Alexander Grischuk said it felt like his “best game ever” as he crushed Fabiano Caruana with Black in the final rapid round of the Paris Grand Chess Tour. That took him up to 2nd place, but there was no stopping Maxime Vachier-Lagrave cruising to victory with two easy draws and a 23-move win over Jan-Krzysztof Duda. No-one else could mount a concerted challenge, with 3rd place Vishy Anand and Ian Nepomniachtchi trailing the world blitz no. 1 by a full 3 points before the upcoming 18 rounds of blitz.
You can replay all the games from the 2019 Paris Grand Chess Tour using the selector below:
And here’s the live commentary on Day 3 of the event:
The question in Paris was always going to be who would take advantage of the vacuum left by the absence of World Champion Magnus Carlsen, and so far the answer has been MVL. The French no. 1 won 4 of his first 5 games in his home city, and made no mistakes on the final day of rapid chess:
He outlined his strategy after starting the day with a quick Berlin Endgame draw against Hikaru Nakamura:
My result of course is very solid so far, and I will need to get two more good games, hopefully win one of them, and then it would be great to be in the lead before starting the blitz. It would be nice, for a change.
That mission was accomplished with the greatest of ease. In the next round 21-year-old wild card Jan-Krzysztof Duda had the white pieces and could have snatched the lead with a win, but instead Maxime proved better prepared in a 3.Bb5+ Sicilian. Duda went for an inventive pawn sacrifice more out of necessity than choice, but when he couldn’t find the best follow-up his position collapsed and he resigned on move 23:
Maxime had achieved the win he wanted and got the overall victory he wanted with a quick 22-move draw against Vishy Anand in the final round of the day. He commented:
It’s all good, really. I’m in the lead, and like I said, I don’t think it ever happened to me after the rapid.
The world blitz no. 1 outperformed Magnus in the blitz section in Abidjan earlier this year and once famously came from behind to force a tiebreak against Magnus in Paris, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge for his rivals.
3-time World Blitz Champion Alexander Grischuk is by far the best-placed player to catch Maxime, after he scored 5/6 on the final day of rapid chess. He began by outplaying Ian Nepomniachtchi on the black side of an Anti-Berlin after seizing the initiative by move 20. Peter Svidler marvelled at how “dour” his friend’s face looked before the post-game interview with Maurice Ashley, and although that was Grischuk’s 3rd win of the event he was still harking back to the 2018 St. Louis Rapid and Blitz, where he’d started with 15 games (including 6 blitz) without a win:
As I said, in St. Louis I won zero, so any number is better… Winning some games is a major improvement over St. Louis.
Grischuk was moving into contention in Paris, but he didn’t seem to be oozing ambition when he took a 13-move draw with the white pieces against Anish Giri in the next round. It turned out, however, that that was just the prelude to the game of the day, tournament and perhaps more... Grischuk commented:
At the moment it feels like my best game ever, one of the top five definitely, so I don’t even want to spoil it by looking at what the computer suggests!
He had Black against Fabiano Caruana, and went for a Giuoco Piano line where he felt he had to go all-in:
You cannot really play it positionally. You just have to go for an attack and then you just see if it works or not.
The game became far too complicated to attempt a brief summary, but although the computer points out ways White could get an advantage, at least at a relatively low depth, it turned out there wasn’t much wrong with how Grischuk played. In the final stages his play was close to flawless, and he was very glad to see afterwards that the winning 34…Kh8! was also the engine's first choice:
After 35.Rb2 he went for 35…Nf3+!, but got a shock later when the computer pointed out that was an only move:
Uuuf, and only move Nf3+! Oh my God. I didn’t know…
He’d thought he could also play 35…Rh7 first, but in that case it turns out the king is able to escape, something Alexander described as, “Mission Impossible”.
After 36.gxf3 gxf3 37.Rfb1 Rg7 38.Qxg7+ Qxg7+ 39.Kf1 Rh6 40.Ke1 Grischuk found 40…Qxc3+!, forcing mate-in-2 and ensuring there was no spoiling a fantastic game in time trouble.
