Riga Grand Prix: Mamedyarov Lone Winner On Day 1 Semifinals
The stage was set for Mamedyarov vs So. | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess

Riga Grand Prix: Mamedyarov Lone Winner On Day 1 Semifinals

| 10 | Chess Event Coverage

The semifinal matches commenced on day seven of the FIDE Grand Prix in Riga, Latvia. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has one foot in the final as he beat Wesley So in a wild Catalan while Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs. Alexander Grischuk started with a draw.

So has to win on demand as White while Grischuk will try to push Vachier-Lagrave in Friday's second classical game. After a grueling first three rounds, the players will have a rest day (or two) after these semifinal matches.

Mamedyarov vs So was the lone decisive game today. | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

Mamedyarov used his white game smartly. True to his style, he went all out right from the start in a game where both sides had the pawn structure vandalized on the queenside.

The Azerbaijani GM chose the Catalan against So's Queen's Gambit Declined setup. He then uncorked the important novelty 14.a3, which stops the queen trade.

So didn't react in the best possible way and blundered almost immediately with 15...c3. Mamedyarov picked up two minor pieces for a rook and a pawn, and then showed sublime technique to bring home the point.

Mamedyarov adopted a unique posture to calculate during the game. | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

So made a blunder early on and never really recovered. | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

Mamedyarov was kind enough to visit the studio and give detailed insights to the game.

Twelve of their colleagues left Riga before the semifinalists. Therefore, the players have more space and even better playing conditions than earlier. This also means better photo opportunities for the official photographer Niki Riga, who clicked this interesting picture:

Different styles gave different results yesterday. | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

Earlier in the day, the semifinals were kicked off by the boxer Mairis Briedis, who is the World Diamond Champion and current WBO cruiserweight world champion. He was also awarded the Order of the Three stars in 2017.

Briedis was advised by Vachier-Lagrave to play the ceremonial move 1.e4.

Mairis Briedis makes the ceremonial first move. | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

This game started off with a Berlin. In a typical setup, Vachier-Lagrave, who loves playing the Berlin endgame, tried to get his pieces active. He chose a different idea with 12.Re1 instead of his pet move 12.Be3; he had used the same idea against Levon Aronian earlier.

Grischuk replied with a new move 12..a5, and Vachier-Lagrave sacrificed a pawn to get more active. Grischuk missed White's 21.Rd3 and thought he was much worse. After 30 minutes of thought, he came up with Black's best defense, pushing his queenside pawns. He managed to force a draw with precise and timely counterplay.

Vachier-Lagrave couldn't make much use of his white game. | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.
Grischuk is looking forward to his second FIDE GP final in as many events. | Photo: Niki Riga/World Chess.

Grischuk later admitted he completely blundered and missed White's 21.Rd3 and felt that he should resign as his draw offer wasn't accepted. He thought that Black's only chance is to play b4 and a4, and still White might have a study-like win.

MVL admitted: "I feel like there was a win but I couldn't find it. So in the end it just petered out to a draw."

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.

Previous reports:

IM Rakesh Kulkarni

Rakesh Kulkarni is the Director of Indian Social Media for and a correspondent on chess in India.

Rakesh has earned the International Master title and is a former Commonwealth Blitz Champion and a Commonwealth Bronze medallist in the junior category. Rakesh has a Masters of Commerce degree in Management & Business administration. He now is a professional chess player and trains young talents across the globe on

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