Superbet Chess Classic from Romania – R8: Miracle Aronian

For the eighth round of the Superbet Chess Classic, played on Friday the 13th, we legitimately expected bloody games. Alas, only one game did not end in a draw, that of Leinier Dominguez, who took advantage of yet another error by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, in great difficulty in this tournament.

The other parts were all played until the total exhaustion of the forces present. The event of the day was undoubtedly the resource of draw worthy of a study found by Levon Aronian to get out in extremis of a bad step against Ian Nepomniachtchi.

Result of the races: at the dawn of the last round, the Americans Levon Aronian and Wesley So remain co-leader with 5/8, while Maxime Vachier-Lagrave remains in ambush at half a point.

The last round will start an hour earlier than usual, Saturday, May 14 at 1 p.m. Paris time. An early departure which will leave time to play a possible quick tie after the classic game.

How to watch?

You can follow the Grand Chess Tour 2022 on the Chess.com/TV or on our Twitch channel. You can also access all our live broadcasts on YouTube.com/ChesscomLive.

You can also find the event commented in French live every day by Kévin Bordi on his chain where he focuses on our two tricolor representatives, Firouzja and MVL.

Do not miss any of the games of the Superbet Chess Classic of Romania on our dedicated page on Chess.com/events.

The tournament having been particularly hectic, it would almost make us forget the many elite tournaments where the bland draws follow one another. In Bucharest, even the calmer days offer us exciting and highly contested games.
Local hero Bogdan-Daniel Deac had a bumpy but overall excellent tournament. After capitalizing on a huge mistake by Richard Rapport to move into the positive, he in turn cracked and came back into balance, a result which remains honorable in such a difficult context. Deac has proven that he will have to be counted on at the highest level in the future.

This Friday, he faced Maxime, who also benefited earlier from a big blunder from the whimsical Hungarian. The French GM, half a point behind the leaders and with the white pieces facing the smallest Elo in the competition, of course expected a lot from this game. Our Frenchie didn’t feel the need to test 1.d4 again, and went back to basics with 1.e4. The Romanian opted for the Russian defense, no doubt motivated by the curious experience of Maxime (Nd3!?) in this line during the first round.

MVL rolls up its sleeves: get to work! Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

This time White stayed on known paths until the move 11.Be3, which deviated from the main line with 11.Nc3, already seen twice in Maxime’s practice and last year at the world championship.

Deac, unimpressed, equalized easily. As the time control approached, without any particular pressure on the clock, he confidently dodged the Frenchman’s attempts to complicate the position. The majority of coins then traded quickly.

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In great form, Deac contained MVL without apparent difficulty. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The ensuing rookie finale was very clearly a draw, and the two men were soon shaking hands.

Disappointing for Maxime, but we have to admit that this young Romanian is playing well. Moreover, when asked what he planned to do against Fabiano Caruana tomorrow, he simply answered “play well”. A pithy answer and implacable logic.

Talking about the wolf: Caruana was playing today with the white pieces against the red lantern Rapport, who can’t wait to get home and prepare for his next two tournaments, Norway Chess and the Candidates Tournament , which will begin on June 16 in Madrid. A busy schedule, especially when things don’t go as planned on the chessboard…

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Rapport will have to perform a “mental reset” before the next deadlines. Photo: Bryan Adams/Grand Chess Tour.

In a sicilian four riders, the Hungarian chose the line he had already played against Alireza Firouzja earlier in the tournament. He only varied on the eighth shot, entering a line that Caruana had already faced at Grand Suisse de Riga last year.

The American chose the large 9.c4 line, giving White a visually impressive space advantage. However, practice from the masters has shown that black has excellent counterplay chances in these positions.

Rapport was soon playing the dubious 13…Qb5?, and his position changed from “slightly passive” to “very passive”. But Fabiano struggled to find the ideal organization, and let the advantage slip away.

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Caruana failed to capitalize on his advantage. Photo: Bryan Adams/Grand Chess Tour.

However, this was only after the move 24.Qxa6? of the Italian-American that black really managed to equalize. The Hungarian found two precise shots, and although White’s position looked even better, Black’s counterplay allowed them to keep their balance. Finally, the pieces were exchanged and the draw soon became obvious.

Dominguez earned his first victory of the tournament two rounds ago by returning from an inferior position to Deac. Today he faced Mamedyarov, in full roller coaster this week.

