Hamburg GP: Dubov, Grischuk, Navara and Yu Yangyi go through

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/8/2019 – A pair of rapid games were enough to decide three out of four tiebreaker match-ups at the third leg of the Grand Prix in Hambrug. Daniil Dubov eliminated Teimour Radjabov only when the blitz phase was reached, while David Navara, Alexander Grischuk and Yu Yangyi dispatched their opponents after playing two 25-minute games. Nikita Vitiugov, Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Dmitry Jakovenko were knocked out of the competition. | Photo: Valeria Gordienko

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A last-minute blunder leaves Radjabov out

The third leg of the FIDE Grand Prix is being played in Hamburg, Germany. The 16-player knockout has a €130,000 prize fund, with the series as a whole having an additional prize fund of €280,000 plus two qualifying spots for the 2020 Candidates Tournament. The tournament takes place in the Kehrwieder Haus from November 5th to 17th. You can find more info here.

The pairings for the quarter-finals are set in Hamburg, as the first three days of competition left eight players out of contention. Half the players in round two had a rest day while their colleagues battled it out in Thursday's tiebreakers. Two of the participants that won their matches in the classical phase, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Veselin Topalov, were paired up against each other for a second consecutive time in the Grand Prix.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2777 - Veselin Topalov 2736
Alexander Grischuk 2764 - David Navara 2703
Peter Svidler 2719 - Daniil Dubov 2676
Yu Yangyi 2753 - Jan-Krzysztof Duda 2748

Out of all the players in the quarter-finals, Grischuk and Vachier-Lagrave are the ones with better chances to fight for the top two spots of the series, while Yu Yangyi, Veselin Topalov and David Navara still have outside chances, as they have only played one leg previously and, although they did not do well in their first outing, they could conceivably line up two stellar performances to climb in the standings table.

FIDE Grand Prix Hamburg 2019

The playing hall | Photo: Valeria Gordienko

Grischuk 2½:1½ Wojtaszek

This match-up saw the players pulling out all the stops in three out of their four encounters. After a wild struggle on Tuesday, they signed a quick draw in game two. The common denominator in both cases, however, was that Wojtaszek managed to win the opening battles. Therefore, Grischuk — a highly pragmatic sportsman — decided to use a different strategy during the tiebreaks: 

It was an incredibly tough match. In the first two games, Radoslaw completely killed my openings, so in the rapid I decided to play anything to avoid his preparation.

The first 25-minute game saw the Russian getting a slight pull, but deciding to go for the draw when White's structure seemed difficult to crack open. In the second encounter, Grischuk put forth a King's Indian structure with the white pieces, an opening he confessed "felt dangerous somehow". When the queens left the board, however, White was the one clearly on top:


The players agreed that the deciding mistake of the game was Black's 34...c4 here, as after 35.d4 c6 36.c3 White consolidated his advantage. Grischuk showed good technique and eventually got the win. 

Grischuk vs. Wojtaszek - Tiebreak games


Alexander Grischuk

A well-known pose of Alexander Grischuk's | Photo: Valeria Gordienko

Navara 3:1 Vitiugov

This was the only match that saw a player getting back-to-back wins so far in Hamburg. Navara played Black first on Thursday, and went for a double-edged variation from the get go. Later on, he correctly gave up a queenside pawn to focus his energies on building up a kingside attack:


Navara found the correct 17...h3, giving way to 18.xa5 xg2 19.xg2 xa5 20.xb4 xb4 21.xb4, when White is a pawn up and Black still needs to prove his initiative on the other flank gives enough compensation. Then came 21...h5 and Navara started mounting up the pressure.

Vitiugov was defending correctly until he faltered on move 28, only to make things worse later on by swapping the queens:


There followed 29...xf5 30.exf5 and, although White was two pawns up at the moment, Black's infiltration on the h-file is lethal. Resignation came eight moves later.  

In the rematch, Vitiugov over-pressed with Black and ended up losing again. This was the third time he was knocked out of a Grand Prix event in the first round. Fortunately, the Russian chose to look on the bright side instead of dwelling on his losses:

The ever-polite Navara also had something to say about his rival:

I just want to say that Nikita had been playing quite a lot of chess before this tournament, more than me, so he might have been more tired than me. He did quite well in many tournaments this year, including the World Cup, Isle of Man, and so on, so I considered him a favourite in classical chess, but in rapid we both had chances.  

Navara vs. Vitiugov - Tiebreak games


David Navara

David Navara will face Grischuk in the next round | Photo: Valeria Gordienko

Yu Yangyi 2½:1½ Jakovenko

Yu Yangyi made up for the huge chance he missed in the second classical game — when he failed to convert a completely winning knight endgame — by gaining a pawn and then showing good technique to win the first rapid encounter of the tiebreaks. Dmitry Jakovenko is not one to give up easy tough, and got an advantageous position in the rematch:


The presence of opposite-coloured bishops, combined with queens and rooks on the board, makes king safety the key factor in this position. Here, White could have all but secured the win with 54.♗e5, preventing the black rook from coming back to defend the king. Jakovenko did not find this manoeuvre though and went for 54.c5 instead, giving Black the necessary tempi to regroup — 54...e6 55.f4 e8. The draw was signed shortly after.  

A laid-back Jakovenko showed no remorse about the missed chance in the post-game interview, while Yu Yangyi is set to face the unpredictable Jan-Krzysztof Duda in round two.

Yu Yangyi vs. Jakovenko - Tiebreak games


Dmitry Jakovenko, Yu Yangyi

Dmitry Jakovenko versus Yu Yangyi | Photo: Valeria Gordienko

Dubov 4½:3½ Radjabov

This match-up saw the players signing very quick draws in their first three encounters (after 12, 18 and 15 moves). When the real battle began though, despite their best efforts, the string of split points continued through the 25-minute and the 10-minute games. There was already a strong suspicion that this might result in the first Armageddon of the tournament, but when the blitz phase was reached Dubov finally scored a win.

The Russian's victory had come with the black pieces, so he only needed a draw with White to advance. The audacious 23-year-old is not one to play passively though, and found himself looking for an attack while a pawn down in the rematch. Radjabov defended accurately and was completely winning in the endgame...until disaster struck:


57...e2 58.♔d2 b3 59.♗d4 ♞e3 is a straightforward win. Instead, the winner of the World Cup went for 57...b3 immediately, allowing his opponent to save the game with 58.xe3, and the king stops the b-pawn. Draw.

Dubov vs. Radjabov - Tiebreak games


Daniil Dubov

Not one to go for quiet lines — Daniil Dubov | Photo: Valeria Gordienko

All match results from Round 1


Commentary webcast

Commentary by GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko


Nov. 5–7 Round 1 + Tie-breaks
Nov. 8–10 Round 2 + Tie-breaks
Nov. 11-13 Semi-final + Tie-breaks
Nov. 14 Rest day
Nov. 15-17 Final + Tie-breaks


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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