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MVL Wins Croatian Grand Chess Tour Event; Kasparov Bombs

You may remember the recent Grand Chess Tour event in Paris, where Etienne Bacrot and Vladimir Kramnik split the rapid & blitz duties. Bacrot, a ratings underdog and no longer a member of the elite, scored surprisingly well in the rapid, but Kramnik had a very poor result in the blitz. Apparently Garry Kasparov was concerned about that, but as it turned out he wasn't concerned enough. Ivan Saric did a great job in the rapid, leaving Kasparov only a point out of first going into the blitz, but Kasparov's performance was absolutely disastrous.

How bad? Well, his TPR on the first day was lower than *my* rating. He lost in round one to to Jorden Van Foreest and drew with Alexander Grischuk in round 2, and then he lost the next seven games. Seven. Speaking of seven, he lost to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in seven moves*. This was not a mouse slip, either; this was in an in-person event. He also lost to Ian Nepomniachtchi (with White) in 18 moves, and lost several games in 25 moves or so. To put it bluntly, he stunk. Day 2 was a little better - he beat Van Foreest in the rematch, doubling his day 1 score. He also drew with Nepo in the final round, but other than that he managed only one more draw, finishing day 2 with 2/9 and the two days with 2.5/18.

In previous years he had been able to achieve results that weren't embarrassing, if not to his old standard, but cramming for the event, but it's clear that those days are gone. Every year he gets a year older, his preparation falls another year behind, and he's another year rustier. And an even bigger problem, I think, is that due to COVID and the rise of streaming the world's top players have all become blitz specialists - it's not just Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen any more. I don't think Kasparov will dare try such events any longer unless he's willing to put in significantly more time in training beforehand. At least I hope not - both for his sake and for future generations who might think that Kasparov was some mediocrity who was only great because of when he played. That would be a foolish conclusion, but it's one people will draw if he keeps playing in events like this and has his head handed to him.

As for the real event, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave did a fine job, tying for second in the rapid, winning the blitz, and taking first overall. Nepomniachtchi won the rapid and still led the overall event after the first day of the blitz, but a poor showing on day two of the blitz dropped him into a tie for fourth overall. MVL scored 23 out of a possible 36 (18 points for the blitz on traditional 1-.5-0 scoring; and 18 points for the rapid games, which counted double). Viswanathan Anand did a nice job of representing the over-50 demographic, coming in clear second with 21 points, half a point ahead of Anish Giri. Nepo and Jan-Krzysztof Duda scored 20 points apiece, Mamedyarov scored 19, and Grischuk 18.

From there the scores dropped off: Anton Korobov finished with 15.5, Saric/Kasparov with 12.5, and Van Foreest was "informed" that Wijk may have been a one-off, finishing last with 10.5.

Tournament site here, TWIC page here.

*Mamedyarov-Kasparov went like this: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3 e5 4.Nf3 exd4 5.Bxc4 Nf6?/?? 6.Qb3 Qe7 7.0-0 1-0


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