Nakamura Wins On Demand: FIDE Grand Prix Berlin 2022, Stage 3, Round 4
The fourth round of the third stage of the FIDE Grand Prix 2022 saw no less than five decisive matches. GM Grigoriy Oparin’s victory in Group A means he takes the lead. In the same group, GM Hikaru Nakamura beat GM Levon Aronian and both are in second place with half a point.
GM Leinier Dominguez Perez retains the lead in Group B but now shares it with GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, winner today. With today’s wins for GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Amin Tabatabaei, Groups C and D now both see four-way ties.
The fifth round begins on Sunday, March 27, at 7 a.m. Pacific / 3 p.m. Central Europe.
With the next day being the rest day, it seemed the players realized they had a perfect opportunity to leave everything on the table today and use tomorrow to rest. Some players may have also realized that unless they start winning some matches, not only will they be eliminated from this event, but they will also have no chance of qualifying for the Candidates Tournament this summer at Madrid, Spain.
In Group A, Aronian lost to a well-playing Nakamura, which allowed Oparin to overtake them by beating fellow Russian GM. Andrei Esipenko. Mamedyarov beat young German GM Vincent Keymer to catch Dominguez. Meanwhile, Vachier-Lagrave and Tabatabaei each exacted their revenge on the opponents who beat them in the first round of the event to force a four-way tie in their respective groups. What a round!
In group A, we have a new leader: the lowest rated player in the group, Oparin, since he won his match. The former leader, Aronian, lost his game.
Unsurprisingly, all eyes were on the match between Nakamura and Aronian. To say that Nakamura has struggled thus far would be an understatement, having lost to Aronian in the first round and saved two lower positions in subsequent rounds. This, however, only seemed to motivate him to give his best.
For the first 11 moves, the players followed Aronian’s play against Esipenko yesterday, after which Nakamura ranged with 12.a4, which is also the best move according to the engines. White developed some initiative, but it looked like Black was staying in the game well.
After the game Aronian offered 23…b6 was a critical error, but it was really only Black’s 33…Rxa4 that White gained a significant advantage, albeit Black’s best move was by far – obviously 33…Rf5, which would have provided Black with just enough counterplay to stay in the game. After that mistake, Nakamura never let the advantage slip away and converted convincingly.
Regarding what the result did for the tournament situation, Nakamura said: “It’s funny. It’s probably very bad for both of us because Grigory will probably win this game.”
It’s probably very bad for both of us because Grigory will probably win this game.”
IThis certainly frames an exciting setting for the remaining two rounds, as Oparin will face Aronian and Nakamura in the next matches, both of whom must win to pass him in the standings.
In the all-Russian encounter, Oparin had the white pieces against Esipenko, who, unlike Nakamura, seemed to have had better positions in all of his matches, but was unable to put a full point on the table. Oparin, likewise, dodged a completely earned position against Nakamura yesterday.
In a Nimzo-Indian with White, Oparin chose a solid but supposedly harmless setup that fellow GM Alexandr Predke has used on multiple occasions. Esipenko, on the other hand, reacted imprecisely with 10…c5?!, which gave White a small but clear advantage. In fact, the whole game is a model game of how to play against a lone d-pawn: block it, swap pieces, increase the pressure, then aim for the kill.
With the victory, Oparin takes the lead in Group A, although he takes nothing for granted, saying in the post-match interview: “It doesn’t matter at this stage. There are still two laps, and everyone is between half a point and a point, so everyone can win.”
With today’s victory, Mamedyarov caught Dominguez with two laps to go.
Yesterday’s hero Keymer was brought down to earth today by a highly motivated Mamedyarov in search of his first victory in Grand Prix events, having drawn all six of his games in Belgrade and the opening three rounds of this event. It quickly became clear that this would not be Keymer’s day. Mamedyarov played the English opener, which is regularly seen in must-play matches as it tends to lead to less constraining lines, allowing the game to stay flowing for longer.
