Grischuk and Nepomniachtchi Advance in Moscow

Alexander Grischuk and Ian Nepomniachtchi are through to the final round at the 2019 Moscow Grand Prix. Grischuk defeated Hikaru Nakamura 1.5-0.5 to advance to the finals, while Nepomniachtchi had to suffer through rapid and blitz tiebreaks against Radoslaw Wojtaszek, eventually winning their match by a score of 3.5-2.5. Nakamura may have “gone to the well” one too many times in his loss against Grischuk. He had played the 7. … b5 line against the Open Catalan six times previously, twice here in Moscow, and Grischuk came to the board well-prepared.
Hikaru Nakamura (photo World Chess)
[pgn]

[Event "Moscow FIDE Grand Prix"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2019.05.24"]
[Round "3.2"]
[White "Grischuk, Alexander"]
[Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E06"]
[WhiteElo "2772"]
[BlackElo "2761"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "107"]
[EventDate "2019.05.17"]
[EventType "k.o."]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 b5 $5 {
Nakamura's now-standard response to the Catalan. Grischuk came loaded for bear.
} 8. a4 b4 9. Nfd2 ({Nakamura had already had this position twice in Moscow,
but his previous opponents chose a different path:} 9. Nbd2 Bb7 10. Nxc4 c5 11.
dxc5 Be4 12. Qd2 (12. Qd1 {1/2-1/2 (12) Radjabov,T (2759)-Nakamura,H (2761)
Moscow RUS 2019}) 12... Nbd7 13. Nfe5 Bxg2 14. Kxg2 Bxc5 15. Nxd7 Nxd7 16. b3
Nb6 17. Qxd8 Rfxd8 18. Nxb6 Bxb6 19. a5 Bd4 20. Ra4 a6 21. Rxb4 Bc3 22. Rc4
Bxa5 23. b4 Bb6 24. Bf4 h6 25. Rc6 Bd4 26. Bc7 Rd5 27. Rd1 Rc8 28. Rdc1 Bf6 29.
Bd6 Rd8 30. Bc7 Rc8 31. Bd6 Rd8 32. Bc7 {1/2-1/2 (32) Dubov,D (2690)-Nakamura,
H (2761) Moscow RUS 2019}) 9... c6 10. Nxc4 Qxd4 11. Rd1 Qc5 12. Be3 Qh5 13.
Nbd2 Ng4 14. Nf3 Nxe3 15. Nxe3 a5 16. Nd4 Ba6 17. Rac1 Rc8 18. Bf3 {Grischuk's
preparation ended here.} Qg6 ({After the game Grischuk noted that} 18... Qe5 {
was problematic for Black because of} 19. Ng4 Qc7 20. Qb3 {(threatening Nxc6
and Nxe6)} Ra7 21. Be4 $1 c5 (21... Qb6 $5) (21... h5 22. Nxe6 $1) 22. Nxe6 $1
fxe6 23. Qxe6+) 19. Be4 Qh5 20. Bf3 Qg6 21. Be4 Qh5 22. Kg2 Ra7 23. h4 {
"Very complicated, tons of ways to play for both sides." (Grischuk)} g6 24. f4
Qh6 25. Nb3 {A move that Grischuk "was not in love with," but one that he
played after rejecting a key alternative.} ({In the post-game interview
Grischuk gave the following line that he had calculated, describing how his
brain felt like a "boiler" (steam coming out of his ears) while diving deep
into the position.} 25. Ng4 Qg7 26. Ne5 Rac7 27. Bf3 (27. Nexc6 $2 Nxc6 28.
Nxc6 Bf6) 27... Bf6 (27... c5 28. Nb5 $1) 28. Qc5 Bxe5 29. fxe5 Nd7 30. Qxa5
Bb7 31. Nxc6 (31. Nb5 $2 Qxe5 $19) 31... Bxc6 32. Rxc6 Rxc6 33. Bxc6 Qxe5 (
33... Rxc6 $2 34. Rxd7 $18) 34. Qxe5 Nxe5 35. Bb5 Rc2 $1 36. a5 Rxb2 37. Ra1 b3
38. a6 Ra2 {when Grischuk thought that "Black is queening first." In truth the
position is a draw after} 39. Rb1) 25... Kh8 $6 {Nakamura thought that this
was where his trouble began, although the computer still thinks that the
position is holdable. Grischuk said that the move was "too good to be true."} (
{If} 25... c5 26. Nxa5 Bxe2 27. Qxe2 Rxa5 {Grischuk felt that White had
compensation, but not more than that.}) 26. Bd3 ({Black's idea with his
previous move is} 26. Nxa5 f5 $1 {when} 27. Bd3 {is impossible due to the
knight on a5 hanging, i.e.} Bxd3 28. Qxd3 Rxa5) 26... Bb7 27. Nc4 c5+ ({If}
27... f5 {Grischuk planned} 28. Nc5 $1 Bxc5 29. Ne5 {(wti Nf7+)} Qf8 30. Qxc5
Qxc5 31. Rxc5 {with an overwhelming position.}) 28. Be4 Ba6 (28... Nc6 29. Nd6
Bxd6 30. Rxd6) 29. Nbxa5 Qf8 30. Bf3 Rd8 31. h5 Bf6 32. Rxd8 Qxd8 33. Rd1 Rd7
34. Rxd7 Nxd7 35. h6 {Every sly wag on Twitter was throwing out Alpha Zero
references here, a tribute to how influential Matthew Sadler and Natasha
Regan's book has become!} Nb6 36. Ne5 ({Nakamura thought that Grischuk missed
a direct win with} 36. Nxb6 Qxb6 37. Qe4 Qxa5 38. Qa8+ Qd8 (38... Bd8 39. Qc6
$1) 39. Qxa6) (36. Nc6 $4 {loses to} Nxc4 $1) 36... Bxe5 $6 37. Nc6 Nc4 $2 38.
Nxd8 Ne3+ 39. Kf2 Nxc2 40. Nxf7+ Kg8 41. Nxe5 c4 42. Bg4 Nd4 43. Ke1 (43. e3 c3
44. bxc3 bxc3 45. Ke1 Nc2+ 46. Kd1 $18) (43. Nf3 $5) 43... Kf8 44. Kd1 Ke7 45.
e3 Nb3 46. Nc6+ Kf6 47. Nxb4 Bb7 48. Be2 Na5 49. Kd2 Nb3+ 50. Kc3 Nc5 51. a5
Ne4+ 52. Kxc4 Nxg3 53. Bd3 g5 54. fxg5+ 1-0

