Reports Sep 14, 2018 | 2:48 PMby Colin McGourty

Chess960 Showdown 3: Don’t win the lottery!

Sam Shankland won the lottery when Thursday’s Chess960 position was one of four he’d spent a full day training, but things soon turned sour! He drew one then lost three games in a row to MVL to trail by 5 points before the final 8 games of blitz. No-one is mathematically out of contention in their matches, with Anish Giri finally picking up a couple of wins against Wesley So. Garry Kasparov entertained with brilliancies and blunders as he scored 3.5/6 against Veselin Topalov.

You can't take your eyes off Garry! | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

You can replay all the Champions Showdown games so far using the selector below:

And here’s the commentary on Day 3, that features interviews with Anish Giri, Leinier Dominguez, Garry Kasparov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Peter Svidler:

Day 3 was the last day when we got to see rapid Chess960 in St. Louis, since the final day will feature 8 blitz games worth 1 point each. There’s still something to play for in all of the matches:


Let’s take them one at a time:

Kasparov 7.5 – 10.5 Topalov

Just to prove that it is possible to capture the Beast from Baku smiling and laughing... occasionally! | photo: Austin Fuller, official website

This match-up was again great fun, and after a winless second day Garry Kasparov bounced back, winning two and almost three of the clashes. The 13th World Champion described the first as a “big fight”, with the initiative swinging from side to side, though overall it was Garry with White who was strategically on top. His time management was suspect and it seemed he might let it all slip away, but he described himself as “very proud” with the solution he found right at the end:


He spotted that the pawn to push was the furthest back, the h-pawn, with the other pawns and knights keeping the black pieces out of the picture. Topalov resigned.

Garry described himself as probably “too overwhelmed” with that game, as he failed to solve his opening problems in the second game and then, down on time, made a carbon copy of his blunder the day before, taking away retreat squares from his bishop with 16…Ne7??


17.b4! was a very cold shower. There were ways to make the blunder look almost like a sacrifice to open up the white king, but Garry was too shaken to find them…

It was an eventful day!

After that, though, he bounced back and was winning the first blitz game until what he described as a “disaster” occurred:


75.d8=Q! Nxd8 76.e7 a2 77.exd8=Q a1=Q 78.Qb6+! allows White to win the new black queen or give mate, while after throwing in the check 75.Nd5+? the black king came to c5 and there was no longer the same winning idea. Topalov could hold the ending with Q vs. Q+N.

That was a missed study-like win rather than a blunder, though, and Garry managed to brush off the disappointment and go on to win the final blitz game:


24…Rb1+! came as such a shock to Veselin that after 25.Kxb1 Nc3+ he resigned, though after 26.Kc1 Qxa4 27.Bxf8 material will be more or less level and Garry thought it would still be a hard position to win.

Garry was happy with the day overall, and noted he was enjoying the Chess960 mission: “It’s not a new chapter, but basically a new book on the game of chess!”

Nakamura 9.5-8.5 Svidler

Svidler-Nakamura is still the hardest match to call | photo: Austin Fuller, official website

The deadlock was finally broken here as Hikaru Nakamura took the lead by virtue of winning the second rapid game. As Peter Svidler commented ,“I just played that slowly and poorly, which is not a good combination against Hikaru!”

Peter ensured the US star’s lead was as small as possible, however, by winning the blitz section 1.5-0.5, much to his own surprise. It would have been another good day in any case, since once again he got to analyse the starting position with Kasparov!

Giri 7 – 11 So

Desperate times call for desperate measures, as Anish unleashes a chess-themed shirt... | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Wesley So had been the only unbeaten player in the Champions Showdown, but finally Anish Giri woke up to win two of their four games on Thursday. Anish commented,

I think the position was more complicated and that suits me better than him… I was trying to create something out of nothing, and today I could create something!

It still looked as though his time management was going to be an issue in the first game, but Wesley, with plenty of time on his clock, failed to spot a tactic until it was too late:


24.Rxc6+! Bxc6 25.Qd6+ Kb7 26.Qxe7 left Black a pawn down with a weak king, and Anish made no mistake converting. The players then traded wins in the blitz games.

Giri explained his goals for the day!

After yesterday I had two goals:
1) To have a day good enough that you invite me to the studio, like you did today - that’s accomplished!
2) Another was to play good enough to go into the last day with 8 blitz games having a theoretical chance of tying the match, so that also is achieved…

He admitted, however, that his only real chance of overall victory is if, “Wesley will start getting nervous, if he’ll see this $10,000 in his head going around!” That $10,000 is the difference between winning the match and getting $30k or losing and getting $20k, with $25k each for a draw.

Shankland 6.5 – 11.5 MVL

When you can't believe all your numbers have been drawn... | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Perhaps Sam Shankland felt a bit like Frank Marshall, who unleashed his famous gambit on José Raúl Capablanca, only to see it picked apart at the board. Sam had explained the day before that he prepared for the tournament by doing a dry run, playing four days of training games against strong opponents with exactly the same schedule as he’d face in St. Louis. There were four random positions there, and he reflected that it would be nice if one of them turned up in the Champions Showdown itself…

Careful what you wish for, since on Thursday that’s exactly what happened!

This was his chance… but it also proved to be his downfall. In the first game he got to show the offbeat idea of playing an early b4 followed by 5.Rb3!?


From there on things went downhill for the US Champion, and on balance a draw was a good result. MVL soon took over, winning a knight ending in the second rapid game, then winning a knight up in the first blitz game. In the final game he squandered a huge advantage but was helped out by Shankland blundering a rook with 41…Rd1??


42.Qf3+!, doubling the attack on the rook with check, was game over. Maxime summed up that, “I think today I just enjoyed the position”. It hadn’t been Sam’s position after all.

Aronian 12 – 6 Dominguez

Levon couldn't quite wrap up the match | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

This match looked like the one which might be over with a round to spare, since Levon made it four wins without reply, until finally in the last game of the day Cuban fans had something to cheer about. 34…Ra3? allowed a nice finish:


35.Rxc7+! Kxc7 36.Nf8! Ra1 37.Kxe4! Black resigns. Dominguez admitted he was close to blundering with 37.e8=Q, which would have allowed Levon to show off all his trickster skills with 37…Rxf8+! 38.Qxf8 Rf1+ and Black wins instead. 

Dominguez is a former World Blitz Champion, but beating Aronian, another former Champ, 6:2, is asking a lot on the final day! 

A chess article can never have too many Garry Kasparov facial expressions... | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

The other matches are closer, though, and we can be sure to witness some enjoyable chess to round off the event. Follow all the action live here on chess24 from 13:00 in St. Louis (20:00 CEST)!

See also:


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