Wesley So takes the lead in the match against Amin Tabatabaei, while Hikaru Nakamura and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov drew their game.
In the first round of the semifinals of the third stage of the FIDE Grand Prix in Berlin organised by World Chess, Wesley So managed to convert his advantage into a full point against Amin Tabatabaei. Hikaru Nakamura and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov played an uneventful game that finished in a draw.
On Thursday, March 31, Amin Tabatabaei will play with white pieces needing to level the score in the mini-match to go to tiebreaks. Hikaru Nakamura has Black in the second game against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
Hikaru decided to play one of the calmest systems in Petroff Defense with an early queen exchange, which is considered to be unambitious for White. In a post-game interview, Hikaru explained why he didn't have an intention to go fpr the main lines today: "It's quite nice to qualify but also very tricky because, for the last 24-48 hours, my thoughts are on that event and preparation. And then in today's game, it's an opening that many people at the Candidates might play, so I did not want to do anything too exciting."
With the queens leaving the board very early, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had no problems keeping the balance in a symmetrical position. After massive exchanges, the game liquidated into the ending with rooks and opposite-coloured bishops and finished in a draw once the players reached the 30th move. "It was one of this Grandmaster's draws", said Shakhriyar, smiling. He congratulated Hikaru on qualifying for the Candidates tournament and added: "For chess, it is very important that players like Hikaru are in the Candidates. He is very popular, famous online and in the chess world in general."
It seems Hikaru Nakamura doesn't spend any day without chess! He won the Titled Tuesday tournament yesterday on his free day and was in a hurry to get back to his hotel to participate in the Arena Kings after today's round.
Wesley So and Amin Tabatabaei went for a very complicated line in the Queen's Gambit Declined. After blitzing out 18 moves, Wesley So spent lots of time figuring out the right plan. The line was new for him, and he was not really happy with what he got out of the opening. Both players came to the conclusion that Amin should have placed the knight on c4 right away no matter what, but the Iranian player hesitated and played Rf7 instead.
After trading the knights on a4, Black was left with a passive knight on f6 versus White's strong bishop. After losing the b7 pawn, Black found himself in a tough, most likely lost position, but Wesley wisely took his time making the precise moves and not giving his opponent any chances. Remembering the miraculous escape of Amin in the game against Yu Yangyi, the American made sure no perpetual checks would be on the board today.
Amin Tabatabaei: "It's great to play against such strong opponents. I am getting more and more experienced. If somebody can punish me in these positions, it's top players like Wesley. I am a bit disappointed how the game went, but I need these losses to be a better player."
The semifinals continue on March 31 with the pairings as follows:
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov – Hikaru Nakamura
Amin Tabatabaei – Wesley So
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Photo: Official Photo FIDE Grand Prix Berlin Press kit and Niki Riga