Winning a second game in a row, GM Fabiano Caruana gained his first classical victory vs. GM Ian Nepomniachtchi in round four of the Superbet Classic Romania 2023. This win propels the American grandmaster into clear first.
GM Alireza Firouzja scored his first victory of the event, making a calculated bluff vs. GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac to gain the initiative and come out on top in the battle between the youngest competitors.
The first leg of the Grand Chess Tour continues with round five on Wednesday, May 10, starting at 5:00 a.m. Pacific/14:00 CEST.
See what happened
Deac vs. Firouzja
In the battle of the prodigies, both players were eager to play for the win. Firouzja opted for a tricky variation in the Slav Defense vs. Deac, aimed at restricting White’s main central break: e4. The Romanian number-two reacted very ambitiously, propelling his b-pawn up the board to b5 and sacrificing a pawn to weaken his opponent’s structure. From there, the game became a complicated skirmish. Nearly half an hour ahead on the clock, Firouzja decided to try a dynamic bluff with 26…Bf4.
After the game, he admitted that he was hoping his opponent would miss the most challenging response: “I bluffed, and it worked. He was still in the mood to make equality. He was not thinking about advantage… I was trying to be practical.” The 19-year-old grandmaster’s estimated risk paid off. Can you find the continuation he feared?
Once Deac missed his opportunity, Firouzja seized the initiative, increasing the activity of his pieces with each move. Caught in a difficult position under time pressure, Deac overlooked the best defense.
Caruana vs. Nepomniachtchi
Nepominiachtchi is one of the few top players in the world that Caruana had never defeated in a classical time control. After a balanced opening and many exchanges, the game reached a queen and knight vs. queen and bishop ending and seemed to be nearing a peaceful finish. Yet, queen and minor piece endings can be rich in ideas due to their unique mix of endgame subtleties and dynamic possibilities. With an insightful rearrangement of his pieces, Caruana created a small advantage that he began to gradually increase.
Despite Nepomniachtchi’s shrewd attempts at counterplay, Caruana foresaw the winning setup like a north star guiding his way through the complexities of the ending: “I tried all sorts of moves here. I literally was thinking of every possible queen move… if my knight gets to d4, and I win the f5-pawn then he just collapses… Even up to the end, I was very confused with everything… it’s like you have to keep working for it.”
This nuanced grind is our Game of the Day, analyzed by GM Rafael Leitao.
Vachier-Lagrave vs. Giri
GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Anish Giri have a lengthy history of classical matchups with Giri leading 5-3 and 26 draws. Vachier-Lagrave surprised the Dutch grandmaster with the Scotch Game to gain a slight pull after the queens were exchanged. Giri responded perceptively, breaking in the center with 15…d5 before Vachier-Lagrave could cement his grip on the position. The French grandmaster continued to press, targeting the isolated a7-pawn and bringing his knight to the c5-outpost. But Giri orchestrated his pieces into a harmonious active defensive setup, limiting his opponent’s progress.
Rapport vs. So
GM Wesley So has a 2-0 lead in score vs. GM Richard Rapport with three draws. The Romanian number-one was likely eager to gain his first victory vs. So, but the American grandmaster was able to counteract his opponent’s attempts to gain an edge in the opening with a tactical nuance. Can you find it?
White would like to bring his knight to the appealing c4-square, but Black has a dynamic shot to win material.
After a balanced middlegame, the players traded into an equal double rook ending and drew.
Ding vs. Duda
To counter GM Ding Liren‘s King’s Indian Attack, GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda unleashed a novelty: 6…b5!?, preventing c4―White’s main way of creating pressure on the queenside. The world champion switched gears to prepare the e4-break in the center, but Duda’s astute central play soon neutralized his first move advantage. The players traded into an even same-color bishop ending and finished with a peaceful result.
Results – Round 4
|Caruana||1 – 0||Nepomniachtchi|
|Rapport||1/2 – 1/2||So|
|Vachier-Lagrave||1/2 – 1/2||Giri|
|Ding||1/2 – 1/2||Duda|
|Deac||0 – 1||Firouzja|
Standings – Round 4
Pairings – Round 5