After seven rounds of play at the FIDE Chess.com Grand, Alireza Firouzja and Lei Tingjie are the sole leaders. Round seven was a day of draws in the Open section and decisive games in the Women’s tournament.
Naturalised Frenchman Alireza Firouzja leads at the end of the seventh round of the Open section at the 2021 FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss. As the only player among the top ten boards who won, he is now firmly in first place, half a point ahead of everyone else. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Krishnan Sasikiran and Alexei Shirov are in joint second place with five points.
Firouzja played on board one against Russian GM Evgeniy Najer. Firouzja gained the initiative in the Petrov Defence and transitioned to a better endgame with a free runner on the a-file. However, Black positioned his rook behind the passer and was holding his ground. Alireza made his last attempt and sent his king to the queenside at the cost of the f-pawn. The game saw a dramatic finale on the 50th move when Najer prematurely gave up his f-pawn and had to resign a few moves later. By moving his king forward instead, Black could have been right on time to create a sufficient counter-play and reach a draw.
Former Indian champion Krishnan Sasikiran drew as White against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. In a topical line of the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian, both sides castled on opposite flanks and entered uncharted territory by move 19. After the game, both players said they could not find a way to improve their position, so a draw was a logical conclusion. Both are now on five points out of seven games.
Andrey Esipenko, a promising 19-year-old Russian Grandmaster was up against the experienced local Alexei Shirov. In a highly complicated position that arose from the Ruy Lopez, Esipenko got the upper hand, but Shirov managed to engineer some counter-play. The game’s critical moment came on move 33: White could have posed much more serious problems with 33.e4-e5. Esipenko grabbed a pawn; instead, that gave Shirov a respite to consolidate his position, managing to hold his opponent to a draw.
The last game to finish on the top ten boards of the open event was between David Navara and one of the young Russian stars Alexei Sarana. White seemed to have a slight advantage and declined Black’s draw offer. White still had the upper hand after the exchange of knights, but Black continued to resist. After nearly six and a half hours of play, the two sides agreed to a draw.
Chinese player Lei Tingjie is alone in the lead at the inaugural Women’s Grand Swiss, half a point ahead of everyone else. Elisabeth Paehtz is in second place with 5.5/7, followed by Alexandra Kosteniuk and Alina Kashlinskaya, who are on five points.
Lei Tingjie, the only player in the tournament with 5/6 before Round 7, won as Black against Nino Batsiashvili, ensuring that she is still alone in the lead. Batsiashvili sacrificed a central pawn but mishandled the opening and got no compensation whatsoever. The rest of the game was relatively easy for the leader, who forced White’s resignation on the 28th move. When asked to comment on her excellent run, Lei Tingjie said: “I just play chess and am relaxed for this tournament”.
Elisabeth Paehtz, in her own words, is “playing the tournament of her life”, as she defeated Natalija Pogonina on board two and has 5.5/7. Paehtz gave up a pawn early on to gain the initiative. After exchanges in the centre, White placed her knight on c6, disturbing Black’s pieces and ultimately regaining the sacrificed pawn. Black missed her last chance for counter-play on move 39 and ended up in a hopeless position with a rook vs a knight and a bishop.
All Photo credits – Anna Shtourman and Mark Livshitz.
Text credit – Milan Dinic.
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Grand Swiss Tournament – two interesting games.
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Official website of the Grand Swiss.