The semi-final of the FIDE Hamburg Grand Prix 2019, was played between the 11th and 13th November. The venue for the event, which had opened on November 4th, was the Kehrwieder theater in Hamburg, Germany. The semi-final saw the following pairings:
Alexander Grischuk (RUS 2764) vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA 2777)
Jan-Krzysztof Duda (POL 2748) vs Daniil Dubov (RUS 2676)
The match-up between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Alexander Grischuk, saw things decided in the 90-minute games. The first saw Vachier-Lagrave taking white, but he couldn’t stamp any authority on the match with it. The Spanish opening ended up being drawn in 27-moves.
Perhaps the French Grandmaster would not have minded going to tie-breaks, but his Russian opponent had other ideas. Alexander Grischuk seemed in determined mood with his own White game and made the most of it.
With this well deserved point, Alexander Grischuk went through to the final and awaited his opponent. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, will no doubt be rather disappointed to have his run ended, but I think he can be very proud of his performance. And let’s not forget that he reached the final of the Riga Grand Prix in July, (ultimately being pipped 5-4 by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov), so is right up there at the top of the over all standings.
Also going through in the semi-final, was Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who ended the rather impressive run of Daniil Dubov. The 23-year-old Russian, who is a wildcard in this year’s cycle, is unlikely to be too upset with his time in this tournament. On his way to the semi-final, he eliminated Teimour Radjabov and Peter Svidler, neither of which is an easy task. His Grand Prix campaign is over now, having competed in Riga and Moscow also (players will compete in 3 of the 4 tournaments).
The players didn’t debate too much in their first two games, drawing the first in 29-moves and the second in 33. This left it down to tiebreaks to separate them. Their rapid games saw them take a win each with Black, Dubov using the Sicilian, and outplaying his opponent in the endgame of the first one to earn a nice point.
This left Duda with the task of taking a point with Black in the second. This he duly did, but he had to really roll his sleeves up and grit his teeth. Dubov will have been disappointed to have lost the game, because he did have chances to finish the match. The most painful mistake for him, will probably be the one that he committed in the following position …
Here, White is standing well, but still has the game to win. Dubov lunged a little, with 68.Re5+(?). This forced 68…Kd3 from Black, after which Dubov pushed his passed pawn, with 69.d5, no doubt with the idea of taking on h5 at some point, thus obtaining another passer.
The problem, was 69…Kc2(!), which saw the stances flip. All of a sudden, Black is looking rather potent. White’s pawn on b2 is now looking vulnerable, and with that gone, Black’s own advanced passed pawn on b3 is released. The reality of the situation, was that White no longer had time to carry out his plans. Dubov’s position deteriorated rapidly from here and Duda equalled the match.
The pace got quicker for the next two games, with the players starting with 10-minutes on their clocks, with 10-seconds move increments. Dubov took white in the first game, but didn’t make anything of it. It was a Slav Defence and the players agreed a draw in 16-moves. The second game was a different matter, seeing Duda take an early initiative with the white pieces and steadily increase it. Dubov fought valiantly, but was surrendering the point in 60-moves. We will be seeing much more of him, for sure, the experience gained in this tournament will be invaluable to him.
Jan-Kyzysztof Duda went through to the final, then, where he would play Alexander Grischuk. The players would get a rest day before the final — a much needed opportunity to recharge the batteries, before coming out for the last couple of days play.