Round two of the GCT Paris Rapid & Blitz was another exciting day of chess. The full tour participants are joined by three unique wildcards in this event: French hero Etienne Bacrot, wunderkind Alireza Firouzja and World Champion Challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi. Today’s round was full of surprises, battles, and tumbling leaders!
After two days of chess, we have a three-way tie between Caruana, So and Nepomniachtchi.
Despite some games ending in uneventful draws, it was certain that the game between the 18-year-old phenom Alireza Firouzja and Fabiano Caruana would keep the spectators at the edge of their seats. The young player may have outplayed the World #2, who found himself with his back against the wall - but never underestimate Caruana; as the American managed to wiggle himself out of trouble with a bit of help from his opponent and some resourceful tactics.
Meanwhile, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave must have felt the pressure to score a full two points in today’s French derby against Etienne Bacrot. This proved to be a fatal mistake, as he overpushed a drawn rook endgame and ended up losing the game.
Bacrot started the first four rounds with two wins and two losses - a refreshing way to get to 50%! - | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
A round full of action, Teimour Radjabov fumbled the opening and was in a tough situation with white against Wesley So. Unfortunately the American was unable to put maximum pressure against his opponent and the game petered into a perpetual. Richard Rapport could not do much with his slight edge against MVL, who continued surprising us with his opening choices: a Slav today to complement yesterday’s French.
Richard Rapport has been unable to find a win in this tournament so far | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
The true action appeared today among the games of Caruana vs. Svidler and Nepomniachtchi vs. Aronian. Caruana went wild with his attack on the kingside, exposing his own position. It seemed that Svidler was handling things well, but a massive blunder on move 37 missing an important bishop retreat cost him the game – Fabi does not forgive such mistakes.
Meanwhile, the World Championship Challenger, Nepo played a scintillating attack. A beautiful temporary piece sacrifice gave him the coordination necessary to topple his opponent’s defenses. With that, Nepomniachtchi took the first sole lead of the tournament.
That’s my piece! Nepomniachtchi with a huge attack against Levon Aronian | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
It was the duel between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Nepomniachtchi that immediately attracted the spectators – both players fighting with incredible speed on the clock and with quickness of attacks over the board. The aggression was nonstop: Black annihilated White’s kingside pawns, but his own king was caught in some sort of net. The brilliant and surprising 26. Nd7!! Put an immediate end to the game and took down Ian Nepomniachtchi for the first time in this tournament.
Vachier-Lagrave With a spectacular tactic took down Nepomniachtchi | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Spectacular 26. Nd7!!
Firouzja as usual seems to play heart stopping endgames. This round he had an insane rook and pawn endgame against Rapport, with both sides threatening to queen, sacrifice their rooks and even checkmate on the middle of the board! The game ended in a perpetual check, and the players split the point.
Other players also had chances in round six, but ultimately all the remaining games of the day ended peacefully. One more day of rapid remains before the players jump into two days of blitz.
Intense Alireza Firouzja has been a powerhouse in this tournament - his games seem to go the distance and are always full of action. | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Our coverage of the 2021 Paris Grand Chess Tour continues tomorrow, June 20 at 7:00 AM CDT with live coverage from GMs Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley, Cristian Chirila and IM Almira Skripchenko exclusively on kasparovchess.com/grand-chess-tour.