Jack Rodgers

22 days

STL Rapid & Blitz 3: Caruana comeback as Robson wins rapid

Caruana's 4/6 on day three saw him shoot up the rankings into second place | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

Ray Robson leads the 2023 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz after scoring 11/18 in the rapid segment. 3/6 was enough for Robson to maintain the lead on Thursday, but Fabiano Caruana, who scored 4/6 on Day 3, looms one point shy of the lead, along with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who made three draws. A five-way tie in third place leaves the tournament wide open and Alireza Firouzja, who went 18 blitz games without a single loss in last year's edition, will feel bullish about his chances.

Yasser Seirawan, Tania Sachdev and Peter Svidler commentated on the Day 3 action.

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The standings after the rapid section (two points for a win) look as follows.

As the ninth seed, Ray Robson did not come into the event as a favorite but has proven that he can duke it out with the world's top rapid players. Pairings against MVL, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Wesley So made his third day one of the toughest, and to make matters more difficult, he would have to play with the black pieces against Maxime and Wesley.

Robson dealt with tough round 7-9 pairings well | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

This made his score of 3/6 all the more impressive and the puzzle battle world champion even managed to pick up a 40-move win against Ian Nepomniachtchi's Grunfeld Defense.

Robson would have remained undefeated if not for a round-nine loss against Wesley So, which ironically was So's sole victory of the rapid segment.

Players became spectators as So took down the leader | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

The brilliant 39.Rxc5!! was the move that forced Robson into a worse endgame, and So was successful in his conversion.

Robson's 5.5/9 (10/18 with two points for a win), 2800-level performance has earned him 25 rating points, meaning he is now firmly in the 2600-club for rapid chess and is still probably underrated in this time control.

Robson has not played FIDE-rated rapid games since the American Cup in April this year

After scoring 2/6 on the first day, Fabiano Caruana recovered well and scored 4/6 for the second day in a row. Draws against Sam Sevian and Anish Giri kicked off the day for Caruana before he dispatched the struggling Jeffery Xiong.

Here comes Caruana! Can he snatch the lead off Robson on Friday? | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

A positional battle in the Giuoco Piano Game: Giuco Pianissimo Variation unfolded between the compatriots and a controlled performance by both players indicated that a draw was the likely result. Wanting to make his mark on the leaderboard, though, Caruana flicked his tactical switch sometime after move 40 and Xiong was unable to hold on.

Our Game of the Day has been annotated by GM Rafael Leitao below. 

Ian Nepomniachtchi was another player who scored 4/6 on Thursday, but his disappointing first two days somewhat marred his performance on the third.

Nepomniachtchi is ranked number six in the world for blitz chess | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour

A cunning tactic against Liem Le was the highlight of his day, and the result left him within striking range of the lead with 18 rounds of blitz to play.

A topsy-turvy day for Alireza Firouzja has left the defending champion with a lot of work to do to catch the leaders although, given his heroics in the 2022 event, anything is possible. Following a tough loss at the hands of Sam Sevian, the Frenchman recovered in style and bowled over Anish Giri with a move-12 novelty in the English Opening.

With only four points separating the top and the bottom of the table, all 10 of the participants are still capable of winning the $40,000 first prize. Fans should keep an eye on Firouzja's movements on Friday as he declared that he can still win the event. "I've caught up before in blitz, I like my chances," were the parting words from the world number-one in the time control.

Watch all the games with computer analysis on chess24!

See also

STL Rapid & Blitz 2: Robson beats Firouzja to take lead

STL Rapid & Blitz 1: Le leads; So, Nepo, Fabi struggle


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