Mamedyarov surprised his opponent, commentators and English Opening pundits with his 7.Nh4!?, which is almost never seen. In some lines, the knight is simply trapped there. It was Mamedyarov’s idea, to lure Keymer away and then strike. And it worked. Keymer loaded up on the bait and hooked on like a gamefish. Already at move 16 white had an almost decisive advantage. If Keymer was able to hang on for more than 40 more shots, it was because Mamedyarov played it safe and didn’t worry about how long it would take him to win as long as he was winning.
In the other game, group leader Dominguez faced the last GM Daniel Dubov. In a Three Knights Game, the American grandmaster tried the unusual 6.a4!? followed by 8.Nd5!?, which seemed to offer White a little more. However, after a few imprecise moves from White, Black was completely back in the game. Late in the middle game, just before the time check at move 40, Dubov played a bit too fast and gave White more chances, but running out of time Dominguez missed them. After the time check, white had a nice endgame with bishop against knight and pawns on both sides, but it wasn’t enough to win.
With a Vachier-Lagrave win today against Predke and a draw in the other game, the four players are tied for first and last place.
The first game to end was between the American GMs Wesley So and GM Sam Shankland in a Fianchetto variation of the Grunfeld. Rather than allowing white a big cross, Shankland played the solid …c7-c6. White gained a small advantage, but after just one imprecise move, Shankland retaliated with the excellent 16…g5!, taking the initiative. However, he was unable to do much with it and the players eventually traded a draw end.
Vachier-Lagrave badly needed a victory. He probably won’t qualify for the Candidates based on his rating, so he’ll have to do so by scoring Grand Prix points, i.e. qualifying from the group stage, preferably going all the way up. to the final.
Therefore, as White today against Predke, who did some bad things to him in the first round of this event, it was a perfect opportunity to even the score and catch up in the standings. The players repeated their opening pick from their game in Belgrade, the Zaitsev variation of the Ruy Lopez, something both players have played countless times.
Vachier-Lagrave was the first to deviate with his 12.Fa2!?. He gained a slight advantage, but it was still a lot. However, as time control approached, the game thinned considerably, with the French grandmaster sacrificing the queen for a rook and a minor piece, in hopes of knocking the solid Russian out of his safe zone, and it worked!
As he said after the match: “It was scary, but at the same time I knew I had chances, and that was all I could hope for in this situation.”
With two big errors by Black just before move 40, White gained a decisive advantage. A fantastic strategic battle crowned with tactical madness.
Another group that saw everything turned upside down today. With Tabatabaei winning against group leader Vitiugov and a draw between GMs Yu Yangyi and Anish Giri, the four players enjoy an equal share of the lead and the sun with two rounds to go.
In the first round of the tournament, Vitiugov won a fine match against Tabatabaei. In today’s game it was almost a carbon copy but with the colors and ultimate winner reversed.
In a solid and popular Slav Queen’s Gambit line, Black appeared to equalise, only to make a mistake just after the opener. After that, the young Iranian grandmaster converted with astonishing accuracy, ever increasing, never releasing the pressure on black’s position and finally converting the advantage into a full point in the late game. A demonstration that no one can be counted at this stage.
In the group’s other match, Yu Yangyi faced Anish Giri, with both players really needing a win to put themselves in the best possible position to advance to the semi-finals and possibly the Candidates.
Yu Yangyi played the so-called Russian system, with 5.Qb3, against Anish Giri’s Indian Grunfeld, and he pulled the Dutch grandmaster out of his preparation by playing 10.Ng5, which Giri admitted he forgot all about , then moving On the 14th, he launched a nice novelty, which Giri had also missed. White soon after gained a clear advantage.
Most of the advantage vanished when the Chinese grandmaster went for 23.Nd6?!, who won the exchange but gave up the initiative.
In a mutual time annoyance, several mistakes were made and Yu Yangyi seemed to miss several good shots that could have given him a decisive advantage, and in the end he had to settle for a draw by perpetual failure. A great fight.
All Games – Round 4
The FIDE Grand Prix Berlin is the final leg of the 2022 Grand Prix. The Berlin tournament runs from March 22 to April 4. Tune in every day at 7 a.m. Pacific/3 p.m. CET for our broadcast.