By WGM Anastasiya Karlovich
After 9 rounds of blitz, the tournament has the sole leader again – Alireza Firouzja! Coming into the day, both Frenchmen Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Alireza Firouzja were tied for the lead with 13 points each but by the end of the day Vachier-Lagrave slowed down and let his countryman pass him. Before the second day of blitz, Alireza keeps a comfortable three points distance from MVL.
Current standings after the end of the first day of blitz portion of the 2022 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz.
Another storyline was the surge of Hikaru Nakamura, who climbed up the standings from finishing in last place after the rapid portion to being third after an impressive 7.5/9 performance. Tomorrow promises to be an exciting day as both MVL and Hikaru Nakamura may try to overtake Firouzja in the final day of the 2022 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz.
The sole leader of the tournament Alireza Firouzja; photo: GCT/Lennart Ootes
Alireza started the day with a victory against Ian Nepomniachtchi and made 4 consecutive draws after that. It’s hard to say if a topsy-turvy game vs Fabiano was a turning point today or something else, but after that game Alireza scored 4 points, finishing the day with 7/9 performance. “In blitz, you should really have the Day, so I was lucky I was in a good mood today and showed a good performance,” said Alireza during his interview in our studio.
Hikaru Nakamura wears his lucky pineapple shirt; photo: GCT/Lennart Ootes
Hikaru Nakamura is known for his blitz expertise and didn’t disappoint his numerous fans today. He came fully equipped, wearing his famous pineapple shirt, even though according to Hikaru, it didn’t play a huge role in his success today. Hikaru started the day with 2 victories against Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian, which definitely boosted his self-confidence after yesterday’s collapse.
Things went Hikaru’s way for most of the games except his encounters vs Leinier Dominguez and Ian Nepomniachtchi which were up and down. “It could not really have gone worse than it was in the rapid portion, so I just tried to play good chess,” commented Hikaru on his performance. He is currently three and a half points behind Firouzja and half a point behind MVL but can move up in the standings if he can keep the momentum going tomorrow.
MVL lost in the 8th round to Alireza Firouzja; photo: GCT/Lennart Ootes
The current blitz world champion Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had an unpleasant start, losing the first game of day four to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Later on, MVL defeated Leinier Dominguez and Levon Aroinian, but lost key matches against the leader Firouzja and “awakened” Nakamura. Despite an unimpressive 4/9 in blitz, MVL is in second place and will keep fighting tomorrow.
Ian Nepomniachtchi shows winning moves in his game vs Nakamura to Levon Aronian and MVL; photo: GCT/Lennart Ootes
Ian Nepomniachtchi scored 5/9 and kept his 4th place in the tournament. He lost his first and last games vs Firouzja and Aronian and won the encounters against Mamedyarov, Xiong and Dominguez. Nepo certainly missed good chances in the games vs Shankland and Nakamura and could grab more points today.
Jeffery Xiong at the Saint Louis Chess Club between the games; photo: GCT/Lennart Ootes
Jeffery Xiong scored an impressive 5/9 and tied for fourth place with Ian Nepomniachtchi. He was fighting in all his games, won four of them, lost three and made two draws. His fastest victory was against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who blundered a piece right in the opening and could resign after 10 moves.
The Azeri Grandmaster started the day with 2 victories but in the game vs Ian Nepomniachtchi made 2 (!) illegal moves. Both players could not stop laughing during the game but it took Shakhriyar a long time to recover after this loss. He started to play below his usual exemplary blitz form and he made only 2 points in the six remaining games.
Players could not stop laughing after Shakh’s illegal move; photo: GCT/Lennart Ootes
Levon Aronian is on the sixth place after the fourth day; photo: GCT/Lennart Ootes
Levon Aronian started the day with 1,5 points out of 4 but he made up some ground with a strong showing, scoring 4/5 later on. Fabiano Caruana finished the day with a solid plus-one.
Replay the broadcast from day 4 on our YouTube.
The 2nd and final day of the blitz starts tomorrow. Join us for more action with GM Peter Svidler, GM Yasser Seirawan and GM Cristian Chirila tomorrow at 1PM CDT.