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Nakamura Wins On Demand: 2022 FIDE Grand Prix Berlin Leg 3, Round 4
Nakamura won on demand to recover dramatically in his group. Photo: World Chess.

Nakamura Wins On Demand: 2022 FIDE Grand Prix Berlin Leg 3, Round 4

chansen64
| 19 | Chess Event Coverage

The fourth round of leg three of the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix saw no fewer than five decisive games. GM Grigoriy Oparin's win in Group A means that he takes the lead. In the same group, GM Hikaru Nakamura defeated GM Levon Aronian and both are in second place by half a point.

GM Leinier Dominguez Perez hangs on to the lead in Group B but now shares it with GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who won today. With today’s wins by GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Amin Tabatabaei, Groups C and D are now both seeing four-way ties. 

Round five begins on Sunday, March 27, at 6 a.m. Pacific / 15:00 Central European.

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With tomorrow being the rest day, it seemed like the players realized they had a perfect opportunity to leave it all on the table today and use tomorrow to rest. Some players possibly also realized that unless they start winning some games they will not only be eliminated from this event, but they also would not have a chance for a spot in the Candidates Tournament this summer in Madrid, Spain.

In Group A, Aronian lost to a well-playing Nakamura, which allowed Oparin to swoop past them by beating fellow Russian GM Andrey Esipenko. Mamedyarov beat the young German GM Vincent Keymer to catch up with Dominguez. Meanwhile, Vachier-Lagrave and Tabatabaei each took revenge on the opponents who beat them in the first round of the event to force four-way ties in their respective groups. What a round! 


Group A

In Group A, we got a new leader: the lowest-rated player of the Group, Oparin, as he won his game. The previous leader, Aronian, lost his game. 

Unsurprisingly, all eyes were on the game between Nakamura and Aronian. To say that Nakamura had been struggling thus far would be no understatement, after having lost to Aronian in the first round and saving two inferior positions in the following rounds. That, however, only seemed to motivate him to deliver his very best. 

Nakamura was focused and motivated today. Photo: World Chess.

For the first 11 moves, the players followed Aronian's game against Esipenko from yesterday, after which Nakamura varied with 12.a4, which is also the best move according to engines. White developed some initiative, but it seemed like Black was staying well in the game.

After the game, Aronian offered 23...b6 was a critical mistake, but it wasn't really until Black's 33...Rxa4 that White gained a significant advantage, although it should be said that Black's best move was the far-from-obvious 33...Rf5, which would have provided Black with just enough counterplay to stay in the game. After that mistake, Nakamura never let the advantage slip from his hands and converted convincingly.

As far as what the result did for the tournament situation, Nakamura said: "It's funny. It's probably very bad for both of us because Grigory will probably win this game."

It's probably very bad for both of us because Grigory will probably win this game."
—Hikaru Nakamura

It certainly frames an exciting setting for the remaining two rounds, as Oparin will be facing Aronian and Nakamura in the next games, both needing to win to pass him in the standings.

Chess.com game of the day dejan bojkov

In the all-Russian encounter, Oparin had the white pieces against Esipenko, who, unlike Nakamura, seemed to have had better positions in all of his games, albeit without being able to put a full point on the table. Oparin, similarly, avoided winning a completely won position against Nakamura yesterday.

Oparin brought the full point home today. Photo: World Chess.

In a Nimzo-Indian with White, Oparin chose a solid but supposedly harmless setup that his compatriot GM Alexandr Predke has used on multiple occasions. Esipenko, for his part, reacted inaccurately with 10...c5?!, which gave White a small but clear advantage. In fact, the entire game is a model game for how to play against an isolated d-pawn: block it, exchange pieces, increase the pressure, and then go for the kill.

With this victory, Oparin takes the lead in Group A, although he does not take anything for granted, saying in the post-game interview: "It doesn't matter at this point. There is still two rounds to go, and everybody are within half a point to one point, so everyone could win."

Group B

With today's win, Mamedyarov caught up to Dominguez with two rounds to go.

Yesterday's hero, Keymer, was brought right back down to earth today by a highly motivated Mamedyarov in search of his first win in the Grand Prix events, having drawn his six games in Belgrade and the first three rounds of this event. It quickly became clear that it was not going to be Keymer's day. Mamedyarov played the English Opening, which is regularly seen in must-win games because it tends to lead to less-forcing lines, allowing the game to stay fluid for longer. 

