FIDE Grand Swiss R7: Firouzja Back In Sole Lead


Profiting from a mistake by GM Evgeniy Najer in a rook endgame, GM Alireza Firouzja regained the sole lead in the FIDE Grand Swiss with four rounds to go. GM Lei Tingjie continues to lead the women’s section and now has IM Elisabeth Paehtz as the only player trailing by half a point.

FIDE Grand Swiss LIVE


Nine of the top 10 boards ended in draws in this round, and Firouzja vs. Najer seemed to be heading that way as well. A draw would have been the second disappointing one in a row for the young Frenchman, who was much better in the middlegame and was also close to beating GM Alexei Shirov before the rest day.

After the time control was reached, Firouzja was left with a textbook rook endgame with an extra rook pawn. Many of those are theoretical draws (including this one!), but for the defending side, it’s never easy.

Firouzja Najer Riga 2019
Najer resigns the game with Firouzja. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

“The endgame is always very tricky because I’m a pawn up and he made a mistake at the end, but I think it was a draw,” Firouzja said. “He had to go with the king, but it’s only about pure calculation. He calculates kind of well, so I was kind of lucky also.”

Firouzja is now the only player on 5.5/7 in a tournament where it’s about finishing among the top two. “It’s nice to be a leader, of course, but it’s a very tough tournament. Everybody is trying to make it to the top two to go to the Candidates, so it’s very difficult. Everybody is motivated,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting, the last three, four games, and I look forward to it.”

Firouzja Najer Riga 2021 chatting
Firouzja and Najer chatted after the game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

On the first rainy day in a week in Riga, it was otherwise raining draws on the top boards. One of the first to finish was GM Krishnan Sasikiran vs. GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, despite a promising start there. The Indian took up the fight in one of the absolute main lines of the Najdorf’s English Attack, but MVL was up to the task. In the final position, neither side could improve.

“On the queenside, there’s some kind of a standstill because he cannot play …b4 because I take cxb4, …axb4, and with a4 I am getting a free passed pawn on the side,” explained Sasikiran. “I’m a pawn down but… the thing was, I was trying to get in f4 at some point, but he is stopping it with …Ng3 and sometimes maybe even some …Qf5.”

Sasikiran Vachier-Lagrave Riga 2021
Sasikiran vs. Vachier-Lagrave. Photo: Anna Shturman/FIDE.

GM Alexei Shirov once again showed his class in a game against a much younger opponent. On the evening before the rest day, GM Anton Korobov had expressed his admiration for the Latvian-Spanish player to the author of these lines, saying that Shirov is the only player from his generation still courageous enough to stick to his opening lines and his playing style while still calculating like the best. 

The 19-year-old GM Andrey Esipenko played aggressively with a pawn sacrifice, and it must be said he was doing very well at one point, but again Shirov defended like a lion to save the half point: 

Esipenko Shirov Riga 2021
Esipenko and Shirov agree to a draw. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Board four saw a similar scenario. GM Sam Sevian, who had beaten GM Fabiano Caruana last month at the U.S. Championship, almost repeated that feat as he had the upper hand for most of the game.

“I definitely had chances somewhere, for sure,” said Sevian, who sacrificed several pawns in the opening to keep the initiative and to prevent the white king from castling. He called move 19 the critical moment, although there was also something to say for keeping the queens on the board a bit longer:

Sam Sevian chess
Sam Sevian almost beat Fabiano Caruana twice in one month. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

There’s one big name who isn’t playing any big role in this tournament so far. GM Levon Aronian, who was still on plus one after four straight draws, lost in this round to be thrown back to 50 percent. Credits should go to GM Andrei Volokitin, who prepared well and played well. His 18.Nxf7 is nice:

Levon ARonian Riga 2021
It’s not Levon Aronian’s tournament. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In round eight, the top pairings are Firouzja vs. Sasikiran, Vachier-Lagrave vs. Shirov, and Grandelius vs. Caruana.

Round 7 Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed

Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 3 GM Firouzja, Alireza 2770 5.5 27 30 22.75
2 4 GM Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2763 5 27 30.5 21.5
3 54 GM Sasikiran, Krishnan 2640 5 25 27.5 19.5
4 32 GM Shirov, Alexei 2659 5 22 24.5 16.25
5 89 GM Petrosyan, Manuel 2605 4.5 27 29 17.75
6 11 GM Yu Yangyi 2704 4.5 26 29.5 18.25
7 41 GM Nihal, Sarin 2652 4.5 26 28.5 17.25
8 31 GM Ponkratov, Pavel 2659 4.5 25.5 28 16.25
9 1 GM Caruana, Fabiano 2800 4.5 25 28 18
10 48 GM Tari, Aryan 2646 4.5 25 27.5 17.25
11 20 GM Korobov, Anton 2690 4.5 24 27 17.25
12 10 GM Fedoseev, Vladimir 2704 4.5 23.5 26.5 16
13 26 GM Predke, Alexandr 2666 4.5 23.5 26.5 14.25
14 38 GM Najer, Evgeniy 2654 4.5 23.5 26 15.5
15 28 GM Sjugirov, Sanan 2663 4.5 23 26 16.5
16 5 GM Vitiugov, Nikita 2727 4.5 23 25.5 16.75
17 40 GM Sevian, Samuel 2654 4.5 23 25.5 15.75
18 12 GM Maghsoodloo, Parham 2701 4.5 23 25.5 15
19-20 27 GM Sargissian, Gabriel 2664 4.5 22.5 25 15.75
19-20 50 GM Deac, Bogdan-Daniel 2643 4.5 22.5 25 15.75

(Full standings here.)

