2022 SuperUnited Rapid & Blitz – Day 2 Recap
After a disruptive first day, given the nature of Magnus Carlsen’s announcement, we saw the players settle in and play more calmly. Some of them have found their stride, while others continue to search for it. Firouzja is playing well enough to be in first place, but does not seem in top form yet. Nevertheless, his will to win remains so relentless and his ability to consistently create practical problems for his opponents (a trait shared with his countryman MVL) that it overcomes the occasional oversight. If you could combine Firouzja with So, then you would have the perfect player. Wesley has shown remarkable accuracy for this time control and trails close behind.
Round 4: Wesley So
Saric - So | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
In round 4 Wesley reminded us how dangerous consistency can be. Although he is yet to lead the tournament, he put pressure on Firouzja all day long and continues to do so. He will not risk much, but he will make the most of every opportunity he is given. His game with Saric was a good example:
Ivan Saric - Wesley So
35.Nh4+! In the game White played 35.Ne7+? and after 35...Kg5! White ran out of checks and was forced to trade queens into a worse endgame that Wesley converted with razor-sharp accuracy. Now if 35…Kg5?? the king will not be safe on g5 (Black should simply take the repetition after 35...Kg7 36.Nf5+=) 36.Qd8+! Kh5 37.Qd5+ f5 38.Qf7+ Kg5 39.Qg6#
Round 5: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
Perhaps he does not enjoy the consistency of Wesley So, but Mamedyarov’s explosive power is second to none. He can whip up a brilliant game against any opponent, at any time. Despite starting the event with two losses, he is now in the middle of the pack thanks in great part to this big upset against Carlsen. Had he held a drawn knight endgame against Firouzja in Round 6 he would have only been one win away from first place.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov - Magnus Carlsen
28.Rxc6! In his post-game interview Mamedyarov recognized this as the key moment in the game. Black will need to be mindful of the pawn on d6, especially if White is able to transfer the bishop to c5. Even though Magnus had some chances to defend, that’s exactly what ended up happening. 1-0
Carlsen resigning against Mamedyarov | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Round 6: Jorden Van Foreest
Jorden van Foreest has been playing razor-sharp chess since Day 1. There is something classical, yet refreshing about his play. In his games against Shak and Dominguez (from Day 1), as well as his games against MVL and Nepo, you can appreciate how dangerous it is to allow him to build up into a crescendo of tactical opportunities. The only one able to challenge his style of play so far was Wesley So in Round 3, and even then Jorden had a draw within reach. In the first game of the day Jorden pressed hard, but could not break the ever-resourceful MVL:
Vachier-Legrave - Van Foreest
103.Bxf3! Kxf3 104.Rb3 Rxb3 Stalemate! ½–½
Van Foreest - Ivan Saric
The position that arose in this game was quite remarkable. Aside from the complications that are thematic to the Dragon Sicilian, the tactics that arise have artistic qualities. It seems as if White’s pawn storm will continue to roll, while Black’s attack has stalled due to the difficulty he has in creating open files for his rooks. Saric finds an amazing way around this problem:
20...Rc3!! No need to open the a-file. Black's idea is to play ...Ra3–xa2. In the game White had some computer-like sequences that led to a win, but Black’s counterplay was simply too direct to entertain. Nevertheless, there were some beautiful variations, as pointed out by the live commentary and Jorden himself, in the post-game interview.
Ian had come off a win against Dominguez and a draw against So. This was his chance to close out the day in style and creep closer to the top positions. However, on the other side sat Van Foreest, who had drawn both of his games, but had been a hair away from winning them both. The opening went catastrophically for White, and Black soon had the initiative:
Nepomniachtchi - Van Foreest
22...Bxg2! White’s kingside and center were soon ripped open and the king was mated. 0–1
Jorden Van Foreest waiting for the start of his game against Nepo| Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
The Dutch star now stands tied for second with Wesley So. He is one point out of first, but has huge momentum behind him. If he can pull off a win against Topalov, then who’s to say if even Carlsen and Firouzja (his opponents for round 8 and 9, respectively) will be able to stop him.
Standings After 6 Rounds
Round 7 Pairings
Our coverage of the 2022 SuperUnited Rapid & Blitz Croatia continues on Friday, July 22 at 7:50 AM CDT with live coverage from Grandmasters Yasser Seirawan, Cristian Chirila, Evgeny Miroshnichenko, Alejandro Ramirez and Woman Grandmaster Anastasia Karlovich on grandchesstour.org.