But there was yet another super tournament during the same period: the Hainan Danzhou competition in China. A 10-player round-robin, it included most of China’s top players and a handful of top foreign competitors as well. The average rating of the players was well above 2700 — the level of super grandmasters.
The tournament was won by Ian Nepomniatchi of Russia, who played delightfully combative games. Out of his nine rounds, he only drew two! It’s very rare to see a player win a 10-player round robin with two losses, but Nepomniachtchi overcame those loses by winning five games. Of those wins, my favorite was his game against Peter Leko of Hungary.
Leko, Peter vs. Nepomniachtchi, Ian
Hainan Danzhou |China |Round 4 |17 Jul 2016 |0-1
14. Kh1Bd8!A very nice move. Black wants to play Bb6 to eliminate the bishop pair and trade off the tall pawn on e7 that was not helping him. 15. f4?!
( 15. Na5!?This seems to be more natural to me. I wouldn't want to trade center pawns. )
15... Re8!16. c4White tries to strengthen his center, but...
( 16. fxe5Nxe517. Nd4g6White probably should have tried something like that, though he would not have been better. Black's centralized pieces would have given him a good game. )
16... b5!Undermining White's center. When the Black knight reaches c4, it is going to be a problem for White.
( 16... Bb6?Would have been less effective. 17. Bxb6Nxb618. fxe5Rxe519. Rxf6!gxf620. Nd4White has a strong attack. )
( 17. cxb5 )
( 17. c5dxc5 )
17... Nxe518. cxb5axb519. Nd4Nc4!20. Bxc4bxc4White's center is coming under a lot of pressure. Note how the rook on a8 and the queen on b8, which were both passive a couple moves ago, are now
perfectly positioned to harass White's pawns. 21. Bg1?!
( 21. Nf5This was a better move, though still I would prefer Black after 21... Ne422. Qd1Bf6 )
21... Qb7!Black wants to take the pawn on d5 with the queen, not the knight.
( 21... Nxd5?22. Nf5 )
( 22. Nc6Ne4 )
22... Ne4!Energetic and strong. White is in no position to try to save the pawn on d5.
( 22... Qxd523. Rad1This is good for Black but less clear than the game continuation. )
( 23. Rad1?Rxa2 )
( 23. Nc6Bf6!And the queenside crumbles. )
( 23. Rfd1Qxd5 )
23... Qxd524. Rf5Qb725. Rb5Qe726. Rf1
( 26. Rxh5?Unfortunately for White, he cannot win back his pawn. 26... Nf2+!27. Bxf2Qxe1+28. Bxe1Rxe1# )
26... g6In addition to White's other woes, he is down a pawn. 27. Nf3
( 27. Qxc4Nd2 )
27... Qe628. a4h429. Nd4Qd730. Qxc4White won his pawn back, but his pieces are sidelined and his kings position is about to get opened up. 30... h3!31. Rf4The rest of the game was marred by time trouble, but I still enjoyed how Nepomniachtchi played.
( 31. g3Bf6 )
31... Nc532. b3
( 32. Qd5Offered more resistance. )
32... hxg2+33. Kxg2Rc8!Including another piece in the attack. 34. Qf1Bg5!Black gains time for his attack. 35. Rf3Ne4!36. Rd3Qg4+37. Kh1Rc138. Qg2Qh439. Rf3Be3!The final finesse and a nice touch by Nepomniatchi. 40. Ne2
( 40. Rxe3Nf2+ )
40... Nf2+41. Rxf2Bxf242. Nxc1Bxg1!
( 42... Re1?It was not too late to mess up the attack. 43. Ne2!Rxe244. Rf5!And White would continue to live. )
43. Qg3Qd444. Qxg1Qd245. Nd3Qxd346. Rg5Re2A fine attacking game by Nepomniachtchi.
While Nepomniatchi clearly deserved to win, I was also very impressed by how well Pentala Harikrishna of India played. He seemed to have a tough tournament — he often emerged from the opening with without any advantage and his opponents were not giving him many chances to succeed. This makes it all the more impressive that he finished second. His best game was undoubtedly his victory over the tournament winner.
Harikrishna, Pentala vs. Nepomniachtchi, Ian
Hainan Danzhou |China |Round 7 |17 Jul 2016 |1-0
9. a4b6?!This move looks dubious as it allows White to be able to play Nd5.
