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Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz Day 4: Nakamura Extends Lead

GM Hikaru Nakamura proves to be in a league of his own, as he has increased his lead after the first day of blitz to 2.5 points without suffering a single defeat. GM Fabiano Caruana is leading in the battle for second place, while GM Richard Rapport and GM Wesley So remain in contention. Comebacks by GM Le Quang Liem and GM Jeffery Xiong lifted them out of the cellar.

How to watch?
The games of the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz can be found here as part of our live events platform. Daily commentary is available on Chess.com/tv starting at 1:00 p.m. Pacific / 22:00 Central Europe.

Saint Louis Blitz | Day 4 Standings

Standings of Saint Louis Blitz on Day 4

To deliver the results of this day without delay, I am giving a quick round-by-round reporting.

Round 10 (first round of blitz)

Rapport-Nakamura was the exact copy of their game in the Rapid—a theoretical draw in Hikaru’s pet line of the Nimzo. One can lament Richard’s reluctance to issue a challenge, but a player makes his own tournament strategy, and making a draw with the world’s top-rated blitz player cannot be a bad idea. I personally think Rapport is slowly adjusting to the life of an elite player; he has been ranked high for quite some time already but has yet to play regularly in events such as this one. Once Richard collects more experience, we’ll see him growing in confidence.

Playing Hall
Nine rounds of blitz were held on day four. Photo: Bryan Adams/Saint Louis Chess Club.

The game between GM Leinier Dominguez Perez and So was also drawn after So missed his chances in time trouble: 36…Rd2 and 44…Rxf5. The rest of the games produced wins for White. The game between GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and GM Sam Shankland saw Shakhriyar’s accurate play while up a piece, as Sam was trying to muddy the waters. Le-Xiong was decided in White’s favor in a four-knight endgame. Just like the opening with the same name, such endings tend to be drawish but not every time.

The game between GM Peter Svidler and Caruana did impact the standings, so I have chosen it as the game of the round.

Scoreboard: 1. Nakamura 12.5, 2. Rapport 11.5, 3. Caruana 11, 4. Svidler 10, 5. So 9.5, 6-7. Mamedyarov and Shankland 9

Round 11

The first game to finish was Svidler-Dominguez, as Peter got nothing out of the theoretical Open Variation of the Ruy Lopez. Another draw was reached in the important Caruana-Nakamura game. Once again, Hikaru proved that he can easily hold slightly worse positions. Eleven games of rapid and blitz, and he has yet to taste a defeat. I suppose his rivals are going to have to take a riskier approach if they want to break that trend.

To the decisive games: Xiong took down Rapport in a nicely played endgame in the King’s Indian structure. I suppose keeping the last pair of rooks was Richard’s downfall. Another endgame clinic was delivered by So against Mamedyarov. An extra pawn in a bishop of the same color ending—no problem. The game of the round is below, as Le makes it two out of two so far.

Scoreboard: 1. Nakamura 13, 2-3. Caruana and Rapport 11.5 (the margin is growing), 4-5. So and Svidler 10.5; others are below 50 percent.

Round 12

Other games were still in progress when the game of the round contest was already awarded. Just watch Wesley’s game-saving combination.

This is how to stop the hot player coming at you. In the meantime, Nakamura won again, this time against Xiong, who couldn’t handle the weakness of his king’s position. 20…Re6 would have been an improvement. Rapport-Shankland was a seesaw battle. Through the first 30 moves, it was all Shankland, who had two extra pawns and totally dominated the board with his bishop pair. Then Rapport gamely threw everything at the king. Sam focused a bit too much on defense and missed the winning 39…Qh3.

GM Sam Shankland
A tough day for Shankland who lost five games and missed a winning move against Rapport. Photo: Bryan Adams/Saint Louis Chess Club.

More time scramble, and suddenly White landed a big blow with 41.Rxg7+ and was winning with 42.Qd2. A chance was gone, and once the queens were traded, a draw became inevitable. Mamedyarov beat Svidler after the latter incorrectly sacrificed his bishop rather than defend a somewhat worse position (not a Nakamura move). Dominguez looked good against Caruana, but it’s hard to win endgames with two knights because you have to retain your last pawn after you win the opponent’s pieces. Good defense by Fabi earned him a draw.

Scoreboard: 1. Nakamura 14, 2-3 Caruana and Rapport 12, 4. So 11, 5. Svidler 10.5

Round 13

Nakamura is simply unstoppable. With the black pieces, he beat Shankland, and this game takes the honors.

It seems that for the rest of the tournament we will need to focus on the fight for second and third places. Rapport made a step forward by surviving So’s attack on his king, while Caruana suffered a setback in a rook endgame against Xiong. My quick analysis shows that the paradoxical 62.Kxa8 is still enough for a draw because after 62…Ke3, White has the time to attack and eliminate Black’s g-pawn, as in 63.Ra7! g6 64.Ra6! f2 65. Re6+ Kf3 66.Rf6+.

