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The second leg of the FIDE Grand Prix Series organized by World Chess started on Friday in the National Library in Riga.

Only one game ended on a decisive result, leaving David Navara in a must-win situation for day two.

The Grand Prix Series 2019 is entering its second stage with a stop in Riga. For two weeks, the Latvian capital will stand in the centre of the chess map.

The Grand Prix is a circuit of four tournaments disputed over the year. The first event took place in Moscow, Russia, in May, while both other events will be held later this year in Hamburg, Germany and Tel Aviv, Israel.

The prize fund in each leg of the Grand Prix amounts to 130’000 euros, with an additional 280’000 euros for the top 10 finishers in the overall standings. Thus, the total prize fund of the FIDE Grand Prix, organized by World Chess, totals 800’000 euros. The major aim for the 21 participants, however, is to finish in the top two at the end of the Series and earn a qualification ticket to the Candidates Tournament. This event will then determine the challenger of Magnus Carlsen in the World Championship match.

Each Grand Prix leg starts with 16 participants, which means that all players take part in three of the four tournaments. The knockout system introduced in 2019 follows the aim to give a greater dynamic to the event and to encourage players to fight in every game.

The leader of the standings after the Moscow tournament is Ian Nepomniachtchi with 9 points. Since the Russian does not play in Riga, it will give a chance to his pursuers to overtake him. Especially Moscow finalist Alexander Grischuk (Russia) will try to add some points to his current score of 7 points.

The second tournament of the Grand Prix Series started on Friday at 15:00 in the spacious Ziedonis Hall of the National Library of Latvia. The Minister of Defence of Latvia Artis Pabriks opened the event by playing the symbolic first move in the game between Sergey Karjakin and rating favourite Anish Giri. Fun fact, Sergey Karjakin is himself nicknamed the Minister of Defence of Russia in the chess world for his formidable defensive skills in difficult positions. It could be that the level of security on the board reached so high that both grand masters exchanged several pieces and agreed a draw in 16 moves.

The audience did not have to wait long for the second game to finish. French top star Maxime Vachier-Lagrave surprised David Navara with the unusual move 9.Qf4 in the favourite Caro-Kann opening of the Czech. As he mentioned in the interview afterwards, Navara never managed to solve his problems and eventually lost a piece on move 19, which forced immediate resignation. Strangely enough, no other game ended decisively, despite the high level of entertainment delivered by the champions.

The American Wesley So held the best cards in his encounter with Pentala Harikrishna. In a balanced position, the Indian sacrificed a piece to open the white castle, but did not follow up accurately. Instead of 27…Rg6, he should have gone 27…Qe6 28.Ng1 Rf8! This hidden resource understandably escaped his attention but would have given him a dangerous initiative. After that, it looked like Wesley So would be able to convert his material advantage, but he missed a few nuances in time-trouble and Harikrishna created just enough counter-play with his queen to hold the draw.

Another breath-taking battle took place between Petr Svidler and Jan-Krzysztof Duda. In the enriching post-game interview, the Pole revealed that he had prepared this variation and decided over the board to go for the risky 11…Nb6, thus sacrificing the pawn g7 and the rook in the corner. Famous for his daring style, Duda added that in knockout events, it definitely makes sense to play actively with black. Petr Svidler commented that in view of their bad performance in the first Grand Prix leg, both of them needed to go very far in Riga. He was therefore happy with the sort of positions he got from the opening, even though he understood that he could be on the verge of losing after taking the rook on h8. However it was, both kept control and played well after that. Duda only regretted that, from afar, he missed his opponent’s idea 30.g5, which basically forced a peaceful outcome.

The Russian duel also became a wild affair early on, when Nikita Vitiugov decided to go for the romantic and ever complicated line 4.Ng5. Alexander Grischuk admitted that he had forgotten important details of his preparation, but still managed to get the upper-hand thanks to dangerous threats against the white king. Right after the game, both players considered the white position very critical, and Grischuk definitely missed his chance to convert his advantage, as he started being short of time.

