Paris Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour: Vachier-Lagrave Maintains Lead
Local hero Vachier-Lagrave remains in the lead at the Paris Grand Chess Tour. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Paris Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour: Vachier-Lagrave Maintains Lead

| 38 | Chess Event Coverage

After the third and last day of rapid chess, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is still the leader at the Paris Grand Chess Tour. The tournament resumes with blitz on Wednesday.

Scoring 2/3 (really 4/6, as rapid points count double) on Monday was just enough for MVL to go into the rest day enjoying a slim lead. He drew his white games relatively quickly with Hikaru Nakamura and Vishy Anand, and beat Jan-Krzysztof Duda as Black.

That win lasted just as long as his game with Anand, and one move shorter than his game with Nakamura! Avoiding his opponent's feared Najdorf, Duda quickly went astray in the Moscow variation:

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2019 Paris Grand Chess Tour
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on playing well in Riga and now also in Paris: "It's nice, for a change!" | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

It's now Alexander Grischuk who is trailing Vachier-Lagrave by a point—not that much with 18 rounds of blitz still on the program. The Russian GM was the only player to score a draw and two wins on the third day of play.

First, he defeated his compatriot Ian Nepomniachtchi:

Nepomniachtchi-Grischuk Paris Grand Chess Tour
Nepomniachtchi and Grischuk after their game.

In another Giuoco Pianissimo, Grischuk also won the round-nine game where second place was at stake against Fabiano Caruana, and a great game it was.

Right afterward, the winner himself rated it highly: At the moment it feels like my best games ever, one of the top five definitely, so I don’t even want to spoil it by looking at what the computer says," Grischuk said. 

Explaining his good play in Paris, Grischuk said: “As we say in Russia: even a stick shoots once a year.”

Alexander Grischuk 2019 Paris Grand Chess Tour
Alexander Grischuk: "Even a stick shoots once a year." | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour.

The day had started with a dramatic game for Anand, who had Shakhriyar Mamedyarov on the ropes but lost to a terrible blunder. Mamedyarov was trying out the Scandinavian, and Anand's play, which involved a pawn sacrifice, was interesting and new, it seems.

But to his credit, Mamedyarov managed to avoid a bad endgame being a pawn down and instead kept things complicated with the move 15...Rc5. From that moment, Anand started to lose control but it was still equal when he played what must have been one of the biggest blunders in his career.

Mamedyarov: “When you play the Scandinavian, you can get very bad positions after the opening, but I just want to play good, interesting chess to maybe get some chances to get back into the tournament. I played not bad and of course Vishy played very well in the opening.”

Anand Mamedyarov Paris Grand Chess Tour
The arbiter stops the clock as Mamedyarov wins unexpectedly. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

And what about Nakamura, the Paris winner last year and in 2016? It's going to be tough, but the 2.5-point gap with Vachier-Lagrave is not impossible, especially taking into account that all players will play each other twice in the blitz.

He'll need to bring his a-game though, and do better than in e.g. his battle with Nepomniachtchi. After having defended well for many moves, the American blundered in a theoretically drawn bishop endgame:

Nakamura-Nepomniachtchi Paris Grand Chess Tour
Nakamura was visibly upset for making a blunder in a basic endgame. | Photos: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

At the end of the day, Vachier-Lagrave commented on his first three days: “Generally I have had ups and downs in rapid games but here except of course for my game with Nepo everything has been going really smoothly. I even snatched a couple of half-points that maybe I shouldn’t have, and so far really so good.”

Paris Grand Chess Tour standings after day 3
The Paris Grand Chess Tour standings after the rapid. | Image: Spectrum Studios.

The Paris Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour takes place July 27-August 1. After three days of rapid (nine rounds), two days of blitz will follow with nine rounds on each day.
The first four days start at 3 p.m. local time (GMT+2), 6 a.m. Pacific. The last day starts an hour earlier. is providing daily coverage on and (See also our press release.)

Paris Rapid & Blitz 2019 coverage

Day 3 coverage:

All games of rounds seven through nine for replay/download:

You can find all games here as part of our live portal. More photos from the event can be found here. The official site is here.

Previous reports:

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