Riga GP Final: Mamedyarov's tour de force

by Antonio Pereira
7/22/2019 – Game one of the FIDE Grand Prix final in Riga finished surprisingly quickly, as Shakhriyar Mamedyarov took down Maxime Vachier-Lagrave from the white side of a Grünfeld Defence in 28 moves. The second classical game of the finals will be played on Tuesday, July 23rd, starting at 12:00 UTC (14:00 CEST, 8:00 AM EDT), with Vachier-Lagrave in need of a win to take the match-up to tiebreaks. | Photo: Niki Riga / World Chess

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Two fighters at heart

In his debut at this year's Grand Prix series, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave astonished by reaching the final without needing tiebreaks in any of the first three rounds, thus securing at least eight points for the GP overall standings (after this loss, he could get up to eleven points if he wins on tiebreaks). And he did it by showing his trademark uncompromising style with both colours.

The only player that showed comparable fighting chess (accompanied by good results) in Riga is Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, making the final match-up a fair and highly anticipated affair — and the players did not disappoint, as they did not hesitate to go into a sharp line of the Grünfeld which ended up favouring the Azerbaijani, who put his initiative to good use and got a 28-move win.  


Match results

Click or tap any result to open the game via Live.ChessBase.com

 

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Who will be the last man standing in Riga? | Photo: Niki Riga / World Chess

When Mamedyarov joined the commentary team to talk about his game, Evgeny Miroshnichenko quickly compared his win to the one he had got against Wesley So in game one of the semi-finals, as the Azeri both times played a nice novelty with White and defeated his opponent in no time. Mamedyarov explained that it was not quite the same, however, because in this game there was no forcing drawing line had his opponent found the right continuation, as had been the case against So — it simply was a playable position in which White had good chances.

 

12.f4 was the novelty found by the Azeri's seconds, and Vachier-Lagrave could not adjust to the new situation quickly enough as he faltered after 12...cxd4 13.cxd4 with 13...c6:

 

White continued with 14.d5 and the knight is forced to recluse itself on a5 — in fact, the knight never joined the fray again, as it remained "on the rim" until the end of the game. The players occupied the open file with 15.ac1 fc8, and here Mamedyarov noted that it is all but impossible to find a plan for Black. The player from Sumqayit, therefore, considered the quiet 16.h3 to be a very good move, which reminded him of his victory over Anand in round nine of the Zagreb GCT.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov fully in control | Photo: Niki Riga / World Chess

What followed brought to mind another game from Zagreb — Vachier-Lagrave's final round loss against Magnus Carlsen, another Grünfeld gone wrong for the Frenchman. 

It was already difficult to find any sort of plan for Black and, when Vachier-Lagrave tried to untangle with 17...f6, his opponent needed less than five minutes to find the correct response:

 

White pushed 18.e5 and Black is pretty much busted. Vachier-Lagrave used almost a half hour on the sequence 18...xf3 19.exf6 xf6, but after 20.gxf3 e5 White has 21.d2, when the bishops are ready to target the kingside with decisive effect:

 

Black's knight remained out of play while White calmly created threats against the opposite king until Vachier-Lagrave decided it was time to call it quits after 28 moves.

 

Game analysis with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Vachier-Lagrave now has a +2 performance in classical chess, as he has yet to play a rapid tiebreaker in Riga. If he does not manage to bounce back with a win on Tuesday (starting at 12:00 UTC) he will leave the Latvian capital without showing his skills in accelerated time controls — he has also collected eight GP points, though, the same amount awarded to the champion (without counting extra points).

Regarding his upcoming challenge in game two, the Frenchman declared:

A must-win situation is never pleasant but, you know, I'll just be ready to play for as long as it takes.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

The downside of playing sharp openings almost exclusively | Photo: Niki Riga / World Chess


Post-game interview with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave


Commentary webcast

Commentary by GMs Evgeny Miroshnichenko and Arturs Neikans


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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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Magic_Knight Magic_Knight 7/23/2019 04:16
Not necessarily weak by MVL. But more that Shak demonstrated a superstrong performance!
gerando gerando 7/22/2019 07:57
A huge disappointment for MVL. Very weak performance today.
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