The stakes are high as the semi-finals of the FIDE Hamburg Grand Prix with only the top two players from the series getting to qualify for the Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg in Russia from15 Mar-5 Apr.
Only a few grandmasters remain that can qualify via this tournament series, including two of the semi-finalists facing each other in Hamburg.
Russian Alexander Grischuk has collected 14 points, but Hamburg is the last stop on his Grand Prix journey. His French opponent, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has 13 points but he will have an additional opportunity to collect more points in December during the fourth and final leg in Jerusalem.
Considering these circumstances, the Russian player is under more pressure to win their direct encounter.
first game, Grischuk chose the Modern Arkhangelsk Defense with Black, which is
considered to be a highly theoretical line of the Ruy Lopez. The last time he
played this opening was in 2007. After some thought, Vachier-Lagrave reacted
with a sideline and avoided a theoretical battle.
Grischuk had no problems equalizing and around move 20 the pawn structure was nearly symmetrical with identical material. After the exchange of two minor pieces, there was little play left in the position and the players agreed to a draw after 27 moves.
game between Jan-Krzysztof Duda
and Daniil Dubov started as an
English Opening but soon transposed into a line of the Tarrasch Defense which
Dubov had played several times this year against high-rated opponents. Duda
introduced a new idea by developing the bishop to g5 on move eleven.
The 23-year-old Russian seemed to be surprised. Dubov had reservations about a key tactical sequence and spent over half an hour in thought.
However, Duda avoided the sharper variations and steered the game towards a double rook and opposite-coloured bishops endgame. The position was completely equal and the players agreed to a draw after nearly two hours of play.
Semi-final, game 1 results:
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave – Alexander Grischuk 1/2-1/2
Jan-Krzysztof Duda – Daniil Dubov 1/2-1/2