Hou Yifan Sole Winner In Moscow GP Round 1

Hou Yifan Sole Winner In Moscow GP Round 1

| 86 | Chess Event Coverage

Hou Yifan was the only winner in the first round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Moscow. The number-one female player from China defeated the Russian player Ian Nepomniachtchi with the black pieces.

Ian Nepomniachtchi resigns his game vs Hou Yifan. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

The opening ceremony of the second FIDE Grand Prix took place Thursday evening in the Royal Rental Studio on Malaya Ordynka street in central Moscow. The classical interior met Agon's high design standards, but lacked space to conveniently host all the guests.

Almost 200 people, including some invited mainstream media (chess media had been kept in the dark about the location of the ceremony) gathered in somewhat cramped rooms to enjoy free cocktails by Beluga and a somewhat clumsy drawing of lots. 


After speeches by FIDE's Israel Gelfer and Agon's Ilya Merenzon, the players were mysteriously brought to the stage in pairs, and addressed in Russian only. English speakers such as Michael Adams and Hikaru Nakamura were visibly confused.

In the end, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave performed the drawing of lots, got the white pieces for round one, and that was that.

On Friday at 2 p.m. the first round of this second leg of the Grand Prix took off in the Central Telegraph building on Tverskaya Boulevard, the same location as last year's Candidates' Tournament. Again, 18 players (six new names compared to the first leg in Sharjah) will play a nine-round Swiss for a prize fund of 130,000 euros ($142,000).

Round 1 results

Bo. No. Fed Title Name Rtg Result Fed Title Name Rtg No.
1 1 GM Vachier-Lagrave,M 2795 ½- ½ GM Adams,M 2747 10
2 11 GM Inarkiev,E 2727 ½- ½ GM Nakamura,H 2786 2
3 3 GM Giri,A 2785 ½- ½ GM Gelfand,B 2724 12
4 13 GM Radjabov,T 2710 ½- ½ GM Ding Liren 2773 4
5 5 GM Mamedyarov,S 2772 ½- ½ GM Vallejo Pons,F 2710 14
6 15 GM Tomashevsky,E 2696 ½- ½ GM Svidler,P 2755 6
7 7 GM Nepomniachtchi,I 2751 0-1 GM Hou Yifan 2652 16
8 17 GM Salem,S 2633 ½- ½ GM Grischuk,A 2750 8
9 9 GM Harikrishna,P 2750 ½- ½ GM Hammer,JL 2621 18

If the start of this tournament came as a surprise to you, you were not alone. Under a Facebook post by GM Emil Sutovsky today GM Fabiano Caruana commented: "Wasn't even aware they had started playing."

Organizer Agon did very little to promote the event in advance, but neither did some of the major chess websites, whose relationship with Agon is getting worse and worse.

Because of Agon's attempt to limit the live transmission of the games to its own website, one of the major Russian sites, ChessPro, has not covered their events since the Candidates' Tournament last year. Now Chess24, the number-one site for watching live games online, has decided to boycott the Moscow Grand Prix altogether: no news reports, no tweets and no live transmission.

Today the moves were still available in real time, at e.g., and in fact also on Agon's own site Without any announcement it had decided to give away the broadcast for free today, even though many chess fans had paid $10 to watch, or $25 for all four tournaments.

Reportedly, from tomorrow onwards it will be available for paying members only—like at the venue itself. To enter the Telegraph Building local fans need to pay 1500 roubles (24 euros or $26) per day. 

At the opening ceremony, with typical bravery Merenzon stated: "The eyes of the chess world will be on Moscow once more. We are expecting thousands of spectators at the venue and millions more will watch every move at" 

Agon will have a hard time reaching 10 percent of those numbers.


A stark contrast: the Moscow Grand Prix today (left, photo Maria Emelianova), and the 16th USSR Championship in Moscow in 1948 (right, photo ChessPro).

If you've reached this far, the eight draws and only one decisive game haven't scared you off. Good. Because, as Peter Svidler said today, the round was actually quite good, with some interesting theoretical and tactical battles.

