This match was played between May 27 and June 3, alongside seven other first round Candidates Matches in Elista, Russia.
Grischuk has been performing well in the SuperGM stratosphere, and it will be interesting how he fairs against fellow Russian Malakhov, who isn’t as well known, but he does have a good record in the Russian Championship, and sometimes second’s Kramnik.
Grischuk outmanoeuvres Malakhov to win the first game with an impressive Queen sortie. Malakhov has the advantage in game 2, forcing Grischuk to work hard to salvage enough to earn a draw. Malakhov again has Grischuk under the hammer in game 3, but fails to capitalise and its another draw.
Game 4 sees a temporary piece sacrifice that throws Malakhov off balance, and Grischuk cashes in. Grischuk controls Game 5 to ensure the necessary draw and books his place in the next round.
Grischuk – Malakhov, Game 1
Out of a Sicilian Richter-Rauzer, Grischuk damages Malakhov’s kingside pawn structure, emerging with a strong advantage thanks to Malakhov’s king clogging up the back rank. Grischuk offers a pawn sacrifice to tempt the Black queen out of the centre, and Malakhov accepts after sacrificing one of his own. Grischuk builds up on the kingside, taking advantage of the stranded Black rook. Malakhov quickly swaps off his dark-squared bishop for White’s knight before it gets entombed on the kingside. And another investment of a pawn completely smashes Black’s kingside pawn structure, leaving Grischuk in complete control of the position. He ties Malakhov down protecting his weak kingside pawns, and then embarks on a queen manoeuvre deep into Black’s desolate queenside. With Black tied down, Grischuk gets a rook on the seventh rank, and its all over.
Malakhov – Grischuk, Game 2
Malakhov emerges from a Double Fianchetto English with a comfortable position. Malakhov’s pressure on both sides of the board allows him to win a pawn, but this lets Grischuk break in the centre which distracts Malakhov from his strongest continuation. Grischuk gradually takes over the initiative, Malakhov blunders under pressure, allowing Grischuk to infiltrate with his queen and regain his pawn. Malakhov manages to extricate himself with an advantage, but the initiative swings from one player to the other. Just after the second time control a spark of tactics simplifies the game into a drawn pawn endgame.
Grischuk – Malakhov, Game 3
Malakhov adopts an unusual continuation from a Berlin Ruy Lopez, capturing White’s light-squared bishop with the b-pawn rather than the standard d-pawn. Malakhov slowly unwinds his position, rerouting his knight back to a central location and forcing exchanges to alleviate the bind on his position. Grischuk finds himself defending weak pawns, but Malakhov doesn’t opt for the strongest continuation and Grischuk temporarily sacrifices a pawn to break through to the backrank forcing the exchange of the major pieces and a draw is agreed.
Malakhov – Grischuk, Game 4
Grischuk takes an aggressive stance in a Semi-Slav. After a flurry of tactics, including a temporary piece sacrifice, Grischuk gains the upperhand and uses it to take over the centre with his two central pawns. With a clever manoeuvre, Grischuk exchanges the central pawns for two passed pawns on the queenside. That is sufficient to force Malakhov’s resignation.
Grischuk – Malakhov, Game 5
Malakhov needs a win to keep the match alive and goes back to the Sicilian Richter-Rauzer. Grischuk deviates concentrating on play in the centre. Grischuk starts a sequence that sees most of the pieces exchanged off leaving an endgame of two rooks and like-squared bishops. Grischuk is content to hold the double rook ending, and takes the repetition of position.