Nepomniachtchi wins Moscow Grand Prix

Ian Nepomniachtchi is the winner of the 2019 Moscow Grand Prix, having defeated his countryman Alexander Grischuk in Wednesday’s rapid tiebreak round. Nepomniachtchi and Grischuk drew both games of their classical mini-match. Neither game was particularly exciting, although it looked for a moment that Nepomniachtchi might be able to make something out of his turn with Black in Game 1.
Grischuk-Nepo, Round 4.1 (photo World ChesS)
[pgn]

[Event "Moscow FIDE Grand Prix"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2019.05.27"]
[Round "4.1"]
[White "Grischuk, Alexander"]
[Black "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D85"]
[WhiteElo "2772"]
[BlackElo "2773"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "76"]
[EventDate "2019.05.17"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Nf3 c5 8.
Be2 Nc6 $5 {Inviting the following exchange sac.} (8... O-O {is standard.}) 9.
d5 Bxc3+ 10. Bd2 Bxa1 11. Qxa1 Nd4 12. Nxd4 cxd4 13. Qxd4 O-O 14. O-O Qb6 15.
Qc3 Bd7 16. Bh6 f6 17. Bxf8 Rc8 18. Qf3 Kxf8 19. e5 Kg7 (19... Qd4 20. d6 Qxe5
21. Qxb7 Ke8 22. Ba6 Qxd6 23. Qb3 Be6 24. Qa4+ Bd7 25. Qb3 Be6 26. Qa4+ Bd7 27.
Qb3 {1/2-1/2 (27) Ziegler,P (2093)-Ederer,K (2140) LSS email 2010}) 20. exf6+
exf6 {The computer thinks that the position is absolutely equal, but the pawn
structure is one that every Grunfeld (or Semi-Tarrasch) player will enjoy
playing with Black. Couple this with Grischuk's customary time pressure, and
Nepomiachtchi has to feel pretty good here.} 21. h3 Qd6 22. Qd3 h5 23. Qd2 b5
24. Qa5 a6 25. Bf3 Be8 26. h4 Bf7 27. g3 {Grischuk sets up a nearly optimal
defensive position. Black will have trouble making any progress.} Rc4 28. Rd1
Rc2 29. Be4 Rc8 30. Bg2 Rc7 31. Bf3 Rc4 32. Bg2 Kg8 33. Bf3 Kh7 34. Kg2 f5 35.
Qd2 b4 36. Qe3 Rc7 37. Rd3 a5 38. a3 bxa3 1/2-1/2

[/pgn]
Nepo-Grischuk, Round 4.2 (photo World Chess)
Grischuk’s Berlin Defense held in Game 2, and the game was drawn in just 23 moves.
[pgn]

[Event "Moscow FIDE Grand Prix"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2019.05.28"]
[Round "4.2"]
[White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"]
[Black "Grischuk, Alexander"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C67"]
[WhiteElo "2773"]
[BlackElo "2772"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "45"]
[EventDate "2019.05.17"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. Re1 Nd6 6. Nxe5 Be7 7. Bf1 Nxe5
8. Rxe5 O-O 9. d4 Bf6 10. Re2 $5 {This is the move Carlsen tried in game 3 of
the 2016 World Championship match against Karjakin. Why is it good to block
your bishop? Beats me. That's modern chess for you!} Nc4 $5 {Kramnik's
invention, played at his final event, Wijk aan Zee 2019.} ({Karjakin played}
10... b6 {(with the idea ... Ba6)} 11. Re1 Re8 12. Bf4 Rxe1 13. Qxe1 Qe7 14.
Nc3 Bb7 15. Qxe7 Bxe7 16. a4 a6 17. g3 g5 18. Bxd6 Bxd6 19. Bg2 Bxg2 20. Kxg2 {
1/2-1/2 (78) Carlsen,M (2857)-Karjakin,S (2769) New York 2016 CBM 176
[Seirawan,Y]}) (10... Nf5 {is another idea.}) (10... Re8 11. Bf4 Rxe2 12. Bxe2)
11. b3 Nb6 12. a4 ({The Kramnik game went} 12. c3 d5 13. Re1 Re8 14. Rxe8+ Qxe8
15. a4 Be6 16. Na3 Nc8 17. Bf4 Qd7 18. Bd3 c6 {0-1 (69) Fedoseev,V (2724)
-Kramnik,V (2777) Wijk aan Zee 2019}) 12... a5 13. Nc3 d6 14. Ne4 Be7 15. Qe1
Nd5 16. Nc3 Nxc3 17. Rxe7 Nd5 18. Re2 Bg4 19. f3 Bf5 20. Qd2 Re8 21. Bb2 Rxe2
22. Qxe2 Qe8 23. Re1 {All the pieces are coming off the board, and Nepo must
have thought that the two bishops weren't sufficient reason to press on. So
it's off to tiebreaks!} 1/2-1/2

[/pgn]
Grischuk-Nepo, Round 4.3 (photo World Chess)
Nepomniachtchi sprung a patriotic surprise on Grischuk in the first rapid tie-break game, essaying the Petroff (or Russian) Defense for the first time in serious over-the-board competition. Grischuk burned four minutes (out of his allotted 25!) and came up with… 3. d3. Not surprisingly the game was drawn without much drama.
[pgn]

