2022 FIDE Grand Prix Belgrade Final Day 2: Rapport Gambles And Wins
Rapport gambled and it paid off, winning him the game and the event!

2022 FIDE Grand Prix Belgrade Final Day 2: Rapport Gambles And Wins

| 20 | Chess Event Coverage

On the first day of the final in the second leg of the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix in Belgrade, Russian GM Dmitry Andreikin and Hungarian GM Richard Rapport played a solid, correct draw. After his dramatic last-round win of the pool play against GM Etienne Bacrot of France and his intense semifinal against GM Anish Giri, a match that stretched into a third day, featuring a rapid-play tiebreaker, it is hard to fault Andreikin for wanting a more careful start to the final, even if it would cost a draw with the white pieces.

Rapport, in kind, also did not want to take any unnecessary risks, certainly aware that a win in this event will put him in a great position for a spot in this summer's Candidates Tournament in Madrid. As far as Andreikin's ambitions for a spot in the Candidates Tournament, he needed to win here, as his pool in the Grand Prix's third leg starts in Berlin in less than two weeks and includes both Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian, the winner and the runner-up from the first leg of the Grand Prix, which took place in Berlin in February.

In today's game of the final, Rapport had the white pieces and played solidly. Just as the game seemed destined to end with a draw by repetition, Rapport gambled hard with very little time left on the clock and was rewarded with a couple of sub-par moves by Andreikin and, suddenly, White was winning, easily parrying Andreikin's desperate attempt at a perpetual check at the end.

With the win in hand, Richard Rapport looks like a strong favorite to make it to the Candidates tournament as one of the two qualifiers from the Grand Prix. Andreikin, on the other hand, will have to get himself emotionally ready for the third leg, which starts on March 24, 2022.

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Thus far, Rapport has played both 1.e4, 1.d4, and 1.c4 in this event, making guessing his pick for opening choice a little challenging. Though it should be said that he only used 1.c4, the English Opening, when he needed a draw to win his group. Ultimately, in this game, easily one of the most important of his entire career to date, he settled for 1.d4, which Andreikin answered with 1...d5 and followed up with the trendy 3...a6, which Andreikin also essayed in his game against GM Sam Shankland in the pool play of this event. That game ended in a relatively effortless draw for Black. Rapport very quickly steered away from previous games by choosing 5.a3 (Shankland chose 5.Nf3), a move that had only been played in a few encounters between much lower-rated opponents.

Andreikin seemed unafraid of taking some strategical risks, accepting an isolated d-pawn for active piece play. The middlegame continued with a complex but roughly balanced struggle where Black's active pieces compensated for a somewhat vulnerable pawn structure and a slightly vulnerable king.

Rapport did not settle for a draw. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Just before move 30, the players started repeating moves, which the commentators said seemed like the logical conclusion. Rapport, however, thought until he had fewer than two minutes left on the clock for the remaining 11 moves, and gambled! Whether he was fully aware that he always would have at least a draw in hand if he played optimally is unclear, but one thing is certain: if anyone were to win this game, Rapport was the one who deserved it for his incredible gamble.

Despite the loss in the final, Andreikin deserves a lot of credit for his play throughout this event, fully taking advantage of the opportunities that arose along the way. His queen sacrifice against Bacrot in the last round of the pool play, and his resilient defense in several games of his match against Giri, showed that while he has not been tap dancing in the limelight for the last few years, his dancing shoes are still polished and shining and no one can count him out.

Andreikin played great chess to reach this stage. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Co-commentator WGM Keti Tsatsalashvili said that Andreikin was emotionally outplayed by Rapport and that seems like the most accurate description of what happened in today's game. On the board, the players seemed like an even match, but Rapport found that extra reserve by having the mindset to play for a win when the board, opponent, commentators, spectators, and engines all had settled for a draw as the inevitable result. 
On the chessboard, we seem to have found our new Richard Lionheart. Hail to the King!

Rapport is now number-seven in the world rankings. Image:

Final Result

FIDE Grand Prix Belgrade is the second of three legs of the event. The Belgrade tournament takes place from February 28 to March 14. Tune in at 6 a.m. Pacific/15:00 CET each day for our broadcast.

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