First MVL, now Anish Giri! The Romanian players in the Superbet Chess Classic continue to show their teeth, as Constantin Lupulescu withstood a powerful attack by Giri to hit back with a mating attack of his own. The win for the Romanian no. 1 was the only decisive game of Round 3, with Grischuk-So and especially Radjabov-MVL featuring little action. Levon Aronian gave Fabiano Caruana a scare, while Bogdan-Daniel Deac continues to lead with Fabi after showing no fear in his game against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
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Lupulescu strikes back
The original plan for the Grand Chess Tour was for only the ten full tour players to compete in the classical event in Romania, but with Ian Nepomniachtchi choosing to become a wild card a spot suddenly opened up for Romanian no. 1 Constantin Lupulescu. How was it to face the world’s best players after the break imposed by the pandemic? He told Cristian Chirila:
Frankly, unbelievable! I really didn’t expect this. I was just sitting at home and then this tournament showed up.
After a comfortable draw against Levon Aronian, Constantin then lost to Fabiano Caruana, and in Game 3 was facing another of the world’s Top 10, Anish Giri. He could have been forgiven for playing as solidly as possible, but 14.f3!? was the move of an ambitious man.
Of course if I want to play it very safe after 12.Be2 b6 I can just go 13.Bf3, swap the bishops and Black never has an attack, but then my winning chances are very slim to none, so I thought I should keep a pair of bishops and see what happens.
What happened was that with 14…a5 15.Bd2 f5! Giri began to go on the offensive, to the extent that when Constantin played 19.Bd3 he admitted, “I decided to bail out – enough is enough!”
If Giri exchanged on d3 the game would likely have ended in a draw, but the Dutchman dug deep and found an idea that brought him close to victory: 19…Qf7! 20.Re2!? Qh5!
White’s pieces are awkwardly placed, with the black queen targeting the undefended rook on d1, and the rook on e2 that’s defended only by the d3-bishop, a piece that will have to move if a black pawn appears on e4.
After 21.Be1!, Black’s best options seem to be 21…Ne4! or 21…Rh6! first. Instead Anish opted for 21…Be4!?
As Lupulescu commented:
I’d only considered Ne4, so Be4 came as a surprise, but I think a pleasant surprise, because I thought now I’m somehow swapping some pieces – I’m not doing so bad.
After 22.Bb1! it was still very tricky for White, but Lupulescu found all the best moves, while Anish was down to just 10 minutes on the clock.
The game turned on what Constantin called, “finally my real contribution in the game” – his seeing the 26.Qd5+!, 29.Qf7! resource in advance:
Suddenly after 29…Rg8 30.exf5 it was Black who had to be very careful, but Giri instead stumbled with 30…Qc6!? 31.Rf2! Qc5?
Giri’s tactical point is that 32.Re8? would only be a draw after 32…Rxg2+! 33.Kh1 (33.Kxg2 Qc6+!) 33…Rh2+ 34.Kxh2 (34.Rxh2 Qc6+! and Black picks up the e8-rook and wins) 34…Qxf2+. But after 32.Re7! White was simply winning, with f6 threatened.
32…Qd4 was a decent last try, since 33.f6?? runs into 33…Rxg2+! 34.Kxg2 and this time 34…gxf6+ brings the g8-rook into the action to force a draw by perpetual check. Constantin instead played 33.Re8!, however, and it was all over bar the shouting.
With 33…Rxg2+ Giri tried to give perpetual check, but despite being low on the clock himself, Constantin kept calm and safely navigated the position, at one point repeating moves to get closer to move 40, when he’d get an extra half hour on his clock.
We never got that far, since Anish resigned on move 39.
Black could still give a few checks, but the white king will eventually be untouchable, for instance on b1, and mate would be unavoidable. It was a career-best win for Lupulescu, while Anish Giri’s ambitious play with the black pieces has earned him only 0.5/2 against the Romanian stars, and it could easily have been 0/2.
