Paris Rapid & Blitz: Grischuk climbs to second place

by Antonio Pereira
7/30/2019 – The rapid section of the Paris Grand Chess Tour was won by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who drew twice and beat Jan-Krzysztof Duda on day three. Alexander Grischuk ascended to sole second place, and stands a full point behind the leader before the eighteen rounds of Blitz kick off on Wednesday — the participants will get a rest day before the tempo speeds up in the French capital. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

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Vachier-Lagrave wins the Rapid

Day three of action at the Paris Grand Chess Tour saw Maxime Vachier-Lagrave playing merely 69 moves total, as he signed short draws against Hikaru Nakamura and Vishy Anand, and got to quickly beat Jan-Krzysztof Duda with the black pieces in round eight. Meanwhile, Alexander Grischuk also played well with Black, as he defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi and Fabiano Caruana from that side of the board to finish the Rapid section in second place.

This means world numbers two and three in the rapid live ratings list will kick off the Blitz section atop the standings table, with Vachier-Lagrave gaining 31.2 rating points to Grischuk's 64.2 in the thirteen rapid games each of them played first in Riga and now in Paris. 

Ian Nepomniachtchi and Vishy Anand are two points behind Grischuk on 10/18 and keep good chances to mount a comeback.

Grand Chess Tour Paris 2019

Finding improvements on Caruana's play? | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Round 7: Keeping it short

Only one game in round seven lasted over forty moves. Vachier-Lagrave v Nakamura and Dubov v Duda were balanced affairs from start to finish; Giri had a preferable position out of the opening against Caruana but chose not to take risks after two days with fogettable results; while Mamedyarov and Grischuk obtained wins of markedly different nature.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, true to his fighting nature, surprised Vishy Anand by playing the Scandinavian. The former world champion went for a line which temporarily gives up a pawn for the initiative (with 9.d5), while his opponent did not hesitate to push his g-pawn when given the chance: 


Very often Mamedyarov plays g4 with White when other players would hardly consider such advance. Here, however, his 12...g5 is backed up by a simple tactical point — in case of 13.♗xg5, Black has 13...d4 and his queen attacks White's bishop from a5. Anand thus opted for the correct 13.g3 and took away his opponent's right to castle a couple of moves later.

A sharp battle followed, with the computer assessing the position as dynamically balanced, until Anand failed tactically:


Instead of defending the bishop with the natural 23.c3, Anand went for 23.he1, perhaps seeing some tactical shot that simply was not there — the Indian ace lost his undefeated streak in Paris after 23...a1+ 24.d2 xd4+, when Black is simply a piece down.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Mamedyarov ready to play the Scandinavian | Photo: Justin Kellar / Grand Chess Tour 

In the Russian derby between Ian Nepomniachtchi against Alexander Grischuk — they are currently the highest-rated players from the country — the latter got a slightly better position out of a 4.d3 Spanish. By move 27, Nepomniachtchi, already in a tough spot, gave up a pawn in order to get some active counterplay:


White went for 28.a5, giving up his d-pawn after 28...bxa5 29.xb7 xe5 30.dxe5 xe3 31.xe3 xe5. The heavy piece endgame with a pawn to the good for Black was expeditiously converted into a win by Grischuk, who now shared second place with Duda a point behind the leader. 

Alexander Grischuk

Alexander Grischuk | Photo: Justin Kellar / Grand Chess Tour

Games from Round 7

Round 8: Black wins

Dubov played his usual brand of incisive opening play with Black against Vishy Anand, and ended up on the worse side of a draw after the Indian missed some chances to increase his edge in the middlegame. His compatriot Grischuk, on the other hand, decided to go for a triple repetition against Giri in a short-lived 13-move draw. The rest of the games finished decisively, with Black getting the win in every instance.

