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)

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.

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.

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.

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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