MANILA, Philippines – Just when Wesley So and Levon Aronian were bracing for a final playoff, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave sneaked in and snatched the 2022 Superbet Chess Classic title on Sunday, May 15, at the Sheraton Bucharest Hotel in Bucharest, Romania.
The longtime French No. 1 stunned top seed Firouzja Alireza in the ninth and final round to catch up with Team USA’s So and Aronian, who drew with Leinier Dominguez and deposed champion Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, respectively.
They all finished with 5.5 points after nine rounds, necessitating the round-robin rapid playoffs.
The Superbet organizers decided to pool the prizes for the top three performers, then split it with Vachier-Lagrave getting $77,667 (P4 million) and So and Aronian taking home $67,667 (P3.5 million) each.
Going to the ninth round, So and Aronian shared top spot with 5.0 points each, while Vachier-Lagrave was at 4.5 points and pitted against Alireza, the highest-rated in the field and ranked No. 3 in the world.
Vachier-Lagrave, however, found the form that made him the 2021 Sinquefield winner to relegate Alireza to joint seventh with Ian Nepomniachtchi at 4.0 points.
His morale boosted, Vachier-Lagrave then showed why he’s the reigning world blitz champion by trouncing So and Aronian, respectively.
Dominguez, Fabiano Caruana, and Romanian wildcard Bogdan-Daniel Deac shared fourth to sixth places with 4.5 points. Richard Rapport and Mamedyarov hogged the cellar with 3.5 points each.
With 2 wins and 7 draws, So pushed his live Elo rating to 2775.4, nipping Aronian (2774.5) for world No. 5.
So, who topped last month’s third leg of the FIDE Grand Prix in Berlin, will join the second leg of the Superbet Rapid & Blitz starting May 17 in Warsaw, Poland. – Rappler.com