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Aronian and So maintain the co-lead; Grand Chess Tour Romania – R8 Recap

Day 8 of the Superbet Chess Classic Romania was another eventful day, despite it only providing one decisive result in the game between GM’s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Leinier Dominguez, which ended in favor of the latter. The most thrilling game of the round was the one between GM’s Ian Nepomniachtchi and Levon Aronian, which brought a topsy-turvy rollercoaster of emotions for the spectators. The game turned out in yet another lucky save by the Armenian American GM Aronian who saved yet another lost endgame to maintain his co-lead next to GM Wesley So, going into tomorrow’s final round.

Replay Round 8 games:

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov – Leinier Dominguez Perez 0-1
Wesley So – Alireza Firouzja 1/2-1/2
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave – Bogdan-Daniel Deac 1/2-1/2
Fabiano Caruana – Richard Rapport 1/2-1/2
Ian Nepomniachtchi – Levon Aronian 1/2-1/2

Popular from GCT Romania 2022:
Interview with Wesley So: “Everyone except Magnus has a lot of weaknesses” (VIDEO) / 
Fabiano Caruana: “Firouzja is one of the hardest players in the World” – Interview with Grand Chess Tour players (VIDEO)

Results of Round 8

Standings after Round 8

Wesley So- Alireza Firouzja 

The game between one of the co-leaders, GM Wesley So and the top-seed of the event, GM Alireza Firouzja was an uneventful one. Desperate for a win, Firouzja chose the KID (King’s Indian Defense), which, as Wesley suggested in the post-game interview, was not what he expected. Wesley suggested he mostly prepared for the Gruenfeld. Being somewhat surprised by Alireza’s opening choice, Wesley went for the Exchange variation which led to all the pieces being traded off gradually and the game finishing in a draw on move 38. Replay the game here

Pre-game handshake – between GM Wesley So and GM Alireza Firouzja | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave – Bogdan-Daniel Deac

The Romanian GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac possibly took by surprise his opponent GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, choosing the Petroff Defense, which proved to be a topical line of choice against 1. e4 in this event. MVL responded with the Classical Attack employing 8.c4, which is one of his main weapons against the Petroff and followed a rare line which was seen in a game between GM’s Peter Leko and Vishy Anand from 2001. Deac missplayed with 12…Na6 and it seemed that MVL was about to seize the initiative, had he played 14. Bf4. Instead, MVL chose the dubious 14.Nc3, after which Deac found a set of powerful moves (15….b5 and 16…Nc5) which equalized the position at once. The game continued, but was balanced throughout and soon the players traded pieces down to a draw on move 56.  Replay the game here

GM Maxime Vachier Lagrave giving a “death stare” to his opponent GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

Fabiano Caruana – Richard Rapport 

After having hung a rook in yesterday’s game, GM Richard Rapport seemed off to a rough start in today’s game against GM Fabiano Caruana, despite blitzing through most of the opening. Rapport’s decision to offer the queen trade with 13…Qb5 looked somewhat premature and his move 16…a5 weakened the b5 pawn and square, giving White the chance to undermine Black’s queenside with a4.  Surprisingly, Caruana never chose to play it and opted for the slower a3 idea instead. It still seemed that White had a good advantage, but the entire idea of going for the d7 pawn proved hasty according to the engine. Rapport took on b4 and his passed b-pawn gave him sufficient counter-play. Caruana kept pressing for a long time, but Black somehow never missed resources to keep his position afloat. The game eventually ended peacefully in a draw on move 51. Replay the game here

GM Fabiano Caruana with Emma Cretescu, a young Romanian chess player, at the start of Round 8 | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov – Leinier Dominguez

The game between GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and GM Leinier Dominguez had a tragic end for the Azerbaijani. In another QGA (Queen’s Gambit Accepted), where things seemed to be heading toward a draw considering that expected exchanges occurred, Mamedyarov decided to take some risks employing an aggressive plan with g3-f4 in order to kick Black’s nicely placed knight from the e5 square. In return, Dominguez rerouted his knight to f4, which proved annoying for White’s king safety. The position remained balanced despite the extra complexity in the position. Toward the time control Mamedyarov, possibly unhappy with the way the game was headed, looked for a way to repeat. He blundered on move 40, playing 40.Qe4 and continued with a series of bad moves. Finally, it was the move: 43. Qg8 by Mamedyarov which proved to be fatal, as after Dominguez’ response 43…Qe5,  White immediately resigned. Replay the game here

GM Leinier Dominguez cruising through victory with the black pieces in Round 8 | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

Ian Nepomniachtchi – Levon Aronian

The game between GM Ian Nepomniachtchi and Levon Aronian was the most thrilling, but also quite a heartbreaking game to watch, as Nepo let Aronian escape once more in this event. The game started as a Classical Variation in the Italian that followed a game between GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Dmitri Jakovenko from 2019 and it was Aronian who deviated with 16…Be7. It seemed that Black would have an equal position coming out of the opening, should he have played 17…Bg6, but instead, Aronian entered some adventurous line where he found himself in a slightly worse ending with a rook and a pawn for White’s bishop and knight. Aronian did not play it accurately and Nepo managed to coordinate his pieces with his king and keep Black’s rook trapped. From that moment on the game had many moments where it could have gone either in the favor of Nepo, or finish with a draw. After consolidating his advantage, Nepo drifted a couple of times, but so did Aronian, as he missed many chances to keep the game drawn. After winning back Black’s extra pawn, Nepo was completely winning and while he did not show the best technical play, he seemed to be on the right path to victory. However, he finally gave up on his advantage on move 75 where played 75.Ne5?? instead of the tactically winning 75. Nh4+! . Aronian found the right defense and held the game to a draw. After this lucky save, Aronian goes into the last round tied for first with fellow American GM Wesley So. Replay the game here

GM Levon Aronian on his way to saving another lost game | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

Benjamin Adegbuyi, Romanian professional boxer, making the first move in the game So-Firouzja  | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

Round 9, May 13, 14:00 CEST

Levon Aronian – Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
Richard Rapport – Ian Nepomniachtchi
Bogdan-Daniel Deac – Fabiano Caruana
Alireza Firouzja – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Leinier Dominguez Perez – Wesley So

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