Deac beats Rapport, joins the lead: 2022 Superbet Chess Classic Romania, Day 3

For the third round in a row, the players delivered one win and four draws. This round saw hometown hero GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac win against GM Richard Rapport after the latter first unleashed a decisive advantage and then perpetual failure.

The win means Deac joins GMs Wesley So and Ian Nepomniachtchi in the lead with two points after three laps.

The fourth round will start on Sunday, May 8 at 5:00 a.m. PT / 2:00 p.m. Central Europe.

In the game between GMs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, both players were looking to make the most of the game as neither player got the start they were hoping for.

Against Vachier-Lagrave’s 1.e4, Mamedyarov chose the Caro-Kann and in a Two Knights variation he opted for the somewhat unusual 6…Qa5. It quickly became clear that White had nothing and soon after the Frenchman had to settle for repeated moves.

Vachier-Lagrave got less than he expected in the opening. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Definitely a quicker draw than either player had hoped and expected.

In the first round of this tournament, our two fighters in the next match were involved in plays featuring Petroff’s defense. Russian Nepomniachtchi played white against Deac, and American GM Leinier Dominguez played black against Vachier-Lagrave.

The players played many initial moves fairly quickly due to their home preparations. Black sacrificed a pawn to equalise, but the battle continued. Late in the game, Dominguez didn’t play 100% accurately, and Nepomniachtchi had a few minor chances but once the moment was over, he was gone forever.

Nepomniachtchi and Dominguez went through careful preparation but still created an interesting match. Photo Bryan Adams/Grand Chess Tour.

Nonetheless, congratulations to the mostly white players who had an interesting game with something that at first glance might have looked like a boring draw.

In the All-American derby, the same weekend as the world-famous Kentucky Derby, So and GM Fabiano Caruana sat down to decide who should lead the tournament after the third round.

Caruana, perhaps in an attempt to protect himself from revealing too much of his Candidates Tournament readiness, played 1.d4 and then scored a Catalan, an opening So also plays with the white pieces. Rather than the usual 7.Qc2, Caruana opted for 7.Qa4, and soon players were discussing the opening theory developed in the 1980s and 1990s.

Caruana sacrificed a pawn for the initiative but did not follow up properly, leaving himself short of compensation.

So he had chances to win in Saturday’s game against Caruana. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

When it came to converting the material advantage, So couldn’t find the right way forward and ultimately had to settle for a draw around time control at move 40.

In white, Rapport faced the Romanian number one, who got off to a satisfying start with two draws against Nepomniachtchi and Aronian. In a Nimzo-Indian, Deac opted for a relatively rare line that he used repeatedly. Rapport looked well prepared and played an interesting novelty on move 11, but took some serious risks in the sequel.

Deac had chances to counter but didn’t find them. After his terrible 21…Qh6+??, Rapport was close to a winning position. However, two errors, almost consecutive, let Black hold the balance.

Rapport, undeterred, kept pushing for more even when there was nothing left to have and hoping that their mutual time problem would cause the young Romanian to slip into the many banana peels Rapport had thrown on the board. The cartoons we watch as kids teach us that it’s just as often the one who throws the banana peel that ends up slipping on it, and that’s exactly what happened to Rapport.

At move 40 he could have forced a draw, but instead he blundered and lost the game instantly.

A terrible fate but that’s what can happen to those who try hardest; many other times, Rapport was rewarded for his tenacity.

Rapport resigns with disappointment after throwing away a good position. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

A lucky Deac win but sometimes precise defensive play can also be rewarded with full points when the opponent doesn’t know when to stop their aggressive campaign.

Although this game had excitement and many other things, it cannot be compared to our game of the day, which once again features GM Alireza Firouzja. On Friday he lost as white to a well-playing Nepomniachtchi, and in that round with the black pieces he had to face GM Levon Aronian.

In a Slav defense, Firouzja opted for a line first developed by Russian GM Alexander Morozevich who chose to play it against, of all people, the then world champion, Garry Kasparov! Morozevich lost the match, but not because of the opener. It says a lot about the foundation he laid that the opener is still played in matches between the best players in the world.

Firouzja took risks but was not rewarded with a victory. Photo: Bryan Adams/Grand Chess Tour.

On move 14, Firouzja opted for 14…Kb8 which is seen less frequently than the main line 14…Nc5, but it is also a familiar theory to Aronian, who followed the main line of the book until 18…Qa5+, when rather than 19.Nc3 which seems to offer White a slight advantage, he inexplicably opted for 19.Re2? which instantly gives Black a clear advantage after 19…Qa6!. After the game, Aronian admitted that he had forgotten what the right move was despite playing his 19th move fairly quickly.

After Black’s 19th move, Aronian spent nearly an hour cursing himself, in his own words, for being so stupid. Then Aronian had to accept a terrible endgame where he had four pawns against two on the king side but zero against three on the queen side. It seemed certain that Firouzja was on course to win his first classic game in almost five months.

After some struggles to find the right way to coordinate his pieces and move his queenside pawns, Firouzja progressed to the queenside. But Aronian hasn’t reached what he is as a chess player without knowing how to defend himself when his back is against the wall.

A relieved Aronian had good reason to smile after a Houdini-style escape. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Eventually it came down to an endgame where Aronian had a knight and four kingside pawns while Firouzja had a bishop and three queenside pawns. There are wins to be found, but Aronian was frankly surprised by the win and said in the post-match interview that it felt like something not found in practical games. That being said, his escape to a draw does indeed feel like something out of an endgame study, ultimately culminating in a stalemate draw. Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

Ranking of the 3rd round

Ranking of the 3rd day

All games Round 3

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