Vachier-Lagrave, Nepomniachtchi Advance In Jerusalem, Mamedyarov Out Of The Candidates
Vachier-Lagrave and Topalov playing for the third time in the 2019 FIDE Grand Prix series. Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

Vachier-Lagrave, Nepomniachtchi Advance In Jerusalem, Mamedyarov Out Of The Candidates

Rakesh
IM Rakesh
|
29 | Chess Event Coverage

Day three of the 2019 FIDE Grand Prix in Jerusalem saw seven matches decided on tiebreaks. At the end, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ian Nepomniachtchi advanced to keep their Candidates' 2020 hopes alive while Shakhriyar Mamedyarov lost and is out.

All other Russian players—Dmitry Andreikin, Sergey Karjakin, and Dmitry Jakovenko—also advanced today with David Navara and Wei Yi

The view of the playing hall with seven tiebreaks! Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

Frenchman Vachier-Lagrave faced former world champion Veselin Topalov for the third time in the 2019 FIDE Grand Prix series. But this time was the first that they played a tiebreak as Vachier-Lagrave had won both earlier matches in the standard portion.

He won both games and takes a big step towards the candidates. In game one of the rapid portion, they played the same line as in the standard game. Interestingly, Vachier-Lagrave repeated the same line against Topalov's Berlin, but it was Black who first deviated with 10...Be7. White gradually improved his position with every trade and got a passed e-pawn in the rook endgame. Vachier-Lagrave used his king and the passed pawn to bring home the point in a simple yet instructive game.

The return game featured the razor-sharp Sicilian Najdorf. Topalov chose a rather timid setup with 8.Be2. He slowly built a fine position in the middlegame, and his position looked promising for a comeback. Then an inaccuracy allowed Black back into the game. With his chances looking bleak, Topalov sacrificed a piece, but it backfired, and Vachier-Lagrave comfortably scooped his second win of the day to advance 2-0.

Vachier-Lagrave takes a huge step towards his first Candidates' | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess
Vachier-Lagrave takes a huge step towards his first candidates. Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

Vachier-Lagrave will now face Andreikin in the quarterfinals after the latter defeated Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland who blundered in a highly complicated position in the 25+10 rapid portion. 

Andreikin once again proved his mettle in the faster time controls. | Photo: NIki Riga/World Chess
Andreikin once again proved his mettle in the faster time controls. Photo: NIki Riga/World Chess.

Nepomniachtchi survived a scare from the veteran Boris Gelfand yesterday. But he also kept his candidates hopes alive (without the wildcard) as he beat Gelfand 2-0, similar to Vachier-Lagrave vs. Topalov. Nepomniachtchi played a poor opening as White in game one of the rapid but somehow survived. He then grabbed the initiative after consolidating. In a game marred with mistakes, Nepomniachtchi locked Gelfand's kingside play, countered successfully on the queenside via the c-file and won.

Gelfand played a fantastic game in the return game. He tried his best in a must-win situation, complicated matters beyond measure and came very close. Nepomniachtchi held on precariously. In severe time-trouble, Gelfand blundered and finally resigned. Thanks to this win, Nepomniachtchi's candidates hopes continue for another round. He has to fare better than Vachier-Lagrave to secure the second spot from the Grand Prix after his compatriot Alexander Grischuk secured one of the places yesterday.

Nepomniachtchi vs Gelfand, 2-0. | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess
Nepomniachtchi vs. Gelfand, 2-0. Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

Azeri star Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had to fare better than Vachier-Lagrave in Jerusalem to have any hopes of playing in Yekaterinburg next March. His opponent was Jakovenko, who was already out of contention. In an intense match, Mamedyarov opened the scoring by winning the first rapid game in a fine positional squeeze. Jakovenko struck back as White after Mamedyarov chose an ambitious line when needing only a draw to advance. 

Mamedyarov bows out of Jerusalem and Candidates' 2020. | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess
Mamedyarov bows out of Jerusalem and Candidates' 2020. Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

In the first of the 10+10 rapid games, the players quickly agreed to a draw in 22 moves with equal positions. In the return game, Jakovenko played brilliant positional chess to send Mamedyarov packing while boosting his compatriot Nepomniachtchi's chances. 

In the longest tiebreak of the day, Karjakin advanced at the expense of India number-two, Harikrishna Pentala. All nine games of this match ended in draws, including the armageddon!

All nine draws yet Karjakin wins this match! Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

After eight draws, Karjakin won the toss, chose black and held rather comfortably. Both players tried their best, but the deadlock remained. Call it tiredness, oversight or drama, but the end to the armageddon game was quite peculiar. Check it out!

Another match that almost went to the wire was Navara vs. Wang Hao. The latter had already qualified to the Candidates' after winning the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss in October. Wang dodged a bullet in the standard game yesterday but wasn't lucky this time. Similar to Karjakin-Harikrishna, they drew all seven games until Navara struck in the last blitz game as White.

Navara poses during the tiebreak! | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess
Navara poses during the tiebreak. Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

Wei kept the Chinese flag flying as he beat Dutch star Anish Giri in the second game of the 25+10 rapid portion. Wei is the only Chinese player of three to advance to the quarterfinals. Giri had been playing more than decently in Jerusalem until he simply blundered when he tried to grab a pawn.

Wei Yi is the only Chinese player who advanced to the quarterfinals. Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

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