Riga Grand Prix: Round 1 Goes To Armageddon
The third day in Riga as games are underway. | Photo: WorldChess.

Riga Grand Prix: Round 1 Goes To Armageddon

| 18 | Chess Event Coverage

Two matches in the Riga Grand Prix's first round went all the way to the Armageddon game to force a decision. Only Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov reached the second round without needing a tiebreak.

With tiebreaks at both the Wimbledon final and the cricket World Cup final, it was fitting that the 2019 FIDE Grand Prix saw its first two Armageddon games today as well. It didn't go that far at the Moscow leg, but in Riga the fans got treated as early as the first round.

As another knockout event, the Riga GP needs an Armageddon game when the score between players is level after two classical games, two rapid games (25+10), two "semirapid" games (10+10) and two blitz games (5+3). This was the case in the matches Anish Giri vs. Sergey Karjakin and Levon Aronian vs. Yu Yangyi.

After two draws in the classical, Karjakin won the first rapid game today. He was successful with the topical 6.Bd3 line in the Najdorf as his pawn majority on the queenside resulted in a strong passer on c6:

Giri then managed to get a nice edge in an endgame, despite the fact that Karjakin was following one of his earlier games for a while. It got tricky in the end, but the Dutchman remained calm in this one.

Anish Giri Riga Grand Prix 2019
Anish Giri. | Photo: Niki Riga/WorldChess.

However, in the ultimate battle of nerves it was Karjakin who prevailed. He won the Armageddon, where White gets five minutes on the clock versus four for Black (with a two-second increment from move 61), who has draw odds.

"I have to admit that it was one of the most difficult matches in my career," Karjakin said afterward, About the Armageddon, he added, "He had a great position out of the opening. I was trying to keep the tension, but with normal play it would be very comfortable for him."

Aronian and Yu had started with six draws before the Armenian player finally struck in the first blitz game. More activity in a Schlechter led to the win of a pawn, and technique did the rest:

In a must-win situation Yu delivered as Aronian, who seemed very safe with two minor pieces for a rook, allowed a winning attacking maneuver by his opponent:

Yu then held the Armageddon as Black, again using the Schlechter system:

Yu said he was "very lucky" in this match. 

The other four matches were decided much quicker: after the two rapid games. The first surprising result was Veselin Topalov kicking out Hikaru Nakamura by winning the second game with the white pieces:

Topalov himself was also surprised. "Obviously I thought Hikaru was the big favorite in the rapid," he said. "It's already a big success for me."

Trading queens was "crazy," according to Nakamura, who felt the second encounter was "a very bad game" in general.

Wesley So first beat Pentala Harikrishna as White, and then held his black game. Here's his win, which saw So going for what seemed like a very dangerous pawn grab, but it looks like he had calculated everything carefully. His queen did get trapped, but he got more than enough material:

Peter Svidler left the arena early as well (and as a cricket fan there was at least a small advantage to that) because he lost the second rapid game to Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

The Russian player moved a knight to d2 as Black on move 21, and remarkably it stayed there until move 44, when it was finally captured and Duda remained a pawn up.

Alexander Grischuk, finalist in Moscow, made it to the second round as he defeated Nikita Vitiugov in both games. The latter said that he should "learn more about basic rules of chess, especially king safety" as he described the first game:

The second game didn't last much longer, and Vitiugov resigned when he was about to lose a second pawn:

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who had beaten David Navara in just 19 moves on Friday, held the draw in his black game the next day. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov slowly but skillfully outplayed Daniil Dubov in an endgame from a Gruenfeld that had started with an irregular move order. The Azerbaijani won a pawn on move 35 and converted it 43 moves later:

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov Riga Grand Prix 2019
Strong endgame play by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

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 noon UTC. 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.

All games of the first round for replay or download:

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.

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