Saint Louis Rapid/Blitz (2)

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

Saint Louis Leg, Grand Chess Tour
Saint Louis, USA
Aug. 10-15, 2019

Final Standings, Rapid

1-2 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Levon Aronian, 6.5/9, 3-4 Yu Yangyi, Ding Liren 5.0/9, 5-8 Sergey Karjakin, Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Richard Rapport 4.0/9, 9 Leinier Dominguez-Perez, 3.5/9, 10 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, 2.5/9

Time Control: 25 minutes play-to-finish with a 10 second delay (not increment) starting move 1

Final Standings, Blitz

1-3 Yu Yangyi, Ding Liren, Sergey Karjakin, 11.5/18, 4-5 Levon Aronian, Magnus Carlsen, 9.0/18, 6-7 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Richard Rapport, 8.5/18, 8-9 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Fabiano Caruana, 7.0/18, 10 Leinier Dominguez-Perez, 6.5/18

Time Control: 5 minutes play-to-finish with a 3 second delay (not increment) starting move 1

Combined Overall Standings (Rapid results count double)

1 Levon Aronian, 22.0/36

2-4 Yu Yangyi, Ding Liren, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 21.5/36

5 Sergey Karjakin, 19.5/36

6 Magnus Carlsen, 17.0/36

7 Richard Rapport, 16.5/36

8 Fabiano Caruana, 15.0/36

9 Leinier Dominguez, 13.5/36

10 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, 12.0/36

Last July Maxime Vachier-Lagrave surpassed Magnus Carlsen in the blitz ratings list after defeating him three times in that format during the first semester of the year.

Then came the Paris Rapid/Blitz leg of the Grand Chess Tour. After finishing the rapid section of the Paris event in clear first place he could not keep up the pace and crawled to the end after losing four games in both days of the Blitz portion. It was fortunate that the blitz competition was too tight and nobody scored enough points to overtake MVL’s lead. The Paris event therefore was fittingly won by a Frenchman although along the way Vachier-Lagrave lost 102 rating points and fell to the third spot in the Blitz ratings list.

Here in Saint Louis Rapid/Blitz we almost had a repeat performance. MVL once more did well in the Rapid but deteriorated in the Blitz, with the difference that this time his negative score in the five-minute games left him just half a point short of tying for 1st place in the overall standings. Combined with his poor performance in the Paris blitz Maxime has lost a total of 185.2 rating points from the events and has plunged from no. 1 to no. 20 on the live blitz rating list.

Anyway, as a consolation prize Vachier-Lagrave got to play this beautiful game in the Rapid portion.

Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime (2778) — Rapport, Richard (2747) [C02]
GCT Saint Louis Rapid 2019
Saint Louis (3.5), 10.08.2019

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qb6 6.a3 c4 7.Nbd2

GM Moskalenko, one of the world’s greatest authorities on the French, explains here that: “After the obligatory 7.Nbd2 White has two main plans: 1) 8.Be2 and 9.0–0, playing for the center or on the queenside with b2–b3, and 2) The setup g3–h4–Bh3/Bg2, preparing action in the center and on the kingside.”


This move is obligatory as well, keeping an eye on b3. A bad mistake would be 7…Nge7? which is refuted by 8.Bxc4! dxc4 9.Nxc4 Qa6 10.Nd6+ Kd7 11.Nxf7 Rg8 12.Qc2 h6 13.Nd6 b5 14.0–0 Rb8 15.Be3 White has 3 pawns for the bishop and Black’s king is exposed in the center. I do not believe Black can survive this. Sveshnikov, E. (2450)-Milos, G. (2510) Budapest 1988 1–0 40.

8.g3 Bd7 9.h4 0–0–0 10.Bh3 Kb8

The main lines here are either 10…f5 or 10…h6.

11.0–0 h6 12.Re1 Ne7 13.Rb1 Nc8 14.Nf1 Qc7 15.h5 Nb6 16.Be3 Ba4 17.Qe2 Be7 18.N3h2 Qd7 19.f4 g6 20.Bf2 Rdg8 21.Ne3 Nc6 22.Kh1 Bd8

Making way for his knight to go to f5 via e7.

23.hxg6 fxg6!?

MVL was expecting 23…Rxg6 24.f5 with a lot of complications.


Now Black’s e6–pawn falls but apparently Rapport had something planned against this.

24…Qh7!! <D>

Position after 24…Ah7

After the game MVL admitted in an interview that he had completely underestimated this move, but to his credit he reoriented himself and found a brilliant way to continue by giving up his queen.


