International Chess Federation
Friday, 01 Apr 2022 16:04
FIDE Grand Prix Berlin: Nakamura and So face off in final

Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So won their matches and will meet in the final of the third stage of the FIDE Grand Prix in Berlin organised by World Chess. Both Americans defeated their opponents, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Amin Tabatabaei, by a 2:0 score.

Wesley So will have White pieces in the first game of the final match on the 2nd of April.

Hikaru Nakamura - Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2:0

Hikaru Nakamura chose to play one of his favourite openings in the fast chess Nimzovich-Larsen attack. He uses this system pretty often in bullet chess and knows the positions quite well. However, Shakhriyar got a very strong initiative on the kingside and refused to repeat the moves, feeling he had good winning chances. Hikaru managed to complicate the position by creating a strong counterplay on the queenside. The Azeri GM didn't find the precise way to continue his attack and made a few inaccurate moves in time trouble. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov lost the first game and had to win on demand to stay in the match.

"I think the first game was a match, basically. It was too complicated; I tried to be too creative… I think Shakh had good chances to win that game, but we were low on time. After Rh4 and Rg4, which was probably not a mistake, his rook is suddenly got trapped, and there were no easy moves, and it was just too hard to play. I was a little bit lucky," said Hikaru after the match.

In the second game the English Opening was played. The match situation required Shakhriyar to go for a kill, and he decided to go for the line that he would not choose in different circumstances. He exchanged two pieces for a rook and two pawns, hoping to get some chances. According to Hikaru, he was expecting Shakhriyar to play that line but felt confident about his position. After a couple of exchanges, Black managed to keep the pair of bishops on the board, which weaved a checkmating net around White's king. Hikaru scored another victory and eliminated Shakhriyar from the Grand Prix Berlin.

Wesley So - Amin Tabatabaei 2:0

In the first game of the match, Amin Tabatabaei got a sharp position against Wesley So right in the opening, using a fresh idea suggested by one of his seconds American Grandmaster Hans Niemann. GM Anish Giri, who was commenting on the tiebreaks today, remembered Amin playing 2.Nc3 regularly online but was surprised to see him choosing this line today in the official competition. It was a surprise to Wesley too, who admitted he was in huge trouble after the opening. The Iranian Grandmaster didn't find the best plan in the position, and Wesley So managed to gradually activate his pieces and advance central pawns. In an equal position, White lost his d6-pawn after missing a tactical trick and Wesley confidently converted his advantage into a full point.

The second game had a similar scenario as Amin was well-prepared in the opening again and got an advantage with Black. He got a strong attack on the kingside, and when the dust settled, the Iranian GM emerged with three pawns and a bishop for a rook and decisive advantage. Wesley So was defending actively and managed to create a dangerous passer on the a-file that decided the game. Thus, the American GM punched his ticked to the final.

After the game, Wesley So spoke about his opponent in the final, Hikaru Nakamura: "He is very determined and it seems like he is getting back to this old 2800 level form, so it's going to be a very tough match. Also, the way that he beat Shakhriyar today was very convincing, I must say."

The FIDE Grand Prix Series is brought to you by World Chess.

Leading partners supporting the FIDE Grand Prix Series 2022 include:

Kaspersky as the Official Cybersecurity Partner;

Algorand as the Official Blockchain Partner;

Prytek as the Technology Transfer Partner;

FIDE Online Arena as the official Partner.

Photo: Official Photo FIDE Grand Prix Berlin Press kit and Niki Riga