Belgrade GP: Rapport wins, shares the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/4/2022 – The highlight of day 3 at the FIDE Grand Prix in Belgrade was Richard Rapport’s victory over Vidit Gujrathi. The Hungarian thus caught his round-3 opponent in the lead of pool C. The one other decisive result on Thursday was seen in the same group, as Vladimir Fedoseev got the better of Alexei Shirov. Anish Giri played a remarkable queen sacrifice against Pentala Harikrishna — the game finished in a draw. | Photos: Mark Livshitz

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Rapport and Fedoseev score

FIDE Grand Prix Belgrade 2022Only two out of six games have finished drawn so far in pool C of the Belgrade Grand Prix preliminaries. Vidit Gujrathi kicked off with back-to-back wins to grab the sole lead on Wednesday, but was stopped by Richard Rapport in round 3. The Hungarian beat his colleague to catch him in the lead on 2/3 points. Meanwhile, Vladimir Fedoseev took down Alexei Shirov and stands in sole third place, a half point behind the leaders.

Draws were seen in all the remaining round-3 games, which means only Anish Giri will enter the second half of the prelims as a pool’s sole leader. Despite drawing his first game on Thursday — after scoring wins in the first two rounds — the Dutchman impressed those following the games live, as he correctly calculated that he could sacrifice his queen and then force a draw by perpetual check.

In pool A, Sam Shankland and Dmitry Andreikin continue to share the lead on +1, while pool D has only seen draws so far. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Yu Yangyi and Alexandr Predke are yet to play a decisive game in Belgrade, but not for a lack of trying.

FIDE Grand Prix Belgrade 2022

The playing hall in Serbia’s capital

Pool A: Such is modern chess

Short draws were seen in both games of pool A. Playing black, Sam Shankland safely held the balance against co-leader Dmitry Andreikin. The former US champion played what he described as a ‘not-so-difficult’ novelty on move 18.

 

Thanks to this move, Shankland managed to get a draw in a line “that always felt a little less comfortable for Black despite the pawn up”. What is curious about this pawn push, as the American himself pointed out, is that only hours later Mikhail Antipov used it in his game against Sam Sevian at the Saint Louis Spring Classic.

Shankland concluded:

It clearly didn’t take long to catch on! Such is modern chess.

 
 

Sam Shankland

Sam Shankland

Pool B: Giri’s queen sacrifice

The tournament’s second seed, Anish Giri, has been showing the strongest, most stable performance at the outset of the event. Facing Pentala Harikrishna with the black pieces, the Dutchman went for a good-looking queen sacrifice on move 23.

 

After following theory until move 20, it was apparent, given the clock times, that Giri was better prepared to face this line than his opponent. Nonetheless, after Harikrishna spent over 15 minutes on his 21.e6 and the players quickly played 21...fxe6 22.Qe2, the Dutchman took a long think for the first time in the game.

Almost a half hour later, he played 22...a5. As we know now, he had been preparing to respond to 23.c4 with 23...Qxf3 — the game continued 24.gxf3 (pushing his opponent to show that his idea was sound) Nxd4 25.Qe4 Nxf3+ 26.Kh1 Nxe1

 

We now see Black’s idea: 27.Qxe6+ Rf7 28.Rxe1 Rf8

 

Harikrishna spent over 15 minutes on 29.Rd1, but Giri had already created the setup to secure a draw. He tucked his king away with 29...Kh8, breaking the pin, and after 30.Rd7 proved that there is no way to stop the rooks from giving checks along the f-file. Draw.

 
 

Pool C: Rapport’s fine positional win

As has been mentioned multiple times, strong positional players are also great calculators (Tigran Petrosian is usually the most notable example). Similarly, players who frequently go for tactical struggles can also win positional games when the situation calls for it. On Thursday, Richard Rapport took down former sole leader Vidit Gujrathi by outplaying him in a strategic battle.

 

A long manoeuvring struggle saw Rapport getting a clear advantage in the middlegame. Here the position is almost lost for Black, with most pieces still on the board and no mating threat or deadly attack coming!

Black’s 29...c6 is a sad move to make, blocking the light-squared bishop. Only eleven moves later, Vidit resigned.

Rapport and Vidit are now sharing first place, with Vladimir Fedoseev following a half point back. The Russian defeated Alexei Shirov with the white pieces in round 3.

 
 

Vladimir Fedoseev, Alexei Shirov

Vladimir Fedoseev defeated Alexei Shirov

Pool D: No harm done

At the halfway point, we are yet to see a decisive game in pool D. Remarkably, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was the one closest to suffering a loss, as he survived two inferior positions in the first two rounds, despite kicking off the event with two whites. In round 3, he held Yu Yangyi to a draw with his trusted Grünfeld Defence.

 

29...Bd4+ forces 30.Bxd4 Rxd4 and the rook endgame is drawn despite White’s having an extra pawn on the queenside.

 
 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.

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