Mamedyarov Leads MVL In Riga Grand Prix Final
Mamedyarov, close to winning the FIDE GP. | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

Mamedyarov Leads MVL In Riga Grand Prix Final

| 26 | Chess Event Coverage

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov started with an impressive win against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the final of the FIDE Grand Prix in Riga, Latvia. The Frenchman needs to win tomorrow to stay in the match.

So far MVL had played a flawless Grand Prix in Riga. The first sign of weakness quickly led to his first loss of the tournament.

Strong preparation once again formed a big part of Mamedyarov's win, like in his white game with So. He pointed out that it wasn’t exactly the same situation; in that game he gambled a bit because if his American opponent had found the right reply it would have been a draw. Today he just wanted a playable position.

The Azerbaijani grandmaster felt that Black's problems started early on when he went for 13...Nc6 and then also 14...Na5. And indeed, that knight stayed on the rim for the remainder of the game.

Mamedyarov didn't like 13...Nc6 for Black here.

MVL agreed with his opponent: "It probably went wrong," he said, "when I played 13...Nc6 because after 14.d5 my first idea was 14...Nd4 15.Nxd4 Bxd4 16.Rc1 Rfc8 but then after 17.Qb4 I thought it was very unpleasant for me."

White’s 16.h3 was remarkably strong as well—the kind of small move that makes this game special. According to Mamedyarov, it’s already difficult to find a good plan for Black in this early middlegame.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave Riga Grand Prix
Vachier-Lagrave facing strong preparation in his pet Gruenfeld. | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

Soon the game started to look like the clash between Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave from their recent Zagreb Grand Chess Tour tournament. The result was the same, but in this case MVL resigned much earlier as it was hopeless.

"In the game," said MVL, "actually I thought I was getting away when I played 17...f6. But I missed that after 18.e5 Bxf3 there is 19.exf6 and after that I am probably just lost."

Asked whether he isn't too much of a target for almost always playing the Gruenfeld, MVL said: "You can be at target in the Berlin, in the Marshall, but of course it may be in the Gruenfeld—it’s more concrete and of course there is a lot of stuff to remember. Today I did not remember how to play, but I should have done better anyway."

Vachier-Lagrave has some repair work to do for his Gruenfeld, but first he’ll need to focus on his white game, which he needs to win tomorrow. "A must-win situation is never pleasant but I will just be ready to play for as long as it takes," he said.

MVL was interviewed after the game.

Meanwhile, Mamedyarov’s win today was very impressive. It remains to be seen whether he'll adjust to the situation and play solid chess tomorrow—something that's not his natural style.

The 2019 FIDE Grand Prix series consists of four knockout tournaments, each with 16 players who play two classical games per round and, if needed, a tiebreak on the third day. Ian Nepomniachtchi won the first Grand Prix tournament in Moscow. The remaining two are 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 12 p.m. UTC (14:00 CEST, 8 a.m. EDT, 5 a.m. PDT). You can follow the games here as part of our live portal. The official site is here.

The official World Chess broadcast with GMs Evgeny Miroshnichenko and Arturs Neiksans.

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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.

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