[/pgn]
Alexander Grischuk after his win over Nakamura (photo Niki Riga)
Grischuk’s account of his calculations on move 25 is truly remarkable, and one can understand why Grischuk made the universal “steam coming out the ears” face as he gave the lines to illustrate how deeply down the rabbit hole he went.
Nepo-Wojtaszek (photo World Chess)
Grischuk meets Ian Nepomniachtchi in the all-Russian final. Nepomniachtchi’s win over Radoslaw Wojtaszek came after four draws in classical and rapid time controls, and their match was the first in the event that required a blitz (10 minutes plus 10 second increment) round. Their first blitz game was drawn, but after Wojtaszek blundered in the second game, Nepomniachtchi collected the point with ease.
[pgn]

[Event "Moscow FIDE Grand Prix"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2019.05.25"]
[Round "3.6"]
[White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"]
[Black "Wojtaszek, Radoslaw"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B51"]
[WhiteElo "2773"]
[BlackElo "2724"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "55"]
[EventDate "2019.05.17"]
[EventType "k.o."]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Nd7 4. d4 cxd4 5. Qxd4 a6 6. Bxd7+ Bxd7 7. Nc3 e5 8.
Qd3 Rc8 9. O-O h6 10. Nd2 Qc7 11. h3 Nf6 12. a4 Be7 13. Rd1 O-O 14. Nf1 d5 $5 {
The thematic break.} ({Wojtaszek tried} 14... Be6 {in the rapid games, when
play followed} 15. Ne3 Qc5 16. Qe2 Bd8 17. Qf3 b5 18. axb5 axb5 19. Ne2 Bb6 20.
Ng3 Ra8 21. Rxa8 Rxa8 22. c3 Ra1 23. Nef5 Ne8 24. Be3 Rxd1+ 25. Qxd1 Qc7 26.
Bxh6 gxh6 27. Qg4+ Kf8 28. Qh4 f6 29. Qxh6+ Kg8 30. Qg6+ Kf8 31. Qh5 Qf7 32.
Qh8+ Qg8 33. Qh6+ Kf7 34. Qh5+ Kf8 35. Qh6+ Kf7 36. Qh5+ Kf8 37. Qh6+ {1/2-1/2
(37) Nepomniachtchi,I (2773)-Wojtaszek,R (2724) Moscow RUS 2019}) 15. exd5 {
The correct decision.} (15. Nxd5 {is easy equality for Black:} Nxd5 16. exd5
Qxc2 (16... Bd6 $5 $44) 17. Qxc2 Rxc2 $11) 15... Ne8 16. d6 {Nepo returns the
pawn to gain the d5 square.} Bxd6 (16... Nxd6 $4 {loses immediately to} 17. Nd5
Qd8 18. Nxe7+ Qxe7 19. Qxd6 $18) (16... Qxd6 $6 17. Nd5 Bc6 18. Nfe3 $14) 17.
Nd5 Qc6 18. Nfe3 Bc5 $4 {A bad blunder. Now White will effectively get two
tempi for free.} (18... f5 $142) (18... Be6 $142) 19. b4 $1 Bd6 {Black has to
stay on the a3-f8 diagonal to prevent Ne7+ forking the king and queen.} 20. c4
{Now the question becomes one of survival. c4-c5 is a huge threat.} b6 ({
Sacrificing a pawn with} 20... e4 21. Qxe4 f5 {doesn't give Black nearly
enough activity to make up for his weaknesses. If} 22. Qd3 f4 23. b5 $1) ({
Avoiding the fork with} 20... Kh8 {loses more time, and White gets a
tremendous advantage with} 21. b5 $1) 21. a5 {Very logical, continuing to
fight for c4-c5!} (21. b5 axb5 22. axb5 Qb7 23. Ra6 {is strong.}) 21... e4 (
21... bxa5 $2 22. c5 {is game over}) 22. Qd4 (22. Qxe4 $143 f5 23. Qd3 f4 24.
Ng4 Qxc4 {when White is still winning, but not "as winning" compared to the
game continuation.}) 22... Be6 23. axb6 Bxd5 24. Qxd5 Qxd5 25. Rxd5 Bxb4 26.
Rxa6 Nd6 (26... Rb8 27. Bb2 {with the idea of Bb2-e5}) 27. b7 Nxb7 (27... Rb8
28. Rb6 $1) 28. Rb6 1-0

[/pgn]
Today (Sunday) is a rest day in Moscow, at least for the finalists. https://twitter.com/FIDE_chess/status/1132629824676257793 The finals begin tomorrow (Monday) at 3pm Moscow time, or 8am Eastern. Grischuk and Nepomniachtchi will play two classical games on the 27th and 28th, with tiebreaks on the 29th if necessary. Live coverage is available at the official WorldChess site, or direct via their YouTube channel.

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