The newer-generation are definitely making moves on Magnus Carlsen’s crown! The latest to “almost” have his foot into the Candidates Tournament for the first time is Richard Rapport, as the Hungarian’s good call to play bravely at a crucial moment in the Game 2 was richly rewarded by beating Dmitry Andreikin on Sunday to capture the second leg of the FIDE Belgrade Grand Prix in the Serbian capital.
The opening game on Saturday ended in something of a tame draw, but Rapport all but broke the spirit of Andreikin – playing under the neutral flag of FIDE in the wake of the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – with his bold gamble of going into the tank by turning down a 3-fold repetition that would have extended the match into a tiebreak-decider, that immediately saw the 25-year-old hitting the jackpot.
A little confused perhaps by the rejection of the 3-fold, Andreikin bizarrely went astray with a blunder, and with it the likely outcome of a draw turned into the quagmire of a lost game. Rapport won the match 1½-½ to not only take the €24,000 first prize but, more crucially, 13 Grand Prix points as the leg-winner – and with it now up three-places to world no. 7, with a live rating of 2776.4!
As Rapport explained in his presser: “That [draw] would have been a reasonable decision, because I went down to two minutes, but then I decided, I don’t know how to put it, I decided to take my destiny into my own hands, let’s put it this way, and gamble a little bit.”
Rapport’s victory, combined with his reaching the semifinals in the first Berlin leg of the Grand Prix, now puts the Hungarian in pole position atop the standings with 20 Grand Prix points (plus €36,000 in total prize-money) to leapfrog Hikaru Nakamura, and now established as a clear favourite for one of the two spots on offer from the GP into the Candidates Tournament in Madrid this coming summer.
Indeed, apart from an unlikely and very specific set of results going the wrong way for Rapport in the third and final FIDE Berlin Grand Prix (that starts later next week) then, according to the model tweeted by the leading chess statistician group “Chess by the Numbers”, there’s now only a 3.3% chance that the Hungarian will not qualify for the Candidates.
GM Richard Rapport – GM Dmitry Andreikin
FIDE Belgrade Grand Prix Final, (2)
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Janowski variation
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 a6 To quote the well-known adage attributed to Rose Bertin, Marie Antoinette’s favoured marchande des modes – after presenting her with a “new” dress modelled on an old design – “There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.” The Janowski variation against the Queen’s Gambit very much falls into this category, devised and played by David Janowski (1868-1927), is an old relic that dates back to the early days of the 20th Century – but now it is quietly making a comeback in the early 21st Century, after Magnus Carlsen started playing it not long after his 2018 World Championship Match with Fabiano Caruana. This led Max Warmerdam to ponder whether Carlsen was going to use it as a secret weapon against Caruana, so the young Dutch GM investigated further, finding not only was it still perfectly playable, but also led him to produced a wonderful Chessable opening series on it, Lifetime Repertoires: Janowski’s Queen’s Gambit. 4.cxd5 exd5 5.a3 h6 6.Bf4 Nf6 7.e3 c5 8.Be5 The simple threat is Bxf6 followed by dxc5 and picking off the d5-pawn. 8…Be6 9.Nge2 Nc6 10.Nf4 cxd4 11.Bxd4 Nxd4 12.Qxd4 Bd6 13.g3 Life is going to be a tad uncomfortable with the multi-time hit on the isolated d5-pawn, but Black can play around that weakness for now. 13…Rc8 14.Rd1 Qa5! Suddenly life is not so easy for White with big …Bxa3 threats hanging in the air. 15.Rc1 0-0 16.Nxe6 In an ideal world, Rapport would love to ratchet up the pressures on d5 with Bg2, 0-0 and Rfd1 – but the minute Bg2 is played, Black will come over the top with …Rc4, so Rapport finds an easier way to complete his development. 