However, let's start with another attempt to scare you off. The first draw was played after half an hour and just 11 moves, between Salem Saleh and Alexander Grischuk. For the latter, who was somewhat under the weather (snowy weather, that is!), it was very good news. And Salem? He tried to explain that he was surprised by 8...Nf6 when the knight on d2 is badly placed, but then admitted that he saw a quick way of not starting yet another tournament with a loss.


It's been snowing in Moscow the last few days. Grischuk: "Actually I'm seriously ill. This weather is killing me."

You're still here? Not worried that this report will be boring, and the whole tournament will be boring? No, let's remain positive, and quote Evgeny Tomashevsky, who agreed with Svidler that this event will be better than Sharjah. "Some guys will take risks because they have chances, other guys will take risks because they have no chances!"


Or what about a photo like this for entertainment? The boy making the first move is Misha Osipov, whom you might remember from his televised game with Anatoly Karpov back in January. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Jon Ludvig Hammer, for instance, finished in the lower ranks and generally isn't considered to be one of the favorites of this series. Against Pentala Harikrishna he definitely took a risk with grabbing lots of pawns, but his queen sac was very promising actually. "I really thought I was gonna win. I am positive I had a winning position," he said.


Mixed feelings for Hammer: a draw as Black is normally fine, but tough to digest when you were winning. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Another good draw was Ernesto Inarkiev vs Hikaru Nakamura. The Russian player played just one FIDE Grand Prix tournament before (in 2008 in Elista), and is now back, nine years later. He said he was proud of his 18th move Qb1, and that he was surprised that his opponent found all the computer moves.

Nakamura: "Especially when your opponent is blitzing out all these moves, to stay calm and find all the good moves is important, so I’m pretty pleased."

Of course, Hou Yifan's win over Ian Nepomniachtchi was the game of the day. It was a fine display of practical play, where Hou grabbed material in the early stage but then gave it back after Nepo had weakened his position too much.



Hou Yifan, the early leader in Moscow. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.


A disappointed Ian Nepomniachtchi leaving the building. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

The tournament runs until May 21, with a rest day on May 17. As a reminder, here are the final standings of the previous tournament, which shows the situation of the Grand Prix right now. 

2017 Sharjah Grand Prix | Final Standings

Rk. SNo Fed Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3 GP points Prize (€)
1 9 Grischuk Alexander 2742 5,5 1,5 2 0 140 15,667
2 1 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2796 5,5 1 2 1 140 15,667
3 4 Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 2766 5,5 0,5 3 0 140 15,667
4 5 Ding Liren 2760 5 0 2 1 70 9,000
5 7 Adams Michael 2751 5 0 2 0 70 9,000
6 12 Jakovenko Dmitry 2709 5 0 1 1 70 9,000
7 3 Nakamura Hikaru 2785 5 0 1 0 70 9,000
8 8 Nepomniachtchi Ian 2749 5 0 1 0 70 9,000
9 14 Rapport Richard 2692 4,5 0 2 1 25 4812,5
10 6 Eljanov Pavel 2759 4,5 0 2 1 25 4812,5
11 10 Li Chao 2720 4,5 0 2 0 25 4812,5
12 13 Vallejo Pons Francisco 2709 4,5 0 0 0 25 4812,5
13 2 Aronian Levon 2785 4 0 0 0 7 3625
14 17 Hou Yifan 2651 4 0 0 0 7 3625
15 16 Salem A.R. Saleh 2656 3,5 1 1 0 3 3000
16 18 Hammer Jon Ludvig 2628 3,5 1 0 0 3 3000
17 11 Tomashevsky Evgeny 2711 3,5 1 0 0 3 3000
18 15 Riazantsev Alexander 2671 3 0 0 0 1 2500

After Moscow there will be two more Grand Prixs: in July in Geneva, and in November in Palma de Mallorca. The top two finishers will qualify for the 2018 Candidates' Tournament.

Games from TWIC.

Previous report:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

Company Contact and News Accreditation: 

Phone: 1 (800) 318-2827
Address: PO Box 60400 Palo Alto, CA 94306

More from PeterDoggers
New Power Generation Shows Itself At Sharjah Masters

New Power Generation Shows Itself At Sharjah Masters

14-Year-Old Lu Miaoyi Wins Chinese Women's Championship; Wang Yue Takes Open

14-Year-Old Lu Miaoyi Wins Chinese Women's Championship; Wang Yue Takes Open