Ian Nepomniachtchi eliminates Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and advances to the final of Jerusalem Grand Prix, organized by World Chess. The second classical game of their match finished in a draw leaving the final score at 1½-½. After drawing their second encounter David Navara and Wei Yi will continue the battle on tiebreak tomorrow.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who was in a must-win situation today, made an audacious choice in the opening, going for an early 3.h4 that he had already tested against Grischuk at the second leg of Grand Prix in Riga. Of course, Ian Nepomniachtchi knew this game: “When I saw this move for the first time I thought, 'how can you play like this?'. But then Alexander Grischuk beat me in blitz in this line. I was analyzing it in the summer, but I could not remember my analysis,” commented Ian after the game.
Failing to remember his preparation put Nepomniachtchi in a very unpleasant situation as the Frenchman came out of the opening with a clear edge in a very dynamic position. However, Maxime lost the thread on move 25, when he committed a serious mistake allowing his opponent to break through with 25...f5. “My original idea was to play 26.e5, but in the line 26…f4 27.Bf4 gxf4 28.Nh5 I suddenly realized that after 28…Be5 29.dxe5 Black simply castles long and I can just resign. I decided to offer a draw in the end because I am really worse there and there is nothing to hope for anymore,“ said Maxime in the post-game interview.
“For the last 7 months I played chess for at least 3 months, I was traveling for another month, and one more month I spent it resting but also away from home. It has been a huge challenge for me! There was nothing I could do about it, since the schedule for both Grand Prix and Grand Chess Tour had been fixed".
Nepomniachtchi still needs to win the final in order to overcome Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the Grand Prix standings to qualify for the Candidates: at the moment, MVL has 16 GP points while Nepomniachtchi has 15. If the Russian grandmaster loses in the final, he will still have his last chance get a slot in the Candidates by playing a play-off for the wild card with Kirill Alekseenko. "I will be watching the match from home" said Maxime "and of course I will be rooting against Ian, there is nothing else I can do. But if Ian wins, it will be well deserved,” he added.
In the second game, David Navara and Wei Yi drew again. Wei Yi chose a rare line 10…Nbd7 in the Russian System of the Grunfeld, and after 11.Be3 Ng4 12.c6 he came up with a piece sacrifice, which was introduced in the game Volkov - Riazantsev (2017). Unfamiliar with this idea David Navara decided to take the piece. Black had enough compensation thanks to activity of his pieces and a few moves later the Czech grandmaster was forced to give back his extra material and steer the game into an ending. After the Queen's exchange Wei Yi had extra pawn in the rook ending but David Navara's task of reaching a draw was not particularly difficult.
The winner of the second seminfal Navara - Wei Yi will be determined on tiebreak tomorrow, December 19, with Navara playing White in the first game.
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