16…fxe6 17.Bh3! The hit on e6 allows for speedy castling and getting the king to safety. 17…Kf7! Why use a rook to defend e6 when you can simply use your king? 18.0-0 Rc4 19.Qd3 Be5 More accurate was quickly doubling rooks on the c-file with 19…Rfc8! 20.Ne2 Rfc8 21.Rxc4 Rxc4 22.b4 Qa4! The game is really finely balanced right now. It takes, what Rapport describes in his victory presser as a “leap of faith”, to bravely play for the win rather than opting for a 3-fold repetition and onto the nerve-wracking vagaries of a tiebreak-decider. 23.Nf4 Bxf4 24.exf4 Qc6 25.Qe3 Ne4 As ever, hindsight is 20/20, but Andreikin could have killed right here and right now Rapport’s bold f5 plan by simply playing 25…g6 – but he can be forgiven for playing as he does. 26.f3 Rc3 27.Qd4 Rc4 28.Qe3 Rc3 29.Qd4 Rc4 In all honesty, I think Andreikin believed the game was going to end right here right now with a 3-fold repetition after 30.Qe3, and the match being going on to a tiebreak-decider – but Rapport has other ideas! 30.Qe5!! Well, you can’t deny that Rapport is not a fighter! Taking a big think and down to his last couple of minutes, Rapport opts to press the “gamble button” and he hits the jackpot. 30…Nd2 31.f5! [see diagram] This is where psychology comes into play in chess, as with it, Andreikin immediately makes the monumental blunder right after he probably thought the game was going to end in a repetition and the match going to a tiebreak-decider. 31…Nxf1?? Right idea, wrong execution! To keep the game balanced, Andreikin had to play very accurately with 31…Qb6+! 32.Kh1 (Definitely not 32.Rf2? Nxf3+! picking up the queen.) where 32…Nxf1 does now work, as after 33.fxe6+ Kg8! Vive la difference, as the French would say! 34.Qb8+! (The only move that draws! If 34.e7 Nxg3+! 35.Kg2 (If 35.hxg3 Rc1+ quickly mates.) 35…Rc2+ 36.Kxg3 You think the king is again running away to safety, but now comes the killer blow 36…Qg1+ 37.Kh4 Qg5+! 38.Qxg5 hxg5+ 39.Kxg5 Re2 winning the e-pawn and the game.) 34…Kh7 35.Bf5+ g6 36.Bxg6+ Kxg6 37.Qg8+ Kf5 38.Qf7+ Ke5 39.e7 Nxg3+ 40.hxg3 Rc1+ 41.Kh2 Qf2+ 42.Kh3 Rc8 43.Qf4+ Ke6 44.Qg4+ Kxe7 45.Qxc8 Qf1+ 46.Kh2 (Also drawing is 46.Kg4 Qc4+! 47.Qxc4 dxc4 48.Kf4 b5 49.Ke4 h5 50.Kd4 Kf6 51.Ke4 Kg5 52.Ke3 h4 53.f4+ Kg4 54.gxh4 Kxh4 55.f5 Kg5 56.Ke4 Kf6 57.Kf4 Ke7 58.Ke4 and due to the passed pawns, neither side can make any progress, with the kings having this little mutual dance around the e- and f-squares.) 46…Qe2+ 47.Kh3 Qxf3 48.Qxb7+ and neither king’s wandering aimlessly around without any cover will avoid perpetuals. 32.fxe6+ Ke8 There’s no transposing now to the above note, as after 32…Kg8 this time 33.e7! Qb6+ 34.Kxf1 Rc1+ 35.Ke2 Qb5+ 36.Kd2 and the king has successfully run the gauntlet to now avoid anymore checks, and Black can’t contain the big e7-pawn, as 36…Kf7 37.Bf5! with no answer to the coming Bg6+ winning. 33.Qxg7 Perhaps tired, Andreikin explained that he “missed” this rather obvious move from Rapport. 33…Qb6+ 34.Kxf1 Rc1+ 35.Ke2 Re1+ This happens in chess. Realising his blunder, Andreikin is a broken man by this stage, so he opts for some desperado stuff rather than trying to cling on a bit longer with 35…Rc7 36.Qg6+ Ke7 37.f4 Qb5+ 38.Kf3! Rc3+ 39.Kg4 Re3 40.Kh4! with the king safe from all the checks, leaving White to take on h6 to coast to victory. 36.Kxe1 Qe3+ 37.Kd1 Qd3+ 38.Kc1 Qe3+ 39.Kb1 Qd3+ 40.Kc1 Qe3+ 41.Kb2 Qd2+ 42.Ka1 Qc1+ It looks like a perpetual, but it is only a mirage, as Rapport has a nice little king triangulation that will avoid a crucial check. 43.Ka2 Qc4+ 44.Kb2 Qe2+ 45.Ka1! Qf1+ If 45…Qd1+ 46.Ka2 Qc2+ 47.Qb2 and the queen comes to the aid of the White king, where now 47…Qc4+ 48.Kb1 and there’s no more checks to be had. 46.Bxf1 1-0 The “bluff” is always worth a punt at all levels of the game when in dire straits, as you never know, your opponent might “panic” and not notice that the queen can simply be captured. But with Rapport capturing the queen, Andreikin resigned.