The Heartbreaker - First Move Chess -First Move Chess

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The final round of the pool phase of the second FIDE Grand Prix in Belgrade took on a very dramatic twist, as Sam Shankland was left to look on in abject despair on his neighbouring board, as an unexpected reversal of fortunes ended the lone US representative’s chances of going through to the ‘business end’ of the knockout phase of the contest.

In Pool A, Shankland looked destined for a tiebreak showdown with Frenchman Etienne Bacrot to see who would qualify, as both looked certain to finish tied on 3½/6. But in a split second it turned into a heartbreaker for Shankland, as Bacrot blundered away a won game in a wild rollercoaster encounter to gift his Russian opponent, Dmitry Andreikin, an unexpected free point, and with it instead automatic qualification as the outright pool winner.

Andreikin, playing under the neutral FIDE flag – as all five Russians had to, due to sanctions issued by the governing body of world chess following the Russian invasion of Ukraine – will now play Pool B runaway winner and tournament favourite Anish Giri in the first semifinal pairing.

The second semifinal will see Hungary’s Richard Rapport, who was the convincing winner of Pool C, thanks to his penultimate round win over Santosh Vidit, take on Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, as the Frenchman held onto his slender lead in a tight contest to win Group D, dubbed the ‘Group of Death’.

The FIDE Belgrade Grand Prix semifinals get underway on Wednesday and can be followed on the official site and on Chess24, both with live grandmaster commentary.

Pool A: 1. D. Andreikin (FIDE) 4/6; 2. S. Shankland (USA) 3½; 3. E. Bacrot (France) 2½; 4. A. Grischuk (FIDE) 2.
Pool B: 1. A. Giri (Netherlands) 4/6; 2-3. N. Vitiugov (FIDE), M. Tabatabaei (Iran) 3; 4. P. Harikrishna (India) 2
Pool C: 1. R. Rapport (Hungary) 4/6; 2. S. Vidit (India) 3; 3-4. V. Fedoseev (FIDE), A. Shirov (Spain) 2½.
Pool D: 1. M. Vachier-Lagrave (France) 3½/6; 2-3. S. Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), D. Predke (FIDE) 3; 4. Yu Yangyi (China) 2½

