Superbet Chess Classic Round 7: Caruana Misses Chance To Increase Lead

It was in serious mutual time trouble, but GM Fabiano Caruana did miss a chance to get at least very close to winning his third game at the Superbet Chess Classic Romania today, against GM Gukesh Dommaraju. The other American GM Wesley So had GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov on the ropes but also failed to convert in what was a truly wild affair.

The games GMs Anish Giri vs. GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi vs. GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, and GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac vs. GM Alireza Firouzja also ended in draws.

Round eight starts Thursday, July 4, at 8 a.m. ET / 14:00 CEST / 17:30 p.m. IST.

Superbet Chess Classic Romania Round 7 Results

Superbet Chess Classic Romania 2024 Round 7 Results
Image courtesy of the Saint Louis Chess Club/Grand Chess Tour.

Superbet Chess Classic Romania Standings After Round 7

Superbet Chess Classic Romania 2024 Standings After Round 7
Image courtesy of the Saint Louis Chess Club/Grand Chess Tour.

It was the third round in the tournament that had all games ending in draws, but there was quite a bit of action on Wednesday. Two players have started with seven draws: Nepomniachtchi and Vachier-Lagrave. The leader is still Caruana, just half a point ahead of a trio of players, and he plays one of them tomorrow with the white pieces: Praggnanandhaa.

Gukesh ½-½ Caruana

The first clash between Gukesh and Caruana since the Candidates was a “very complex game” and “very tense,” as the American GM commented afterward. “I guess we were both not sure what we were playing for,” Caruana noted, with both players hoping for more than a draw perhaps in the same position.

The most exciting part occurred shortly after move 50, when Gukesh was under a minute and Caruana just under three minutes—a clock situation that had prompted Caruana to avoid an immediate draw. 

Caruana’s big chance was a queen check on move 52, followed by another queen move and then switching a rook from b8 to e5 to h5. “Maybe if I had played like this I would have won the game but I didn’t see this idea,” he said.

It was not easy to spot, especially when low and time and even more so when there is an open file sort of screaming for the rook to be placed on it. Caruana played the natural moves 52…Rb8 and 52…Rb4, but this spoiled the winning chances.

Afterward, he admitted that 52…Rb8 might have been “careless,” adding: “I rushed a bit but it is hard to know exactly when the critical position is. I went with my intuition.”

Fabiano Caruana closeup
Fabiano Caruana: “I went with my intuition.” Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

So ½-½ Abdusattorov

This was clearly the game of the round, and in a way, for the same reason as what happened in Gukesh-Caruana: it seemed that both players really wanted to win this one. It was So who came very close to actually doing so, but Abdusattorov was just too slippery.

It is well worth going through the moves, which saw not one but two steel kings: both the white and the black monarch were at some point running into the open field to avoid checks, but in the end, a move repetition could not be avoided. This was one of the most exciting draws of the year!

Check out annotations by GM Rafael Leitao below:

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

So Abdusattorov Bucharest 2024
So vs. Abdusattorov was an absolutely tremendous fight for the neutral observer. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Nepomniachtchi ½-½ Praggnanandhaa

The clash between the two surnames that are hardest to spell was the first to end in a draw today. It was the type of game that is more and more common these days: the white player chooses a variation that might not be leading to a theoretical advantage (because that’s virtually impossible anyway) but perhaps hard to remember for the opponent. And then the opponent does remember what he should do, and the game fizzles out.

It was an Open Ruy Lopez, “very well known for some long forcing lines which are very drawish,” said Nepomniachtchi. “Today I picked a line which was supposedly not too well known; I had some slight hopes that it could surprise him, but I guess he knew it till the very end. A bit of a mirror of the reflection of yesterday’s game.”

Nepomniachtchi Praggnanandhaa Bucharest 2024
Nepomniachtchi tried but failed to catch Praggnanandhaa in hard-to-remember territory. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Giri ½-½ Vachier-Lagrave

Giri played the English with 1.c4 and 2.d3, which we saw Caruana play against So in the second round as well. In a way, he was playing his opponent’s Najdorf with the white pieces, but Vachier-Lagrave didn’t play along by going …d5. “Normally I would, because it comes back to some Open Sicilian basically a tempo down, but I was like, let’s sidestep preparation,” he said afterward.

The French GM was happy to sacrifice his a-pawn which would give long-term compensation (both pawn breaks b2-b4 and f2-f4 would not be attractive for White), and Giri agreed with him that he shouldn’t be going for that.

After lots of maneuvering, some action seemed to be building up on the kingside, but suddenly the players repeated moves. The engine prefers Black, and Vachier-Lagrave agreed that it looked pleasant but said: “I could never wrap my head around this position.”

Deac ½-½ Firouzja

Local hero Deac paid his first visit to the studio after his draw with Firouzja, and made quite the impression when going through the opening phase. He showed wide knowledge of this line in the Rubinstein Nimzo-Indian, which made it clear that he has been working very hard on his chess. Due to his solid and accurate play in the remainder, Firouzja couldn’t really create any chances for more than a draw.

Deac Firouzja Bucharest 2024
Another solid draw for Deac, today against Firouzja. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The 2024 Superbet Chess Classic Romania is the second leg of the 2024 Grand Chess Tour. The event is a 10-player round-robin with classical time control (120 minutes for the entire game, plus a 30-second increment per move). The tournament runs June 26-July 5 and features a $350,000 prize fund.

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