[Event "Moscow FIDE Grand Prix"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2019.05.29"]
[Round "4.3"]
[White "Grischuk, Alexander"]
[Black "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C42"]
[WhiteElo "2772"]
[BlackElo "2773"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "73"]
[EventDate "2019.05.17"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 {A novelty... for Nepo! He had never played this in a
serious game before.} 3. d3 $5 {Grischuk spent four minutes here, pondering
what to do. And he chose this. It definitely gets Black out of prep, I guess!}
Nc6 4. g3 d5 5. exd5 Qxd5 6. Bg2 Bg4 7. h3 Bxf3 8. Qxf3 Qxf3 9. Bxf3 Nd4 10.
Bd1 O-O-O 11. Nd2 Nc6 12. a3 g6 13. Ne4 Nxe4 14. dxe4 h5 15. c3 Bh6 16. Bxh6
Rxh6 17. Bb3 f6 18. h4 Kd7 19. Ke2 Ke7 20. Rhd1 Rhh8 21. Bd5 Rd6 22. b4 Nd8 23.
f4 c6 24. Bb3 Rxd1 25. Rxd1 Ne6 26. Ke3 a5 27. Bxe6 Kxe6 28. bxa5 Ra8 29. Rb1
Rxa5 30. Rxb7 Rxa3 31. Kd3 exf4 32. gxf4 Ra1 33. Rc7 Kd6 34. Rf7 Ke6 35. Rc7
Kd6 36. Rf7 Ke6 37. Rc7 1/2-1/2

[/pgn]
Nepo-Grischuk, Round 4.4 (photo Niki Riga)
Grischuk stuck to 1. … e5 in the second rapid game, but Nepomniachtchi varied with a theoretical line in the Italian Game. Grischuk’s central break was perhaps premature, and after 19. b5! his knight was forced to the edge of the board, giving Nepomniachtchi a decent edge. “Nepo” increased the pressure as the game progressed, and after Grischuk blundered in a tough position, he was able to force resignation with a nice sham queen sac.
[pgn]

[Event "Moscow FIDE Grand Prix"]
[Site "Moscow RUS"]
[Date "2019.05.29"]
[Round "4.4"]
[White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"]
[Black "Grischuk, Alexander"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C50"]
[WhiteElo "2773"]
[BlackElo "2772"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "71"]
[EventDate "2019.05.17"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 d6 6. a4 a6 7. h3 Ba7 ({An
earlier game between these two players went} 7... h6 8. O-O O-O 9. Re1 a5 10.
Nbd2 Be6 11. Qb3 Qd7 12. Bxe6 fxe6 13. Nf1 Nh5 14. Be3 Bxe3 15. Rxe3 b6 16. g3
Kh8 17. N1h2 Nf6 18. Rd1 Qf7 19. Qc4 Qd7 20. Kg2 {1/2-1/2 (43) Nepomniachtchi,
I (2757)-Grischuk,A (2766) chess.com INT 2018}) 8. O-O h6 9. Re1 O-O 10. Nbd2
Re8 11. b4 Be6 12. Bxe6 Rxe6 13. Qc2 Qd7 14. Nc4 {New.} (14. Rb1) (14. Nf1)
14... d5 15. exd5 Qxd5 16. Ne3 Qd7 {Criticized by Grischuk after the game.} (
16... Bxe3 17. Bxe3 Rae8 $5 (17... Rd8 18. Rad1) 18. Rad1 e4 $11) 17. Nc4 Qd5
18. Ne3 Qd7 19. b5 $1 {Nepomniachtchi chooses the critical continuation after
repeating once.} Na5 (19... axb5 20. axb5 Ne7 {and White's control of the
a-file / the pin on the bishop means that White has a fairly serious advantage.
}) (19... Ne7 20. bxa6 bxa6 21. Nc4 {and Black has to sacrifice the pawn with}
e4 22. dxe4 Ng6 {. I don't think that Black has nearly enough comp here.}) 20.
c4 {Now the knight is stuck on the edge of the board, away from the action.}
Bd4 21. Rb1 axb5 22. axb5 Ree8 (22... b6 {(with the idea of rerouting the
knight via b7) looks somewhat dodgy after} 23. Nf5 c5 24. N5xd4 exd4 25. Rxe6
Qxe6 26. Bf4) 23. c5 Nd5 (23... Bxe3 24. Bxe3 Qd5) 24. Nxd5 Qxd5 25. Nxd4 exd4
26. Rxe8+ Rxe8 27. Bf4 Re7 (27... c6 28. Bc7 $1) 28. Qa4 b6 29. c6 {Now Black
has too many weaknesses (d4, c7, Na5) to hold on} Kh7 30. Rb4 Qe6 31. Rxd4 f5
32. Be3 g5 33. Qb4 Rg7 34. Rd8 Nb3 35. Bd4 Re7 $2 {Hastening the end.} 36.
Qxe7+ $1 (36. Qxe7+ Qxe7 37. Rd7 {is crushing.}) 1-0

[/pgn]
Nepo and Grischuk at the Closing Ceremony (photo Niki Riga)
Nepomniachtchi won twenty-four thousand Euros for his efforts, while Grischuk had to satisfy himself with a second prize of fourteen thousand Euros. More important, however, are the Grand Prix points both players earned in Moscow. Two players will qualify for the 2020 Candidates Tournament on the basis of results in the 2019 Grand Prix Series. The qualification process revolves around Grand Prix points earned at each knockout event. Here are the point totals after Moscow, which was the first of the four scheduled events in this year’s Grand Prix series. They are taken directly from the FIDE website. 1. Ian Nepomniachtchi - 9, 2. Alexander Grischuk - 7, 3. Radoslaw Wojtaszek - 5, 4. Hikaru Nakamura - 3, 5-7. Peter Svidler, Wei Yi, Daniil Dubov - 2, 8. Wesley So - 1, 9-16. Anish Giri, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Levon Aronian, Teimour Radjabov, Sergey Karjakin, Nikita Vitiugov, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Dmitry Jakovenko - 0. The next event in the FIDE Grand Prix series will take place in Latvia from July 11-15th.

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