With a draw in the Round 8, Russia kept its lead, but it must secure at least a draw in the final round to clinch the title.
Russia still has a little work to do if it is to win the European Team Championship. Before the penultimate round, it seemed that a draw would be sufficient to secure the title. But in Round 8, Hungary smashed Azerbaijan, winning 3.5-0.5, which not only advanced Hungary a half point closer to Russia, but also significantly improved the team’s tie-breakers. If Hungary can decisively beat Russia in the finale, Hungary could still swoop in to steal the gold.
Of Hungary’s three wins, the one I most enjoyed was Richard Rapport’s victory over the struggling Teimour Radjabov.
The position above is quite pleasant for white — Black’s c pawn is under control, and, while there are no concrete threats yet, the White bishops are looking very menacing, pointing directly at the kingside, while Black’s are not doing anything productive. If Black could migrate the b4 bishop to f6 or the b7 bishop to e6, he would be absolutely fine.
Instead, with his time running down, Radjabov chose 26. … Ba6?! This is a very tempting move because it looks like it forces some trades, but after 27. Qb2!, Black had all sorts of problems. White now threatened both 28. Qxg7, mate, and 28. Bxe6.
Black had no choice but to play 27. … Qg6, but after 28. Qa2! Bb7 29. Rd1!, White’s initiative grew quickly. Radjabov was also in time trouble, and within a few moves he was caught in a mating net and resigned.
Along with victories by Ferenc Berkes over Eltaj Safarli and Zoltan Almasi over Arkady Naiditsch, Hungary moved up to 12 match points (two points for a win and one for a draw) and 20.5 game points.
Russia could have clinched the title with a win, but the team only managed to draw in its match against Armenia. The key to the match was the victory of Gabriel Sargissian of Armenia over Alexander Grischuk.
Sargissian, who had White, obtained a slight edge in the opening. In the above position, White is a little better because Black will have a hard time developing the c8 bishop. But now Sargissian did something fairly unsual in queen pawn openings — he castled queenside with 12. 0-0-0!
White almost always castles kingside, particularly when both the c and d pawns have been exchanged. But in this case 0-0-0 turned out to be very strong. After 12. … Qxd4 13. Rxd4 e5 14. Rd2 Be6 15. b3 Rfd8 Rhd1, White had full control over the open file.
The next critical moment came a few moves later.
Black is one move away from equalizing. All he needs to do is to be able to play 21. … e4. But, Sargissian broke through first with 21. Nxb7!, relying on the resource 21. … e4 22. Nc5! exf3 23. Nxe6+ Ke7 24. Nf4 fxg2 25. Nxg2.
Black had some compensation due to the fractured kingside structure, but after 25. … g5 26. h4! h6 27. hxg5 hxg5, White was just up a pawn and that turned out to be enough to win the game.
While only two teams have a chance for first place, all the other teams are still fighting hard. And since it is the end of a tough tournament, fatigue has begun set in, particularly among older players. One player who may have been affected by fatigue in Round 8 was Alexei Shirov of Latvia.
After losing an almost unlosable endgame in 98 moves in Round 7 to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaian, fatigue may have come back to haunt Shirov in Round 8 in his game against Anish Giri of the Netherlands.
In the above position, Shirov, who is Black is definitely suffering, and he might even be lost. The looming invasion on the h file will be difficult to deal with. However, Black could still fight on and offer some meaningful resistance with 30. … Qb4. Instead, Shirov played 30. … Rd3??, and resigned immediately after 31. Rd1!, as he must either lose a rook or his queen for a rook.
Against Hungary in the final round on Sunday, Russia will be the favorite, both because of its higher rating and its better position in the standings. But Hungary now has a chance at least. And they have had some success recently being in a position where they had to win. In last year’s Olympiad in Tromso, Norway, Hungary clinched the silver medal by winning the last match.
At least five other teams also have a shot at either the silver or bronze medal, so the last round will likely be hard fought and exciting.
Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 7 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.
FIDE and World Chess announces today that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. The world’s most prestigious chess tournament is to be the climax of a season of high-profile activity to extend the sport’s appeal among global audiences – and make 2018 the Year of Chess in the UK.
After 9 days of intense chess battles at the last leg of the World Chess Grand Prix series 2017 in Palma de Mallorca, the two winners of the series were finally determined: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, overall 340 points in the series) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 336,4 points). They qualified for the Candidates Tournament – the next part of the World Chess Championship cycle, which leads up to the Championship match.
The sole leader of the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix Levon Aronian made a quick draw with Evgeny Tomashevsky today, inviting the group of rivals to join him at the top. But same as in the previous rounds all games on the top boards finished peacefully and not a single player came close to catching up with him.
After seven rounds Aronian is in the lead with 4,5 points. A group of 8 players is half a point behind, including Vachier-Lagrave. In order to qualify for the Candidates, the Frenchman needs to win at least one more game. Boris Gelfand defeated Alexander Riazantsev, Pavel Eljanov won against Jon Ludvig Hammer, while Teimour Rajabov outplayed Li Chao. After the victory the Azerbaijani Grandmaster still hopes to qualify, but in that case has to win both games.
Javier Ochoa, Honorary FIDE Vice President and President of the Spanish Chess Federation, made the first symbolic move to start the fourth round, which turned out to be the most exciting round of the tournament so far, with six decisive games out of nine.
In the Third Round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca games between the four leaders, Vachier-Lagrave-Aronian and Rajabov-Giri, finished in a draw. Peter Svidler joined the group of leaders by beating Jon-Ludvig Hammer in the third round.
The world’s best chess players and chess establishment came together in Bellver Castle to celebrate the opening of the final leg of the FIDE 2017 World Chess Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca – a prestigious qualifier for the World Chess Candidates Tournament.
Katerina Lagno, one of the strongest Russian women-grandmasters won the historic Moscow Blitz Tournament, beating her fellow Russian Olympic team members Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina and Olga Girya.
After a draw against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimur Rajabov won the tournament. One of the strongest players, Rajabov had not won a major tournament lately, but has shown phenomenal form in Geneva and managed to overpower some of top world’s players