There was a big contrast between the open and the women’s tournament, which saw just two draws on the top 10 boards today. Here, there’s only one spot on the line for the Candidates next year, and Lei is the clear favorite to grab it. In round seven, with the black pieces she defeated GM Nino Batsiashvili after sacrificial play by the Georgian lady didn’t work out.

“When she played 7.e4, I thought: OK, maybe it will be a draw today,” said Lei. “But I think she forgot some lines. She played 10.Qc2; I think it was a big mistake.”

Asked how she managed to reach 6/7, Lei said: “I don’t know, just play my chess and just be relaxed for this tournament.”

Paehtz is now the only player on 5.5 points, a fantastic score for the German number one female player.

“Objectively speaking, I think it’s the tournament of my life so far,” she said. “I’ve never performed in such a way, at least I don’t remember, so I can’t complain!”

Paehtz Pogonina
Paehtz is on 5.5/7 after beating Pogonina. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Two Russian players are sharing third place. One is GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, who scored a relatively easy win vs. WGM Zhu Jiner.

“She misplayed it in the opening because she let me play c4 and d5, and since I already have the two-bishops advantage it’s like a dream come true for White in this line,” said Kosteniuk.

Alexandra Kosteniuk
Alexandra Kosteniuk. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The other player on 5/7 is IM Alina Kashlinskaya, who beat IM Batkhuyag Munguntuul of Mongolia. The rook endgame is instructive:

Round 7 Women Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed

Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 7 GM Lei Tingjie 2505 6 25.5 28.5 23.5
2 12 IM Paehtz, Elisabeth 2475 5.5 28 31 23.5
3 3 GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra 2518 5 25 27 18.75
4 8 IM Kashlinskaya, Alina 2493 5 19.5 21.5 14.5
5 10 GM Batsiashvili, Nino 2484 4.5 28 31.5 18.75
6 15 WGM Zhu Jiner 2455 4.5 28 30 17.75
7 2 GM Dzagnidze, Nana 2524 4.5 27.5 31 18.5
8 13 WGM Pogonina, Natalija 2467 4.5 26 28 15.75
9 4 GM Harika, Dronavalli 2511 4.5 25.5 28.5 17.75
10 18 IM Javakhishvili, Lela 2446 4.5 25.5 28 16
11 1 GM Muzychuk, Mariya 2536 4.5 25 28 17.75
12 34 IM Assaubayeva, Bibisara 2400 4.5 24.5 28 17.25
13 22 WGM Zawadzka, Jolanta 2428 4.5 24 26.5 15
14 20 IM Badelka, Olga 2438 4.5 21.5 23.5 13.5
15 21 IM Munguntuul, Batkhuyag 2433 4 24 26 12.75
16 11 GM Stefanova, Antoaneta 2475 4 22.5 24.5 12
17 5 IM Shuvalova, Polina 2509 4 22 24.5 12.25
18 46 WIM Vantika, Agrawal 2322 4 20.5 23 11.75
19 37 WGM Cori, Deysi 2382 4 20.5 20.5 8
20 17 GM Cramling, Pia 2447 4 17 18.5 9.75

(Full standings here.)

In round eight, the top pairings are Lei vs. Kashlinskaya, Paehtz vs. Kosteniuk, and Zhu vs. Muzychuk.

You can find all games of the tournament here for replay and download: FIDE Grand Swiss | FIDE Women’s Grand Swiss.

Mikhail Tal Memorial: Lindores Abbey Blitz
Many of the Grand Swiss participants will also be participating in the Lindores Abbey Blitz, a nine-round blitz tournament on November 8, a day after the Grand Swiss finishes and a day before the anniversary of Mikhail Tal’s 85th birthday. You can follow the games and live broadcast live here. Don’t miss it! 
Mikhail Tal Memorial Lindores Abbey Blitz

The FIDE Grand Swiss and Women’s Grand Swiss take place October 27-November 7, 2021 in Riga, Latvia. The format is an 11-round Swiss. The time control for the open group is 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 50 minutes for the next 20 moves, and finally 15 minutes for the rest of the game, with a 30-second increment starting from move one. For the women, it’s 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, with a 30-second increment starting on move one. The top two finishers in the open and the winner among the women will qualify for their respective 2022 Candidates tournaments.

Earlier reports:


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