2022 FIDE Grand Prix Berlin Leg 3, R2: 8 Draws
No player won today. Photo: Pierre Adenis/World Chess.

2022 FIDE Grand Prix Berlin Leg 3, R2: 8 Draws

| 10 | Chess Event Coverage

The second round of the third and final leg of the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix saw no decisive games. Each group continues to have a clear leader, with GMs Levon Aronian, Leinier Dominguez Perez, Alexandr Predke, and Nikita Vitiugov all leading their respective groups. 

Round three begins on Thursday, March 24, at 7 a.m. Pacific / 15:00 Central European.

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Group A

With two draws in today's games, Aronian maintains his lead by half a point, ahead of Russian GMs Grigoriy Oparin and Andrey Esipenko

In the first leg of the Grand Prix, Esipenko, who turned twenty yesterday, and Hikaru Nakamura played two intense games, with Nakamura winning the first with the white pieces, whereas in the second, a game that would decide which of the two players would qualify for the semifinals, Esipenko had a large and possibly decisive advantage, but Nakamura hung in there and held the draw.  In today's game, the players entered a Nimzo-Indian, where Nakamura opted for 5.Bd2, which was once considered quite tame, even harmless, but nowadays it has seen a resurgence of popularity among players such as the German GM Matthias Bluebaum and Hungarian GM Gergely Aczel who have used the line to great effect.

Nakamura successfully defended a tough position today. Photo: Pierre Adenis/World Chess.

White built up a small but steady advantage with a well-placed knight on e5 and nicely coordinated pieces. That, however, seemed to start falling apart with the tempting but premature 19.b4, after which Black took over the initiative.

It looked decidedly unpleasant for White, but as Nakamura demonstrated in their first-leg game, he can defend incredibly stubbornly with endless patience. As it turned out, it looked like Black was never truly winning the game, even if he had held the advantage for two-thirds of the game.

Levon Aronian picked up an important victory yesterday when winning against Nakamura. Today, he had the white pieces against Grigoriy Oparin, who from a rating perspective is the weakest player of the flock. Although Aronian pressed hard in the opening, sacrificing a pawn for activity, and later declined a "quiet" draw offer, an invitation to repeat moves, Black was never in trouble. In fact, you could argue that it was Aronian that had to defend, but that too would have been a bit of exaggeration.

Group B

For a while, it looked like both games would end in relatively straightforward draws, but Dominguez Perez squeezed hard and nearly succeeded in winning. However, he remains the sole leader of the group. 

A matchup like the one between GMs Daniil Dubov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov seems to promise some level of fireworks just by the mentioning of their names. In their past encounters when Dubov played white, that has also been the case. Today, however, it seemed like the fuse had gotten wet. They entered an Italian Game Four Knights Variation, which has does not even inspire sparklers to go off. White seemed to have a tiny bit of pressure, but soon the players found a way to repeat moves, and a draw was agreed upon on move 26.

German GM Vincent Keymer possibly surprised yesterday's lone victor, Perez, when he answered 1.e4 with 1...e5. In the first leg of the Grand Prix, Keymer chose the Caro-Kann twice, but against Dubov he had been out-prepped and lost almost without a fight. This time, the players headed for one of the main lines of the Ruy Lopez, with 5...Bc5 that can lead to sharp and interesting positions. 

White always seemed to have a slight advantage, but when an endgame with a queen each and opposite-colored bishops with equal pawns arose, the draw looked like a certainty, even if White had the initiative. That, however, changed when Keymer carelessly offered an exchange of queens that resulted in Dominguez having the option of creating an outside passed pawn on the h-file.

Dominguez had chances to win today. Photo: Pierre Adenis/World Chess.

In the conversion of his advantage, Dominguez misjudged the consequences of his 49.g5, expecting that Black would have to capture on g5, but instead, Keymer found a way to force White to settle for a passed pawn on f-file, which was exactly close enough to the remaining pawn to allow Black to save the draw. A disappointing miss for Dominguez, who could have put himself in a perfect position to qualify for the semifinals. game of the day dejan bojkov

Group C

The two draws in Group C today mean that Alexandr Predke maintains his surprise lead. 

Alexandr Predke picked up an impressive victory yesterday against French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and today sat across from GM Wesley So, who had his second game with Black. In an Italian Game, White got a small plus which he carefully nurtured. So, however, is not easily tipped off his chair and defended solidly, always keeping White's advantage at a minimum.  

Predke still leads his group. Photo: Pierre Adenis/World Chess

White seemed to have an opportunity on move 25, but missed his chance, and soon after the pieces started coming off the board as the players agreed upon a draw.

In the second game of the group, Vachier-Lagrave needed a victory when playing the white pieces against GM Sam Shankland. With the French GM nearly always playing 1.e4, and Shankland usually defending with the Berlin Defense, the opening choice was hardly a surprise. 

The so-called Berlin Wall Variation, which originally was popularized by GM Vladimir Kramnik when he took the stingers out of former World Champion GM Garry Kasparov. That Vachier-Lagrave opted to enter into the line was no surprise; he has done so dozens of times in both OTB and online games against the best players in the world and often with good results.

The opening choice was hardly a surprise. Photo: Pierre Adenis/World Chess.

Shankland, however, is no slouch and knows this variation exceedingly well from the black side. The players followed a game between GMs Fabiano Caruana and David Howell from London 2014 until move 19, at which point Shankland presented his improvement for Black and followed up by defending actively, even sacrificing the exchange, to reach an endgame that neither side could expect to win. Thus, draw agreed. 

Group D

At the end of the play, with two draws, Vitiugov stood as the sole leader, maintaining the early lead.

The first surprise of the day was that GM Yu Yangyi abandoned his 4...Nc6 Petroff that had served him so well in his previous three games against 1.e4. Then again, given his struggles with it yesterday against Anish Giri, it was possibly just the right time to send it in for a service appointment, oil change, and tire rotation.

Yu opted for a change. Photo: Pierre Adenis/World Chess.

Today, against group-leader Nikita Vitiugov, he pulled a Sicilian out of the hat and was met with the Moscow Variation, 3.Bb5+. After 3...Bd7 led to a quiet line where White opted for a Maroczy Bind-type of setup where White had some more space, but Black was solid and not much was going on. Nevertheless, it was a bit of a surprise when the players found a way to repeat moves by move 20 with a draw agreed just a couple of moves later. Rather than the invitation to repeat moves with 19.Nf3, White could have played 19.f4 with a small but comfortable edge.

In the second game of the group, GMs Amin Tabatabaei and Anish Giri continued their battles from Belgrade. Via the Chebanenko Variation of the Slav, the players ended up in a variation of the Exchange Slav, where the players soon started trading pieces.

The players continued their battle from Belgrade. Photo: Pierre Adenis/World Chess.

White seemed to have an edge, especially after Black's 22...e5, which saddled Black with an isolated pawn, but after two inaccuracies by the Iranian grandmaster, he first let go of the advantage and then of the initiative. The players fought on for a while, but a draw proved inevitable.


All Games - Round 2

FIDE Grand Prix Berlin is the final leg of the 2022 Grand Prix. The Berlin tournament takes place March 22-April 4. Tune in at 7 a.m. Pacific/15:00 CET each day for our broadcast.

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