Hamburg GP: Grischuk scores crucial win

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/13/2019 – Alexander Grischuk knocked Maxime Vachier-Lagrave out of the Grand Prix in Hamburg by beating him in the second classical game of the semi-finals. Grischuk thus massively increased his chances to reach the 2020 Candidates Tournament through the series. Meanwhile, Daniil Dubov got a slight edge against Jan-Krzysztof Duda, but could not make much of it — their semi-final match-up will be decided in tiebreaks. | Photo: Valeria Gordienko

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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 key match-up in the race to get one of the Candidates spots in Hamburg ended up favouring Alexander Grischuk. During the previous leg in Riga, the Russian had lost against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the semi-finals, but now he was the one knocking out the French to reach the final. 

Grischuk is one of six players that are playing their third and last tournament of the Grand Prix series. Depending on his result in the final, he will end up with anything in the range of 17 to 21 points in the overall standings table. Vachier-Lagrave (13 points), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (10) and Ian Nepomniachtchi (9) will all be playing in Jerusalem. A perfect run at a GP event gives the winner 12 points, in which case the maximum amount of points the runner-up can get is 8. Thus the relevance of Grischuk's win over 'MVL' — beating a direct rival left him with very good odds to finish in the top two.  

Match results

Click or tap any result to open the game via


Grischuk 1½:½ Vachier-Lagrave

With the white pieces, Grischuk decided to avoid a highly theoretical battle, a decision that worked out well against one of the strongest Najdorf/Grünfeld experts. Perhaps noticing that he was not getting much of the opening, Vachier-Lagrave gave up the bishop pair on move 17, giving his rival a small but important strategical edge. A little later, Grischuk made a critical pawn push:


Engines do not think Grischuk's 21.h5 is the very best alternative, but this human move had a strong impact during the ending that would eventually ensue in the game. When all that was left on the board were queens, a white bishop, a black knight and four pawns per side, Black had nothing better than to fracture his structure:


After 37...g5 38.hxg6 xg6, the isolated h-pawn became a new target for White. 

When Grischuk attacked Black's f7-pawn with his queen and bishop, Vachier-Lagrave decided to swap the queens and go into a pure knight v bishop endgame. Grischuk transferred his king to h5, which meant Black needed to keep his monarch on g7, passively defending the h-pawn, while his knight was alone stopping the a-pawn from advancing on the other flank. It was high time for White to use some zugzwang manoeuvres in order to make progress:


Grischuk had patiently reached this setup by moving his bishop along the f1-a6 diagonal, while Black had less flexibility with his knight. Now after 50...d4 White can start thinking about using his king to attack the d-pawn. Grischuk continued to calmly manoeuvre his bishop until getting the all-important 63-move win.  


Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Vachier-Lagrave won both prior rounds without needing tiebreaks | Photo: Nadja Wittmann 

Dubov 1:1 Duda

Given Dubov's track record in the last couple of tournaments, it was slightly surprising to see him going for a line in which White gets a small edge after a queen trade that came as early as move 12. Dubov explained:

Maybe White is not better, but it's probably time to play a game that would consist of more than twelve moves or something. [...] I have to admit that Jan-Krzysztof probably defended reasonably well — even now, I don't see a point where I could win by force or anything.

The players will return to the Theater Kehrwieder on Wednesday, when a series of rapid games will decide who will be facing Grischuk in the final.


Daniil Dubov

Daniil Dubov on his way to the playing hall | Photo: Valeria Gordienko

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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Magic_Knight Magic_Knight 11/14/2019 09:31
RUNSLACK: Actually I was going to say that Grischuk is usually the one I see that gets weak/choke in crucial moments. That's why I'm so glad to see him make it to the finals. Grischuk plays super strong during the beginning of tournaments but usually ends up tripping before the end.
Stupido Stupido 11/13/2019 02:01
MVL's choice of opening is puzzling, after his word cup game against Radjabov.
The wild card idea is flawed. Unlike a single local tournament where it makes sense for organizers to invite a local hero, candidates should be selected by their results and nothing else. A wild card is not meant to be the most deserving non-qualified and if they pick Alekseenko because he is Russian and eligible, it would be his second wild card after the world cup.
Phillidor Phillidor 11/13/2019 10:18
Thinking about the wild card candidates: (1) there is MVL as the highest not qualified player from the World Cup, (2) there is Kirill Alekseenko from the Grand Swiss, (3) there are Nepo, Mamed and So from the top 10, also Grischuk and Giri but they are almost "already there". MVL is a good wild card candidate if he doesn't qualify through the Grand Prix. By all means he has good chances to qualify for the Candidates. Nepo and Mamed are also good wild card candidates, there is also Wesley So, but in my opinion this year just wasn't his year and he would definitely need to win the last Grand Prix series at least to show he would be a "deserved" wild card nominee. Finally, I would seriously think about Alekseenko as a wild card candidate. He was top 16 in the World cup and he only got beaten by the 1st seed Ding Liren. Besides, he didn't even have the chance to play the Grand Prix. He is an improving young player and he did all he could, never disappointed. He deserved his chance by all means.
runslack runslack 11/13/2019 05:20
MVL is way to weak in the crucial moment (as usual). I doubt he will ever go to the Candidates :(
Magic_Knight Magic_Knight 11/13/2019 03:36
Grischuk!!!!!! Very nice endgame. 46.Kg4! I don't think I would've ever found that move, I would've been too scared to walk away from black's passed center pawn.