Reports May 23, 2019 | 11:08 AMby Colin McGourty

Moscow GP QF Tiebreaks: The favourites roll on

Hikaru Nakamura, Alexander Grischuk and Ian Nepomniachtchi all made short work of their tiebreaks against Daniil Dubov, Wesley So and Wei Yi to reach the semifinals of the FIDE Grand Prix in Moscow. The only (slight) underdog to win in the quarterfinals was Radek Wojtaszek, who followed up beating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov by knocking out Peter Svidler. That was the one match where tiebreaks weren’t required, after Svidler’s aggressive play with the black pieces backfired.

Wei Yi resigns game and match against Ian Nepomniachtchi | photo: Niki Riga, World Chess

You can replay all the games from Moscow using the selector below:

And here’s the commentary on the quarterfinal tiebreak games from Evgeny Miroshnichenko and Daniil Yuffa:

Let’s take the quarterfinals one match at a time:

Radek Wojtaszesk 1.5:0.5 Peter Svidler

This was the one match to end in classical games, with Radek Wojtaszek becoming the only player to have picked up the maximum points so far after getting two bonus points for not needing tiebreaks in either of his matches.

Radek Wojtaszek has been the giant-killer in the Moscow Grand Prix | photo: Niki Riga, World Chess

In hindsight Peter Svidler’s decision to offer a draw on move 20 of the first classical game was a mistake, but Evgeny Miroshnichenko revealed during the commentary that Peter was knocked off balance after he blundered with 18.b4?! in that game. Although Radek didn’t punish the mistake Peter felt it was prudent not to play on when he wasn’t feeling in control of the situation.

In the second game Peter wasn’t going to make the mistake of backing down from a fight, and he went for it against Wojtaszek’s 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.f3:

I play just about every move possible after 3.f3, and I went for the line which is the sharpest and the least clear of all the things I could have done, but I think Radek just played better than I have today. I still feel the choice was correct, but I don’t have much experience in these types of structures and I think eventually this is what decided the game, because I’m not sure my decisions were so horrible but I was also taking them quite slowly, and eventually mistakes started creeping in.

Svidler seemingly correctly sacrificed an exchange, but he was kicking himself for playing the tempting 27…Bd4+!?

I think 27…Bd4+ was a horrible move. I wasn’t planning to play Bd4+ when Radek was thinking about 27.Bd2, and then when the bishop appeared on d2 I kind of forgot what my plan was and I started calculating from scratch, and I came up with this idea, which looks kind of pretty at first, and then once we got there I realised that with the bishop on d4 I just cannot generate any threats because it’s always hanging in every single variation, so it should have stayed on g7.

At least Peter Svidler has some time to rest before joining Jan Gustafsson to commentate live on Norway Chess in a week's time | photo: Niki Riga, World Chess

It seems it was only after 28.Kh2 that 28…N7f6? lost the game, since 29.Rf3! allowed White to consolidate, but if a move like 28…Rb6!?, passively defending the a6-pawn, is the best Black can do then something has gone wrong. The way the game went illustrated why defending that pawn might nevertheless have been wise, since the fatal blows came on the a-file. It was much less of a crushing win that it seems at first glance – Radek wasn’t sure if he was better or not and was simply trying not to blunder – but in the end it was the Polish star who had knocked out another higher-rated opponent.

Watch the players discussing the game:

Wojtaszek’s semi-final opponent will be Ian Nepomniachtchi, who won a topsy-turvy match against Wei Yi.

Ian Nepomniachtchi 2.5:1.5 Wei Yi

19-year-old Chinese prodigy Wei Yi successfully held an ending a pawn down in the second classical game and then was the player fighting for a win with White in the first tiebreak game. Nepomniachtchi admitted he’d mixed something up in a Najdorf and took the radical decision to sacrifice a piece for 3 pawns in the endgame. Both players felt Wei Yi’s low time contributed to the game still ending in a draw, though it seems there was never a wide open goal to aim at.

Eugene Kaspersky of Kaspersky Lab made the opening move in the second classical game between Nepomniachtchi and Wei Yi | photo: Niki Riga, World Chess

The return game didn’t feature any endgame finesse since it essentially ended on move 20. Wei Yi noted:

In the second game I played a bit crazy and then I simply made a blunder with 20…f6? and lost the match.

