2022 FIDE Grand Prix Belgrade Semifinals Day 1: Rapport Wins!
Rapport broke the ice today in day one of the semifinals. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

2022 FIDE Grand Prix Belgrade Semifinals Day 1: Rapport Wins!

| 9 | Chess Event Coverage

From the pool phase of the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix in Belgrade, GMs Dmitry Andreikin, Anish Giri, Richard Rapport, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave qualified to the semifinals, with Andreikin and Giri meeting in one match while Rapport and Vachier-Lagrave facing off in the other.

The first game to finish was Rapport-MVL, where White won quickly.  In the second game, however, things quickly went in an original direction where first Giri and then Andreikin seemed to have the better chances before a draw was agreed upon. The second day of the semifinals will continue on March 10, 2022, at 6 a.m. PT / 15:00 CET.

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Looking at this matchup on paper, one would expect Giri who has been in great form in this tournament and to be the hands-down favorite to win this match. Rating-wise, he is also a clear favorite. However, Andreikin has proven extremely resourceful in similar situations. In the must-win game against Bacrot the previous day, he took a calculated gamble that paid off, although his follow-up was less than stellar. And some years back, in 2013, he qualified for the Candidates Tournament by becoming a finalist in the World Cup, knocking out several luminaries along the way, and, to boot, he is a two-time Russian Champion. Those kinds of results do not happen by accident. 

Andreikin, a formidable opponent. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

For today's game, Giri once more decided to play 1.e4 as he had done so effectively in the first two games of the pool play. Andreikin similarly went back to the 2...e6 Sicilian that he had employed in his first-round game against Grischuk. However, rather than the expected Open Sicilian (3.d4), Giri chose the rarer and quite tricky 3.b3, which is a specialty line that can be difficult to meet effectively unless you have studied it. Interestingly, Andreikin has faced this line several times, albeit only in online play, so it is possible that Andreikin's follow-up analysis had been less than thorough. In any case, Giri must have seen something that encouraged him to opt for this line.

The start of a mind-boggling game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Quickly, it became clear that Giri had a nice position, White's control over the center and play on the kingside (14.Rh3!) seemed more potent than Black's counterplay on the queenside, even after White castled queenside. It seems certain that Black's 15...Na5 was definitely a mistake, even if the plan to play ...c5-c4 seems natural because White's 19.b4! closes for much of Black's intended counterplay. However, already on move 20, Giri shocked all of us with his 20.Nxf7, which was tempting but completely unnecessary. The commentators, GM Benjamin Bok and WGM Keti Tsatsalashvili, worked hard to make sense of it but did not succeed in making it work, something the computer engines confirm. Nevertheless, he still had the attack and the initiative, particularly after Black's 22...Kg8, which was not the best.

However, then Giri shocked us again, sacrificing not one but two exchanges(!!), starting with 23.Rxd5. Once again, completely unnecessary because 23.Qg4 would have given him a clear advantage. However, with little time left on the clock for both players, they headed into an endgame where Giri had a pair of bishops and Andreikin a pair of rooks. Unpleasant for Giri? Absolutely! Lost for Giri? Absolutely not! Much to my surprise, the players agreed to a draw on move 33, clearly both worn out emotionally from the intense battle. Black should definitely have played on as he was the one with the better chances, but that was not to be. game of the day dejan bojkov

Tomorrow, Andreikin will have the white pieces on day two of the semifinals.


Rapport was playing white in game one of the semifinals and opted for 1.d4 undoubtedly expecting MVL to go with his faithful Grunfeld Defence, an opening he plays consistently, though not against Mamedyarov in round 6 of the pool play. 

Rapport had prepared a slightly unusual variation, 10.Rc1 (instead of the main line move 10.0-0), and followed up with the even rarer 12.Rc3, something that has been cooked up by the young German grandmaster Matthias Bluebaum. Against best play (see the game annotations), Black should be able to equalize without too many headaches. However, MVL's response was decidedly not the best, leaving White with a clear advantage. This advantage grew quickly after successive mistakes by MVL on moves 18 and 19, leaving White completely winning. 
Rapport converted with precise play, leaving Black no chances at all.

Rapport played an exceptionally clean game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

This result leaves Vachier-Lagrave in the situation of having to win game two tomorrow to secure a tiebreak for a spot in the final.


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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