As often in this tournament, the queen’s gambit was accepted, and the Azeri tried the variant with 7.b3, very fashionable in Bucharest. As usual, the Cuban-American unrolled a calibrated preparation and equalized quickly. In the mid-game, the players slowly but surely began to swap pieces, heading together towards a solid draw.

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Leinier Dominguez’s ambitious strategy paid off. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

But Mamedyarov was a little too ambitious in a position that didn’t seem to favor white. He pushed his kingside pawns to destabilize the opposing knight, but in doing so weakened his castling.

A risky decision, because we have known for centuries that the queen-knight tandem is more effective in attack than its queen-bishop counterpart. In this particular position, the sad position of the c4 bishop exacerbated this imbalance.

However, it was only in zeitnot that the balance would tip on the black side. By the 39th move, it was clear that the white king was in big trouble.

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Difficult tournament for Mamedyarov, who was unable to continue his momentum from round 7. Photo: Bryan Adams / Grand Chess Tour.

As we have seen several times this week, it is right after the time control that the biggest blunders are made. This part was no exception to the rule, Mamedyaarov’s lady going off to hunt ghosts on the king wing, forgetting the defense of her own monarch.

A few moves later, White threw in the towel. Dominguez returns to balance, while “Mame” returns to the depths of the rankings, where he will have spent the majority of his tournament.

In an excellent mood after a very good victory against Dominguez the day before, Firozuja had announced his intention to play for the win against So, despite the handicap of the black pieces. The American, for his part, explained after the game that it was difficult to prepare against the young Frenchman, who has played very little lately, whether in tournaments or online.

However, with Firouzja having chosen the East Indian against Deac earlier, Wesley had been interested in lines that the computer considers excellent for white in this opening.

But in front of the chessboard, it’s not the same lemonade! The American deflated and opted for the exchange variant, known to be very canceling. A choice that visibly frustrated the French number one.

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So offered his young rival no chance to play for the win. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The two men were playing precisely, and the pieces were exchanged one after the other. Finally, the draw became inevitable. Not the most interesting part of the day, but that’s what happens when you announce you want to beat the ultra-strong Wesley So!

Challenger for the world title, Candidate this year, Nepomniachtchi had problems in this tournament. Most of his own doing. The Russian plays too fast and messy when the position requires patience and extreme concentration. In round eight, this casualness cost him victory, then a draw against Mamedyarov.

Aronian went the opposite way, winning good games and playing his luck to the full, for example against Firouzja. Still co-leader, the Armenian had everything to lose today.

Nepo chose the Italian, very fashionable lately against 1…e5. An opening that Aronian is used to facing.

Until the 11th move, the two men followed the Nepomniachtchi-Mamedyarov game, played during this same tournament. Levon then chose to take on d3 rather than play 11…Kh8. Nothing new under the sun for him, who had already played this move against MVL in 2019 and Dominguez in 2021. The Russian GM avoided known lines with the move 15.Qe4, and Aronian drew the first novelty with 16… Be7. A move that seemed to equalize, but was followed by an inaccuracy that gave white the initiative.

The New American forced a final rook and five pawns against bishop knight and four pawns. Easier to describe than to defend!

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A little too fast & furious, Nepomniachtchi still let slip a victory which held out its arms to him. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The two men were playing so fast that one wondered if they had a train to catch. However, no station on the horizon… This speed of play seemed completely irresponsible.

Aronian let the Russian progress, and soon found himself with a severe headache. Alas, his opponent was playing too fast again, letting Levon get away with it. But why think and take a draw when you can blitz and blunder again? It was the option chosen by Aronian who was finally starting to really think about it when his position was already no longer salvageable.

He was going to pull off a magic trick despite everything, and lure the Russian, who soon found himself facing a fortress. A final reminiscent of the one between Sam Shankland and Anish Giri at Wijk aan Zee in 2019. The American had then abandoned in a position that was still salvageable!

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Miracles do exist, all you need is Aronian’s talent to make them work… Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

Aronian therefore managed to come out of it even more miraculously than against Firouzja a few days earlier. If that doesn’t make you want to solve studies, I don’t know what will! A pearl from Aronian, and another major disappointment for Nepomniachtchi.

Chess.com Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

Game of the day, analyzed by GM Dejan Bojkov

Ranking after Round 8

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All round 8 games


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Superbet Chess Classic from Romania – R8: Miracle Aronian


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