13th World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov made the opening move for the 16th World Champion Magnus Carlsen | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour
Wesley So and Jan-Krzysztof Duda are co-leaders of the Superbet Rapid & Blitz in Warsaw after Day 2 saw just three decisive games in 15. Wesley could have won their individual encounter, but it was a day of missed chances, with Magnus Carlsen remaining winless in 7th place despite reaching a theoretically won position against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the first game of the day.
All the decisive action on Day 2 of the Superbet Rapid & Blitz Poland took place in Round 5. Jan-Krzysztof Duda took down his Polish rival Radek Wojtaszek, Wesley So got the better of Kirill Shevchenko in a tricky endgame, and Bogdan-Daniel Deac, who had failed to win a game in Bucharest and then started with three losses in Warsaw, outplayed Anish Giri.
Bogdan-Daniel Deac suddenly found his form | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour
That saw Duda and So move ahead of Levon Aronian, while Deac climbed from the bottom of the table.
The greater drama, however, occurred in some of the drawn games. For instance, Magnus Carlsen got some assistance with his first move against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave…
…and then managed to extract water from a stone to get a theoretically won position — Black’s pawn is what stops this being a simple draw.
Alas for Magnus, to win the position requires not just great precision but also, against best defence, more moves than the 50 without a pawn move or capture before Maxime could claim a draw. In the end there were just 13 more moves, and no progress, before Magnus liquidated for a draw.
He went on to play the Sicilian against Levon Aronian and 1.b3 against Anish Giri, but all to no avail. He remains winless in Warsaw, and therefore winless in his post-World Championship career.
Magnus Carlsen is still a crowd favourite | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour
The most spectacular game of the first round of the day, however, was Rapport-Duda. Richard confessed afterwards that he’d thought he was playing a different opponent, so had to improvise.
It worked like a dream, with a chance to get a big edge early on (Richard regretted not playing 11.Qd3! instead of 11.Qxd5), while after 13.Bxb8 Duda was balancing on the edge of the abyss.
Duda thought for over four minutes, during which time the watching Garry Kasparov explained that Rapport must be winning. Richard felt the same, but it turned out that after Duda's 13…Qf1! there was nothing better than perpetual check, despite White being able to include his knight along with the queen and bishop in the attack.
Richard was asked if he’d enjoyed the game anyway:
Not too much, no. I have given myself plenty of pleasure yesterday as well by losing to Wesley, and I’m continuing giving myself this pleasure by throwing away half points here and there, so this was another example. I didn’t feel particularly happy, with this one or with the follow-up.
Richard missed a win against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and then noted, “a very successful day for the Vienna”, since he also gained a winning position with it against Levon Aronian. He was asked if he’d felt he had an advantage in that game.
Yes, I felt like I was completely winning, I guess, at the end, as often happens. I kind of feel like you’re torturing me in this interview, because you’re asking me if I was completely winning at -5… yeah.
It was vintage Rapport, as was his answer to a question on his plans for the final day of rapid.
I would hope not to be actually winning. Maybe that’s the trick, to make draws without being winning, sounds like a happy person’s plan. Otherwise it will be a very painful day, one way or the other, for someone.
Wesley So's win over Kirill Shevchenko proved enough for shared 1st place | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour
The most significant result of the day came in Round 6, when Wesley So got a great chance to beat his co-leader Jan-Krzysztof Duda and take the sole lead. There was barely time to ask if Duda had a fortress before he went astray.
Duda looked visibly disgusted with himself as he played 34…Qe7?, allowing 35.d6! Qd7 36.Qc7! and it should have been all over, until after 36…Qb5+ Wesley replied with what he called a “terrible blunder”.
37.Qc4! or 37.Ke1! win, but after 37.Kg1? Wesley said he’d only been counting on 37…Qe5, while Duda instead found the only saving move 37…Qe2! The key point was that after 38.d7 Black doesn’t take the rook but goes for 38…Qg4+! and after a number of checks there was one more key move to find, 43…Ne3+!
After 44.fxe3 Qf3+ 45.Kg1 Qxe3+! there was no escaping the checks.
Will Magnus Carlsen finally pick up a win on Day 3? | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour
That means that no-one has yet made themselves a heavy favourite for the event, with the likes of Magnus Carlsen knowing that a good showing on Tuesday’s final day of rapid will give them excellent chances to fight for 1st place in the blitz.