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Maxime Vachier-Lagrave wins Grand Chess Tour Romania 2022; Final Report

After an intense and final day of the Superbet Chess Classic Bucharest, three players tied for first with 5.5/9. However, it was the French Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the “Dark Knight”, winning his last round game, catching up with the two former leaders GM Wesley So and GM Levon Aronian, and in the end taking them both down in an exciting playoff round-robin. The French grandmaster was ultimately declared the winner of the event, winning 10 GCT points and pocketing over $77,000. GM’s Wesley So and Levon Aronian each got 10 GCT points as well, and a check for $67,667. Tying for the fourth place with 4.5/9 were GM Fabiano Caruana, GM Leinier Dominguez and Romanian star GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac who was the only wild card in this event and has had a brilliant tournament.

Replay the PLAYOFF Games:
Game 1: Wesley So – Levon Aronian 1-0, R1 of TB
Game 2: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave – Wesley So 1-0, R2 of TB
Game 3: Levon Aronian – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 0-1, R3 of TB

Final standings

Prize Earnings & GCT Points

 Results of Round 9

Levon Aronian – Shakhriyar Mamedyarov  ½-½

Although he had the white pieces, GM Levon Aronian chose not to take many risks in today’s game. The players followed the well-known opening path in the Four Knights Game, where Black was pretty much safe throughout the entire game. The pieces were traded to a rook endgame where a draw was agreed by threefold repetition on move 36. Replay the game here

GM Levon Aronian playing it safe in Round 9 | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

Richard Rapport – Ian Nepomniachtchi ½-½

GM RIchard Rapport and GM Ian Nepomnichtchi followed the Classical Variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defense. Somewhere along the way and most likely disheartened by losing from two winning positions in this event, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi found himself in a worse position and could have lost in only 23 moves, should Richie had played 23. b4! . Rapport was not in his best form either and returned the favor immediately with 23.Nb5 and, although he kept the pressure, Nepo proved strong enough and kept the position to a draw. Replay the game here

GM Ian Nepomniachtchi , pre-game smile  | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Bryan Adams

Leinier Dominguez – Wesley So ½-½ 

GM Leinier Dominguez tried to outplay GM Wesley So in a slow Italian by doubling So’s pawns on the e-file, but his advantage was only symbolic. As the game progressed, So managed to outplay Dominguez and infiltrate into White’s queenside. He could continue playing in the final position, but instead chose to play it safe and take his chance in the playoffs. Had he known the result of the playoffs, he may have kept the pressure on Dominguez a little longer. Replay the game here

Pre-game handshake between GM Leinier Dominguez and GM Wesley So | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

Bogdan-Daniel Deac – Fabiano Caruana  ½-½ 

The wild card of the event, Romanian sensation GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac had an impressive performance in this event scoring fifty percent among such a strong field. In his last round against GM Fabiano Caruana, Deac chose a safe line of the Czech Variation of the Slav Defense against the American. The line chosen led to a position where White was up a pawn, but to Black’s bishop pair, which was enough to compensate for the material down. The players played a good technical game which ended in a draw in an opposite color bishop ending. Replay the game here

“The ‘Old’ meets the ‘New’” – GM Florin Gheorghiu, the strongest Romanian chess player of all time, shaking hands with GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

Alireza Firouzja – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave  0-1 

The game between the two French players, GM Alireza Firouzja and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was the longest and the only decisive game of the day. The players went for a classical variation in the Neo-Grünfeld Defense. The game was balanced for the most part, until the players entered the ending and some inaccurate play by Alireza close to move 40, allowed MVL to take his chance and create the b-passed pawn, which he pushed to win Alireza’s knight. The endgame might not have been immediately winning, but with accurate play, MVL kept his calm and cruised through to victory. It seems that MVL was inspired to return to his petline – the Grünfeld Defense – which brought him the important victory to share the first place and the chance to win the Playoff to be declared the winner of the Superbet Chess Classic Romania. Replay the game here

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave after the brutally excruciating win against fellow French compatriot Alireza Firouzja | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

The Playoffs

With three players sharing first place, it is only normal to give the spectators some extra excitement and more games to enjoy, in the detriment of the players who have to continue fighting for the title, more GCT points and a bigger paycheck. The players played a round-robin tournament among themselves, where the time control was 10min +5 seconds increment per move.

Wesley So – Levon Aronian 1-0

The first game was between GM Wesley So and GM Levon Aronian. The players chose the Central Variation of the QGA (Queen’s Gambit Accepted). After some inaccuracies by Aronian, once the opening was over, So took control of the game and kept expanding his advantage. He didn’t give it up and converted a nice knights endgame to win the first game of the playoffs. Replay the game here

GM Wesley So after a brilliant victory in the playoff against GM Levon Aronian| Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave – Wesley So 1-0

The next game to be played in the playoffs was between GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Wesley So. If So had won this game he would have clinched the event. The game started as an English Opening and it was balanced for the first part. As soon as the players started burning more and more time, things kept turning in each of their favor on a number of occasions. In the end it was MVL that was taking the advantage last, but he didn’t need to find a way to convert the game, as Wes lost on time. Replay the game here

The tragic moment where GM Wesley So realized he lost on time to GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the Playoffs | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

Levon Aronian – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 0-1

Lastly, the game between GM Levon Aronian and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave started in an exciting manner with both players fighting for something, the first (Aronian) to pull an Armageddon, and the second (MVL) to win the event. Aronian chose an aggressive line against the Sicilian, but pushing the pawns on the kingside too soon proved to be more to his detriment than in his favor. By move 20, MVL was in control of his position and kept his calm. He did eventually make some mistakes and almost failed to convert his advantage. He eventually won on time on move 61, though by that time his position was won once again with his b-pawn getting ready to promote. Replay the game here

Post-game handshake. The win that brought MVL the title and trophy of the Superbet Chess Classic Romania  | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

GM Natalia Zhukova with GM Leinier Dominguez | Photo: Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes

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