Moscow GP: Only two match-ups go to tie-breaks

by Antonio Pereira
5/19/2019 – A day full of exciting chess at the Moscow Grand Prix ended up with six players qualifying to the second round without needing rapid and blitz tie-breaks. Daniil Dubov, Wei Yi, Alexander Grischuk, Peter Svidler, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Radoslaw Wojtaszek secured their spots in the quarter-finals, while Wesley So defeated Jan-Krzysztof Duda to tie the score, and Teimour Radjabov signed another quick draw with Hikaru Nakamura. | Photo: World Chess

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No lack of fighting spirit

On the first two days of action at the first leg of the Grand Prix, eight out of sixteen games finished decisively, while more than a couple of draws were hard-fought struggles. The only exception was the match-up between Teimour Radjabov and Hikaru Nakamura, who played twelve and fourteen moves before signing draws on Friday and Saturday. In the post-game interviews both of them showed that they have no issues with determining the winner of the mini-match on tie-breaks.

On Sunday, they will decide who goes through by playing two rapid games with a time control of 25+10. If these two games do not lead to a decision, two more rapid games will follow, though with a shorter time control of 10+10. Should these also end in a tie, blitz will be played: first two games with a time control of 5+3, and if these still bring no decision the match will be decided in Armageddon.

Levon Aronian

Levon signing some autographs before the round | Photo: World Chess

There was no lack of fighting spirit in the other seven mini-matches though...

So 1:0 Duda: A dragon appears out of the blue

After getting a quick win in the first encounter, everybody expected Jan-Krzysztof Duda to play something solid with Black — Wesley So himself confessed that he had mostly prepared for a Petroff. Duda had none of it, though, and played a Sicilian Dragon, going for a fight right from the get go. The players followed theory until move 20, although So seemed to be out of book on move 18 (quite deep nonetheless). 

In the sharp line they explored, Black gave up an exchange for a pawn, but opened up White's king in return. Quickly enough, however, Wesley gave back the exchange:


With 27.c5 White gave way to 27...xc3 28.xe5 xe5, but then came 29.c6:


Now White gets the a-pawn after 29...g7 30.xa7 — the passers on the queenside turned out to be impossible to deal with and So got the point after 55 moves. Thus, Wesley tied the score, which means this is the other match-up to be decided on tie-breaks tomorrow.

Wesley So, Jan-Krzysztof Duda

Wesley and Jan-Krzysztof will play rapid and maybe blitz on Sunday | Photo: World Chess

Dubov 1:0 Giri: A strong wildcard

Daniil Dubov's win over top seed Anish Giri was clearly the highlight of the day — a wild struggle with both kings uncastled and sharp attacking chances for both sides. Dubov described it thus: "It was one of those games that, you know, makes us love chess". 

Giri started taking his time on move seven and found himself unable to deal with the complications while his clock was dangerously ticking down. By move 16, it was pretty clear that both kings would remain in the centre:


After 17.xd4 taking the queens off the board would be a big concession by Black, so Giri continued 17...xb5. Dubov thought for ten minutes before going 18.xc3 and Anish pinned the knight with 18...b4:


Daniil played 19.0-0-0 and commented: "When I played long castle I felt like it's just a complete mess". And we cannot disagree with his assessment! The Russian added: "Yesterday it was a complete mess and, I mean...I honestly think I don't have a single idea of what was going on. And today, I mean, it's kind of the same obviously".

Daniil Dubov

The organizers' wildcard did not disappoint | Photo: World Chess

The game had to keep going despite the players not having much of a clue of what was going on, however, and according to the computers Giri's big mistake was 22...a3. The Dutchman went on to protect his monarch on the kingside, but White's initiative was too much to handle. Dubov did not blunder in defence and got the win after 36 moves, with mate-in-three on the board:


Giri resigned, as 37.xf7+ is a killer blow.

Post-game interview with Dubov and Giri

All interviews available at World Chess' YouTube channel

Jakovenko 0:1 Wei Yi: The tables are turned

Chinese prodigy Wei Yi made a name for himself by winning sharp games in the Sicilian. Against Dmitry Jakovenko, however, he answered to 1.e4 with 1.e5, and a Ruy Lopez appeared on the board. Jakovenko showed good preparation and spirited play to get an advantage in the middlegame, but then lost the thread around move 21. Dmitry was an exchange up but Black was the one with the initiative in the endgame that ensued. Soon enough, the Russian had to resign with his queen about to get trapped:


Black threatens to play 34...f5 and the queen has no place to go. White could try to give up the bishop after 34.c8 or give up the exchange with 34.xd4, but there is no way to stop Black's coordinated pieces from charging at White's king (with the extra threat of advancing his passed pawn on the c or d-files). Jakovenko resigned.

Wei Yi confessed:

I think today I was so lucky, because my position was already very dangerous. [...] He made some mistakes and finally I won in his time trouble.

Wei Yi

Wei Yi will face Nepomniachtchi in round two | Photo: World Chess

Russian duels are decided on endgames

Both all-Russian match-ups of round one were decided on endgames difficult to assess. Peter Svidler and Alexander Grischuk defeated Nikita Vitiugov and Sergey Karjakin, respectively, after quickly drawing with Black on day one and making the most of small advantages on day two.

Grischuk, playing White, had the inferior pawn structure but an easier path to get the initiative in the following position:


Karjakin started defending passively with 28...g8. From that point on, Grischuk used the semi-open files in his favour and managed to get the win after 52 moves. Alexander explained afterwards:

After this [the doubling of the f-pawns] it just becomes, sort of, just tactics, [with] no ideas, no strategies, just tactics. And I think we didn't play it too great, this phase of the game, but still I was luckier...

When asked about his future plans, Karjakin implied that he might participate at the Lindores Abbey Tournament in Scotland, although nothing is yet confirmed.

Sergey Karjakin, Alexander Grischuk

Karjakin and Grischuk | Photo: World Chess

Meanwhile, Peter Svidler was a pawn up with White against Nikita Vitiugov, although both players considered that the endgame which showed up on the board should be drawn with correct play. Vitiugov mentioned that probably the turning point came after 31.Bd8:


Nikita confessed:

I was sure it should be a draw. It was analysed definitely by me, but somehow it wasn't so easy to find the correct way at the board, so actually at the moment I'm not sure about where it went wrong.

Peter agreed:

We both felt that this endgame somehow has to be a draw, but obviously it's easier to play with an extra pawn, and something somewhere has gone wrong...and then I managed to convert my advantage.

Post-game interview with Svidler and Vitiugov

Shak and Levon could not win on demand

Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Ian Nepomniachtchi arrived in day two well-prepared to hold on with the black pieces in order to get a pass to the next round. In both cases, their rivals did not manage to get a position that would allow them to look for ways to use even the smallest of edges to get the necessary win. Therefore, world's numbers five and ten in the ratings list  — Mamedyarov and Aronian — are out of the competition.

Levon clearly stated what went wrong for him against 'Nepo':

In my openings I wasn't I have to work on that.

Levon Aronian

Levon could not mount a comeback with White | Photo: World Chess

Quarter-finals pairings

Daniil Dubov vs. [Radjabov or Nakamura]
Alexander Grischuk vs. [Duda or So]
Ian Nepomniachtchi vs. Wei Yi
Peter Svidler vs. Radoslaw Wojtaszek

All games



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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