Riga GP Final: Immediate retaliation

by Antonio Pereira
7/23/2019 – After a quick loss in game one, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave evened the score of the final with a 32-move win out of an Italian Opening at the Grand Prix in Riga. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov did not react well to his opponent's unhurried approach, which provoked his position to collapse rapidly. The winner of the event will be decided on Wednesday's tiebreaks, starting at 12:00 UTC (14:00 CEST, 8:00 AM EDT). | Photo: Niki Riga / World Chess

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Playing it cool

Instead of lashing out with some excessively aggressive opening, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave correctly predicted that his opponent would not be ready to face a quieter system and played an Italian to tie the score after his loss with the black pieces. It seems only fair for the final match-up to go to tiebreaks, as the Frenchman has accumulated enough merits in Riga to get an extra chance to claim tournament victory.

For Shakhriyar Mamedyarov — who also showed great chess throughout the event — perhaps it will be tougher to face the tiebreaker after having won the first encounter with such ease. On the other hand, he has already dealt with the pressure of playing rapid chess to break a tie in Riga (against Jan-Krzysztof Duda), a factor that might favour him on Wednesday. 

Nevertheless, given the level both players have shown so far in the Latvian capital, we can only expect this to be an exciting showdown. 

Match results

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


Juris Radzevich, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Executive Director of the Riga City Council Juris Radzevich wanted to see an elite game starting with 1.b4  | Photo: Niki Riga / World Chess

Vachier-Lagrave followed an approach in the Italian previously employed by the likes of Sergey Karjakin and Magnus Carlsen until move 14, when Mamedyarov deviated from previous encounters with 14...ad8. Contrary to what might be expected of someone in need of a win, the Frenchman immediately offered an exchange of bishops:


White played 15.c4, and after 15...xc4 16.xc4 Mamedyarov already made an inaccuracy with 16...d7. In their post-game interviews, both players were very critical of this knight retreat, as it permitted White to go for the central break 17.d4 — 16...♞g6 or the quiet 16...♜fe8 were better alternatives.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov alone on the stage | Photo: World Chess

Black's 17...a6 did not completely solve the problem of the queen's inactivity on the side of the board, and White did not take long to put one of his knights on the strong f5-outpost. By move 22, White's position was already highly preferable, but another knight retreat only worsened Black's position:


When Evegny Miroshnichenko asked Vachier-Lagrave at which point he felt he had a winning position, France's number one responded that he got that feeling after 22...c8 23.f3, when he had everything under control in the centre and imminent prospects to use his initiative on the kingside. The game continued 23...d5 24.f2 e6 25.g3:


Mamedyarov had nothing better than, once again, going backwards with one of his knights — 25...e8. White proceeded to gain a pawn with 26.exd5 cxd5 27.xd5 and after 27...f8 he increased the pressure with 28.h4. Five moves later, Mamedyarov stopped the clocks, which meant rapid and blitz (if necessary) will settle the dispute.


Game analysis with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Mamedyarov was not overly discouraged after his loss in game two:

Of course I wanted to win without tiebreaks, but he also played very good today. For me it's okay, I mean, it's not a catastrophe. [...] Yesterday I won a good game and today he [did the same]. Tomorrow we will play again an interesting rapid match.

Meanwhile, Vachier-Lagrave pointed out the fact that he has never faced this situation — to reach tiebreaks in a knock-out tournament after "an exchange of blows". He added:

In both games, one player played well and the other didn't, so I hope we will be fresh and ready for some fight — of course the best games are games when both players play well and give a great fight.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Vachier-Lagrave has his mind set on reaching the 2020 Candidates Tournament | Photo: Niki Riga / World Chess

Post-game interview with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov


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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