Alexander Grischuk had a chance to deliver a knockout blow to Jan-Krzysztof Duda in the first game of the Hamburg Grand Prix final, but with under a minute on his clock the opportunity slipped away. Duda was also in deep time trouble but held on to make a confident draw with the black pieces before he has White on Saturday in the final classical game. If we get another draw the match will go to tiebreaks on Sunday.
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When it came to commentary we were spoilt for choice, with IM Christof Sielecki joined by Polish FM Kamil Plichta and then none other than India’s Harikrishna, who had just finished his game on top board for AVE Novy Bor in the European Club Cup in Montenegro!
Evgeny Miroshnichenko was also commentating on the action:
In the semi-finals Alexander Grischuk knocked out Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with the white pieces, and things would also go his way with White against Jan-Krzysztof Duda.
The 21-year-old Polish player picked the Queen’s Indian but then sank into a 33-minute think after 13.Rc2:
It wasn’t a new position, however, with Ivan Cheparinov, who appeared in the chess24 chat during the game, having played the same way against Sandro Mareco in the final round of last month’s Grand Swiss. That game was memorable since it lasted an epic 132 moves before ending in a draw, and in this position Mareco had thought for 22 minutes over 13…Nf8. Duda instead chose 13…Bf8!? 14.Bf4 c5 and found himself down on the clock in a tricky position… though the 31 minutes Alexander spent here soon fixed that!
It was a position you could forgive anyone for investing a lot of time in, since White has juicy options such as 15.Nb5, the tricky 15.Nc4 or the move that Grischuk eventually chose 15.Nxd7, when after a sequence of exchanges Black was left with doubled f-pawns, potentially weak hanging pawns and soon a bad bishop against a good knight:
From around this moment, however, Jan-Krzysztof’s play was impressive as he staked everything on dynamism and piece play. It looked like the worst was over for Black, and in the end it was, but 34…Re2?! could have gone badly:
Grischuk used 34 of the 44 seconds on his clock to play 35.Qg5!? Qxg5 36.hxg5 and once again in Hamburg Duda got to prove how good he is at endings. The acid test, however, would have been 35.Ne5!, when after the forced 35…Qe4 36.Qxe4 Rxe4 37.Nd3 White has total dominance. It’s not easy to see why that line is forced, however, since 35…Qf5 looks plausible unless you spot 36.Rd8+! Kh7 and the key trick 37.Nd7!
37...Qxd5 is of course met by 38.Nxf6+, and Black can do no better than reach a hopeless ending an exchange down.
The game itself remained a thriller due to the situation on the clocks, but when both players reached move 40 with no damage done the intensity died down.
Grischuk took another long think on his 41st move but was unable to find anything convincing and a peace agreement was signed on move 46.
That means Jan-Krzysztof Duda’s chances have grown since he has the white pieces in the final classical game on Saturday. In Hamburg he’s beaten both Ian Nepomniachtchi and Yu Yangyi with White in classical games, but Grischuk will be intensely motivated not to let that happen again – he has the goal of sealing qualification for the Candidates Tournament within touching distance.
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