Riga GP: Mamedyarov knocks out Dubov

by Antonio Pereira
7/14/2019 – Two players have already been eliminated from the FIDE Grand Prix in Riga, as David Navara could not bounce back from an early loss against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Daniil Dubov was defeated by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov during the second day of action. The rest of the match-ups are tied after two draws, which means six spots will be decided on Sunday's tiebreaks. | Photos: Niki Riga / World Chess

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A long grind leaves Dubov out

On Saturday, four games ended drawn after thirty or fewer moves, with Alexander Grischuk and Nikita Vitiugov the quickest to take their match to tiebreaks — they only played ten moves. Veselin Topalov, Yu Yangyi, Pentala Harikrishna and Anish Giri also gave up trying early on, all of them with the white pieces. Some went a little further to see if they could get something out of their positions, but sober, level-headed play was the standard of the day.

Two hard-fought draws were seen in Jan-Krzysztof Duda v Peter Svidler and David Navara v Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, with the Frenchman going through to round two thanks to his victory on the first day of action. Meanwhile, the only decisive game of the day saw Shakhriyar Mamedyarov eliminating Daniil Dubov after converting a long endgame a pawn up.

Round 1 - Match results

Mamedyarov will be waiting for the winner of the Duda v Svidler match-up, while Vachier-Lagrave will face either Topalov or Nakamura. The tiebreaks kick off Sunday at 12:00 UTC (14:00 CEST / 8:00 AM EDT). 

FIDE Grand Prix Riga 2019

Trying to understand what's going on with the help of the commentators on their headphones | Photo: Niki Riga / World Chess

The main attraction of the day, Dubov v Mamedyarov, started with a Grünfeld Defence that followed a 2013 game between two 2400+ grandmasters until move 18. The Azeri offered a draw as early as move 10 and, after declining the offer, Dubov was the one offering the peace treaty on move 22 — by that point, Mamedyarov felt he already had some hopes of getting an edge, though.


The queens were traded with 22...xe6+ 23.dxe6, and Mamedyarov activated his pieces immediately with 23...g5 24.e3 g7 25.g4 fd8. And the grind began, as Black considered it worthy to see how far he could go with his queenside majority.

On move 36, Mamedyarov finally captured White's e6-pawn, and Dubov tried but could not recover the lost soldier on the kingside, as Black defended his slight material advantage accurately. This was the position when the time control was reached:


The endgame after 41.xg4 is not clearly winning for Black, but it is not easy at all to defend against someone as strong as Mamedyarov. In the end, slowly but surely, the player from Sumqayit pushed his a-pawn until the fourth rank, inciting his rival to resign after 78 moves.


Daniil Dubov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Vachier-Lagrave and Grischuk were clearly interested on their colleagues' treatment of the Grünfeld | Photo: Niki Riga / World Chess

Fighting but nonetheless drawing

David Navara went for 3.b5+ after 1.e4 c5 2.f3 d6, avoiding a huge theoretical battle against Sicilian-expert Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. But the Czech grandmaster needed a win to stay alive, and circumventing complications might not have been the best strategy — with such a strong grandmaster across the board, however, we can only understand his thought process. 

Black kept a solid strategy while sidestepping tactical difficulties and provoking exchanges whenever possible:


The queens were already off the board, and here Vachier-Lagrave renounced the bishop pair with 23...xe4, further simplifying the position. Nevertheless, he did not go for an overly lenient strategy afterwards and kept on finding accurate tactical manoeuvres in order to restrain his opponent's chances. Furthermore, when the draw was signed, the French grandmaster was the one in the driver's seat.


Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will rest on Sunday before his second round match-up | Photo: Niki Riga / World Chess

For a second day in a row, Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Peter Svidler displayed first-rate entertaining chess. The player from Saint Petersburg started taking his time as early as move 5, while he decided on what kind of King's Indian setup he would go for with the black pieces. A complicated skirmish followed, and Duda ended up with the better position thanks to his strong battery on the long diagonal.


Duda had the upper hand after 21.a1, as Black's best chance is to respond with 21...eg8. Converting the positional edge into something tangible was not easy though. The engines think Duda's biggest imprecision later on occurred on move 27:


Instead of 27.fxg3, the Polish could have gone for 27.♘xg3, keeping the g-file open, but that meant he should have seen the advantage does not evaporate with the tempi spent to reroute the knight with ♘e2 back, ♘d4, etcetera. After the text, Svidler kept the balance until the draw was agreed after 42 moves.


Peter Svidler

Peter Svidler does not shy away from complex struggles | Photo: Niki Riga / World Chess  

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Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


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