FIDE Grand Prix Final Leg Begins In Jerusalem
The first day of the final Grand Prix. Photo: Niki Riga/WorldChess.

FIDE Grand Prix Final Leg Begins In Jerusalem

| 8 | Chess Event Coverage

The final leg of the 2019 Grand Prix series started today in Jerusalem. The tournament that will decide two qualifiers for the 2020 Candidates' Tournament featured all draws on day one.

The Jerusalem Grand Prix is a 16-player knockout with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Wesley So (U.S.), Sergey Karjakin (Russia), Yu Yangyi (China), Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia), Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria), Dmitry Jakovenko (Russia), David Navara (Czech Republic), Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Poland), Wei Yi (China), Pentala Harikrishna (India), Boris Gelfand (Israel), Dmitry Andreikin (Russia) and Wang Hao (China).

Andreikin and Wang Hao are replacements for Levon Aronian (Armenia) and Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan), whose withdrawals from the tournament for medical reasons were allowed by FIDE.

Wang Hao Jerusalem Grand Prix Chess
Wang Hao, already in the candidates as the winner of the FIDE Grand Swiss, is one of the substitutes in Jerusalem. Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

After Alexander Grischuk's victory in the previous Grand Prix in Hamburg, Germany, the Russian player finished his series and now leads the overall standings. He has likely qualified for the candidates, and will be watching from home whether Mamedyarov, Vachier-Lagrave or Nepomniachtchi will join him at the Candidates' Tournament in Yekaterinburg, Russia in March. More players still have a (theoretical) chance as well.

2019 FIDE Grand Prix Series | Current Standings

# Fed Player Moscow Riga Hamburg Jerusalem GP points TB1 TB2 TB3
1 Grischuk 7 3 10 x 20 1 1 12½
2 Vachier-Lagrave 8 5 13 0 1 9
3 Mamedyarov 0 10 10 1 0
4 Nepomniachtchi 9 0 9 1 0 5
5 Duda 0 1 7 x 8 0 1 8
6 Dubov 2 0 3 x 5 0 0 6
7 Wojtaszek 5 0 5 0 0 5
8 Svidler 2 0 2 x 4 0 0
9 So 1 3 4 0 0
10 Nakamura 3 0 0 x 3 0 0 4
11 Topalov 1 2 3 0 0
12 Yu Yangyi 1 1 2 0 0
13 Wei Yi 2 0 2 0 0 3
14 Karjakin 0 1 1 0 0
15 Navara 0 1 1 0 0 2
16 Vitiugov 0 0 0 x 0 0 0
17 Radjabov 0 0 0 0 0 2
18-21 Giri 0 0 0 0 0
18-21 Jakovenko 0 0 0 0 0
18-21 Aronian 0 0 0 0 0
18-21 Harikrishna 0 0 0 0 0
22-23 Andreikin 0 0 0
22-22 Wang Hao 0 0 0 0

(Tiebreaks: 1. number of first places, 2. number of second places, 3. number of actual standard game points scored. GP Winner gets eight points, runner-up five, semifinalists three, quarterfinalists one, and each match win without a tiebreak earns an extra point.)

The only way for Grischuk to miss out on the Candidates' Tournament is if Mamedyarov beats MVL in the Jerusalem final after MVL has won his first three matches without a tiebreak, and Mamedyarov wins sufficient matches without a tiebreak to reach 20 Grand Prix points.

Boris Gelfand Jerusalem Grand Prix Chess
Boris Gelfand enters the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center and the Grand Prix in the last event on his home soil. Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

With all draws on the first day we do know one thing: If MVL also draws his second game with Topalov tomorrow, Grischuk will be officially qualified.

With all the possible scenarios, it's no surprise that we saw some tense games on the first day. All of them ended in draws, and probably just one had real winning chances.

Vachier-Lagrave had to play just three days after ending his Grand Chess Tour in London. "It's tough, but it's been tough for most part of the year," he said. "At some point I just got into the rhythm."

The French GM had faced Topalov in the second round in both Riga and Hamburg, and this time it's the same pairing but already in the first round. MVL: "Veselin is a very good opponent; we got a lot of fighting games together. What more to ask for?"

Vachier-Lagrave Jerusalem Grand Prix Chess
Vachier-Lagrave doesn't mind facing Topalov again. Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

Topalov pointed out that he had lost both white games in the earlier matches, one with 1.e4 and one with 1.d4, so his draw with 1.c4 today was "much better."

He was also much better in the game, as his opponent admitted: "I was under a lot of pressure today. I didn't manage to equalize and my position was very suspicious at some point," said MVL.

The defensive piece sacrifice was hard to assess but worked out well in the game.

Topalov Vachier-Lagrave Jerusalem Grand Prix Chess
Topalov vs. Vachier-Lagrave. Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

The player who got closest to a win today was Wei, who was an exchange for a pawn up against Giri. The Dutchman had mixed up something in the opening, and felt he might have been lost.

As the other six games had already ended in draws, there was still something to play for: to keep the scores aligned.

"That was the only thing that kept me going," Giri said. "I saw that everybody else made a draw. I thought maybe it's today's magic, so I have to try to use it."

Anish Giri Jerusalem Grand Prix Chess
Giri defended a tough endgame. Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

The other games can be found in the game viewer below.

On Thursday, the games will be played with reversed colors. Matches that will see another draw will be decided in a tiebreak on Friday.

The other games of day one:

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