Le once again showed his blitz skills by winning a long endgame against Peter Svidler, who overstepped the time limit in a drawn position. Le is still sharing last place with 9.5 points, but the way he has been going I won’t be surprised to see him in contention. Dominguez finally broke a non-winning streak, dating to the first day of competition (it was Wednesday, but it seems such a long time ago). His victim was Mamedyarov, who is struggling to find his form in St. Louis.

Scoreboard: 1. Nakamura 15.5, 2. Rapport 12.5, 3. Caruana 12, 4. So 11.5, 5. Svidler 10.5

Round 14

Nakamura is already coasting to the tournament victory, as he took a theoretical draw as White against So. Rapport’s loose handling of the opening, particularly with the white pieces, finally caught up with him against Svidler, who played a nice, consistent game, if you excuse him for missing an earlier win at one moment.

I personally think that the players would benefit from longer breaks between games. The brutal schedule they are subjected to is more suited for junior events. Look what happened to Dominguez, who simply froze up and lost on time to Le in a position that was far from losing.

In other games, Xiong won a pawn from Shankland in the early going and kept it throughout middlegame complications. Yet, it would have been a long fight if it wasn’t for Sam’s horrible 40…Rc5??. I bet he didn’t see the fork on e7 that cost him a rook. As I have said before, even a bad Mamedyarov is always good for a tactical shot. Take notice of his brilliant 43.Qe8+!!, which was the only way to win his game against Caruana.

Scoreboard: 1. Nakamura 15.5, 2. Rapport 12.5, 3-4. Caruana and So 12, 5. Svidler 11.5, 6-7. Mamedyarov and Xiong (!) 11, 8. Le (!!) 10.5

Round 15

It all started with a sterile draw between Mamedyarov and Le, but other games were quite lively. Svidler managed to bring his heavy artillery within the range of Nakamura’s king, but Hikaru cannot be beaten—as simple as that. A draw by repetition was agreed on move 44. My attention was captivated by a Sicilian battle between Caruana and Shankland that is fully annotated by who else, but GM Dejan Bojkov.

GM Dejan Bojkov

Meanwhile, both So and Rapport moved up by winning their games. Wesley used his preparation for the rapid game with Shankland in the Slav, and I’m not a fan of Xiong’s 14..Kf8. Rapport seems to have a knack for taking pawns on the queenside, and Dominguez had no answer to this strategy.

Scoreboard: 1. Nakamura 16, 2. Rapport 13.5, 3-4. Caruana and So 13, 5. Svidler 12

Round 16

Xiong shocked Svidler with a novelty. It’s not often we see Peter going down in his pet Grunfeld.

Rapport-Mamedyarov went into a rook ending that only Black could win, but Shakh missed his chances with 43…Rd1+, instead of going after White’s a-pawn. The same did not apply to Shankland, who competently converted his extra pawn against So. Another big news item was the first blitz loss by Le, who was comprehensibly outplayed by Caruana.

Scoreboard: 1. Nakamura 16.5, 2-3 Caruana (!) and Rapport 14, 4. So 13

Round 17

The big news items were Caruana’s win over So, and Rapport’s loss to Le. Nakamura held a worse position (what else is new) against Mamedyarov, so he still goes through the field with no losses. Svidler-Sjankland was an evenly played draw, but Dominguez downed Xiong, as the latter misplayed his counterattack.

Scoreboard: 1. Nakamura 17, 2. Caruana 15, 3. Rapport 14, 4. So 13, 5-6. Mamedyarov and Svidler 12.5

Round 18 (finally, the last one for the day)

Nakamura put up another show by bamboozling Le in a mad time scramble. At one moment it seemed he was about to lose a piece (30…Kh7), but the magic still worked, as Hikaru came up with a great trick 32.Ne4! to turn the game around.

So was the beneficiary of yet another of Svidler’s blunder. It was over in 18 moves. I suppose that Peter, as the oldest man in the tournament, suffers the most from the intense schedule of the games. Mamedyarov held a tough endgame against Xiong. Shankland did a bit better against Black’s passed pawn on d4 than he did previously against Le. This time Sam held his ground and drew Dominguez.

Another piece of deja vu was witnessed in the battle between Rapport and Caruana. If you recall, Fabi lost with a queen against two rooks in the rapid; in the blitz, the situation reversed.

Well, it could have been an important win for Fabi, but he’s still in second place.

Scoreboard at the end of day one of Blitz: 1. Nakamura 18, 2. Caruana 15.5, 3. Rapport 14.5, 4. So 14, 5. Mamedyarov 13

All Games Day 4

The 2021 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz is the last rapid and blitz tournament of the 2021 Grand Chess Tour. Games started on August 10 with 10 of the best chess players in the world competing for a piece of the $150,000 prize fund.

You can read more information about the event here.

Previous reports:

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