left Niemann a little better after the opening, but a hasty decision (21.g4) opened up too many weaknesses on the kingside. A strong decision by Caruana (21…Ba5) then allowed him to seize the e4-square, exploiting White’s overextended position. This put Niemann under tremendous pressure, as he soon had to give up the exchange. Following a nice tactic by Caruana which forced the queens off, White was left with decent drawing chances, but after some moving around in circles by Black Niemann’s defenses eventually crumbled and Caruana converted his material advantage in the endgame.
After Caruana’s 34…Qxd4!, with idea 35…Nf3+ on any recapture, winning the queen back.
A decent finish for Caruana, who will end on “plus 1”. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller
DOMINGUEZ - MAMEDYAROV | ½-½, 85 moves
An Open Ruy Lopez left Dominguez with a small plus out of the opening, as Black’s far advanced pawn on d3 seemed to be more of a weakness than a strength. With skillful maneuvering, Dominguez ended up collecting the pawn and then started to nurse his long-term advantage. Eventually, the players traded into a queen endgame, with excellent winning chances for White. Dominguez managed to break through, creating three passed pawns on the kingside, but allowing Mamedyarov a passed pawn on the queenside in return. This counterplay caused Dominguez to blunder his advantage away, as one wrong move allowed Mamedyarov to force a draw by perpetual check.
The final position in Dominguez – Mamedyarov – Black has a perpetual with Qd1+/Qh1+, and it’s important for White not to play Kh4??, where Kf5! would force mate-in-2
Another missed chance for Dominguez, who was previously winning against both Nepo & Niemann. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller
In light of recent controversy, some fans came out to show their support for Hans Niemann. | Photo Courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Lennart Ootes
The 2022 Sinquefield Cup continues Sunday, September 11, starting at 12:50 PM CT. Catch all the action live with grandmaster commentators Peter Svidler, Yasser Seirawan, and Alejandro Ramirez on grandchesstour.org and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels.
Text: IM Kostya Kavutskiy
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Saint Louis Chess Club
September 02-12, 2022
Courtesy of Grand Chess Tour and Spectrum Studios
Credits available on Flickr.