The third tournament of the Grand Chess Tour 2022 series starts today and will be played in Westin Zagreb from July 19-24. The SuperUnited Rapid & Blitz Croatia is sponsored by the Superbet Foundation and includes 9 rounds of rapid and 18 rounds of blitz chess for a total prize fund of $175,000.
The small vacuum left by Wesley and Alireza, combined with the pressure of taking down the tournament leader was all Carlsen needed to remind everybody that he’s still the best. While energy reserves start to deplete for most players, it seems Carlsen has only been getting stronger. He seemed poised for a rampage today, but a misstep in round 7 forced him to leave half a point on the board.
Uncertainty at the top
A weakness is finally revealed in what up until now had been a monolithic performance by Wesley So. In his post-game interview, Wesley noted that the positions he’s been getting with White are holding him back. Sure enough, this problem could have cost him dearly if not for his superb defensive skills. He managed to transform two losing positions into draws, against Carlsen and Mamedyarov no less. Aside from that, he continues to make the Berlin Defense look easy and should be a favorite going into the Blitz. However, it’s unclear if the shorter time control will aid or amplify his problem with the White pieces.
Wesley So had to make some contortions today, but he still came out the other end in one piece | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
So – Carlsen
Here Carlsen played 44…Nf3? (44…Kh7 would have been enough) and allowed the following tactic:
45.Ncxe4! dxe4 46.d5+ f6 47.dxe6 and Black’s exposed king was all the counterplay Wesley needed. Draw
It seems there is no middle ground with Ian Nepomnichtchi. We either get the seemingly invincible version we saw in the Candidates, or total collapse after a hard blow. Following his crushing loss to Van Foreest in Round 6, things did not get any better for him in Round 7, allowing Ivan Saric to score his first win of the tournament:
Saric – Nepomniachtchi
22.fxe5! cxb3 23.axb3 Nc5 24.Rhf1+- gave White a crushing attack. 1-0
Nepomniachtchi still looking for consistency. Here getting ready to begin a fateful game against Saric | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
However, when it seemed everything was spiraling out of control, he managed to right the ship and finish the day with two nice wins:
Magnus had missed his chance against Wesley in Round 7, but now he would get to test Van Foreest under pressure. After a catastrophic result in the opening, Jorden was soon on the defensive and Magnus began to display his strategic mastery.
Carlsen-Van Foreest | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes