Vachier-Lagrave Wins Paris Grand Chess Tour In 'Horror Show'
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with his trophy next to Gilles Betthaeuser of sponsor Colliers. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/GrandChessTour.

Vachier-Lagrave Wins Paris Grand Chess Tour In 'Horror Show'

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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54 | Chess Event Coverage

It almost went wrong, but eventually he clinched it. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won the Paris Grand Chess Tour on Thursday, while the 49-year-old Vishy Anand reached an excellent second place.

"It's a joy of course, but right now it's mostly relief because today and even yesterday was something of a horror show," said Vachier-Lagrave after the last round. "I'm really not pleased with the way I played, at least. Of course I won in the end so it's really a relief but it's too soon to call joy."

It was a gripping final day until the very last moves were played. MVL was not finding his top form in the blitz, and allowed his rivals to come very close when he suffered three losses in four games at some point.

But while he was on the losing side of the epic final of the recent Grand Prix in Riga, this time the Frenchman nailed it, in a final game against the same opponent as in Riga, and in front of a home crowd.

Vachier-Lagrave was interviewed by Maurice Ashley.

MVL's somewhat timid reaction in the post-tournament interview can be explained by the fact that he only scored 3.5/9 on the final day of blitz, after his 4.5/9 the day before. Luckily for him, his closest rivals all failed to take advantage.

The top performer on day two was Jan-Krzysztof Duda, as the only player to score 6.5/9. The Polish rising star is still erratic in his achievements, but his talent his obvious. After a horrible opening he countered and even beat Alexander Grischuk as Black:

2019 Paris Grand Chess Tour participants
The participants with the Arc de Triomphe as the backdrop, from the rooftop garden of the Vivendi office. | Photo: Justin Kellar/Grand Chess Tour.

Before discussing the tournament intrigue, special mention goes out to Anand. Like Duda and Hikaru Nakamura, he scored 10.5/18 in the two days of blitz, and together with his 5/9 in the rapid that was good for second place  in the final standings.

After two draws and a loss to Daniil Dubov, Anand defeated Grischuk, Fabiano Caruana and Nakamura in a row, then drew with MVL and Anish Giri before beating Ian Nepomniachtchi in the final round.

The game with Nakamura should have been a draw, but practically it's always difficult to play against the bishop pair, or with knight against bishop, in an open position like this:

2019 Paris Grand Chess Tour playing hall
An anomaly was corrected as spectators were welcome this year in Paris. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The day started with Grischuk, Nepomniachtchi and Vachier-Lagrave all winning their games, and so MVL kept his two-point lead in the standings. In the next round he drew with Grischuk, while Nepo missed his chance to come closer:

Nepomniachtchi missed a big chance vs. Duda. Paris Grand Chess Tour
Nepomniachtchi missed a big chance vs. Duda. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Grischuk was only a point behind the leader after the third round of the day. He defeated Giri and saw MVL suffer a loss to Caruana:

However, this was Grischuk's moment of collapse as he lost to both Anand and Duda, a game that was given above. The Russian GM was again two points behind MVL, and again tied with Nepomniachtchi with five rounds to go.

Alexander Grischuk Paris Grand Chess Tour 2019
Alexander Grischuk. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Nepomniachtchi then won quickly against the leader, and so it was his turn to decrease the gap to a point:

Nepomniachtchi vs Vachier-Lagrave Paris GrandChessTour.
Nepomniachtchi vs Vachier-Lagrave, about to start. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Nepomniachtchi with half a point to the lead in the next round, as he drew with Dubov and Vachier-Lagrave lost, like the day before, to Giri:

In the penultimate round, Nepomniachtchi lost to Grischuk, which meant that Vachier-Lagrave could secure tournament victory right there. On a good day he would never have missed 24...b5, but now it all came down to the last round.

MVL was still half a point ahead of Grischuk, but got a bad position against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, the same opponent he had lost to in the Armageddon game in the Riga Grand Prix final playoff.

But Mamedyarov slipped, allowed an equalizer and then got under pressure. Vachier-Lagrave then got stuck in an ending with rook vs bishop-and-pawns. He couldn't win it, which gave Grischuk the opportunity to reach a playoff.

Vachier-Lagrave Mamedyarov Paris Grand Chess Tour 2019
Vachier-Lagrave and Mamedyarov finishing their tournament with smiles. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Grischuk couldn't complain with Caruana's opening choice: the old, sharp 4.Nc3 and 5.g4 in the Advance Caro-Kann. It led to possibly the best game of the whole tournament, with eventually Grischuk going down in a queen endgame.

2019 Paris Grand Chess Tour final standings
The Paris Grand Chess Tour final standings. | Image: Spectrum Studios.

Vachier-Lagrave moved up to second place in the overall Grand Chess Tour standings, between Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So. Note that four players will qualify for the finals in December in London.

Here's the remaining schedule:

  • St. Louis Rapid & Blitz, August 8-15, St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Sinquefield Cup (Classical), August 15-30., St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Superbet Rapid & Blitz, November 4-11, Bucharest, Romania.
  • Tata Steel Rapid & Blitz, November 20-27, Kolkata, India.
  • GCT Finals (four players qualify), November 30-December 10, London.
2019 Grand Chess Tour standings after Paris
The 2019 Grand Chess Tour standings after Paris. | Image: Spectrum Studios.

Together with two blitz games from the Riga Grand Prix, MVL lost a total of 102 rating points and dropped from number one to four in the live blitz rankings.  

The Paris Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour took place July 27-August 1. After three days of rapid (nine rounds), two days of blitz followed with nine rounds on each day. Chess.com provided daily coverage on Twitch.tv/Chess and Chess.com/TV. (See also our press release.)

Day 5 coverage:

All games of blitz rounds 10-18 for replay/download:


You can find all games here as part of our live portal. More photos from the event can be found here. The official site is here.

Besides a small exhibition event that starts in a few days in Amsterdam, the next big tournament will be the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz, which has the first round of rapid on August 10. Magnus Carlsen plays. You can find all upcoming major events in our calendar.


Correction: an earlier version of this report erroneously stated that Vachier-Lagrave is now behind Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So in the overall Grand Chess Tour standings. He is between them.


Previous reports:

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