2021 Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX Day 1 Recap

American Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana emerged as the clear leader after Day 1 of the 2021 Champions Showdown, scoring two wins and one draw in the exciting Chess 9LX rapid format. Tied for second place with 2.0/3 are Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and Sam Shankland, each of whom lost a game in addition to scoring two wins.

Fabiano Caruana | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Legendary World Champion Garry Kasparov started off the event with two draws, missing a big chance to win in Round 2 against Wesley So, before losing his third round game against Mamedyarov to finish the day on 1.0/3.

Standings after Day 1

Check out the full replay of live coverage from the day here. The time control for the event is 20 minutes per side with a 5 second increment starting from move one.

Round 1

Starting position - Round 1

The unique starting position for each round was announced 15 minutes before the start of the games, giving the players a bit of time to break into groups and analyze the position as much as they could.

So, Nakamura, and Shankland are all analyzing the first round’s starting position. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Round 1 featured three decisive games, including an early frontrunner for the best game of the event, as So defeated MVL in brilliant fashion, first sacrificing an exchange, and then a full piece in order to launch a decisive attack.

So’s 10.Nf6+!! was an absolute stunner, as after 10...gxf6 11.Qh6+- Black had no good defense to the threats of Bc2 and Bc3. | 1-0, 35 moves

Shankland defeated Svidler, after an exchange sacrifice didn’t lead to enough compensation for the 8-time Russian champion, while Mamedyarov grinded out a long bishop endgame to win against Nakamura.

Round 2

Starting Position - Round 2

Round 2 saw even more decisive action, with four games ending in victory. Taking an early lead with 2/2 was Shankland, who shocked Nakamura with a nice trick that ended the game after 15 moves.

Here Shankland spotted the excellent 15...Qxe5!, with the point 16.dxe5 16...Ne2+ 17.Kc2 Bg6+ and mate next move. Having lost a full rook, White resigned.

Other notable results included Caruana scoring his first win by defeating Dominguez, while Kasparov missed a golden opportunity to defeat So, having obtained a strategically winning position.

Despite missing some chances earlier, Kasparov could have still won the game here with 37.e6! followed by Qe5, with a winning queen endgame for White. | ½-½, 40 moves

The former World Champion had his chances today, but failed to convert. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Round 3

Starting position - Round 3

Round three saw MVL taking down the leader Shankland, gaining a quick lead in development and transforming it into a devastating attack, as White’s pieces never got out. This gave Caruana a chance to grab the lead, as he took advantage of a misplayed rook endgame to score the full point against Svidler.

19...Bxc3! was a winning tactical blow, as after 20.bxc3 Qxc3+ 21.Kb1 Qxd2 is completely crushing for Black. |  0-1, 22 moves

Levon Aronian also won his first game of the event, ending with an incredible final position against Nakamura:

After 35.Qc5, Black was completely paralyzed and soon to get mated.

Aronian scored one win, one loss, and one draw to remain even after the first day. | Photo courtesy of Saint Louis Chess Club, Crystal Fuller

Day 2 of the 2021 Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX will take place Thursday, September 9, with all of the action covered live by commentators GM Alejandro Ramirez and GM Maurice Ashley starting at 1:30 PM CDT. Fans can watch the action live at uschesschamps.com and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels.