Riga Grand Prix, Round 1: MVL's White and the Seven Draws **UPDATED**
Friday, July 12, 2019 at 5:47PM
Dennis Monokroussos in 2019 Riga Grand Prix, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Despite the extra Grand Prix points on offer to those who win their knockout matches before the tiebreaker stage, ambition took a back seat on day one of round 1 of the Riga Grand Prix. Seven of the eight games were drawn, some with no fight whatsoever, and only one game finished with a winner. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave demolished David Navara in just 19 moves, and Navara could have resigned several moves earlier.

Among the draws, there were serious winning chances for one side or the other (or both) in two of the games. Wesley So was winning much of the way against Pentala Harikrishna before letting the win slip (38.Nf5! instead of 38.Nxc6? probably would have done the trick), while first Nikita Vitiugov and then Alexander Grischuk missed wins against each other. For Vitiugov, he could have taken advantage of Grischuk's 19...0-0-0?? with 20.Nxe4, which would result in a position where he's up two pawns with a superior position and no risk at all. After 20.Rh1(??) he was clearly worse, a status which further declined over the next few moves. Black had a number of probably crushing moves on move 27, especially 27...Qb4. Instead, he chose the clever but mistaken 27...Bf1+?, greatly reducing his advantage. Vitiugov's position remained difficult, but he eventually saved a knight ending a pawn down.

Here's the tournament site, and here's the MVL game, with my comments.

UPDATE: I was completely wrong about 20.Nxe4, which loses to 20...Qg6. Thanks to those who wrote in to correct me. I trusted both the Chess24 computer and the snippet of live commentary I saw that said that (which was itself probably accepting someone's relaying the Chess24 computer's analysis), and in this case it was wrong. Mea culpa for not checking this!

Article originally appeared on The Chess Mind (http://www.thechessmind.net/).
See website for complete article licensing information.