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Jan-Krzysztof Duda takes the lead in the Aimchess rapid final

The Hans Niemann lawsuit steals the spotlight, but top quality chess events continue around the world. Polish ace Jan-Krzysztof Duda took a decisive lead in the two-day Aimchess Rapid final with a 3-1 win over Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. The 24-year-old Duda, the reigning World Cup winner, was at his attacking best as he dominated Azerbaijan’s number 1. Mamedyarov must now regroup to hit back tomorrow to take it to tiebreaks. Replay all games here

Mamedyarov has played brilliant and inspiring chess so far in this event but had no answer to Duda’s positive play. After a draw in the first game, Duda struck hard and fast to go 1-0 up with the black pieces. Grandmaster David Howell pointed to an exchange of queens prompted by Duda’s 27. Qxe5 and then a sharp tactic that followed as the key moment. It left Mamedyarov’s position in tatters and Duda duly converted. International Master Jovanka Houska said: “Duda played unorthodox chess, it was a bit weird, but he managed to confuse Mamedyarov and at the end when it got sharp he just played perfectly.”

In the third game, Duda had one moment when he could have been tempted to take white’s knight on a4, but instead went for the safe approach to simplify down to a draw with 24… Qf7. It proved the right decision. Time was running out for Mamedyarov – he had only the last game to level the score – and in Mamedyarov mode he went all in. Playing a risky opening with black, the wily 37-year-old got a promising position but then it started going wrong and Duda went after his key weakness on d6 with 23. Rb6 which led to 25. Rxb7. From then on, Mamedyarov’s position crumbled and Duda emerged winner of the game and the mini-match.

Duda, playing from his hometown of Krakow, now has one hand on the title, but Mamedyarov will still have a chance to hit back tomorrow and force a playoff. Duda said: “I’m very happy. Actually, I liked the second game from the aesthetic point of view.”

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