2019 Champions Showdown Recap – Day 2
by WGM Tatev Abrahamyan
Day two saw more riveting chess, as two players tried to make a comeback, while the other matches started the day as a close competition. After a tough start, Shankland and Harikrishna trailed 7-1 against Rapport and Caruana respectively. Topalov and So started the day with the minimum advantage while Duda and Nakamura came in tied 4-4. The pressure is on the players to do well in the rapids and not fall behind their opponents, as every rapid counts for double the points than the blitz.
Standings after Day 1. In the rapid a win is worth 2 points, a draw is 1 point and a loss is 0
Fabiano Caruana vs Pentala Harikrishna 14-2
Yesterday was a tough day for the visiting Indian super-star, and today fared not a single bit better. After getting a promising position in game one, it seemed that perhaps Harikrishna could put some pressure on his opponent. However his initiative fizzled, and quickly he found himself in trouble. Caruana pressed and pressed until he reached a winning endgame, and capitalized. Essaying a risky continuation in game two, Harikrishna went for complications, trying to unsettled the game. Caruana was unfazed, but was unable to find an advantage either, and the game liquidated to a draw. In the third game, in an already difficult position, Harikrishna blundered a simple tactic and lost a piece.
In the last game of the match, something interesting happened. Fabi had a good chance to create a beautiful mating net, but missed it, and allowed Harikrishna back into the game. Unfortunately, with time pressure looming and with a shaken mindset, he blundered a piece and went down yet another game. We can only hope that Harikrishna recovers psychologically and puts up a fight.
Wesley So vs David Navara 11-5
Navara came out guns blazing, with an excellent attack on the first game of the day, sweeping So off the board. So was fighting in the second game, but Navara seemed to have the endgame under control, under a bad blunder left him in a lost position, but he tricked his opponent into a position in which it seemed impossible for So to make progress. Navara was unable to keep his composure, and So found the way to make progress and took the full point. The last two games were the Wesley So show, in both cases managing a slight advantage from the opening and putting humongous pressure on his opponent. So converted both games, first with a great attack and in the last game of the day with a technical conversion, his opponent flagging in a probably lost position.
Hikaru Nakamura vs Jan-Krzysztof Duda 9-7
It was back and forth between these two players, starting with a fascinating first game that finished with a spectacular perpetual check. Duda saw himself against the ropes on game six, and despite Nakamura’s pressure, the young polish player was able to survive.
The debate of theory of a sharp Italian variation makes it seem that Nakamura is better prepared for this duel. In the last game of the day with black, Nakamura was able to mate his opponent's king in the center of the board. The last game ended in a draw, and Nakamura now leads over Duda.
Leinier Dominguez vs Veselin Topalov 8-8
Dominguez seems to be learning from his time management mistakes from yesterday, but his time trouble is still problematic in the rapid portion of his match against Topalov. After three interesting games, neither side was able to really create strong winning chances, and three games ended in a draw. The last game saw a sharp french, with Topalov trying to mix things up, but the American player was well prepared. Taking a strong initiative from the opening, Dominguez first won a pawn and kept a strong attack against his opponent’s king, which eventually was caught on the kingside. With this win, Dominguez equalizes the match.
Richard Rapport vs Sam Shankland 12-4
The disaster that was yesterday seemed to continue for Shankland as he found himself in a totally lost position against Rapport in the first game of the day, but a combination of his opponent’s time pressure and resourcefulness of the American allowed him to turn around the game and even get a winning position. With only seconds left on the clock, Shankland missed a win and the game ended in a draw.
Shankland was slightly better in round two, but was unable to convert. This story was repeated in game three, with Shankland achieving an almost decisive advantage but not finding the way to take the full point. In the last game, things seemed about even, but a horrific blunder dashed his chances in the game and Shankland had to immediately resign. Today’s games were certainly much closer than the match score reveals, but that doesn’t change the fact that the American has a very big uphill battle to be able to recover against Rapport.