Alexander Grischuk wins the third leg of the Grand Prix in Hamburg

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/18/2019 – Alexander Grischuk defeated Jan-Krzysztof Duda 2½:1½ in the rapid tiebreakers of the final match at the FIDE Grand Prix in Hamburg. He thus claimed tournament victory and greatly increased his chances of reaching next year's Candidates. The Russian lost the first game of the day but bounced back with two straight victories. In the fourth encounter of the day, he had a winning position when the draw was agreed. | Photo: Valeria Gordienko

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Superior opening preparation

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 third leg of the FIDE Grand Prix series concluded on Sunday and crowned Alexander Grischuk as its champion. Grischuk's victory earned him €24,000 and almost secured him at least second place at the overall series, despite him not participating in the final leg. The Russian received 10 GP points in Hamburg and now leads the standings table on 20 points. 

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (13 points), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (10) and Ian Nepomniachtchi (9) are yet to play the fourth leg in Jerusalem and are the main contenders to get one of the two spots in next year's Candidates. However, only an unlikely occurrence would leave Grischuk out of the top two — e.g. Mamedyarov winning and Vachier-Lagrave finishing in second place, plus both of them getting three extra points by winning matches without needing tiebreaks.

During the press conference, the champion stated:

I think I would have had great chances even [if I got] second place, even if I lost the final. But there is also first place, it also counts, there are overall prizes and so on, so now it will be very pleasant for me to watch the final event. Of course I wish luck to everyone who can still qualify: to Shakh Mamedyarov, to Nepomniachtchi and to Maxime...but to Maxime I wish luck but not too much luck, because I don't want him to overtake me. I mean, I cannot be rooting against myself (laughs).

Grischuk also talked with Macauley Peterson, who stressed the importance of the three extra points obtained after winning the final. When referring to the outside chance of being eliminated after the fourth leg in Jerusalem, Grischuk explained:

I would not even care if that happens. I mean, it's not my fault. I did everything I could. But of course I want to take first. In general, to win the whole series is much bigger than winning just one event.

And he should know — Grischuk qualified to the 2018 Candidates by finishing the 2017 FIDE Grand Prix series in second place, behind Mamedyarov

Alexander Grischuk

Grischuk achieved a memorable triumph in Hamburg | Photo: Nadja Wittmann

When the tiebreakers were about to begin, twenty spectators were sitting in the playing hall. Grischuk arrived on stage at 14:57, collar turned up, looking a bit dishevelled. In typical style, he sat, adjusted his pieces and left a minute later. Duda, in turn, emerged from the rest area, evidently having arrived in the hall earlier, looking fresh and well-dressed. As the games started to unravel, more spectators kept showing up, until the hall was almost full by the end of the day's action.

Duda played White first and kicked off the final's play-offs with a convincing win. After Grischuk failed at making the most of his kingside initiative, Duda went on to show the strength of the bishop pair and the importance of having so much control over the centre:


White has just played 22.d4 and is now ready to activate his pieces and slowly get the upper hand. For a while, Duda seemed to be losing the grip of the position. However, he ended up showing the superiority of his setup and getting the first full point of the day.

Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Alexander Grischuk

The initial handshake of the rapid tiebreakers | Photo: Nadja Wittmann

Game two kicked off at 16:15 sharp. The finalists shook hands and Grischuk paused for several seconds before playing 1.d4. For a third time in the match-up, the Russian got an opening advantage, as he also got the upper hand from the get go in the classical encounters. He first won a pawn on the queenside, then infiltrated the opposite camp with his pieces, and finally put an end to the game with an elegant knight move:


Resignation came after 32.d7. Of course, 32.♕xe8 also won, but Grischuk did not miss the opportunity to show a finer blow. The Russian would later comment:

Definitely I was getting amazing positions out of the openings.

25-minute games


A quicker time control would now be used to decide a winner. When the 10-minute games were about to start, the players took off their jackets. The tension was rising notoriously and Grischuk had the white pieces first. On move 10, the 36-year-old uncorked a strong novelty:


The central expansion with 10.d5 gives up a pawn, but it is also the first suggestion of the engines. Duda had won a game with Black from this position back in 2013, which prompted Grischuk to take a look at some lines here, although not very deeply. He told Macauley:

I even saw that the computer gives it with a big advantage. Of course, I didn't analyze [the move]. I mean, nowadays you are not analyzing won positions because there are so many equal positions to analyze (laughs).

As Grischuk said, this is a strong novelty that gives White a large edge. Naturally, the players spent most of their thinking time on moves 11 to 15, after which Black had castled queenside and White had a host of alternatives to increase his dominance. On move 19, Duda missed his last chance to put up more resistance.

Eventually, an ending with a large material advantage for White was reached:


White's rook and bishop still need to deal with the passers on the queenside, and both contenders were pretty much playing on increments at this point. A well-known time trouble addict, Grischuk would later declare: 

Actually with seconds he played much better than me. I barely won this position with a rook for a pawn. [...] But I was getting much better positions before we got to the seconds. 

Alexander Grischuk

The man of the hour — Alexander Grischuk | Photo: Nadja Wittmann

Now it was Duda's turn to win on demand, and he had White. The Polish used the same approach that had served him well to take down Daniil Dubov in the semis: to go for simple playable positions and try to outplay his opponent later on. The strategy seemed to be working out well, as Grischuk spent over five minutes on his seventh move (don't forget these are 10-minute games):


The Russian explained that he was already looking for lines that would give him a large edge. He did not remember the position, but he did find that 7...♝d6 was the strongest attempt for Black — a move played by the likes of Caruana or Mamedyarov in the past. Despite spending quite some time, he was not convinced, which prompted him to go for the "sort of practical move" 7...c5.

Not long afterwards, White had the more comfortable position, but Duda could not convert it into anything meaningful — Grischuk would later retold how his colleague commented that he had not been able to recover emotionally after the two straight losses. Pressed to win, Duda started to lose the thread. Grischuk took over, and the match came to an end when Duda offered a draw from a totally lost position. The Russian could not hide his emotions:

The first thing Grischuk mentioned during the press conference was how much he had enjoyed the match against the young Polish star:

I want to thank Jan-Krzysztof for an incredible match. I was enjoying every moment of each game all three days. [...] All games were very tense, huge fights, no short draws or anything.

Duda had a great run as well. He declared:

My play here was great. I didn't expect to get to the final. I didn't even expect to get to third round, because I found Ian Nepomniachtchi and Yu Yangyi [his opponents from the first two rounds] to be probably the most unpleasant players for me. [...] But I was lucky they both blundered in one move.

The decisive leg of the series will be played in Jerusalem, starting December 11th.

10-minute games


Jan-Krzysztof Duda

Jan-Krzysztof Duda did not expect to perform as well as he did | Photo: Nadja Wittmann

Additional reporting by Macauley Peterson

Match results

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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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