Mamedyarov plays the English. Photo: World Chess.

Mamedyarov surprised his opponent, the commentators, and experts in the English Opening with his 7.Nh4!?, which is almost never seen. In some lines, the knight simply gets trapped out there. This was Mamedyarov's idea, to lure Keymer to chase it and then strike. And ... it worked. Keymer charged at the bait and got hooked like a gamefish. Already at move 16, White had a near-decisive advantage. That Keymer managed to hang on for another 40-plus moves was due to Mamedyarov playing it safe and not worrying about how long it would take to win as long as he would win.


In the other game, group-leader Dominguez took on tail-ender GM Daniil Dubov. In a Three Knights Game, the American grandmaster tried the unusual 6.a4!? followed by 8.Nd5!?, which seemed to offer White a small plus. However, after a few inaccurate moves by White, Black was fully back in the game. In the late middlegame, just before the time control at move 40, Dubov played a little too fast and let White have some extra chances, but short on time, Dominguez missed them. After the time control, White had a pleasant endgame with bishop vs. knight and pawns on both wings, but it did not suffice to win.

Group C

With a win by Vachier-Lagrave today against Predke and a draw in the other game, all four players tie for first and last place.

The first game to finish was the one between American GMs Wesley So and GM Sam Shankland in a Fianchetto Variation of the Grunfeld. Rather than allowing White a big center, Shankland played the solid ...c7-c6. White gained a small edge, but after just one inaccurate move, Shankland struck back with the excellent 16...g5!, grabbing the initiative. However, he was not able to do much with it and eventually the players traded down to a drawn rook ending.  

Vachier-Lagrave needed a win badly. He will likely not qualify to the Candidates based on his rating, so he will have to do it by scoring Grand Prix points, meaning qualifying from the group stage, preferably going through to the final.

Therefore, as White today against Predke, who did bad things to him in round one of this event, it was a perfect opportunity to even the score out and catch up in the standings. The players repeated their opening choice from their game in Belgrade, the Zaitsev Variation of the Ruy Lopez, something both players have played countless times.

Vachier-Lagrave wanted to even the score today. Photo: World Chess.

Vachier-Lagrave was the first to deviate with his 12.Ba2!?. He gained a slight advantage, but it was ever a whole lot. However, as the time control approached, the game sharpened dramatically, with the French grandmaster sacrificing the queen for a rook and minor piece, hoping to shake the solid Russian out of his safe zone, and it worked!

As he said after the game: "It was scary, but at the same time I knew I had chances, and that was all I could hope for in this situation."

With two big mistakes by Black just before move 40, White secured a decisive advantage. A fantastic strategic battle crowned by tactical madness.

Group D

Yet another group that saw everything turned upside down today. With Tabatabaei's win against group-leader Vitiugov, and a draw between GMs Yu Yangyi and Anish Giri, all four players are enjoying an equal share of the lead and sun with two rounds to go.

In the first round of the tournament, Vitiugov won a nice game against Tabatabaei. In today's game, it was almost a carbon copy but with the colors and ultimate victor reversed.

In a solid and popular line of the Slav Queen's Gambit, Black seemed to equalize, only to make a mistake right after the opening. After that, the young Iranian grandmaster converted with stunning precision, ever-increasing, never-releasing the pressure on Black's position and ultimately converting the advantage to a full point in the endgame. A demonstration that no one can be counted out at this point.

In the other game of the group, Yu Yangyi faced Anish Giri, both players really needing a win to put themselves in the best possible position to qualify to the semifinals and possibly the Candidates. 

Yu Yangyi played the so-called Russian System, with 5.Qb3, against Anish Giri's Grunfeld Indian, and he took the Dutch grandmaster out of his preparation when playing 10.Ng5, which Giri admitted to having forgotten everything about, and then on move 14, he fired off a nice novelty, which Giri also had missed. White soon after gained a clear advantage. 

Both players needed a win. Photo: World Chess.

Most of the advantage slipped away when the Chinese grandmaster went for 23.Nd6?!, which won the exchange but let go of the initiative.

In mutual time trouble, several mistakes were made and Yu Yangyi seemed to miss several good moves that could have given him a decisive advantage, and in the end, he had to settle for a draw by perpetual check. A great fight.

Results

All Games - Round 4


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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