Vachier-Lagrave, Praggnanandhaa Let Opponents Off The Hook On Day of Draws


Despite lots of action on the boards, all of Friday’s games in the third round of the Superbet Chess Classic Romania ended in draws. GMs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu will be somewhat disappointed after spoiling winning positions against GM Alireza Firouzja and GM Gukesh Dommaraju, respectively.

Round four starts Saturday, June 29, at 8 a.m. ET / 14:00 CEST / 17:30 p.m. IST.

Superbet Chess Classic Romania Round 3 Results

Superbet Chess Classic Romania 2024 Round 3 Results
Image courtesy of the Saint Louis Chess Club/Grand Chess Tour.

Superbet Chess Classic Romania Standings After Round 3

Superbet Chess Classic Romania 2024 Round 3 Standings
Image courtesy of the Saint Louis Chess Club/Grand Chess Tour.

The chess action on Friday already started hours earlier in the Grand Hotel Bucharest. In the morning, a blitz tournament was held in the same playing hall among ten of the best Romanian female players. WGM Mihaela Sandu managed to win it with a perfect 9/9 score. As it turned out, the spectators wouldn’t be seeing any more decisive games on this day.

Vachier-Lagrave ½-½ Firouzja

In an interview before the start of the tournament, Vachier-Lagrave said that he was mostly looking forward to the game with his compatriot, as it always leads to interesting battles. Today was no different.

Etienne Bacrot phone
GM Etienne Bacrot taking a photo, no doubt of his two compatriots. In Bucharest he is working with Firouzja. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

It was Firouzja who had the upper hand in the preparation battle, despite the fact that Vachier-Lagrave is one of the most experienced players from the white side of the Berlin Endgame. After the game, Firouzja said that 20.a3 was inaccurate, which showed how deep his prep had been.

On move 23, Vachier-Lagrave noticed that his intended move wasn’t working, so he had to go for a plan B. He found a nice alternative that involved a trick, and a few moves later, Firouzja fell for it. Rooks, minor pieces and pawns were traded, and in the remainder, White was winning. It was never easy though, and at some point, Vachier-Lagrave didn’t play the most forcing moves and allowed his opponent to escape.

Vachier-Lagrave vs. Firouzja Bucharest 2024
Yet another interesting game between Vachier-Lagrave and Firouzja. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Gukesh ½-½ Praggnanandhaa

Besides the battle among the French we also had the all-Indian clash today. Since this year’s Candidates, Gukesh is the one leading their head-to-head by one win. Today, Praggnanandhaa came very close to leveling that score again.

The game started with quite a theoretical line of the Open Catalan that involves a long-term pawn sacrifice from White. Pragg’s 18th move was new, and a deviation from an online game Erigaisi-Carlsen from 2022. Gukesh eventually won back the pawn and got a classic small advantage of a knight vs. light-squared bishop and an isolated queen’s pawn for Black, but with all pawns gone on the queenside, there wasn’t much to play for.

Gukesh Praggnanandhaa Bucharest 2024
Gukesh and Praggnanandhaa just before the game. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

In fact, soon Praggnanandhaa grabbed the initiative on the kingside, which eventually forced Gukesh to sacrifice a pawn. With only heavy pieces left, that should have been an easy draw, but suddenly Gukesh blundered and allowed a liquidation into a pawn endgame that was theoretically winning. 

The Candidates winner was about to suffer his first loss since going down against Firouzja in round seven in Toronto, but then it was Praggnanandhaa to blunder, after which Gukesh could keep king opposition in all lines. A very instructive endgame!

GM Dejan Bojkov’s annotates our Game of the Day.

Chess.com Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

Abdusattorov ½-½ Caruana

GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov and GM Fabiano Caruana, two players of different generations, met for only the fourth time for a classical game. Both had beaten each other once with the black pieces, and also in this game it was Black who had the better chances.

“If we judge by the position, I’m happy with the result because I think it got very dubious for me after the opening,” said Abdusattorov. The 19-year-old Uzbek GM played the London System, inspired by Firouzja’s recent games against Caruana in that opening, but the American varies a lot in his approaches so neither player could rely on much preparation today.

Abdusattorov Caruana Bucharest 2024
Caruana faced yet another London System. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Abdusattorov tried to make the game more interesting by castling queenside, but Caruana’s pawn sacrifice on b5 was strong: the engine even liked Black there.

White’s push 13.d5 was interesting, but “maybe too optimistic,” according to Abdusattorov. “I wanted to create some chaos, some complications, but it didn’t work out.” Soon after, the evaluation was equal again.

Giri ½-½ Nepomniachtchi

GM Anish Giri, who turned 30 on Friday, played his third rather quiet draw in a row, this time against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi. Talking in the official broadcast, the Dutchman started by saying: “My best Grand Chess Tour was, I think, 2015 if I’m not mistaken. It’s been almost ten years. Back then, I was invited to the studio because I was winning games. Now I’m invited because it’s my birthday!”

Back then, I was invited to the studio because I was winning games. Now I’m invited because it’s my birthday!
—GM Anish Giri

In what was a queenless Catalan middlegame, Nepomniachtchi probably mixed up the move order on move 12, but Giri failed to profit from it. The move 14.Ne5 was obvious, but after 14…Rad8 the continuation 15.Bxd5! exd5 16.Be3 was much less obvious.

“I think the opening was fine, but you have to make a couple of really precise moves and then get a stable advantage, then I can play, but finding these very precise moves without the computer is very hard,” said Giri, adding: “It would have been nice to recollect my prep.”

So ½-½ Deac

22-year-old GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac entered the tournament as the local wildcard and is the only player currently rated under 2700, but his play so far is on par with the other participants. You don’t win the Reykjavik Open (as he did in March) by accident, and also on home soil he is demonstrating good form.

Today, Deac showed similar grit as Gukesh yesterday, defending a slightly worse ending for many hours against GM Wesley So. Black’s treatment of the Fianchetto Grunfeld wasn’t according to standard theory, but definitely playable. When the game reached a rook endgame, So was probably hoping for something, but also there his opponent kept on playing flawlessly.

So Deac Bucharest 2024
So couldn’t break down Deac’s defenses. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The 2024 Superbet Chess Classic Romania is the second leg of the 2024 Grand Chess Tour. The event is a 10-player round-robin with classical time control (120 minutes for the entire game, plus a 30-second increment per move). The tournament runs June 26-July 5 and features a $350,000 prize fund.


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