GM Santosh Vidit – GM Richard Rapport
Belgrade FIDE Grand Prix, (5)
French Advance
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 The Advance French was pioneered by the likes of Aron Nimzowitsch in the 1920s, who believed this to be White’s best choice and enriched its theory with many ideas and strategies. We don’t see it so much in elite praxis, but it has become a popular choice at club level as it involves a simple, straightforward plan with attacking chances and extra space. 3…c5 4.c3 Qb6 5.Nf3 Bd7 The Wade Variation, the creation of the doyen of British Chess, the late, great IM Bob Wade OBE. 6.Be2 cxd4 7.cxd4 Bb5 This was the original big idea behind Wade inventing this line – namely exchanging off the “bad” light-squared bishop. 8.Bxb5+ Qxb5 With the “bad” French bishop successfully traded, Black has a more easier game than he normally would. 9.Nc3 Qa6 Staying on the a6-f1 diagonal, thus preventing White from castling for now. 10.a4 Bb4 11.Bd2 Bxc3 12.Bxc3 Ne7 13.b4 Qc4 14.Rc1 Nbc6 15.Bd2 Qd3 16.Qe2 Qa3!? It’s a game of Cat and Mouse here. After 16…Qxe2+ 17.Kxe2 Nf5 18.Kd3 White stands better going into the endgame – but with the annoying 16…Qa3, White has to be careful Black doesn’t pick-off a loose pawn or two. 17.0-0 Nf5 Putting pressure on the more-important d4-pawn. 18.Bc3 Rc8 19.g4 This is a bit risky, as all it does is make more White pawns loose – but as Vidit had to win for a chance to go forward to the knockout phase, then he really had to play dangerously here despite the inherent risks involved. 19…Nfe7 The d-pawn isn’t an easy target, well not unless you want to have an easy draw with the forcing line 19…Ncxd4 20.Nxd4 Nxd4 21.Bxd4 Rxc1 22.Qb5+! Kd8 23.Qxb7 Rxf1+ 24.Kxf1 Qd3+ 25.Ke1 Qxd4 26.Qb8+ Kd7 27.Qd6+ Kc8 28.Qc6+ Kb8 29.Qd6+ Kb7 30.Qd7+ Kb8 31.Qd6+ and a perpetual. 20.Bd2 h5! Highlighting White’s dilemma here, because if the g4-pawn moves or captures, then Black takes command with a …Nf5 and a powerful outpost. 21.gxh5?! This just helps Black. White had to play 21.Ra1! Qb3 and only now play 22.gxh5! (Not 22.Rfb1 Qc2! and Black stands clearly better.) 22…Rxh5 23.Rfc1! Rf5 24.Rc3 Qb2 25.Qd1 Nxd4 26.Nxd4 Rxc3 27.Nxf5 (Not 27.Bxc3?? Rg5+!) 27…Rd3 Which quickly peters out to a drawn R+P endgame after 28.Nxe7 Rxd2 29.Qc1! Qxc1+ 30.Rxc1 Kxe7 31.Rc7+ Ke8 32.Rxb7 Rd1+ 33.Kg2 Rb1 34.b5 d4 35.Kf3 Re1! 36.Rxa7 d3 37.Ra8+ Kd7 38.Ra7+ Ke8 39.Ra8+ and White has to bail-out with the perpetual, otherwise the d-pawn queens with a lethal check. But I guess as Vidit needed to win, he opted instead to press the gamble button. 21…Qxa4 22.Ra1 Qc2 23.b5 Nd8 24.Rfc1 Qf5 25.Rxc8 Nxc8 26.Rc1 Ne7 Even better was 26…Nb6 just stopping any possibilities of b6 and Qb5+ tricks. 27.h6 The only move now. 27…gxh6 and with …Rg8(+) coming, Black is on top. 27.Rc7 Rxh5 28.Bb4 Ng6 29.b6 The White attack is speculative, a bluff that only works if Black panics. 29…Qb1+! 30.Qe1 Qxe1+ 31.Nxe1 axb6 With the queens off and two pawns to the better, Rapport just needs to unravel to go about converting his material advantage. 32.Nc2 Rh3! The rook swinging over to the queenside is going to be trouble for Vidit, making it harder for him to try to save the game. 33.Bd6 Nc6! Once d4 falls, White is in deep trouble. 34.Rxb7?! A better try to hang on, as the engine points out – and also refutes! – was to be found with 34.Rc8+! that more or less forces 34…Nd8 35.Rc7 Rd3 36.Kf1 Rd1+ 37.Ke2! The only chance is to shed even more pawns. 37…Rh1 38.Na3 Rxh2 39.Nb5 Rh3 40.Ba3! Nc6 41.Rc8+ Kd7 42.Rc7+ Kd8 (Would you want to risk 42…Ke8 43.Rc8+ Nd8 44.Rc7 Rb3 45.Nd6+ Kf8 46.Rc8 etc?) 43.Rxf7 It looks promising for White, but the engine also cuts through it all with 43…Rb3! 44.Rxg7 Rxb5 45.Rxg6 Nxd4+ 46.Kd2 Rb3 47.Bd6 Rf3 and Black is back on track to converting the win. 34…Rc3 35.Ne3 Nh4 One way or another, the d4-pawn will fall. 36.Kf1 Rb3 37.Nc2 Rb2 38.Na3 Nf5 39.Bc5 Nfxd4 40.h4 Nf5 41.Bd6 Rb3 Black has too many pawns, and it is just a matter of carefully negotiating through a few little awkward obsticles to convert the win. 42.Nc2 d4 43.Ke1 Nxh4 44.f4 Nf3+ 45.Kf2 Nfxe5!? [see diagram] Rapport is easily winning, and spots the tactic that eventually sees his opponent resigning – but he missed the killer blow the engine screams out for, with 45…d3! 46.Ne3 d2! 47.Nd1 Nfd4 and White can resign. 46.fxe5 Rb2 47.Kf3 Rxc2 48.Rxb6 Rc3+ 49.Kf4 f6 50.exf6 gxf6 One would assume that the three extra passers will prove sufficient for Rapport! 51.Rb7 Rc4 52.Ba3 Ra4 53.Bc1 Ra7 54.Rb6 Kd7 55.Ke4 f5+ 56.Kd3 e5 57.Kc4 Kd6 58.Bd2 Ra2 59.Bb4+ Kc7 60.Bc5 Rc2+ 61.Kd5 Ne7+ 0-1

 

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