Daniil Dubov played one of the games of the year to knock top seed Anish Giri out of the FIDE Moscow Grand Prix, but there was drama everywhere. Wesley So hit back to take his match with Jan-Krzysztof Duda to tiebreaks, but Levon Aronian and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov couldn’t win on demand against Ian Nepomniachtchi and Radek Wojtaszek. Also through are Alexander Grischuk, Peter Svidler and Wei Yi, after knocking out Sergey Karjakin, Nikita Vitiugov and Dmitry Jakovenko. Nakamura-Radjabov was the only match to end in two draws before Sunday’s tiebreaks.
You can replay all the games from the FIDE Moscow Grand Prix using the selector below:
Let’s start with the top half of the draw, where we don’t yet know the quarterfinal match-ups:
For a second day in a row Hikaru Nakamura and Teimour Radjabov were the first players to lay down their weapons, with the second draw lasting 14 moves, two more than the day before. Hikaru explained there wasn’t much to say, adding, “Why waste a few more hours when it’s going to be a draw no matter what, so I just offered a draw, and move on”. Teimour chimed in only to say, “Completely agree with Hikaru”.
At the time the assumption was that would be the first of a number of quick draws, and that if Hikaru’s prediction of 80% of matches going to tiebreaks was wrong it wouldn’t be by too much… Shockingly, though, that was the only match that ended without a decisive game!
Wesley So was one of three players needing to win on demand with the white pieces to stay in the tournament, after what he described as “the worst game of my life” against Jan-Krzysztof Duda the day before. He gave himself a 10-20% chance of hitting back and expected to see something like the Petroff Defence on the board, but we were all in for a shock!
Duda explained his decision:
First, I wanted to surprise Wesley. I haven’t played the Dragon before in my life, and I also thought that it’s quite a nice opening - Black is fighting for the initiative since the beginning. Before the game I didn’t know how to play – to play solid chess for a draw, but then we would play like 100 moves in the Petroff, for example, so I thought that perhaps it makes sense to play aggressively.
It was a bold decision, and seemed to be going well when Duda kept playing instantly even as he sacrificed an exchange on move 17. Wesley was also playing fast, however, and after a nice sequence of forcing moves (starting 27.Rc5!) the 21-year-old Pole made a fatal mistake on move 29:
I think I blundered terribly with 29…Bg7?, I actually completely blundered 30.Bxa7!, and I think it’s game-over after this, so perhaps I should have given a check on d5. I don’t remember exactly the position, but ok, after Bxa7 it was game over. It was hopeless.
If blundering a simple pawn capture looks unlikely for a top-class player, it’s worth pointing out that any other capture on a7 loses a piece to a discovered check (30.Rxa7? Nb5+!, 30.Nxa7 Nd1+!) - it's a very tricky position. The game lasted 55 moves, but was over as a contest long before that.
Here are the players afterwards:
None of the remaining six matches needed tiebreaks, and it’s time to get to the Game of the Day, Dubov-Giri.
For the second day in a row Daniil Dubov won the opening battle, with Anish Giri lamenting (the interviewer was the first to use “Mr” here!):
Mr Dubov is a great player. He’s a very dangerous player, but I don’t know why I shot myself in the foot twice.
With 4.Bg5 and 6.a4 Daniil got Anish thinking very early on, while move 11 was a critical juncture:
Given how much of a thorn in the side the f6-pawn would later be it might have been wiser to play 11…Qxf6 here, but Dubov mentioned, "Some smart guy decided to show me these lines not a long time ago", and one potential smart guy is Russian team coach Alexander Riazantsev, who won a nice game there with 12.Nbd2 against Robert Hovhannisyan in the last World Rapid Championship.
Giri spent 22 minutes on the novelty 11…c5, but was then unsure what to do after 12.Nbd2, a move Dubov still remembered from his analysis. Giri understandably had the feeling that things were getting out of control, but Dubov was also taking a leap of faith when he went for a fantastic option 7 moves later:
19.0-0-0!!? could be the definition of castling into danger, but White isn’t without threats of his own, the most obvious of which is checkmate on d8. Dubov described the position as “a complete mess”, while Giri’s spirits were boosted, as he felt he had chances again. The critical moment, it turned out, would come very soon, when 19…Qa5 20.Nb5! Na6 21.Qd7+! Kf8 22.Kb1! was met by 22…Ba3:
Opinions varied on this move, with Dubov saying he thought it was, “a very good move”, while Giri looks to have been closer to the truth:
Ba3 somehow seduced me, because it looked very pretty and I’m threatening a check, and I wanted to give a check so much, but when I gave it I realised happiness is not in checks!
The line Giri was most worried about was 23.Rd4 Rb8 24.Kc2!, but it turns out that after 24…Nb4+ Black is actually on top there. Dubov’s 23.Rd3!, however, looks to be an objectively winning move. Giri was critical of himself for giving a series of checks which drove the white king to e2, when both players felt White was clearly winning, but other options were no better. Instead if Black has salvation in this line it looks to be after 22…Bc5 (also preparing a check!) or 22…Rh7.
In the game it was very far from plain sailing, as illustrated by the position after move 29…h5!
Dubov hadn’t expected this defence (planning Rh6), and took 6 minutes before finally playing 30.Qd4!, which the computer gives as the only winning move. Daniil mentioned it took him a while to realise that 30…Bc5 can be met by 31.Qh4! After that Dubov went on to finish the job smoothly and in real style:
Both players realised it had been something special, with Daniil commenting:
It was one of those games that make us love chess, and during the game I thought that basically the only problem is that somebody has to qualify. Otherwise we would both just enjoy playing some very, very weird position, but the problem was that basically both of us had at least not to lose.
