Nepomniachtchi Wins Moscow FIDE Grand Prix
Ian Nepomniachtchi won the first of four Grand Prixs in 2019. | Photo: World Chess.

Nepomniachtchi Wins Moscow FIDE Grand Prix

| 28 | Chess Event Coverage

The FIDE Grand Prix in Moscow was won by Ian Nepomniachtchi, who defeated his compatriot Alexander Grischuk on Wednesday in the second of two rapid tiebreak games.

A few days ago he said he had a positive feeling about this tournament from the start. Nepomniachtchi's good vibes lasted til the very end; he ended up winning the whole thing.

"I was trying to be solid," was how the youngest of the two Russian players in the final summarized his victorious Grand Prix (Nepo is 28, Grischuk 35), which earned him 24,000 euros and the top spot on the GP leaderboard (more on that below).

Playing black in the first tiebreak game, Nepomniachtchi surprised his opponent by playing the Petroff, also known as the Russian defense, for the first time in his career.

"I thought it’s the correct play; the Grand Prix is played in Russia and Russian players are playing, so the Petroff defence is the optimal choice," he quipped.

"The whole match was going wrong," said Grischuk. "The only game where I was better was where I played d3 on the third move; the only game where I was slightly pressing." Grischuk spent four minutes on 3.d3 and did get a slight edge, but no more than that.

Grischuk vs Nepomniachtchi Moscow Grand Prix 2019
Grischuk spent four minutes on his third move. | Photo: World Chess.

Nepomniachtchi: "We quickly went out of any theory and I somehow managed to equalize."

Yet again, we didn't get to see a very long tiebreak. Nepomniachtchi played an excellent game as White, which should be useful for chess trainers as it perfectly demonstrates the "knight on the rim" theme.

"In general, White’s play is more simple than Black’s," said Nepomniachtchi. "I believe after 14…d5 and especially after 19.b5 Na5 Black could be in some trouble because the knight on a5 is out of play. In the game I managed to almost catch this knight and provoke …b6, c6 and after this I think the structure is already more or less winning for White."

Nepomniachtchi Grischuk FIDE Moscow Grand Prix 2019
The last day of the Grand Prix in the Central Chess Club in Moscow. | Photo: World Chess.

Grischuk: "Maybe 14…d5 is already slightly wrong, then maybe 16…Qd7. But I quickly just got a completely hopeless position with this knight. I was trying to avoid slightly worse positions and I allowed just a completely winning position for White."

Neponiachtchi looked back at the tournament, reflecting on the knockout format with just two classical games followed by faster time controls in the tiebreak:

"It makes some harm to the quality of play. Sometimes you want to take a less risky decision, not take an extra risk and play safely and somehow you are missing the best continuations which are connected with some serious play. Especially the tiebreak, it’s very tough. But overall I am very happy with my result."

Ian Nepomniachtchi wins FIDE Grand Prix Moscow
Ian Nepomniachtchi: "I was trying to be solid." | Photo: World Chess.

Grischuk had the opposite opinion:

"I think knockout is best for me; I usually play [my] best. I think it was my best tournament in terms of quality in a very long period. If I won today of course I would be happy but you cannot be happy when you lose."

The interview with the players after the game. | Video: World Chess.

Moscow was the first of four Grand Prix tournaments this year. Nepomniachtchi now has good chances to qualify for the 2020 Candidates Tournament but he isn't there yet. It's the two players who finish at the top of the Grand Prix final standings, which is based on Grand Prix points, who qualify.

(The other qualifiers are two players from the World Cup, in September in Khanty-Mansiysk, one player from the FIDE Grand Swiss, in October, one based on rating, one wild card and Fabiano Caruana as the loser of the last title match.)

Below is a table with all four events, with the green pawns indicating which players will play in the remaining three tournaments. For Moscow, the Grand Prix points have been filled in. Note that all players who won a mini-match without a tiebreak got an extra GP point for each of those mini-matches.

2019 Grand Prix Standings After Moscow Leg (unofficial)

# Fed Name Moscow Riga/Jurmala Hamburg Tel-Aviv GP points
1 Ian Nepomniachtchi 9 9
2 Alexander Grischuk 7 7
3 Radoslaw Wojtaszek 5 5
4 Hikaru Nakamura 3 3
5-7 Peter Svidler 2 2
5-7 Wei Yi 2 2
5-7 Daniil Dubov 2 2
8 Wesley So 1 1
9-21 Anish Giri 0 0
9-21 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 0 0
9-21 Levon Aronian 0 0
9-21 Teimour Radjabov 0 0
9-21 Sergey Karjakin 0 0
9-21 Nkita Vitiugov 0 0
9-21 Jan-Krzysztof Duda 0 0
9-21 Dmitry Jakovenko 0 0
9-21 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 0 0
9-21 Yu Yangyi 0 0
9-21 Veselin Topalov 0 0
9-21 David Navara 0 0
9-21 Pentala Harikrishna 0 0
(Israeli nomination)

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

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