Deac Beats Rapport, Joins 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 the hometown hero, GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac, win against GM Richard Rapport after the latter first let go of a decisive advantage and then a perpetual check.

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

Round four will begin on Sunday, May 8, at 5 a.m. PT / 14:00 Central Europe.

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

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

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

Undoubtedly a quicker draw than either player had hoped for and expected.

In the first round of this tournament, both of our combatants in the next game were involved in games 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 rather rapidly as a result of their home preparations. Black sacrificed a pawn to equalize, but the battle continued. In the endgame, Dominguez did not play 100 percent accurately, and Nepomniachtchi had some minor chances but once the moment passed, it was gone forever.

Nepomniachtchi and Dominguez followed thorough preparation but created an interesting game anyway. Photo Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

Nevertheless, kudos to the players, mainly White, who made an interesting game out of something that at first glance could look like a boring draw.

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

Caruana, possibly in an attempt to shield himself from revealing too much of his Candidates tournament preparation, played 1.d4 and then entered a Catalan, an opening So also plays with the white pieces. Rather than the usual 7.Qc2, Caruana went for 7.Qa4, and soon the players discussed opening theory developed in the 1980s and 1990s.

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

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

When it came to converting the material advantage, So did not find the right way forward and eventually had to settle for a draw around the time control at move 40.

As White, Rapport faced the Romanian number-one, who had gotten off to a satisfactory start with two draws against Nepomniachtchi and Aronian. In a Nimzo-Indian, Deac opted for a relatively rare line that he has used on several occasions. Rapport seemed well-prepared and played an interesting novelty on move 11 but took some serious chances in the follow-up.

Deac had opportunities to counter but did not find them. After his terrible 21…Qh6+??, Rapport had something close to a winning position. However, two mistakes, almost in a row, let Black hold the balance.

Rapport, undeterred, continued to push for more even when there was not more to be had and hope that their mutual time trouble would cause the young Romanian to slip in the many banana peels that Rapport had thrown on the board. Cartoons we watch as kids educate us that it is just as often the one who throws the banana peel who ends up slipping on it, and that was exactly what happened to Rapport. 

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

A terrible fate but that is what can happen to those who try the hardest; many other times, Rapport has been rewarded for his tenacity.

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

A lucky victory to Deac but sometimes precise defensive play also can be rewarded with full points when the opponent does not know when to stop his campaign of aggression.

While that game had excitement and lots of other things, it cannot compare with our game of the day, which once more features GM Alireza Firouzja. On Friday, he lost as White against a well-playing Nepomniachtchi, and in this 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, then-World Champion Garry Kasparov! Morozevich lost the game, but not because of the opening. It tells something about the foundation that he laid that the opening is still being played in games between the very best players in the world. 

Firouzja took chances but was not rewarded with a win. Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

On move 14, Firouzja opted for 14…Kb8 that is seen less frequently than main line 14…Nc5, but this too is familiar theory to Aronian, who followed the book’s main line until 18…Qa5+, when rather than 19.Nc3 that seems to offer White a slight plus, he inexplicably went for 19.Ke2? that instantly hands Black a clear advantage after 19…Qa6!. After the game, Aronian admitted that he had forgotten what was the right move despite playing his 19th move rather quickly.

After Black’s 19th move, Aronian spent nearly an hour mainly cursing at himself, in his own words, for being so stupid. Then Aronian had to accept a terrible endgame where he had four pawns vs. two on the kingside but zero vs. three on the queenside. It seemed certain that Firouzja was on the way to winning his first classical game in nearly five months.

After some struggles to find the right way to coordinate his pieces and get his queenside pawns moving, Firouzja gained progress on the queenside. But Aronian has not achieved where he is as a chess player without knowing how to fight back when his back is against the wall.

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

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

Round 3 Standings

Day 3 standings

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