FIDE Belgrade R5 Grand Prix: Rapport wins and takes the lead in Group C
Sunday’s drama was taken care of by Group C, where both matches found winners, most notably by general manager Richard Rapport, who leads by a point in the final lap. In Group A, two draws mean GM Dmitry Andreikin and GM Sam Shankland maintain their lead. GM Anish Giri played without convincing but retained the lead in Group B, and finally, in Group D, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave maintained his lead despite a draw.
The leaders of Group A faced each other for the second time, and this meeting was a bit more lackluster than their third round match. Andreikin played the fashionable 3…a6 against Shankland’s Queen’s Gambit. White did not play particularly ambitiously and allowed the exchange of queens. Already after move 21 they began to repeat moves, settling for a draw.
In the second game, GM Etienne Bacrot had the white pieces against struggling GM Alexander Grischuk. In their recent encounter in Berlin, Grischuk used the Pirc defense to play for a win but found themselves in a terrible position. So here, having no need or desire to risk anything, he instead played 1…e5.
In a Closed Ruy Lopez (5…Be7), White avoided the most current lines by playing a setup with 6.d3 and 7.c3. The setup looks a little tame but has a lot more poison in it than it looks. However, after the odd 14.c4?! of the whites, the blacks had a comfortable position. Shortly after move 20, the players started repeating moves for the draw. A somewhat disappointing outcome for Bacrot who could have taken over the leaders in the event of a victory.
Heading into Sunday’s round, Giri was leading by a full point. Facing GM Pentala Harikrishna with the white pieces, a win could probably secure him the group win with one round to spare.
Based on his use of 1.e4 in his first two matches with White, Giri chose 1.d4 instead. Harikrishna defended with the popular Ragozin variation in the Queen’s Gambit. White didn’t get anything tangible from the opening but when he played 19.Ne2? he lost two tempi and got into trouble. Unfortunately for Harikrishna, he let the advantage slip away and soon after a draw became a reality.
In game two, GM Amin Tabatabaei faced GM Nikita Vitiugov, with the latter hoping for a win to put himself in a better position heading into the final round encounter with Giri.
In an Italian match, black quickly equalized and took the initiative. However, just before the time check, by playing 35…Rd7 (instead of 35…Nd7), Black seemed to lose most of his advantage. Vitiugov kept pushing for a while but never really came close to a tangible advantage, and a draw was eventually a reality.
Now Vitiugov must win with the white pieces in his last-round encounter with Giri to secure a playoff between the two.
Heading into Sunday’s round, Vidit and Rapport shared the lead. As they faced each other, all eyes were on their board. Vidit played White, and as in his match against GM Alexei Shirov in the first round chose 1.e4, and Rapport responded with the French defense. In a somewhat unusual line in the Advance Variation, Vidit appeared to gain the upper hand, but with an inaccurate 17th move Black equalized. Slowly but surely black took the initiative and gained an advantage which grew and was eventually converted into a full point.
Prior to this round, Shirov had been winless throughout his Grand Prix campaign, counting both his matches at the first event in Berlin and this one in Belgrade. As a White, he faced GM Vladimir Fedoseev, who needed a win, as wins in the final two rounds would put him in good stead to reach the playoffs for a semi-final berth.
Fedoseev opted for the Sicilian Sveshnikov against Shirov’s 1.e4. Shirov played many ways against the Sveshnikov but chose 7.Nd5, which was also Fabiano Caruana’s choice against Magnus Carlsen in the World Championship match in London 2018. I don’t recall Shirov playing this variation before, but I suspect he prepared against a line Fedoseev used in 2019.
However, it was Shirov who got it wrong first, giving Black a solid advantage after the solid 15…Bd3!. But Fedoseev, tempted by his prospects on the kingside, failed to properly explain Shirov’s play with his passed but isolated pawns on the d-file, and suddenly White was in control again. The final shots of the match were a mess with several errors from both sides and in the end Shirov emerged victorious.
Vachier-Lagrave took the lead in winning the group opener on Friday, and with two draws in today’s leg that hasn’t changed, although the players worked hard to find winners in the two games.
The MVL leader had the white pieces against GM Yu Yangyi who really didn’t have any serious issues at any point in this event playing consistently solid and well throughout. On Sunday, taking his chance, he repeated his choice against 4…Nc6 in the Petroff. Vachier-Lagrave was the first to deviate from previous games in this event and appeared to gain an advantage. However, capitalizing on the best chances proved very difficult and in the end, Yu Yangyi saved a well-deserved draw.
In the final game of the round to conclude, GM Alexandr Predke played the white pieces against GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who needed a win to try to catch MVL. After black equalized, white played the somewhat odd 17.Kh2. Shortly after the error 20.Re4, Mamedyarov missed or did not accurately assess the consequences of 20…d5!. Once that opportunity passed, neither team seemed to have a tangible advantage or even an edge and ultimately a draw was the result.
All Games – Round 5