Grischuk Wins Hamburg Grand Prix, Almost Certain Of Candidates Qualification
Grischuk beat Duda in the tiebreak of the Hamburg final. Photo: Valeria Gordienko/World Chess.

Grischuk Wins Hamburg Grand Prix, Almost Certain Of Candidates Qualification

| 48 | Chess Event Coverage

Alexander Grischuk won the FIDE Grand Prix in Hamburg on Sunday as well as $24,000 as he defeated Jan-Krzysztof Duda (who won $14,000) in the final's tiebreak. The Russian grandmaster will now almost certainly qualify for the 2020 Candidates' Tournament.

Grischuk earned 10 Grand Prix points in Hamburg (eight for his victory and two extra points for winning two matches without tiebreak), while Duda got seven (five for coming second and two extra points for winning two matches without tiebreak).

2019 FIDE Grand Prix Series | Current Standings

# Fed Player Moscow Riga Hamburg Jerusalem GP points TB1 TB2 TB3
1 Grischuk 7 3 10 x 20 1 1 12½
2 Vachier-Lagrave 8 5 13 0 1 9
3 Mamedyarov 0 10 10 1 0
4 Nepomniachtchi 9 0 9 1 0 5
5 Duda 0 1 7 x 8 0 1 8
6 Dubov 2 0 3 x 5 0 0 6
7 Wojtaszek 5 0 5 0 0 5
8 Svidler 2 0 2 x 4 0 0
9 So 1 3 4 0 0
10 Nakamura 3 0 0 x 3 0 0 4
11 Topalov 1 2 3 0 0
12 Yu Yangyi 1 1 2 0 0
13 Wei Yi 2 0 2 0 0 3
14 Karjakin 0 1 1 0 0
15 Navara 0 1 1 0 0 2
16 Vitiugov 0 0 0 x 0 0 0
17 Radjabov 0 0 0 0 0 2
18-21 Giri 0 0 0 0 0
18-21 Jakovenko 0 0 0 0 0
18-21 Aronian 0 0 0 0 0
18-21 Harikrishna 0 0 0 0 0

(Tiebreaks: 1. number of first places, 2. number of second places, 3. number of actual standard game points scored.)

Having played his final Grand Prix leg, Grischuk is now leading the overall Grand Prix and is almost certain of finishing among the top two players, who will qualify for the 2020 Candidates' Tournament. He is seven points ahead of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 10 ahead of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and 11 ahead of Ian Nepomniachtchi, who all will be playing in the last leg next month in Jerusalem. 

Not too much luck to Maxime because ... I cannot be rooting against myself."

—Alexander Grischuk

"Now it will be very pleasant for me to watch the final event," Grischuk said. "Of course, I wish luck to everyone who can still qualify, to 'Shakh' Mamedyarov, to Nepomniachtchi and Maxime. But not too much luck to Maxime because I don't want him to overtake me. I cannot be rooting against myself."

The worst-case scenario for Grischuk—and the only scenario in which he would not qualify for the Candidates'—would be that either Mamedyarov or Nepomniachtchi beats MVL in the Jerusalem final after MVL has won his first three matches without a tiebreak and Mamedyarov or Nepomniachtchi win sufficient matches without a tiebreak to reach 20 Grand Prix points.

In that case, both finalists would overtake the current leader: MVL by getting eight points, and either Mamedyarov or Nepomniachtchi by equaling or surpassing Grischuk's 20 points; and in case of equaling 20, winning on the first tiebreak—having two GP victories—compared to Grischuk's one.

It is theoretically possible for Grischuk to qualify for the Candidates' before any matches in Jerusalem have been played. That happens if his three rivals—MVL, Mamedyarov and Nepomniachtchi—are all in the same half of the bracket because in that case it's impossible for two players to eclipse Grischuk.

Duda Grischuk tiebreak Hamburg Grand Prix 2019
Duda and Grischuk starting their tiebreak. Photo: Valeria Gordienko/World Chess.

Duda went into today's tiebreak with a small psychological edge after he had survived two tough positions in the standard games. In addition, the 21-year-old Polish grandmaster had a small plus score against his opponent in rapid and blitz, and as mentioned yesterday, he had beaten Grischuk in a Speed Chess match here on last year.

Taking all this into account, Duda's win in the first rapid perhaps was not a huge surprise. Grischuk made a somewhat nervous impression here as his play for activity backfired:

Duda tiebreak Hamburg Grand Prix 2019
A good win for Duda in the first game. Photo: Valeria Gordienko/World Chess.

Having missed big chances in the standard games and now having to win on demand, it was all the more impressive that Grischuk won the second game. It seems he got there partly on preparation against Duda's favorite Queen's Indian; after 11.Nd3 the Polish GM started to deliberate.

Grischuk's play was known from a correspondence game that Duda probably didn't know. From move 14 on the play went downhill for him:

That got Grischuk going. If any psychological disadvantage was still left, it was now washed away. Getting another white game in the 10+10 segment, the 36-year-old Russian player achieved a winning position almost out of the opening.

It was Semi-Slav—in fact, a line Duda had played before. Grischuk improved upon that game with yet another pawn sacrifice and a strong one this time.

When down in material Duda fought like a lion but to no avail. It started to become clear that Duda still has a clear weakness—opening preparation—as Sergey Karjakin pointed out on Twitter. If he fixes that in the coming years, he will definitely join the top 10 and possibly the top five in the world. 

This time it was Duda who had to win on demand, but he failed to do so. In a tense game, where both players were under a minute before move 15, it was Grischuk who remained in control and accepted a draw offer in a completely winning position.

Duda Grischuk Hamburg Grand Prix 2019
Six cameras watching over Duda-Grischuk. Photo: Valeria Gordienko/World Chess.

As Grischuk stood up, he put his hands in the air in celebration.

Afterward Grischuk seemed to agree with Karjakin's assessment of Duda.

"First I want to thank Jan-Krzysztof for this incredible match. I enjoyed every moment of each game all three days. All the games were very tense, and it was a huge fight with no short draws or anything. I was getting the feeling that Jan plays a little bit like an old computer, not exactly Stockfish, but like some Fritz without an opening database, without an opening book, because every game – White/Black – he plays some "s**t" basically but then playing incredibly. I remember when I was young, the computers were not as strong, and you could try to compete with them, but still, they were beating you. And I was getting the same feeling today, but then twice I got just too much of an advantage to save even for Fritz or for Jan."

Duda said about this: "First of all, I want to congratulate my opponent. My openings didn't work out, especially with Black, I think. The second game was terrible because I just blundered a pawn in the opening."

But Duda was happy in general about his performance: "My play here was great. I didn't expect to get into the final; I didn't even expect to get into the third round because I found Nepomniachtchi and Yu Yangyi to be the most and probably most unpleasant opponents for me because I haven't won a single game in classical chess against both of them, but I was lucky that they both blundered a game actually in one move."

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