Tournament report

Balanced play in the first game of the semi-finals

On Monday, FIDE published the dates for the next Candidates Tournament. It will take place between March 15 and April 5, 2020, in Yekaterinburg (Russia).

Two spots are reserved for the top finishers of the FIDE Grand Prix, and only a few grandmasters remain that can qualify via this tournament series. Two of the aspirants are facing off in the semi-final of the third leg in Hamburg. So far, Alexander Grischuk has collected 14 points, but Hamburg is the last stop on his Grand Prix journey. His opponent, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has 13 points but he will have an additional opportunity to collect more points in December during the fourth leg in Jerusalem.

Considering these circumstances, the Russian player is under more pressure to win their direct encounter. In the first game, Grischuk chose the Modern Arkhangelsk Defense with Black, which is considered to be a highly theoretical line of the Ruy Lopez. The last time he played this opening was in 2007. After some thought, Vachier-Lagrave reacted with a sideline and avoided a theoretical battle.

Grischuk had no problems equalizing and around move 20 the pawn structure was nearly symmetrical with identical material. After the exchange of two minor pieces, there was little play left in the position and the players agreed to a draw after 27 moves.

The game between Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Daniil Dubov started as an English Opening but soon transposed into a line of the Tarrasch Defense which Dubov had played several times this year against high-rated opponents. Duda introduced a new idea by developing the bishop to g5 on move eleven.

The 23-year-old Russian seemed to be surprised. Dubov had reservations about a key tactical sequence and spent over half an hour in thought. However, Duda avoided the sharper variations and steered the game towards a double rook and opposite colored bishops endgame. The position was completely equal and the players agreed to a draw after nearly two hours of play.

Semi-final, game 1 results:

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave – Alexander Grischuk 1/2-1/2
Jan-Krzysztof Duda – Daniil Dubov 1/2-1/2