Hikaru Nakamura and Veselin Topalov followed a game which the Bulgarian played against Garry Kasparov himself many years ago. In the post-game interview, he said that this line of the Spanish is treated in a different way nowadays. But since he can see no reason why the old line should be worse, he decided to revive it. Nakamura confirmed that after 19…Qa1, black was perhaps fractionally worse but should be able to hold without too many troubles. The game indeed followed that scenario and both players agreed a draw on move 39. According to Levon Aronian, he got an edge from his opening against Yu Yangyi. But he hurried a bit with 21.a3, which allowed black to trade knights with the strong check 21…Nd3. The Armenian believes that he should have played 21.Qd1 instead, as the presence of knights increases his attacking chances. The final phase of the game proved him right, the Chinese maintained the balance and the draw was signed on move 29.

The encounter between Shakriyar Mamedyarov and Daniil Dubov could have turned in white’s favour, as the Azeri took a pawn sacrificed by his opponent. His chances were indeed better, and he could not refrain his disappointment in the interview after the game. “That’s a pity, as this is my type of positions. I possibly got confused when my opponent offered a draw after 24…Bc4, when only white can be better here”.

All players will meet again with reversed colours on Saturday at 15:00. For David Navara, this will be an all-or-nothing situation.

Round 1, game 1 results:

Vachier-Lagrave – Navara 1-0
Karjakin – Giri ?-?
So – Harikrishna ?-?
Svidler – Duda ?-?
Mamedyarov – Dubov ?-?
Vitiugov – Grischuk ?-?
Aronian – Yu Yangyi ?-?
Nakamura – Topalov ?-?

Photos by Niki Riga:

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Leading partners supporting the FIDE Grand Prix Riga 2019 include:

EG Capital Advisors as the Official Partner
PhosAgro as the Official Strategic Partner
Kaspersky as the Official Cybersecurity Partner

Information for the press:  
Official website  
An official photo gallery is available via Dropbox

About FIDE
The International Chess Federation (FIDE), is recognized by its members and the International Olympic Committee as the international federation in the domain of chess, the supreme body responsible for the sport of chess and its Championships. FIDE has the sole rights to organize the World Chess Championships and the Chess Olympiads.

About World Chess
World Chess is a London-based media company. It’s a commercial partner of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), and official broadcaster for FIDE events. World Chess organized the World Championship Matches in Russia, USA, and the UK. It revolutionized chess by signing the biggest media partnerships in the history of chess. World Chess is also developing Armageddon, the chess league designed for television. It operates

About PhosAgro
PhosAgro is one of the world’s leading vertically integrated phosphate-based fertilizer producers in terms of production volumes of phosphate-based fertilizers and high-grade phosphate rock with a P2O5 content of 39% and higher. The Company is the largest phosphate-based fertilizer producer in Europe (by total combined capacity for DAP/MAP/NP/NPK/NPS), the largest producer of high-grade phosphate rock with a P2O5 content of 39%, a top-three producer of MAP/DAP globally, one of the leading producers of feed phosphates (MCP) in Europe, and the only producer in Russia, and Russia’s only producer of nepheline concentrate (according to the RAFP).

PhosAgro’s main products include phosphate rock, 39 grades of fertilizers, feed phosphates, ammonia, and sodium tripolyphosphate, which are used by customers in 100 countries spanning all of the world’s inhabited continents. The Company’s priority markets outside of Russia and the CIS are Latin America, Europe and Asia. PhosAgro’s shares are traded on the Moscow Exchange, and Global Depositary Receipts (GDRs) for shares trade on the London Stock Exchange (under the ticker PHOR). Since 1 June 2016, the Company’s GDRs have been included in the MSCI Russia and MSCI Emerging Markets indexes.

About EG Capital Advisors
EG Capital Advisors is a UK-headquartered asset management company which offers strategies across multiple asset classes. Specialist areas of focus include emerging markets high yield debt, pre-IPO private equity and biotec public equity. 

About Kaspersky
Kaspersky is a global cybersecurity company, which has been operating in the market for over 21 years. Kaspersky’s deep threat intelligence and security expertise is constantly transforming into next generation security solutions and services to protect businesses, critical infrastructure, governments and consumers around the globe. The company’s comprehensive security portfolio includes leading endpoint protection and a number of specialized security solutions and services to fight sophisticated and evolving digital threats. Over 400 million users are protected by Kaspersky technologies and we help 270,000 corporate clients protect what matters most to them.
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Source: World Chess Federation – FIDE