FIDE Grand Prix Belgrade R5: Rapport Wins To Take Lead In Group C.

Drama on Sunday was taken care of courtesy of Group C, where both games found victors, most importantly by GM Richard Rapport, who is leading by a full point ahead of the last round. In Group A, two draws mean that GM Dmitry Andreikin and GM Sam Shankland maintain their lead. GM Anish Giri played unconvincingly but held on to the lead in B, and finally, in Group D, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave retained his lead despite drawing his game.

Group A

The leaders in Group A faced each other for the second time, and this encounter was a bit more lackluster than their game in the third round. Andreikin played the trendy 3…a6 against Shankland’s Queen’s Gambit. White did not play particularly ambitiously and allowed the queens to be exchanged. Already after move 21, they started to repeat the moves, settling for a draw.

In the second game, GM Etienne Bacrot had the white pieces against the struggling GM Alexander Grischuk. In their recent encounter in Berlin, Grischuk employed the Pirc Defense to play for a win but ended up with a terrible position. So, here neither needing nor wanting to risk anything, he instead played 1…e5.

In a Closed Ruy Lopez (5…Be7), White avoided the most topical lines by playing a setup with 6.d3 and 7.c3. The setup looks somewhat tame but carries a lot more poison than it seems. However, after White’s odd 14.c4?!, Black had a comfortable position. Shortly after move 20, the players started repeating moves for the draw. A somewhat disappointing outcome for Bacrot as he could have caught the leaders with a win.

Group B

Ahead of Sunday’s round, Giri was leading by a full point. Facing GM Pentala Harikrishna with the white pieces, a win could likely secure him the group win with a round to spare.

Departing from his use of 1.e4 in his two first games with White, Giri instead picked 1.d4. Harikrishna defended with the popular Ragozin Variation in the Queen’s Gambit. White did not get anything tangible out of the opening but when he played 19.Ne2?, he lost two tempi and got in trouble. Unfortunately for Harikrishna, he let the advantage slip out of his hands, and soon after a draw became a reality.

Group C

Before Sunday’s round, Vidit and Rapport were sharing the lead. As they faced each other, all eyes were on their board. Vidit played White, and like in his game against GM Alexei Shirov in round one, he chose 1.e4, and Rapport replied with the French Defense. In a somewhat unusual line in the Advance Variation, Vidit seemed to gain the upper hand, but with an imprecise 17th move, Black equalized. Slowly but surely, Black took the initiative and gained an advantage that grew and eventually was converted to a full point.

Group D

On Friday, Vachier-Lagrave took the lead by winning the first game of the group, and with two draws in today’s round, that did not change, although the players worked hard to find winners in both games.

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