Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

The SuperUnited Rapid & Blitz Croatia, part of the Grand Chess Tour, kicks off in Zagreb with top grandmasters competing, including Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, while Magnus Carlsen withdraws due to urgent family matters.

Short Summary:

  • Magnus Carlsen withdraws from the tournament due to urgent family reasons.
  • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave takes an early lead after day one.
  • Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So are closely trailing behind the leader.

The Grand Chess Tour continues in Zagreb with the highly-anticipated SuperUnited Rapid & Blitz Croatia. The event sees some of the world’s elite grandmasters clashing over the board. Among the notable players are Fabiano Caruana, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Wesley So, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and the rising stars Alireza Firouzja and D Gukesh.

Regrettably, the chess world saw a last-minute withdrawal of Magnus Carlsen, the world number-one, due to urgent family reasons. His absence is a significant blow to the tournament as Carlsen was known for his dominant performances, including a perfect 9/9 day last year in Croatia. Filling in for Carlsen is GM Levon Aronian, who along with Croatia’s Ivan Šarić and India’s Vidit Gujrathi, joins as a wildcard this year.

Due to an urgent family matter, GM Magnus Carlsen has regretfully withdrawn from the upcoming event in Zagreb and will be replaced by American GM Levon Aronian as a wildcard at this tournament. — Grand Chess Tour (@GrandChessTour)

The SuperUnited Rapid & Blitz Croatia holds crucial importance for the Grand Chess Tour standings. Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu and Nodirbek Abdusattorov, key contenders, miss this leg, making it vital for the other competitors to capitalise on this opportunity.

Openings and Early Success

The tournament format includes a single rapid round-robin followed by a blitz double round-robin. The rapid segment allocates 25 minutes plus a 10-second increment per move, while the blitz provides 5 minutes plus a 2-second increment per move. The total prize fund for the event is an enticing $175,000, with a significant $40,000 earmarked for the winner.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave emerged as the early leader, demonstrating stellar performance. Vachier-Lagrave ended the first day on a high note, scoring 5/6, leaving him a point ahead of Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So. His start was nothing short of spectacular, defeating GM Levon Aronian in a wild game and following it up with a tactical masterpiece against local wildcard Ivan Šarić.

We got a crazy position. I think I was in trouble, but at the same time, Levon had spent a lot of time, so even if I blundered a few things, I had some chances. When the dust cleared, I was already one or two pawns up! — Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Caruana and So are currently in hot pursuit, both displaying steady and impressive performances. Caruana’s secure play and tactical acumen saw him draw against Nepomniachtchi and Firouzja while securing victories against Vidit. Similarly, Wesley So put forth a solid performance overcoming Gukesh D and securing critical points to stay in contention.

Day One Highlights

The day started with several exciting and fiercely contested rounds. Notable games include:

  • Caruana vs. Vidit: Caruana secured a victory in 47 moves using the A08 Barcza System.
  • So vs. Gukesh: This game saw Wesley So executing a brilliant win using the B31 Sicilian Rossolimo.
  • Aronian vs. Vachier-Lagrave: A thrilling match where Vachier-Lagrave managed to outmanoeuvre Aronian in a 59-move Gruenfeld Defence game.
  • Vidit vs. Aronian: Aronian showcased his tactical prowess, winning in just 28 moves with the C02 French Advance.

— chess24 (@chess24com) July 10, 2024 – No draw offers are allowed in Zagreb, but that doesn’t mean no draws.

Strategic Importance of Zagreb

Zagreb’s stop in the Grand Chess Tour is pivotal. Participants must utilise every opportunity to climb the standings and secure essential points, especially given the shuffle in tour rankings after this event, which influence the prize distribution.

Before the SuperUnited Rapid & Blitz Croatia, standing charts saw four players tied at the top, with Fabiano Caruana having clinched a dramatic victory in the Superbet Classic Romania via playoffs. The race is still open as players contest in Zagreb, striving to break the deadlock.

For Vachier-Lagrave, this tournament marked a rebound from a streak of draws and underwhelming performances, including 17 consecutive draws in various team championships.

The Pursuit

Both Caruana and So showed resilience, especially after Vachier-Lagrave’s dominant start. Their strategic plays and quick tactical decisions were critical in maintaining the chase. In contrast, Vidit struggled, concluding the first day with multiple losses and moments of missed opportunities.

Among the standout players on the first day, Giri, Firouzja, and Nepomniachtchi maintained consistency with three draws each. Notably, Nepomniachtchi has accumulated an impressive 15 consecutive draws, demonstrating his solid defensive strategies.

As the tournament progresses with rapid chess rounds followed by blitz rounds, the chess world watches closely. The competition promises more thrilling encounters, strategic masterstrokes, and unforeseen blunders, keeping enthusiasts glued to the unfolding drama.

To stay updated, you can follow the tournament live on the Saint Louis Chess Club YouTube channel or keep an eye on our latest news section.

Final Word

The SuperUnited Rapid & Blitz Croatia showcases the brilliance of chess, not just in the prowess of seasoned grandmasters but also in the rising young talents who are reshaping competitive chess. With the Grand Chess Tour at stake and substantial prize money on the line, every match in Zagreb carries weighty significance.

In the absence of Carlsen, the board is set for a new champion to emerge and solidify their legacy. As the grandmasters settle into their rhythm, the world anticipates who will conquer the rapid and blitz, carving their name into the annals of chess history.

By admin

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