The final match of the second leg of the Grand Prix was opened by FIDE Deputy President and renowned grandmaster Bachar Kouatly.
Starting with the Petroff, the players moved to the Four Knights game and then switched to the Scottish Game. Somewhat surprisingly, Dmitry Andreikin opted for a very drawish course. The opponents played out a popular line that has been tested many times in high-level games. After massive exchanges, a well-known drawish endgame emerged on the board, that Andreikin played himself just a month ago.
As innocuous as it may seem, Black has to demonstrate some accuracy in this ending. Suffice it to say that Vidit Gujrathi lost this very endgame with Black in Tata Steel Masters 2022.
Richard Rapport knew all the correct answers, and, after the exchange of bishops, White got a tiny edge in the rook endgame thanks to a more active rook. However, despite his king being cut off on the eighth rank and White being able to pose some threats, Black’s position was fundamentally solid as a rock.
Andreikin tried to squeeze water from a stone by sacrificing a pawn and activating his king but quickly realised that Rapport had more than sufficient defensive resources. Following the repetition of moves, the opponents shook hands and split a point.
Today’s game had a distinct psychological dynamic. Andreikin opted for a very solid line where the position was even but where Black had to be constantly on alert. In such drawish positions, it is easy for one side to lose focus and it seemed that Andreikin – who spent much more time thinking about the moves than his opponent – was hoping that would be the case. However, Rapport did not relax one bit and played precisely, making sure he ends up with half a point.
In the second game Rapport will be White while Andreikin will be Black. The second game of the Grand Prix finals will be played on Sunday, 13th March at 3 PM local (CET) time.
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Text: Milan Dinic
Photo: Mark Livshitz