Giri hadn’t enjoyed it quite as much, however:
Both days Daniil was playing, but I was suffering in both games. It’s not really enjoyable when you have no time and it’s not a fun position for Black. It’s a fun position for White when you have a king on f8, it’s a fun position in general, but that’s because you look at it from the white side. From the black side it’s not a fun position.
Anish said he would treat the match as a learning experience. What should he work on?
For more on the game check out the player’s post-game interview:
And here’s Daniil taking us through the game during the English live commentary:
Dubov will play the winner of the Radjabov-Nakamura tiebreak, while the winner of Duda-So will take on Alexander Grischuk, who impressively outplayed his compatriot Sergey Karjakin in a technical position. Karjakin felt things were more or less under control until he played 24…Re8:
Here Grischuk thought 20 minutes and went for 25.Nf1 Be4 26.Ne3 Bxf3 27.Nf5+ Kc6 28.gxf3, opening lines and exposing black weaknesses at the cost of ruining his own pawn structure. Karjakin:
I knew this endgame exists and White can play it, but this Nf1, Ne3 is maybe too deep and I didn’t pay attention to this in my home preparation.
Grischuk had an interesting take on it:
I think the critical moments came after we exchanged the bishops on f3, because I got an initiative thanks to these doubled pawns, but also it’s weak and the h5-pawn is weak, and after this it become just tactics - no ideas, no strategies, just tactics!
There may still have been chances for the “Minister of Defence” to hold, but he denied the suggestion he enjoys this kind of thing:
Basically the game was difficult for me, and I’d say a little bit depressing, because I had to defend a very unpleasant position.
Grischuk went on to win in 52 moves, after setting up a mating net:
Here are the players after the game:
The tournament in Scotland that Sergey mentions is the Lindores Abbey Chess Stars Tournament, a 2-day rapid double round-robin that’s set to feature Magnus Carlsen, Vishy Anand, Ding Liren and one more player. The organisers were waiting to invite a Russian player depending on how the Grand Prix went, and that may well now be Karjakin.
The second half of the grid is all decided:
Much of the same that was written about Grischuk-Karjakin applied to the other all-Russian match-up, Svidler-Vitiugov. Peter Svidler paid tribute to the work he’d recently done with his second Kirill Alekseenko after he went for a fashionable sideline of the Open Ruy Lopez, but didn’t expect to get more than a pleasant but objectively drawn endgame. Nikita Vitiugov also struggled to pinpoint where he went wrong, though move 28 looks like one candidate:
Black can here go for 28…Rxd6!, based on White's weak back rank, since 29.exd6 can be met by 29…Re8! and the threat of mate on e1 allows the black rook to get behind the d-pawn from d1. If White tries to stop that with 30.Be7, then Black has 30…Kf7! when 31.d7? fails to 31…Rxe7! and if White queens the pawn there’s again that back-rank mate. After 28…Rfe8 29.Raxa6 in the game Svidler went on to convert the extra pawn with little difficulty. Here are the players afterwards:
Svidler will now play Radek Wojtaszek, who had a surprisingly easy day at the office. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov could make nothing of a slightly better endgame that the players reached on move 13. Radek was humility personified afterwards:
It’s quite unexpected that I qualified so fast, because I expected a much longer match, but on the other hand of course I was mainly lucky yesterday. It has to be said that in such a short format simply not always the better player wins, and I think this is what more or less happened.
Although Svidler couldn’t remember their previous encounters, he has played Wojtaszek in classical games at three major events: the 2011 European Championship, the 2015 Russian Team Championship and the 2017 World Team Championship. All the encounters ended in draws.
Levon Aronian managed to get the kind of unbalanced position he was looking for to fight for a win, but unfortunately for him Ian Nepomnaichtchi turned out to know more:
Here Nepomniachtchi went for the bold pawn sacrifice 15…c5! 16.dxc5 Bf5! and was already better, before he later accepted a draw offer a pawn up on move 36.
For most of the day it looked as though Dmitry Jakovenko would be Nepo’s quarterfinal opponent, since he’d won a Ruy Lopez battle with Wei Yi and broken through in the centre. The 19-year-old Chinese player had no illusions about the position after 19…Kg7:
I think today I was so lucky, because my position was already very dangerous and I would lose after some accurate moves. Maybe 20.Qf3 was a mistake, maybe he should play 20.Qd3, and then I will lose without any counterchances. Then he made some mistakes and finally I won in his time trouble.
Wei Yi was underselling how beautifully he took over, however:
In the final position White is completely paralysed, with no
good defence against the threat of f5 and giving mate on g2. Wei Yi became the only player to win with the black pieces so far.
So to general surprise no less than six matches were decided without the need for tiebreaks, meaning that Dubov, Grischuk, Nepomniachtchi, Wei Yi, Svidler and Wojtaszek will earn at least 2 Grand Prix points from this series – 1 point if they lose in the next round, and a bonus point for winning a match without tiebreaks.
Fortunately for fans, though, we do have some tiebreaks on Sunday, with Radjabov-Nakamura and So-Duda set to be decided in rapid, blitz and potentially even Armageddon chess. The games start at the same time, so tune into all the action live here on chess24 from 14:00 CEST.
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