Grischuk Knocks Nakamura Out Of FIDE Grand Prix
Grischuk and Nakamura in the endgame. | Photo: Niki Riga/WorldChess.

Grischuk Knocks Nakamura Out Of FIDE Grand Prix

| 35 | Chess Event Coverage

Alexander Grischuk reached the final of the FIDE Grand Prix in Moscow. Today, the Russian grandmaster defeated Hikaru Nakamura in the second classical game. Ian Nepomniachtchi and Radoslaw Wojtaszek will be playing a tiebreak tomorrow for the right to face Grischuk.

Nakamura's great predecessor Bobby Fischer used to have a narrow opening repertoire for the larger part of his career, based on 1.e4 as White and the Najdorf and King's Indian as Black. Those were different times, and with his willingness to work hard, Fischer was still on top in many theoretical battles.

In modern times, top players need to have a much broader repertoire to be able to challenge their opponents in different areas, and to avoid being too predictable. That Nakamura kept on repeating the Open Catalan with 7...b5 in the last few weeks was something we don't see very often anymore.

It seems that it had to go wrong at some point.

7...b5 isn't how we learned to play chess, but maybe it works anyway? It didn't work today.

"The opening I sort of expected and not expected, because on the one hand Hikaru played it already like six times, but on the other hand I think it’s a very difficult line for Black," said Grischuk. "So I was both surprised and not."

Well known for his fun interviews full of witty one-liners, the Russian GM is all the more profound at the chessboard—and today, he got to show it.

Grischuk had prepared deeply for this Catalan, and pointed out that one cannot always trust computer evaluations.

"This position is extremely complicated and tactical," said Grischuk. "Everything on, let’s say, Chessbomb, is completely wrong because the computer always changes his mind while thinking."

Alexander Grischuk FIDE Grand Prix Moscow 2019
Profound play from Grischuk today. | Photo: Niki Riga/WorldChess.

It should be said that the fight was not exactly decided in the opening. Sure, Nakamura was under some pressure, but "forgetting" about the move 26.Bd3 (as he put it) and miscalculating on moves 36 and 37 were truly decisive. As it went, Nakamura didn't get to show his pure speciality in a tiebreak with a faster rate of play this time around.

In an interesting coincidence, the world's best two computer chess engines played an identical opening today, with the top neural-network engine Lc0 facing the champion traditional engine Stockfish in the Top Chess Engine Championship.

The game was played without an opening book, so the engines themselves chose the same first 14 moves as Grischuk vs Nakamura without any human intervention.

Stockfish played 15...a6 instead of Nakamura's 15...a5, and the game between the computer engines was drawn. You can also watch Lc0 and Stockfish battle in the Computer Chess Championship bonus games, which are live now. 

An interview with the players after the game. | Video: WorldChess.

Grischuk's opponent in the final, which will start on Monday, is yet to be determined. Wojtaszek and Nepomniachtchi also drew their second game, and so they will have to battle it out in a tiebreak tomorrow.

Nepomniachtchi: "Of course I wasn’t really against a draw, but I think that White maybe did not choose the most principled line in the Gruenfeld, but this one is supposed to be tricky. It transposed into some kind of King’s Indian but not the most dangerous edition. In my opinion this is nothing special for White but maybe it’s a little bit more simple to play for the white side, this one. But I think it was never something real for Radoslaw."

Wojtaszek - Nepomniachtchi FIDE Grand Prix Moscow 2019
Wojtaszek and Nepomniachtchi starting their game. | Photo: Niki Riga/WorldChess.

"I liked my idea which I played; maybe I had a bit more space but it was nothing special," said Wojtaszek. "Then I misplayed it, and I thought OK, it’s better to make a draw instead of just start drifting and having some problems after that."

This means that Wojtaszek will be playing his first tiebreak, after he eliminated both Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Peter Svidler in the classical games.

"Obviously if you can win in two games it’s better, but if you have to play a tiebreak and you win of course it’s also fine," Wojtaszek said. "For sure I have to play faster because in both games I was running out of time, so I will have to speed up a bit."

An interview with the players after the game. | Video: WorldChess. 

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.

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