Grischuk is almost unique in world chess in valuing rapid and blitz higher than classical chess, and gave an unexpected answer when asked about chess and cycling:
Maybe classical chess can be compared to the Tour de France, because it's very boring and goes on for days.
So he was in no way joking when he commented of his game against Caruana:
I’m playing for 20 years professionally and, as I said, it’s my Top 5 for sure, maybe Top 3 games, so yeah, it doesn’t happen often!
He then added gnomically,
As they say in Russia, even a stick shoots once a year!
Don't miss his interview if you haven't seen it yet:
Only two other players achieved a plus score on the final day. One of them was Daniil Dubov, who finally got a first win, even if he couldn’t hide his disappointment that an out-of-sorts Shakhriyar Mamedyarov didn’t allow him to finish in style:
Shakh resigned here, when he could instead have played a
move like 30…Rd6 to allow the beautiful mate 31.Rh5+!! gxh5 32.g5# Dubov, who
had earlier allowed Nakamura mate on the board, commented on the topic:
Different people have different opinions about it. I don’t think it’s anything special. If you’re completely lost you can allow it, but also you’re not forced to allow it. I don’t think there’s a definite decision that suits all the people. I think both things are ok. Shakh decided to resign. It’s not that I’m blaming him or anything like that. It’s ok.
Dubov wasn’t too proud of that game since he felt Mamedyarov was, “obviously really, really depressed” after a heavy loss to Caruana in the previous round. Perhaps that was the case, but before that Shakh had had some good fortune – Vishy Anand lost the thread in a good position and then blundered horribly:
23.c3! was the one move to retain completely equality, but Vishy instead played 23.Rhe1?? when after 23…Qa1+ 24.Kd2 Rxd4+ there were no tricks and Anand had to resign a piece down. That was the first loss for the Indian 5-time World Champion, and two draws in the remaining two games left him in 3rd place on 10/18.
He was joined on that score by Ian Nepomniachtchi, who bounced back from a loss to Grischuk to grind out impressive endgame victories over Hikaru Nakamura and Jan-Krzysztof Duda.
Hikaru was hugely frustrated after finally going astray at the very end:
After 88.Kc4 or 88.Kc2 there’s nothing Black can do to force a win. If Black moves his bishop towards f2 or g3 White can respond with Bh4. 88.Kd4? instead allowed Black to transfer the bishop with check via 88…Bb6+! and then after 89.Ke5 there was not 89.Bf2?, when Hikaru could exchange bishops and still stop the pawn, but 89…Bc7+! It looks as though that was the move Nakamura missed, and it was only after an agonised pause that he continued 90.Kf5 Bg3! and three moves later resigned. It was quite a spectacle!
The player who had the quietest day was Anish Giri, since after four losses and two draws he decided to delay any heroics until the blitz:
Whenever I play bad I always try to recover. Today I decided that recovering is not the right strategy, I just have to stop the bleeding and gain confidence for the blitz, because there will be two days of blitz, that’s a lot of blitz games, and I don’t want to continue my losing streak forever. So I thought today I would play very safe with White, which I believe I’m still capable of, even if I’m half dead, and I just have one black game to survive, and I survived quite easily, so I’m happy.
That left more time to focus on social media, where the Dutch star’s attention has switched to Instagram:
At some point I got a little bit bored with Twitter because there was nothing more to achieve there. I already trash talked everyone in all possible ways and I needed to find new hobbies, so there I am, with baby pictures and food pictures and whatnot.
He still threw Twitter a bone…
…but yes, there’s more to be found on Instagram:
So after the rapid section of the 2019 Paris Grand Chess Tour the standings look as follows:
Tuesday is a rest day, then on Wednesday and Thursday we have 18 rounds of blitz that will determine the Paris Grand Chess Tour champion. Maxime goes into that as a very clear favourite, but that can all change very fast! Tune in from 15:00 CEST for live commentary here on chess24.
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