Russian Alexander Grischuk shared a point with three time Polish champion Radoslaw Wojtaszek in his opening match of the FIDE Grand Prix in Hamburg.
The two grandmasters shared the point after an intense and open battle in a variation of the Catalan Opening.
“We are both happy and unhappy”, said Grischuk, who was was defeated by Ian Nepomniachtchi in rapid tiebreaks during the tournament finale of the previous leg of the Grand Prix in Moscow.
In a highly complex middle-game, Black got the upper hand around move 30 when the white pieces were clumsily gathered on the king-side.
The Polish grandmaster nevertheless was able to turn the tables by giving some material for the black queen and forcing Grischuk’s majesty to leave the safety of the corner. He chased the king over half of the board, but there was not more than a perpetual check, which he delivered after the first time control.
The top two players with the most points in the four leg tournament will qualify for the 2020 Candidates tournament with the chance of dethroning current world champion Magnus Carlsen.
The Grand Prix is a knockout (KO) tournament. In each round, two games are played against each other with players receiving 90 minutes for the first 40 moves plus 30 seconds bonus per move. If there is a draw, then it continues until the decision with further two-party matches with ever shorter thinking time.
One of the favourites to win in Hamburg, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France got off to a great start when he outplayed China’s Wei Yi in his opening match.
The Chinese grandmaster boldly chose the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense with the black pieces against the world’s leading expert of this opening.
Vachier-Lagrave reacted with a rare idea on move seven. After the exchange of queens on move 19, he got the better ending and improved his position step by step. Vachier-Lagrave won the crucial a-pawn, and his pawn on this file proved to be decisive.
Peter Svidler thanked his Russian colleague Kirill Alekseenko for showing him the line he used today to beat Indian Pentala Harikrishna.
In the second Italian Game of the day, Black seemed to have some initiative on the kingside, but Svidler parried all threats with precise counters and reached a favourable ending.
White’s advantage increased when the Russian grandmaster entered the 7th rank with one of his rooks on move 29. Harikrishna sacrificed an exchange and tried to create counter-play with his passed pawn on the a-file, but Svidler was always in charge of the situation and converted without any problems.
In a battle lasting nearly five hours, Japanese-born American Hikaru Nakamura and Bulgarian Veselin Topalov played the longest game of the day, which ended in favour of the latter
“I used a line, which Anand played against me once”, Topalov explained. His decision was justified as he started a vicious attack against the white king right after the opening. Even if Topalov had missed a straight win, the position on the board never raised serious doubts about who would be the final winner of day one at the FIDE Grand Prix in Hamburg.
Czech David Navara and Russian Nikita Vitiugov tested their theoretical knowledge in a deeply analyzed line of the Marshall Attack in their match-up.
The Czech grandmaster followed in the footsteps of Teimour Radjabov, who beat China’s Ding Liren in the finals of the World Cup with the same opening. Vitiugov deviated on move 17 by putting the bishop on f5 instead of the queen. He sacrificed a pawn, but soon afterwards Navara gave the pawn back and forced the draw after 25 moves.
“This is modern chess”, said Vitiugov later and added that Black has typical compensation in this position, which often leads to the same result.
The first game to end was the one between Teimour Radjabov and Daniil Dubov. It was only twelve moves long and it concluded in less than an hour. In an Italian Game, the Russian grandmaster gave up castling short and started an attack on the king-side. Just when the battle began to heat up, Radjabov offered a draw, which Dubov accepted.
Dmitry Jakovenko and Yu Yangyi shared the point shortly afterwards. In a line of the rock-solid Petroff, Jakovenko decided to call it a day after 17 moves in a symmetrical and balanced position.
Results of the 1st round:
Vachier-Lagrave – Wei Yi 1-0
Hikaru Nakamura – Veselin Topalov 0-1
David Navara – Nikita Vitiugov 1/2-1/2
Radoslaw Wojtaszek – Alexander Grischuk 1/2-1/2
Teimour Radjabov – Daniil Dubov 1/2-1/2
Peter Svidler – Pentala Harikrishna 1-0
Dmitry Jakovenko – Yu Yangyi 1/2-1/2