Tournament report

Jerusalem Grand Prix Round One: Eight Draws

The fourth leg of the FIDE Grand Prix Series organized by World Chess started in the Notre Dame Center Jerusalem on December, 11. All eight games finished in a draw and all players keep chances to win their matches if the second games have decisive results or go for tie-breaks in case of another draw.

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Veselin Topalov has faced MVL in Round 1. MVL is one of the leaders in the Series and already knocked Topalov out of the Grand Prix in the previous editions. Because of the knockout system, pairings in Round One are vitally important to the players and chances for their success. The first game ended in a draw. 

Text by Anastatia Karlovich, FIDE Press Officer

The fourth event in the Grand Prix Series will determine which two players will take part in the FIDE Candidates Tournament in March of 2020.

The prize fund in each leg of the Grand Prix is 130.000 euros, with an additional 280.000 euros for the top 10 finishers in the overall standings. Thus, the total prize fund of the FIDE Grand Prix amounts for a total of 800.000 euros.

The games Nepomniachtchi – Gelfand and Harikrishna – Karjakin finished after less than one hour of play and both Karjakin and Gelfand, who had Black pieces shared during the postgame interviews that they were pleased with the outcome.

Ian Nepomniachtchi went for a well-known theoretical line in Sicilian Anti-Sveshnikov but according to Gelfand, his opponent quite misplayed it, so the final position was very dry and none of the sides had real chances to play for something.

“First of all, I’m happy to play in Jerusalem Grand Prix tournament as Grand Prix events are one of my favorite tournaments. I had so many memorable games. It’s also nice to play especially in Jerusalem in front of the local public”, said Boris Gelfand after the game.

Pentala Harikrishna decided to play a solid Ruy Lopez Berlin against Sergey Karjakin, and after Grandmasters traded most of the pieces, the draw was agreed on move 21.

Nepo with his team walking towards the Notre Dam, the playing venue in Jerusalem. The venue is controlled by the Vatican and was one of the few in the city that permits use on Shabbat, the rest day in Israel. 

Nepo was White, and the players agreed to a draw less than an hour in the game.

Harikrishna was White. Karjakin defended well with Black. The Russian needs all of his famous mental energy to win the tournament and qualify for the Candidates. 

Veselin Topalov chose to play 1.c4 against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, since he has unsuccessfully tried 1.e4 and 1.d4 in the previous mini-matches against the same opponent. “It was a good choice, as at least I manage not to lose the game. It’s a good start, compared to my usual first matches”, said Topalov at the postgame interview.

A symmetrical English was played and, in fact, the former world champion got an advantage right after the opening. He put a lot of pressure on his opponent today and the French Grandmaster, who came directly from the Grand Chess Tour finals in London, had to defend “a very suspicious position”. Veselin Topalov missed his opponent’s counterplay with a piece sacrifice, which turned to be good enough to keep the balance in the game.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov recalled his memories from the last stage of Grand Prix in 2017, when he was watching from his house the last game between Jakovenko and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. In case of victory, MVL would qualify for the Candidates 2018 instead of Shakhriyar. Jakovenko won that game and helped the Azeri to proceed to the Candidates 2018. Ironically, Shakhriyar was paired against Dmitry Jakovenko in the first match of the fourth stage of Grand Prix and needs to win the match to keep his chances to play in the Candidates 2020.

Shakhriyar had quite deep preparation in the opening today and remembered the line in the Nimzo-Indian till the endgame. In the post-game interview, he pointed out that 22.Kf1 was a bad move and he had to play Re1, Nf1-Ne3 instead, keeping good chances. Dmitry Jakovenko agreed his position was unpleasant and was happy with the result.

Catalan Opening appeared in the game Yu Yangyi vs Wesley So. The American Grandmaster went for a pawn sacrifice and suddenly the position became very complex and tactical. Wesley thought there was enough compensation for equality and was not sure if Black could get a better position.

Wang Hao misplayed in the opening and let his opponent David Navara to get an advantage. David had more active pieces and was trying to use the weakness of b7 pawn but Wang Hao was defending quite well and managed to hold a draw.

Anish Giri mixed up the move order at the opening and decided to give an exchange, remembering the same idea in a different line. He thought his position is lost after c3 but nevertheless managed to defend after a long fight.

As Anish Giri and Wei Yi were the last to finish the game, Anish was asked if he thought It would be unfair to lose his game since other games finished in a draw. “That was the only thing that kept me going. I saw that everybody else made a draw. I thought maybe it`s today’s magic so I have to try to use it,” answered Anish.

The participants of the Jerusalem Grand Prix passed their warm wishes to the former World Champion Viswanathan Anand, who turned 50 today.

FIDE Grand Prix organized by World Chess is a four-tournament series that unfolds throughout the year. Each leg starts with 16 players which have to survive four rounds to win a Grand Prix, according to a knock-out system. Each round consists of two classical (or slow) games, followed by faster tie-breaker games if necessary.

Leading partners supporting the FIDE Grand Prix Jerusalem 2019 include:

Algorand as the Official Blockchain Partner;
PhosAgro as the Official Strategic Partner;
Kaspersky as the Official Cybersecurity Partner;
USETECH as the partner of the Jerusalem Grand Prix;
PRYTEK as the Technology Transfer Partner.