Finally, the 2018 Grand Chess Tour has a new leader. Wesley So has been dominant in Leuven and in the rapid portion in Paris, but today he handed the reigns over to Sergey Karjakin. The Russian explained his fantastic performance in blitz is due to the fact that he is more relaxed and simply plays chess. Wherein classical chess requires preparation and hours of play, blitz is more fun to play according to him. Going into the last day of Paris, Karjakin is leading by a full point ahead of the field. The tournament is still wide open as Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian are striking distance away.
Combined rapid and day 1 blitz standings. In the rapid, a win is worth 2 points, a draw is 1 point and a loss is 0. In the blitz, a win is 1 point, a draw is .5 points and a loss is 0
Sergey Karjakin was simply brilliant today. First he took the lead by defeating Wesley So in their head-to-head match in round four. He then went on to win his next two games, scoring an unbelievable 5.5/6. At that point it seemed as though he might finish the day with 8.5/9! Hikaru Nakamura, who drew the leader in round one, decided to simply focus on his own results, as Karjakin’s results were no longer in his control. The Russian did stumble in the remaining three games, losing two of them, but still remains ahead of the field.
Sergey Karjakin vs Wesley So
Hikaru Nakamura who entered the day tied with Karjakin for second place is only a point behind the leader. The American who is known for his skills in faster time controls, scored 5.5/9 losing only one game in the penultimate round. He and Karjakin are set to face off in the first round tomorrow. Nakamura will have the white pieces and is in an excellent position to catch the leader.
Nakamura’s countryman, Wesley So, on the other hand had a subpar day scoring only four points. In Leuven, he entered the blitz portion with a three point lead over the field, thus making bridging the gap a much harder task. His one point lead here proved insignificant as his play was just solid and only yielded one win.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave got a lucky break in round two when Fabiano Caruana ran out of time after giving up his winning chances. From then on he also went on a winning streak only losing one game in round six. The Frenchman scored a significant victory in round seven against Karjakin, which was the Russian’s first loss of the day. In the blitz alone, he scored 6/9, only half a point behind Karjakin.
The players watching the conclusion of Vachier-Lagrave vs Karjakin
Levon Aronian is the last player in the pack who still has realistic chances of catching the leader or at least finishing in top three. He only suffered one loss against Karjakin but otherwise made too many draws to put himself in a better position going into the last day of the blitz. He sits 1.5 points ahead of Viswanathan Anand, whose only victory of the day came in round seven.
There is one player who caused all the shake up in the standings yet isn’t on top of the standings: Shakriyar Mamedyarov. The Azeri grandmaster had an atrocious start to the day, scoring only one point in the first five games. His recovery came in the most inopportune time for the leaders as he defeated Karjakin, Nakamura and Vachier-Lagrave and drew Aronian. Due to his slow start this result only bumped him to the seventh spot in the standings but if he can keep up his momentum tomorrow, his opponents will have a lot to worry about!
Shakriyar Mamedyarov spoiled the day for the leaders
All information is available on GrandChessTour.org. Live commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan, IM Jovanka Houska, and GM Alejandro Ramirez. As last year, GM Maurice Ashley will be on-site in Paris to interview players and will be joined by GM Romain Edouard. The English broadcast will be joined by the Russian commentary team of GM Evgenij Miroshnichenko and GM Yaroslav Zherebukh and French team of Astrid Bard (Canal+ Anchor), IM Jean-Baptist Mullon, GM Yannick Pelletier and IM Almira Skripchenko. Watch live.
Photo credits: Grand Chess Tour / Lennart Ootes & Spectrum Studios