That move ran into 21.h4!

Nepomniachtchi demonstrated the power of a queen as he steadily converted his advantage in 45 moves. Here are the players afterwards:

Hikaru Nakamura 2.5:1.5 Daniil Dubov

For four games in Moscow everything went Dubov’s way. He surprised Anish Giri in the opening of both classical games, and then went on to do the same against Hikaru Nakamura. While the second classical game didn’t feature 26-move deep preparation, it saw Dubov get an ideal position after 20 moves: “I’m completely out of risk and putting some pressure”. He later summed up that it was, “almost a puzzle, but I failed to solve it”. 

Hikaru Nakamura ended Daniil Dubov's impressive run in Moscow | photo: Niki Riga, World Chess

That meant that for the first time he would play speed chess in Moscow, and there was an amusing moment in the post-game interview with the players:

Eteri Kublashvili: And now you’re going to play on tiebreaks against one of the strongest speed chess players in the world… so what are your expectations from this match?

Dubov: Whom are you talking to?

Nakamura: Yes, exactly!

It was the World Rapid Champion Daniil Dubov taking on the rapid world no. 2 Hikaru Nakamura, with Hikaru expressing the opinion that it would all come down to one or two moves. He was right, and 33…Be7!! was a subtle and brilliant trap from Nakamura:

Dubov fell for it with 34.Rxd5?, when after 34…Bc8! the rook finds itself trapped. Black has mating threats if the bishop is allowed to come to b7, and after 35.Kf1 Rb5! the knight is also pinned, so that after 36.Ke2 Be6! Hikaru was able to pick up an exchange. Dubov then “defended incredibly well” (Nakamura) but fell just short of saving a game that lasted 79 moves. In the return game Dubov needed to win with Black, but Nakamura confidently drew from a position of strength.

Daniil had no complaints – except about cameramen!

I think in general Hikaru simply played better today. Obviously there were some unlucky moments for me in the first game. First of all, there were some incredibly stupid cameramen who decided to run next to me when I was down to 10 seconds or something, but I mean in general he was pressing in the first game and he was also pressing in the second game. I probably failed to recover after my first match, because in general a rule for these knockout tournaments is that you should basically never celebrate, even when you win some early emotional match – basically once you start celebrating or being happy it becomes incredibly tough.

Watch the players afterwards:

Hikaru Nakamura’s semi-final opponent will be Alexander Grischuk.

Alexander Grischuk 2.5:1.5 Wesley So

Alexander Grischuk would go on to share some maths tips after qualifying for the semifinal! | photo: Niki Riga, World Chess

On the surface the second classical game between these two players had been a relatively straightforward draw, but it certainly hadn’t felt that way to Alexander Grischuk after he played 44…hxg5+:

It almost became the most humiliating, embarrassing, disgraceful loss of my career, if I would have lost this endgame, and I came close at some point after 44…hxg5+. I completely missed 45.Kxg5

Watch that interview, which would be only the second most entertaining Grischuk gave over the course of two days!

The first rapid game was most notable for how it ended!

Grischuk thought it had been a logical, well-played game by both himself and Wesley, but then he connected to the internet and, “apparently I was almost winning in the end and it was just an absolutely terrible game with people in the chat saying, 'what a chicken, Grischuk, how can he agree [to a draw]'!”

Whether inspired by that criticism or not, Alexander went on to win the match in the next game:

Second game obviously I got a very nice advantage, and then my technique was, I don’t know, like 50% of Magnus', which proved to be enough in this position, but it was far from fantastic technique from me… but not terrible either.

It’s not clear if Black was holding against best play from both sides, but 51…c5? was the point of no return. After 52.Re5+! Kd4 53.bxc5 the c-pawn proved unstoppable:

That meant we were all set for the semifinals:

Those start immediately today, since there’s only a single rest day on Sunday before the final match on Monday. Alexander Grischuk was asked if he felt the rest day should have come in the middle of the tournament instead:

Yes. Ok, I think in the first grade children learn that 2+2 = 4, in Grade 2 they learn that 4/2 = 2, but for World Chess guys 4/2 = 3 + 1, so they get a rest day after 3 rounds! It’s absolutely mind-boggling for me.


Tune into all the semi-final action live from 14:00 CEST here on chess24!

See also:

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