In the key game of the round, Jan-Krzysztof Duda faced Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's Sicilian bravely, as he played 12.h4 with his king still in the centre. But the Frenchman was up to the task, showing his tactical prowess in the sharp struggle that ensued. With Black dangerously pushing his pawns on the kingside, Duda had a difficult decision to make after 17...f5:


18.♘e3 is the computer's suggestion, but that would leave White in a tough situation nonetheless. Duda further weakened his king with 18.c4 and was up against the ropes after 18...xd5 19.cxd5 f4. Four moves later, the Polish grandmaster gave up in a woeful position:


Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

The leader in Paris, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Meanwhile, Fabiano Caruana had Black for a second game in a row and played the Benoni against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. The Azerbaijani allowed his opponent to freely expand on the queenside and must have lamented his decision later, as the American simply pushed his opponent to resign by creating a passer on the b-file and pushing it inevitably:


Resignation came after 34...b2 35.b1 c4 36.f2 d4 37.xd4 xd4+ 38.g2 b3 and Black's queen and rook tandem combined with the threat of promotion put a stop to the game.

Fabiano Caruana, Rustam Kasimdzhanov

Fabiano Caruana and his second Rustam Kasimdzhanov sharing a laugh | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Finally, in the longest game of the day (not only the round), Ian Nepomniachtchi bounced back from his previous loss by getting the better of Hikaru Nakamura from the black side of a Grünfeld Defence. Nepomniachtchi showed sufficient technical abilities to convert an endgame with four bishops on the board — at some point it seemed like the American was about to save the draw, but the victory for Black finally arrived after 93 moves.

Games from Round 8

Round 9: Grischuk's attacking win

Vachier-Lagrave kept his leading position with a second short draw with White on Monday — he signed the peace treaty against Anand after 22 moves. On the other end of the spectrum, Giri, who is alone in the cellar, kept playing it safe to recover from a bad start by signing a quick draw — also with White and also after 22 moves — against Nakamura.

In what he called one of the top 5 games of his career, Alexander Grischuk concluded a remarkable day for him with a victory over Fabiano Caruana. In a double-edged position out of an Italian, the Russian had to go all or nothing for an attack on the kingside — he was already a pawn down and had a clearly inferior pawn structure. Both players faltered in the tactical skirmish, but Caruana's 34th move was the definite mistake:


After 34.g3, Grischuk found the computer's first suggestion, 34...h8, and after 35.b2 he finally got to play the killer blow 35...f3+:


White is doomed. Caruana resigned after 36.gxf3 gxf3 37.fb1 g7 38.xg7+ xg7+ 39.f1 h6 40.e1 xc3+.

Alexander Grischuk

Something doesn't seem to add up for Alexander Grischuk | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Only two out of eight wins on Monday favoured White and both came in round nine. Daniil Dubov got his first victory of the event against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (who is on 7/18 after having drawn only once throughout the event). He faced the Azeri's Scandinavian and showed good tactical alertness when given the opportunity:


Dubov forced his opponent to go into an inferior endgame with the explosive 20.xf7 — Mamedyarov had nothing better than 20...xc3 21.xf8+ xf8 22.b3+ xb3 23.axb3 and White is a pawn up with bishop v knight in an open position. The young Russian got the win seven moves later.

Commenting at the end of the day's play Dubov said:

It’s not  where I wanted to be but it could have been worse. It’s my first experience playing with a delay, and even in the 25min +10sec format I have never been really successful. It’s sort of mysterious that people call three or four different formats as rapid. It’s one word but different games. I was lucky to become a world champion in the 15 min+10sec format which I have been playing my whole life. The 25 minute with a delay of 10 seconds is an absolutely new game for me, no it is not surprising that it takes time to adapt. 

Daniil Dubov

Daniil Dubov adapting to a new format | Photo: Justin Kellar / Grand Chess Tour

Finally, much like in round two, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, with Black, followed a line of the Petroff that was seen in last year's World Championship match. Ian Nepomniachtchi did not repeat Caruana's plan from Saturday but anyway went on to beat his Polish rival. The game lasted 63 moves.

Games from Round 9

Final standings - Rapid


All games


Commentary webcast

WGM J. Shahade, GM P. Svidler, GM A. Ramirez and GM M. Ashley


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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