Round two of the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss saw the young Russian talent Alexey Sarana test the reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway. Pushing a pleasant position out of a prepared Sicilian line, Sarana secured a draw from a position of strength against the tournament’s top-seed.
With draws occurring on many of the top boards, only five of the tournament’s 154 competitors enter the third round on a perfect score: Fabiano Caruana, Baskaran Adhiban, Wang Hao, Bu Xiangzhi, and Alexei Shirov.
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Caruana, who has already qualified for the 2020 Candidates’ Tournament, notched his second win of the tournament against fellow American Sam Sevian by using a side line of the English Opening to gain an advantage. While Caruana’s path to victory was rather straightforward, Carlsen had to prove equality against a well-prepared opponent in Sarana.
Sarana’s opening preparation provided a late opening novelty in the Sicilian that reduced the position to a rook and minor piece endgame. When asked about his preparation, the teenager responded: “I thought a good night’s sleep was the best preparation.” The players literally blitzed out their first 22 moves.
Young Russian star, Alexey Sarana put pressure on the world champion, @MagnusCarlsen but eventually drew.
— iomchess (@iomchess) October 11, 2019
The world champion had to find a myriad of only-moves to keep the game even, and at one point was worried about his ability to hold the position at all.
While Carlsen found himself on the defensive side of today’s result, his unbeaten streak extends to 92 classical games. For Sarana, a long road lies ahead but things look promising for the Junior Speed Chess Championship contender.
On the all-American clash on board two, Caruana always retained an edge as Sevian never really equalized as Black. Matters got really difficult for Sevian as he had only two minutes plus the increment to make the last 12 moves in the first time control.
In the late middle-game stage, Caruana allowed his opponent to activate his misplaced knight on a8 but in turn got his kingside pawn majority running. This pawn storm proved pivotal as it fixed Black’s pawn structure and weaved a mating net around Black’s monarch.
With Carlsen’s draw, Caruana will gladly take the first board and will try to hold that board for as long as possible. He jointly leads the event with four others and takes on Mr. Fire on Board, Alexei Shirov who recently switched his federation back to Spain.
Shirov, known for his creative style of play, brought fond memories from the past as he played a tactic that was reminiscent of the famous …Bh3!! in Topalov vs. Shirov, Linares 1998.
Bu Xiangzhi secured his second win of the tournament against the 2016 Russian champion, Alexander Riazantsev, by using the Catalan to outplay his opponent. If China’s second-ever 2700+ player is paired with Carlsen, it is worth noting that the Chinese has a plus score of 2.5-0.5 over the world champion dating back to their 2017 World Cup encounter.
Among the top 10 matchups of round two, board nine featuring American top junior Jeffery Xiong and Indian star Adhiban Baskaran promised to produce fireworks, and it did.
A side line of the Ruy Lopez gave an original position from the start. True to his uncompromising style, Adhiban went for the sharpest continuations at the cost of structural concessions. Xiong failed to block Black’s passed d-pawn. When the pawn reached the seventh rank, and it was the reason for White’s demise.
Former World Championship challenger, Boris Gelfand gave a lesson to Indian prodigy Nihal Sarin on two bishops vs two knights. Gelfand showed impressive technique and won effortlessly with the ending with five pawns on each side divided on the wings.
Third-seed Wesley So and other favorites such as Viswanathan Anand, Sergey Karjakin and Levon Aronian all have a point from two games. The strength of this tournament can be deduced from the fact that even after two rounds, 10 grandmasters are yet to get off the mark, and four of them are above 2600. With an average Elo of 2605, this event will tell a fascinating story as it progresses.
Our annotator for this event, IM @Rakesh Kulkarni, has analyzed all of the above and two more games below. For starters, he shows a nice attacking win by Armenian star Gabriel Sargissian over Chessbrah founder Eric Hansen.
In the next game, Indian star Sethuraman S.P. was playing Women’s Speed Chess Championship winner Elina Danielian of Armenia. Sethuraman had a slightly dubious position, but completely oblivious to Black’s ideas, he blunders and goes down instantly.
Find most games of round two for replay here:
Rakesh Kulkarni contributed to this report.