After 25.Qxe6 comes the shock refutation 25…Nxd4! 26.cxd4 Bd7! The whole point behind Qd7–h7 is this ambush. Black regains the piece and has excellent play on the light squares after: 27.Qd6+ Bc7 Black will recover his piece by taking the “free” bishop on h3 and he will be launching a deadly attack against the white king.

25…cxb3 26.Qxe6 Nxd4 27.cxd4 Bd7 Same as in the previous line? Well, it turns out that MVL had another thing in mind …


MVL gives up his queen for two pieces but then he gets a lot of open lines and his pieces can easily be coordinated.

28…Nxd7 29.Rxb3 Nb6 30.a4! Nxa4 31.Nxd5

Now it is clear that White’s two bishops will hold sway along the g1–a7 and h1–b7 diagonals and the center pawns will start rolling. It is hard to defend positions like this where White has a clear plan of attack and you have to keep finding ways to counter it, especially in fast time control games.

31…g5 32.f5 g4 33.Bg2 Nb6

Not 33…Qxf5? 34.Rxb7+! Kxb7 35.Ne3+ Qf3 36.Nxf3 gxf3 37.Bxf3+ Kb8 38.e6

White’s two passed center pawns and active bishops will prevail.

34.Ne3 h5 35.f6 h4 36.Kg1 Bc7 37.Rc1 Qd7 38.Rd1 hxg3 39.Bxg3 Rh3!? 40.Nhf1!

Not 40.Bxh3?! gxh3 41.Nhf1 h2+! 42.Kxh2 Nd5 Black has a dangerous counterattack going.

40…Rh5 41.Rc3

Threatening Rxc7!

41…Rc8 42.Rdc1 Qxd4 43.Rxc7! Rxc7 44.e6 Rhc5 45.Rxc5 Qxc5 46.e7 Qh5 47.Nf5?

A slip. The correct way to win was through 47.Bd5! Nxd5 48.Nxd5.


Rapport could have held with 47…Nd7!! 48.Bxc7+ Kxc7 49.Ng7 Qc5+ 50.Kh1 Nxf6 51.Ne6+ Kd6 52.Nxc5 Kxc5 53.Bxb7 Kd6 but it was virtually impossible to calculate all that with seconds to go on your clock.


Stopping all the possible quee checks.

48…Qg6 49.Nd5 Qxf5 50.Bxc7+ 1–0

The best game of the tournament.

Richard Rapport distinguished himself in this tournament by losing to two consecutive queen sacrifices. The game with MVL was the second, here is the first.

Rapport, Richard (2735) — Carlsen, Magnus (2872) [A11]
GCT Saint Louis Rapid 2019
Saint Louis (2.4), 10.08.2019

1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Bg4 3.Bg2 e6 4.c4 c6 5.0–0 Nf6 6.cxd5 Bxf3 7.Bxf3 cxd5 8.d4 Nc6 9.e3 Be7 10.Nc3 0–0 11.Qe2 Rc8 12.Rd1 Qd7 13.Bd2 Rfd8 14.Be1 Ne8 15.Rac1 f5 16.Bg2 Nf6 17.Na4 b6 18.Nc3 Na5 19.Nb1

Hereabouts Rapport goes on some weird contortions on the queenside and meanwhile Carlsen manages to get in a kingside pawn advance.

19…Nc4 20.Rc2 g5 21.Rdc1 g4 22.Bf1 Ne4 23.b3 Ncd6 24.Qa6 Rxc2 25.Rxc2 Kf7 26.a4 h5 27.a5 Rb8!

Now black gets the advantage in the kingside AND queenside.

28.axb6 Rxb6 29.Qa2 Qb7 30.Ba5 Rxb3! 31.Rc7? Qb8 32.Nd2 Rb2 33.Qa4

Clearly Rapport is trying to get to Black’s king, but Magnus’ position is just too strong.

33…Nxd2 34.Qd7

Threatening Qxe7 and Qxd6.

34…Nf3+ 35.Kh1 Qxc7! 0–1

Rapport resigns. After 35…Qxc7 36.Qxc7 (36.Bxc7 Ne4 37.Kg2 Rxf2+ 38.Kh1 Rxh2#) 36…Ne4 37.Qc1 Nxf2+ 38.Kg2 Nd1+ 39.Qxb2 Nxb2 his end game is completely lost.

No rest for the weary. After a break of a few days the next big event, the Sinquefield Cup (not a rapid/blitz event but a full-blown classical round robin) started last Saturday with Wesley So, Anish Giri, Vishy Anand, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Hikaru Nakamura joining in. It is the last big classical tournament of the Grand Chess Tour so everybody wants to win this.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant, he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.