GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov won his third consecutive game and is suddenly a full point ahead of the pack with two rounds to go at the Superbet Chess Classic in Bucharest. The Azerbaijani grandmaster defeated GM Fabiano Caruana with the black pieces in round seven and saw co-leader GM Alexander Grischuk losing to GM Levon Aronian.

GM Wesley So failed to stay at a half-point distance from Mamedyarov as he drew his game with GM Teimour Radjabov. On what was the first day for the tournament with three decisive games, GM Anish Giri beat GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Compatriots GM Constantin Lupulescu and GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac drew their game but only after a 75-move fight.

Superbet Chess Classic 2021 round 8
Round eight pairings (Sunday): Mamedyarov vs. Giri, Grischuk vs. Caruana, So vs. Vachier-Lagrave, Deac vs. Aronian, and Radjabov vs. Lupulescu.

Known for his sharp style, Mamedyarov is the kind of player that is dangerous for everyone. That style also made it hard for him to win super tournaments for a long time, but things have changed in recent years. After winning the Gashimov Memorial in 2016 and 2017 and the Biel Masters in 2018, Mamedyarov seems well on his way to clinching the Superbet Chess Classic.

The Azerbaijani GM pointed out himself that he also beat Caruana with the black pieces at Shamkir 2016, when the American GM was on plus four and he himself on plus one. Mamedyarov ended up winning that tournament on tiebreak.

“A draw is absolutely a good result with Fabiano but to win is absolutely brilliant of course,” he said.

Caruana Mamedyarov Superbet 2021
A swinging handshake for Mamedyarov. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

As he mentioned himself, his win yesterday in Bucharest was a bit in the style of GM Vladimir Kramnik, who also came up with an early …g5, also on move nine, in an Anti-Berlin in that famous game at the 2018 Candidates against Aronian.

Caruana responded surprisingly fast, taking only three and a half minutes on 10.Ne2 where 10.Nd5 should give White an edge. Mamedyarov suspected that his opponent also missed the strong, backward move 18…Bd8! after which Black was much better in the endgame.

Mamedyarov: “Every time these back moves are not easy. Every time we miss these ones. After this move, he absolutely lost control.”

Caruana Mamedyarov Superbet 2021
Caruana resigning vs. Mamedyarov. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Co-leader Grischuk dropped back a full point as he lost relatively quickly to Aronian. As it turns out, his remark from yesterday, “all this leadership is an illusion,” was close to the truth, for him personally.

For Aronian, it was a very welcome bounce-back after his tactical mishaps the other day. “It feels great, especially when you get such an easy game,” he said.

The Armenian GM avoided 5.cxd5 cxd4 which is very solid for Black these days but admitted that his play with 10.d5 was not critical either: “It’s not a particularly great move but I just thought we’ll get something similar to these Queen’s Gambit positions but it’s important to take advantage of Sasha’s desire to think. If you want to beat Grischuk you have to lure him in time-trouble.”

If you want to beat Grischuk you have to lure him in time-trouble.
—Levon Aronian

Grischuk did get in time-trouble and although he often manages to maintain a very high level of play in such cases, this time it worked against him.

Alexander Grischuk time trouble Superbet 2021
Alexander Grischuk. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Aronian: “After yesterday’s play I was very angry at myself so it was good to get back some of the confidence and come back to 50 percent. This is a tough tournament, very tough. At some point, I was thinking that it’s very normal in such a tournament to have all draws. Yesterday I lost and today at least I came back, so I’m showing some fighting spirit.”

Levon Aronian Superbet 2021
Levon Aronian, happy to bounce back. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The third winner was Giri, who started by saying: “I am a very experienced player and the more experienced I get, the more I realize chess is just about luck. There’s really nothing else.”

The more experienced I get, the more I realize chess is just about luck.
—Anish Giri

This remark was probably based on the fact that he didn’t get much at all out of the opening and there were many ways for Vachier-Lagrave to draw the game. However, the Frenchman seems to be suffering from another form-crisis: first Wijk aan Zee, now this.

The opposite-colored bishop endgame was interesting and instructive. Giri analyzed it a bit with GM Cristian Chirila during the live broadcast and to his surprise, there was a way to draw for MVL at some point, by using the technique that Mark Dvoretsky called “pawns in the crosshairs.”

Giri Vachier-Lagrave Superbet Bucharest 2021
Giri-Vachier-Lagrave. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Radjabov drew his seventh game of the tournament against So, a clash that was especially interesting for theory lovers. So himself called it a “very forcing game” and thought both had prepared “all the way till move 18 or something.” The American showed lots of lines that he had prepared and why Black is OK in just about all of them:

Radjabov So Buchares 2021
‘Theory lover’ Giri checking out Radjabov-So. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The game between the two Romanian players was always in the draw margin, but Deac was the one pressing from the middlegame onward. It looks like Lupulescu defended well and eventually we had bare kings on the board: 

Lupulescu Deac Superbet 2021
The local fans saw Lupulescu-Deac going for 75 moves. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Superbet Chess Classic 2021 | Round 7 Standings












# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2770 2901 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½

1

1 5.0/7
2 Wesley So 2770 2809 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1

4.0/7 14.5
3 Alexander Grischuk 2776 2782 ½ ½ ½ 0 1

½ 1 4.0/7 13.5
4 Teimour Radjabov 2765 2758 ½ ½ ½

½ ½ ½ ½

3.5/7 12.75
5 Levon Aronian 2781 2762 0 ½ 1

½ ½ ½ ½ 3.5/7 11.75
6 Bogdan-Daniel Deac 2627 2753 ½ ½ 0 ½

½

1 ½ 3.5/7 11.75
7 Anish Giri 2780 2740

½

½ ½ ½ ½ 1 0 3.5/7 11.25
8 Fabiano Caruana 2820 2705 0 0

½ ½

½ ½ 1 3.0/7
9 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2760 2642

½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 2.5/7 8.25
10 Constantin Lupulescu 2656 2657 0

0

½ ½ 1 0 ½ 2.5/7 8.25

All games

The Superbet Chess Classic takes place June 5-14, 2021 in Bucharest, Romania. The time control is 90 minutes for 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with a 30-second increment per move, starting from move one. It is the first leg of the Grand Chess Tour and has a $325,000 prize fund.


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