( 9... Be7I generally prefer White in these positions, but this development scheme is not bad for Black. He could then follow with Nc5 and Be6. )
10. Nd5!And White is able to play his other knight to c3 without much difficulty. 10... Nxd5
( 10... Bb711. Nec3 )
( 10... Nxe4?11. Bg2And Black would already be falling apart. 11... f512. Bxe4fxe413. Nec3 )
11. Qxd5Rb812. Nc3Bb713. Qd2!?An interesting square to choose
( 13. Qd1looked more natural to me )
13... Nf614. Bg2Whites position is better because of the weakness of the d5 square and the poor position of the bishop on b7. In this line, it really belongs on e6. 14... Be715. O-OO-O
( 15... h4I think Black should have included this move. The reason will be apparent later. 16. g4 )
16. Qe2h417. gxh4!A resource White did not have if the rook were still on h8. His king is safe enough and he is up a pawn. 17... b5
( 17... g6This looked more natural
to me, preparing Nh5, but the engines prefer the move played in the game. )
18. axb5axb519. h5!White did not want to allow g6 followed by Nh5 19... b420. Nd1!White does not want the pawn structure to change.
( 20. Nd5?!Nxd521. exd5Bc8!This gives Black decent counterplay. )
( 20... d5!I think Black should have used this opportunity to play d5 while he still could. )
21. Rxa8!Qxa822. Re1!White has overprotected the e4 pawn, so Black has no
counterplay and his position is very difficult. 22... Re823. c4!Another strong move. White wants to forever shut the door on the possibility of Black playing d5. 23... Bf8?
( 23... bxc3!This would help Black play d5, but it permits White's knight back into the center and gives White a passed pawn. Nonetheless, I probably would have played this way. 24. Nxc3 )
24. Bd2Rc825. Bg5!White is up a pawn and Black has no compensation. 25... Nh726. h4
( 26. Bh4The engine prefers this move, but
I don't think there is anything wrong with Harikrishna's choice. )
26... Qa227. Bf1Rc728. Qd3Ba629. b3Bc830. Ne3Whites strategic triumph is complete. He has kept his extra pawn, stopped any pawn breaks in the center, and is ready invade with Nd5. The rest requires no comment. 30... Be631. Nd5Rb732. Bh3Qa833. Bf5Ra734. Nxb4Ra135. Rxa1Qxa1+36. Kg2Bxf537. exf5e438. Qxe4Qc339. Nd5Qxb340. h6gxh641. Bf6Nxf642. Nxf6+Kg743. Nd7
Another game I was impressed by was Hou Yifan’s lone win of the event in Round 7. She was really struggling after six rounds. She had lost two games and won none and was stuck in her slump that had dropped her out of the world’s top 100 players. A lot of people would crumble psychologically in a situation like this, but the Women’s World Champion showed her mental toughness by crushing Wang Hao, one of her Chinese compatriots.
1. d4Nf62. c4e63. g3d54. Nf3Be75. Bg2O-O6. O-Odxc47. Ne5Nc68. Bxc6bxc69. Nxc6Qe810. Nxe7+Qxe711. Qc2c512. Qxc4cxd413. Qxd4e514. Qh4Rb815. b3Qe616. Na3Rd8This is a reasonably well known position, but now Wang started to drift. 17. Qc4!?This is an interesting move, but I think it was asking for trouble.
( 17. Nc4Ba6Black has good compensation; probably enough for a pawn )
17... Qh3!Black is in no mood to mess around. The White kings position is precarious. 18. f3
( 18. Qh4Repeating the position is not especially impressive, as Black can also play 18... Qxh4When she should be fine. )
18... Bb7!Black is ready to break through with e4. 19. Qc2?Wang got a little spooked by the threat of e4, and quickly fell apart. One mistake was all it took.
( 19. Bg5!White should eliminate the knight on f6, after which he may still have some edge. 19... Qf520. Bxf6Qxf621. Qc5Black has some compensation for being down a pawn, but it is probably not enough. )
19... e4!Simple and strong. Black is ready to begin the attack. 20. Nc4Rbc8!21. Rf2Qh5
( 21... h5!?The engines suggestion also looks good as h4 is going to hurt White. )
22. Be3?A mistake; it's hard to imagine what Wang could have missed.
( 22. Bb2This was White's last chance to hold on. Black would have several options, but nothing amazing. 22... e323. Rg2Ba6 )
22... exf323. exf3Bxf3And Black's attack is going to be decisive. 24. Bg5Be425. Qc1Ng426. Re2Bf3
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