Alexander Grischuk celebrated a great victory at the FIDE Grand Prix in Hamburg on Wednesday evening. He won the second game of the semi-final against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and advanced into the final. At the same time, he collected valuable points for the overall standings of the Grand Prix Series. The other encounter of the day ended in a draw. Daniil Dubov was pressing throughout the whole game against Jan-Krzysztof Duda but had to split the point after the Polish grandmaster defended well in a slightly inferior endgame. These two players will meet again in the tiebreak of the semi-final to determine the second finalist.
Alexander Grischuk opened his game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with the non-committal 1.Nf3, but after just five moves, the players reached a position of the English Opening which the French grandmaster has played 18 times within the past two years! In his first game, played in 2017, he had beaten none other than Magnus Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup. Later, however, he had experienced some problems. The last time Maxim played this line, he suffered a loss at the hands of Teimour Radjabov at the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk about a month and a half ago.
This time around, ‘MVL’ clearly had some improvements prepared. Grischuk, however, was not surprised and continued quickly until move twelve. He created a strong centre and pushed the h-pawn attempting to create some weaknesses on the kingside. The game sharpened soon, as Vachier-Lagrave started an attack of his own by advancing his b-pawn on the other side of the board. This lead to a liquidation of the pawn centre but the French grandmaster committed an error by allowing White to continue the fight with a strong bishop pair in an open position. Additionally, he had to deal with a knight stranded at the rim of the board.
Grischuk developed a dangerous initiative and after finding a convincing sequence of moves, reached a winning position. His rook had entered the seventh rank, and he could have placed his queen in the middle of the board, dominating his opponent. With time running short, he chose to threaten a mate in one instead, which Vachier-Lagrave parried easily and got back in the game. Nevertheless, he was still the defending party as Grischuk had a bishop vs. knight in an open position and a passed pawn on the a-file.
As the technical part of the game began, Vachier-Lagrave had a sidelined knight blocking the white passed pawn. Grischuk now had to find a way to break black's defence. He did so by exchanging queens and penetrating with his king into black's camp. By this time, Grischuk's time trouble was the last straw Vachier-Lagrave was grasping on, but the experienced Russian grandmaster managed to navigate through the remaining obstacles with fantastic precision and scored a well-deserved victory.
Jan-Krzysztof Duda chose the solid Slav Defence against Dubov's 1.d4. The players followed theory until move thirteen and reached an endgame after an early queen exchange. Over the next few moves, the Polish grandmaster stabilized his position and kept a sound pawn structure. Dubov, on the other hand, had an active dark-squared bishop and slightly better prospects in the centre.
Duda handled the position a bit carelessly and permitted White to gain better control of important squares and lines. Both sides had only a rook and two minor pieces left, but the young Russian was the one exerting some pressure. He attacked a weak pawn on f6, but Duda activated a knight and counterattacked one of white's weak pawns as well. This counterplay turned out to be enough for Duda to save a half-point after three hours of play.
Semi-final, game 2 results:
Alexander Grischuk - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 1-0
Daniil Dubov - Jan-Krzysztof Duda 1/2-1/2
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