'Sudden Draws' As FIDE Grand Prix Round 3 Begins
Radoslaw Wojtaszek playing his move 13...Re8. | Photo: WorldChess.

'Sudden Draws' As FIDE Grand Prix Round 3 Begins

| 33 | Chess Event Coverage

Both semifinal games—Ian Nepomniachtchi vs. Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Hikaru Nakamura vs. Alexander Grischuk—ended in draws rather abruptly today at the FIDE Grand Prix in Moscow. Tomorrow is the second day of classical chess.

The players can hardly be blamed for a match strategy that gives them optimal chances to advance to the next round. For the fans, it was not great to have just two classical games today and see both end in draws in quite lively positions.

The first draw came in Nepomniachtchi-Wojtaszek, where the Russian player, perhaps inspired by some recent games by Vishy Anand, played the offbeat 6.Bd3 line against his opponent's Najdorf Sicilian.

Ian Nepomniachtchi FIDE Grand Prix Moscow 2019
Nepomniachtchi failed to surprise his opponent with 6.Bd3. | Photo: Niki Riga/WorldChess.

Wojtaszek has always worked hard at openings (which earned him the job of second to Anand for years!) and so it was no surprise that he was not surprised.

"Somehow my opponent also knew basically all the theory," said Nepomniachtchi. "This position could be tricky if you see it the first time for Black, but clearly Radek was familiar with this position."

Wojtaszek: "Actually what I prepared was probably quite naive because I’ve already played this line against [Evgeny] Najer. I knew more or less the main ideas but on the other hand it’s such an unclear position that you probably need to know much more, so I was spending quite a lot of time."

Radoslaw Wojtaszek FIDE Grand Prix Moscow 2019
Wojtaszek used his time well today. | Photo: Niki Riga/WorldChess.

As it turned out, the Polish GM improved upon how Vincent Keymer treated the black position (rather unsuccessfully) against Anand at this year's Grenke tournament.

Wojtaszek's clock situation was more worrying than his position when he got the draw offer: "I was about an hour behind so I didn’t really see the idea of playing on," said Wojtaszek. 

Nepomniachtchi: "In the end, maybe White can play on but strategically this position is a little bit dangerous and if you allow Black to coordinate [his] pieces better I think only White can be in trouble, so this is why I decided to offer a draw," he said. 

The players were interviewed in the official broadcast.

The finish of the second game was perhaps even more puzzling, and unpleasant for the commentators, GMs Daniil Yuffa and Evgeny Miroshnichenko. The latter didn't hide his feelings in the official live broadcast:

"It leaves us in a lot of disappointment, I have to say," said Miroshnichenko. "I feel robbed of the action. The tension was building up."

Nakamura, on the opening phase: "Somehow before the game I had not looked at this 14...Qc7 move. I looked at a couple of other moves, so I thought I had to try and punish Alexander for not playing what the computer suggests. But I think practically speaking it’s very hard to prove an advantage," he said. 

Hikaru Nakamura FIDE Grand Prix Moscow 2019
Nakamura won a pawn, but couldn't do much with it. | Photo: Niki Riga/WorldChess.

It's possible that the American GM had mixed up something, because 14..Qc7 is definitely one of the top choices of engines there. In any case, his follow-up was logical as he won a pawn. If only he could have finished his development, with his bishop to e3, he would have been much better.

"It’s between being just fine for Black and being almost lost," said Grischuk. "Either White manages to untangle or Black has enough tricks."

Alexander Grischuk FIDE Grand Prix Moscow 2019
Alexander Grischuk on having a psychological advantage now that he has White in the next game: "No, I think a psychological edge is a myth. Maybe when little girls are playing or something, but we’ve played hundreds of matches in our lives...Just one draw and you have a psychological edge? It's ridiculous!" | Photo: Niki Riga/WorldChess.

About the final position, Nakamura said: "I think if I had more time, probably I can try to play on but it was too messy and it’s a match, of course. When you lose, you’re done."

Grischuk: "I am afraid to look [at] Chessbomb, like yesterday, that it will show that I am winning in the end. I don’t know, first of all I was worse throughout [the whole] game. At the end I am at least not worse, this I understood, but I wasn’t sure how to proceed after 36.Qb1. I didn’t see a clear way, so I thought I’d offer a draw and he would need to be crazy to decline a draw with White," he said. 

The players were interviewed in the official broadcast.

The 2019 FIDE Grand Prix series consists of four knockout tournaments, with 16 players each, who play two classical games per round and if needed a tiebreak on the third day. The other three Grand Prix tournaments are Riga/Jurmala, Latvia (July 11–25), Hamburg, Germany (November 4–18) and Tel Aviv, Israel (December 10–24).

Each of the four tournaments has a prize fund of 130,000 euros ($145,510). Prizes for the overall standings in the series total 280,000 euros ($313,405), making the total prize fund of the series 800,000 euros ($895,444).

The games start each day at 3 p.m. Moscow time, which is 14:00 CEST, 8 a.m. Eastern and 5 a.m. Pacific. You can follow the games here as part of our live portal. The official site is here.

The official WorldChess broadcast with GMs Evgeny Miroshnichenko and Daniil Yuffa.

Previous reports:

More from PeterDoggers
Nepomniachtchi Repeats Levitov Chess Week Victory

Nepomniachtchi Repeats Levitov Chess Week Victory

Nepomniachtchi, Svidler Lead As Levitov Chess Week Becomes Two-horse Race

Nepomniachtchi, Svidler Lead As Levitov Chess Week Becomes Two-horse Race