The moment of truth has arrived with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ian Nepomniachtchi crossing swords in Jerusalem, in a clash that will be decisive to determine who will get a sport for the Candidates tournament.
If Vachier-Lagrave wins this match he would immediately qualify for the Candidates. However, for his Russian rival would need to go on to win the tournament to get his ticket to Ekaterinburg 2020.
Dmitry Andreikin found an interesting idea in order to avoid the classical Naidorf in the first rapid game against Vachier-Lagrave. The French grandmaster didn’t react the best way and after f4-f5 ended up in a difficult position.
According to Maxime, he still managed to create a mess on the board and as a result, turned the table and even won the first game. Dmitry had to win the second encounter to level the score and was able to get a complicated position with Black pieces.
The situation in the match required to take extra risks and the Russian grandmaster decided to sacrifice a material to get a double-edge position, however, Maxime found the best moves to convert the game into the winning ending. Despite the fact his position was absolutely winning, he offered a draw to his opponent and won the match with 1,5:0,5 score.
Nepomniachtchi was surprised by the opening choice of his opponent in the first game and could not remember his preparation clearly. According to him, he got into the position where black was having positional disadvantages but it was still hard to break his defense.
In the second game, Wesley So fell into the preparation of his opponent.
“Once in a blue moon, I managed to get something out of the opening! Actually, this idea with 21…Bf3 22.Rf3 Re5 is a trap. I was lucky to remember all moves until it was better for white but it would not be me if I didn’t make some mistakes later in the game”, commented Nepomniachtchi.
After 37…Rd4 38.Re8 the players entered the rook ending with a clear advantage for White. Wesley So doubted his decision to go for a rook ending and said he would probably have had better chances to defend the ending with queens on the board as it was not so clear how white could increase his pressure.
Israeli grandmaster Alik Gershon, who is also famous for setting the Guinness World Record for simultaneous games after playing 523 opponents, made a first symbolic move in the game between Wei Yi-Karjakin. It turned out to be the longest match of the second playoffs.
After losing the first rapid game Karjakin came back to the match by taking revenge in the second encounter. The Russian grandmaster had a pleasant advantage in the third game but misplayed in the endgame, allowing his opponent to take a lead in the match. Sergei, who is famous for being able to fight back in any situation, was trying to level the score for the second time, but Wei Yi didn’t give his opponent a second chance.