2022 FIDE Grand Prix Berlin Group Tiebreaks: Dominguez, Rapport Qualify With Swift Victories
Leinier Dominguez eliminated fellow countryman Wesley So with an energetic win in the second game of the tiebreak to reach the semifinals. Photo: WorldChess.

2022 FIDE Grand Prix Berlin Group Tiebreaks: Dominguez, Rapport Qualify With Swift Victories

| 24 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Leinier Dominguez and GM Richard Rapport defeated GM Wesley So and GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek respectively in the rapid tiebreak games with identical 1.5-0.5 victories to reach the semifinals of the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix in Berlin.

Ironically, the two GMs had lost to the same opponents in the regular time control earlier in the group stage. Another commonality not lost on Wojtaszek and So was that both enjoyed dominating positions in the final round of the group stage which they fumbled and failed to convert, the very reason for being present at the tiebreaks.

Rapport and Dominguez will now face GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Levon Aronian respectively in the two-game classical time control semifinals scheduled for February 12-13.

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The tiebreak games were much-anticipated affairs, being played in the quicker time control of 15 minutes per game with an increment of 10 seconds per move starting on the first move. There was a prospect of such ties remaining unbroken even after the regular two-game matches and carrying on with even faster time controls.

There were other participants of the tournament awaiting the results of the tiebreak with a more relaxed outlook of life:


Though Rapport outdistances Wojtaszek by rating on paper in classical, rapid, and blitz formats of the game, Wojtaszek has had a great tournament in Berlin, being in the lead by himself or jointly throughout the group stage. And this excellent performance came with the enhancing detail that he was, after all, a last-minute replacement for GM Ding Liren

It was also billed as a clash between two players of diametrically opposite playing styles—Rapport always looking for dynamic possibilities over the board backed up by a tactical opening repertoire, Wojtaszek being a quintessentially logical player with a sound, strategic style of play.

Wojtaszek-Rapport, a clash of two different personalities and styles. Photo: WorldChess.

With such a background, when Rapport adopted the King's Indian Defense with the black pieces in the first game, it was not a surprise for spectators, evoking much interest. It remained a level affair for most of its duration, but it was obvious that Rapport was looking for ways to create tactical complications, even while playing faster and thus applying pressure on the clock too:

There were points in the game when Rapport played moves true to his style and liking, whereas Wojtaszek could not control the game along the strategic lines of play as he would have liked. In a nutshell, this and the handling of the clock made the difference in this game.

Having won the very first game with black pieces, Rapport seemed to control the game easily in the second tiebreak game and held the draw without much ado, regularly exchanging pieces and steering the game toward an equal endgame. The following fortress, in spite of being a pawn down for White, could not be broken:

Thus, the match ended in a surprisingly short 1.5-0.5 in favor of Rapport, who was understandably pleased with his performance, noting that he was lucky to reach the tiebreak and his opponent was plainly unlucky: "I was unexplainably lucky just to get to play today. Radek should have probably won the [group stage] with a round to spare or something. In the last [round] too he was winning... I was also losing to Oparin at some point. So, I got here somehow... At the end [of the first game], when he was low on time, he blundered into mate, which was extremely unlucky."

Richard Rapport - candid confessions. Photo: WorldChess.

Asked about his chances against his semifinals opponent Nakamura, Rapport was forthcomingly candid: "I haven't played him too many times, but [the encounters] were quite painful—I have a minus-two score or something. play here was at best shaky. I am really tired from this tiebreak, and yesterday had a must-win game to win, so it takes its toll. But I guess there is no rest for the wicked!"

...I guess there is no rest for the wicked!

—GM Richard Rapport


In spite of the strength of his opponent and that he came from behind in the group stage to tie with So to force this tiebreak, Dominguez came out triumphant and deservedly defeated So with a margin of 1.5-0.5. He effectively drew with black pieces in the first game and convincingly won the second game.

So-Dominguez, a clash between two players of similar style, similar strength, and of the same country. Photo: WorldChess.

Dominguez's win in the second game was especially a "true revenge" because he had lost in the same Giuoco Pianissimo Opening against So in the group stage, even from a similar position: game of the day

After the game, So candidly revealed his approach to the tiebreak match: "I know coming today anything could happen; it is a 50-50 chance. Leinier is very dangerous in the opening, so I didn't really didn't prepare that much in the opening... Just decided to play whatever."

Talking about the second game which he lost, So confessed: "I am not so sure where I made the mistake. But the position got quite difficult—my pawn structure was very vulnerable. I thought I had some tricks, but in the end, I missed this move 32.Kh1. Yeah, life happens!"

...Yeah, life happens!

—GM Wesley So

Dominguez was his usual composed self, coming up with his own curious observation about the same crucial moment: "After finding this 32.Kh1, I think I deserved to qualify because it was such a difficult move! I saw this at the last moment; I played it with a few seconds [left]." 

And So replied sportingly with a smile: "Leinier had 10 seconds, and he was almost touching the rook, and I was praying!"

Talking about his upcoming match against Aronian, Dominguez sounded cautious: "Of course a very top match, but that is what you should expect at this stage of the tournament. Levon is a very strong player... very challenging to play him always. First I have to calm down a bit because it feels a bit surreal after losing the classical game against Wesley. I felt I [would] go home by Saturday. I was able to make a comeback; it took a lot of energy. So, I will try to get some rest and let that settle, and I will think about the next match."

With his characteristic way of keeping things simple, Dominguez came out with one of his rare tweets after the win:


All Games Group Tiebreaks

FIDE Grand Prix Berlin is the first of three legs of the event. The Berlin tournament takes place February 4-17. Tune in at 6 a.m. Pacific/ 15:00 CET each day for our broadcast.

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