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Richard Rapport is the winner of Grand Prix Belgrade 2022

Following a draw in the first game of the finals, Hungarian Grandmaster Richard Rapport won the second game against the two-time Russian champion, Dmitry Andreikin.

In the final minutes of the game, in a position that seemed completely equal for Black, Rapport (who played as White) found a way to throw Andreikin off his balance and snatch victory.

The way to the title for Richard Rapport: Rapport qualifies from the group stage / Rapport wins game 1 of the semi final and Qualifies for the final / Rapport and Andreikin draw game 1 of the final

Fortune favours the bold

In the Janowski variation of the Queen’s Gambit Dmitry Andreikin (leading black pieces) managed to achieve a balanced, comfortable position after the opening. Black had a slightly exposed king but his pieces were active, he was controlling the c-file, making threats on both sides of the board and had a weak pawn on e6 which seemed to be well protected. The computer was saying the position was equal.

The crucial moment in the game came on Black’s 29th move, following a two-fold repetition. Rapport had just over 13 minutes on the clock, while Andreikin had just over two minutes. Everyone in the audience in Belgrade – including the chief trainer of the Russian national team, Alexander Motylev, and chess legend Alisa Maric – was expecting to see Rapport repeat a move and for the game to end in a draw.

Like Rodin’s sculpture, sitting with his head in his hand, sunk in thought – Rapport spent 12 minutes analysing the position before playing 29.Qe5, forcing sharp complications. With just around two minutes on the clock and ten moves away from the first-time control, this was a bold decision to make.

White was threatening the black knight on e4 and aiming for his weak e6 square. The computer still said that the position was even, but it seemed that psychology rather than calculation mattered more at this point.

Andreikin moved his knight to d2, threatening White’s rook on f1. Almost instantly, Rapport responded with a forceful move 31.f5, attacking the weak pawn on e6, the final defence of the black king.

Here Black’s concentration broke – instead of giving a check with 32…Qb6, which would lead to a draw, Andreikin, in inverted move order, first took the rook on f1, thus opening a path for the white king towards the left side of the board, where he eventually found shelter from Black’s perpetual checks.

Andreikin thought he had a draw after sacrificing his rook on e1 (35…Rc7 offered some chances to prolong the resistance) and then brought his queen to e3, giving checks to the white king who seemed defenceless. To the naked, untrained eyes, it still seemed that Black had a perpetual check, but Rapport saw that this wasn’t the case. After each check, White moved his king towards the a-file, where his queen from g7 could quickly jump back to b2 and defend him.

In a move that can only be described as a desperate attempt, Andreikin gave a check on f1 with his queen, which was immediately dealt with by the white bishop from h3.

It was all over. Dmitry Andreikin’s facial expression showed a man who was completely crushed and shattered by what just happened to him. He nervously shook his opponent’s hand in defeat. That was it. Hungarian Grandmaster Richard Rapport won the second leg of the Grand Prix, in Belgrade (where he has been living for some time now).

The winner of FIDE Grand Prix Belgrade shared this thoughts on his performance in a post-game interview.

Interview with Richard Rapport after the final of the FIDE Grand Prix

The road to victory

Richard Rapport’s path to first place in Belgrade was not easy. He started in Pool C, playing against Vidit Santosh GujrathiVladimir Fedoseev and Alexei Shirov. With four draws and two victories (both against Gujrathi), Rapport secured first place and a ticket for the knockout stage.

In the semi-finals, he was up against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave – the Blitz world champion and winner of Pool D, dubbed the “group of death” as it was made up of extremely strong grandmasters. In the first game of the match, Rapport defeated Vachier-Lagrave in the Frenchman’s favourite opening, the Gruenfeld. Then in the second game, Rapport managed to hold the Frenchman to a draw despite the game being sharp and the position favouring White.

In the first game of the finals Rapport drew as Black against Dmitry Andreikin, who reached the final stage following a victory against Anish Giri in the tiebreaks. Following a relatively quick draw in the first game, everyone expected a big fight in the second – final – game, and both Andreikin and Rapport did not disappoint.

Rapport’s success in Belgrade continued his great performance in Berlin, in the first leg of the Grand Prix Tour, where he reached the semi-finals.

With this victory in Belgrade, Richard Rapport is now on 20 points and is the overall leader in the Grand Prix series. With his strong performance in the first leg of the event in Berlin, and his victory now in Belgrade, Rapport has strong chances to take one of the two places leading to the Candidates tournament.

Next stop – Berlin

The third and final stage of the FIDE 2022 Grand Prix series will take place in Berlin from 21st March to 4th April.

There are 24 players taking part in the Grand Prix series altogether. Each player takes part in two out of three of the tournaments. Each tournament starts with 16 players, split into four pools. The four winners of the pools progress to the second stage, where they play a knockout tournament, consisting of semi-finals and a final.

Players receive Grand Prix points according to their finishing position in each tournament. The two players with the most Grand Prix points across the two tournaments they play, qualify for this year’s Candidates Tournament.

The overall standings in the Grand Prix Series following leg two are as follows:

Richard Rapport71320
Hikaru Nakamura13 13
Levon Aronian10 10
Dmitry Andreikin10 10
Vidit Gujrathi Santos347
Anish Giri 77
Leinier Dominguez7 7
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 77
Wesley So4 4
Andrey Esipenko4 4
Sam Shankland 44
Radosław Wojtaszek4 4
Vladimir Fedoseev213
Nikita Vitiugov 33
Amin Tabatabaei 33
Daniil Dubov3 3
Alexander Predke 33
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 33
Alexander Grischuk202
Pentala Harikrishna202
Etienne Bacrot022
Alexei Shirov011
Yu Yangyi 00
Grigoryi Oparin0 0
Vincent Keymer0 0

The leading partners supporting the FIDE Grand Prix Series 2022 include:

Kaspersky as the Official Cybersecurity Partner;

Algorand as the Official Blockchain Partner;

Prytek as the Technology Transfer Partner;

FIDE Online Arena as the official Partner.

Text: Milan Dinic
Photo: Mark Livshitz

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