Four draws, two of them fighting
The other Romanian player, Bogdan-Daniel Deac, was also coming off the biggest win of his career, against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but was clearly ready for a fight. The most impressive move of his game against the world no. 8 perhaps came after Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s 27…Nf3.
That was an invitation to repeat moves and draw with 28.Kg2 Ne1+ 29.Kg2 and so on, but after just 16 seconds Bogdan-Daniel continued the game with 28.h3. Shakh replied 28…g5 (prompting the watching Garry Kasparov to wonder, “why not 28.h4 ?”) and the game ultimately ended in a quiet 48-move draw, but Deac had once again shown he had no fear against the world’s best players.
Aronian-Caruana was liveliest among the remaining games, with Fabiano playing the Queen’s Gambit Accepted with 2…dxc4, something he hadn’t done since 2018, but in turn Levon sprung a surprise with 8.Ne5!?
The position is almost new, and although the computer says 8…Nxe5 and exchanging queens should be completely equal, Fabiano was worried about getting stuck in some apparently innocuous but in fact unpleasant ending.
Instead he went for 8…Qc7!? and later regretted some of his choices. “He thought for an enormous amount of time here and I probably started to get a bit too clever,” he said of Levon’s 28-minute think on move 16, and he admitted that when playing 17…Rb6!? he’d overlooked 19.Bd2!
The bishop is coming to c3 and taking the pawn on b2 would only increase the power of that move. How did world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana assess the position?
I thought ok, my position got sad, but it’s not so bad… I decided just not to try and get out of this tactically, but just try to systematically trade pieces and hope that the drawing margin is large enough.
It worked, with Fabiano critical of Levon’s decision to exchange off rooks on g6 a few moves later before the game fizzled out into a draw.
Elsewhere Radjabov-MVL was a “spectacular” Grünfeld draw that we’re used to seeing take about 45 seconds in online games.
In this case it took 45 minutes, and although it was reported that Teimour Radjabov was feeling unwell, it remains confusing why he took a 25-minute think on move 13 instead of just blitzing out the drawing line. There was the same scenario in Round 1, when Teimour slow-played another well-known draw with the white pieces.
If you look at the chess24 database tab for the final position in the game you can see that it’s a Wesley So speciality, one he mainly uses to try and ensure qualification for the knockout stages of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour events.
Wesley was interview by Cristian Chirila and commented:
I’m not going to criticise or question my colleagues’ decisions, because they know much better than ordinary people, but I’m just curious what’s going on in their minds, because if you waste your white games your opponents can put a lot of pressure when you’re Black.
75% of chess games end in draws, especially classical. Obviously something has to be done about that, but I think it’s not just the players’ responsibility, but also the tournament’s responsibility by changing rules, or organisers’ responsibility, because the players want to play the best chess, and sometimes you’re just not going to make many chances.
Wesley was talking after making a 23-move draw with the Berlin Defence against Alexander Grischuk. We got the infamous endgame, and an almost lunar landscape with only barren outcrops of pawns remaining.
Wesley called this an interesting position and he may be right, but after 15 minutes of thought Grischuk played 19.Re1+ and the game ended in a draw starting with 19…Kf6 20.Ne4+ Kf7 21.Ng5+ Kf6 “I played just to see if he’d repeat, and he did repeat,” said Wesley.
That means Caruana and Deac continue to lead, while we have the shock situation of Giri and MVL sharing last place.
In Tuesday’s Round 4 you would once again expect to see most action in the games featuring the Romanian players, who have the black pieces against opponents who outrate them to such an extent that “Elo logic” requires them to play for a win: Grischuk-Deac and MVL-Lupulescu.
You would be tempted to put your life savings on a draw in Mamedyarov-Radjabov, So-Caruana is a clash that at least online tends to end in a quick draw, while Giri-Aronian has potential. Levon Aronian has a shocking 7 wins to 0 classical score against Anish Giri!
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