Day 8 of the Superbet Chess Classic Romania was another eventful day, despite it only providing one decisive result in the encounter between GM’s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Leinier Dominguez, which ended in favor of the latter. The most thrilling game of the round was a rollercoaster played by Ian Nepomniachtchi and Levon Aronian, which stirred up the spectators’ emotions. The game turned out in yet another lucky escape by the Armenian American GM Aronian who saved another lost endgame to maintain his co-lead next to GM Wesley So, going into tomorrow’s final round.
Wesley So - Alireza Firouzja
The game between one of the co-leaders, GM Wesley So and the top-seed of the event, GM Alireza Firouzja was an uneventful one. Desperate for a win, Firouzja chose the KID (King’s Indian Defense), which, as Wesley said in the post-game interview, was not what he expected as he mostly prepared for the Gruenfeld. Being somewhat surprised by Alireza’s opening choice, Wesley went for the Exchange variation in which all the pieces were traded off gradually and the game ended in a draw on move 38.
Pre-game handshake - between GM Wesley So and GM Alireza Firouzja | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - Bogdan-Daniel Deac
The Romanian Bogdan-Daniel Deac possibly took Maxime Vachier-Lagrave by surprise, choosing the Petroff Defense, which proved to be a topical line of choice against 1. e4 in this event. MVL responded with the Classical Attack employing 8.c4, which is one of his main weapons against the Petroff and followed a rare played in a game between GM’s Peter Leko and Vishy Anand back in 2001. Deac misplayed with 12…Na6 and it seemed that MVL was about to seize the initiative, had he played 14. Bf4. Instead, the Frenchman opted for a dubious 14.Nc3, after which Deac found a set of powerful moves (15….b5 and 16…Nc5) which equalized the position at once. The game continued, but it was balanced throughout and soon the players traded pieces down to a draw on move 56.
Maxime Vachier Lagrave giving a “death stare” to his opponent GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Fabiano Caruana - Richard Rapport
After blundering a rook in yesterday, GM Richard Rapport seemed off to a rough start in today’s game against GM Fabiano Caruana, despite blitzing through most of the opening. Rapport’s decision to offer the queen trade with 13…Qb5 looked somewhat premature and his move 16…a5 weakened the b5 pawn and square, giving White the chance to undermine Black’s queenside with a4. Surprisingly, Caruana never chose to play it and opted for the slower a3 idea instead. It still seemed that White had considerable advantage, but the entire idea of going for the d7 pawn proved hasty according to the engine. Rapport took on b4 and his passed b-pawn gave him sufficient counter-play. Caruana kept pressing for a long time, but Black kept finding resources to stay afloat. The game eventually ended peacefully in a draw on move 51.
Fabiano Caruana with Emma Cretescu, a young Romanian chess player, at the start of Round 8 | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov - Leinier Dominguez
The game between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Leinier Dominguez had a tragic end for the Azerbaijani GM. In another QGA (Queen’s Gambit Accepted), where things seemed to be heading toward a draw considering that expected exchanges occurred, Mamedyarov decided to take some risks employing an aggressive plan with g3-f4 in order to kick Black’s nicely placed knight from the e5 square. In return, Dominguez rerouted this piece to f4, which proved annoying for White’s king safety. The position remained balanced despite some the extra complexity. Toward the time control Mamedyarov, possibly unhappy with the way the game was heading, looked for a way to repeat. However, he blundered on move 40, playing 40.Qe4 and continued with a series of bad moves. Finally, it was the move 43. Qg8 by Shakhriyar which proved to be fatal, as after Dominguez’ response 43…Qe5, White immediately resigned.
Leinier Dominguez cruising through victory with the black pieces in Round 8 | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Ian Nepomniachtchi - Levon Aronian
The game between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Levon Aronian was the most thrilling, but also quite a heartbreaking to watch, as Nepo let Aronian escape once more in this event. The game started as a Classical Variation in the Italian that followed a game between GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Dmitri Jakovenko from 2019 and it was Aronian who deviated with 16…Be7. It seemed that Black would have an equal position coming out of the opening, should he have played 17…Bg6, but instead, Aronian entered some adventurous line where he found himself in a slightly worse ending with a rook and a pawn for White’s bishop and knight. Aronian did not play it accurately and Nepo managed to coordinate his pieces with his king and keep Black’s rook trapped.
From that moment on the game had many moments where it could have gone either in the favor of Nepo, or finish with a draw. After consolidating his advantage, Ian drifted a couple of times, but so did Aronian, as he missed many chances to keep the game drawn. After winning back Black’s extra pawn, Nepo was completely winning and while his endgame technique was not perfect, he seemed to be on the right path to victory. However, he finally gave up on his advantage by playing 75.Ne5?? instead of the tactically winning 75. Nh4+! Aronian found the right defense and held the game to a draw. After this lucky save, Aronian goes into the last round tied for first with fellow American GM Wesley So.
Levon Aronian on his way to saving another lost game | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
The 2022 Superbet Chess Classic Round 9 continues on Saturday, May 14th at 5:50AM 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
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