FIDE Grand Prix 2022: A tight battle between the veteran Levon Aronian and youngster Vincent Keymer favored the Armenian as he qualifies for the semifinals with 4/5 in Group C.
The three other groups are still battling for the three open spots. Hikaru Nakamura maintained his half-point lead with a win over Alexander Grischuk in Group A. He would have got his qualification but Esipenko got a must-needed win over Etienne Bacrot to set up a final-round clash.
Group B is the closest as Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Vladimir Fedoseev are tied with 3/5 in the first place and just behind them is Richard Rapport who can’t be counted out.
The D Group is led by the American Wesley So also at 3.5/5 points followed by Leinier Dominguez with 3/5 points also an American, though both will be playing different opponents in the last round of the group.
Group A: Hikaru Nakamura has faced a tough Kings Indian Defense from Alexander Grischuk. Hikaru is known for his speed and he was very confident in building almost an hour time advantage.
Grischuk although had a decent position felt the pressure and lost his way in between. GM Daniel Naroditsky, commenting live, was full of praise for Nakamura’s play: “Nakamura… is conducting the technical stage of the game with exquisite filigree precision.”
In the other encounter of the group, Esipenko prevailed over Bacrot in a surprisingly one-sided affair, as the French Grandmaster seemed to be off-color throughout, terming it as “a lousy game.” After this win, Esipenko will be in a must-win situation with the white pieces against Nakamura in round six.
Group B: Radoslaw was playing a very beautiful game making some impressive sequences of moves having a slight positional advantage against Fedoseev. However, one misplaced move and a draw was the ultimate result.
GM Grigoriy Oparin gradually built up an advantage which he misplayed against Rapport curiously just after reaching the time control.
Group C: The first to qualify for the FIDE Grand Prix 2022 semifinals, Levon Aronian, played a must-watch encounter against Vincent Keymer. It was a game bleeding intense preparation and deep understanding of the position.
Levon Aronian: “I did not expect this variation. I thought I will just play something interesting. It is a risky line, but we are not here to play some boring chess—we are having some fun as well.” He was full of praise for Keymer who once again confidently plunged into a sharp variation with deep preparation, with the words: “His play was daring, full of desire to win the game as well.”
Group D: Wesley So, who looked intent on cashing in on his full-point lead, employed the Berlin System of the Ruy Lopez against GM Alexei Shirov, and the game ended in a peaceful draw in 31 moves.
In the other clash, the Indian veteran Harikrishna Pentala allowed his creativity to flourish against Dominguez Leinier in an Alapin variation of the Sicilian. Hari was able to enter a middle game with a slight advantage and plenty of chances to press for a victory. Dominguez decided to not castle and defended solidly.
In the end, it was Dominguez’s tenacity that stood him in good stead. Harikrishna was obviously upset with his play after the game: “I had to spend some time and try to figure [the] proper plan rather than moving pieces as I did in the game… In general, it was quite poor play after a certain point from me.”