He has won his first two games in the first Grand Prix of the year.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave can be satisfied with his start in the Grand Prix in Sharjah. He has won his first two games and is the sole leader.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan and Michael Adams of England are tied for second, a half point behind.
Sharjah is the first in a four-tournament series that will include competitions in Moscow, Geneva and Palma de Mallorca, Spain. There are 24 players in the Grand Prix with 18 in each tournament. The top two scorers at the end of the series will qualify for the Candidates tournament next year to select a challenger for the World Championship.
Each Grand Prix has a prize fund of 130,000 euros, with 20,000 euros for first place. The series is being organized by Agon, the company that holds the commercial rights to the World Championship, under the auspices of the World Chess Federation.
Round 2 of the tournament produced three decisive results, just as in Round 1.
Max Avdeev for World Chess by Agon Ltd
After losing in Round 1, Ding Liren bounced back to win in Round 2.
The first decisive game was between Salem Saleh of the host country and Ding Liren of China. Both of them had gotten off to rough starts with losses on Day 1, but Ding managed to turn things around with a nice win, and he did with the Black pieces.
Saleh, Salem vs. Ding Liren
Grand Prix |Sharjah, UAE |Round 2 |19 Feb 2017 |0-1
Qf617. d5?Strategically, this is a very dubious move. With the center closed, Black can attack freely on the kingside with no worries about a counterattack by White. In addition, the bishop on a7 now has tremendous scope.
( 17. dxe5!This was a much better option. After 17... Qg6!18. exd6Qh5+19. Bh2cxd6Black has compensation for his material deficit, but a pawn is a pawn. At least White would have some counterplay. )
17... Ne718. Bh4Ng519. Nh2Bc8!A really nice move. Black cannot avoid the exchange of bishops, but he can at least ensure it happens on his terms.
( 19... Bxe220. Qxe2And White's pieces would have been a bit better coordinated than they were in the game. )
20. Bg4Qg621. Bh5?For better or worse, White really had to exchange c8.
( 21. Bxc8Raxc8And compared to playing Bxe2, Black has his rook on c8 and White would not have his queen on e2. This is not a huge change, but it clearly favors Black. )
21... Qg7Black is threatening f5 and it will cause significant problems for White. 22. g3Bh3This is the engine's choice, though it is not a natural move for a person.
( 22... f5This looks more natural to me -- I would not bother taking the exchange. )
23. Bxg5hxg524. Bg4Bxf125. Qxf1White has great play on the light squares, but he is down an exchange and the Black rooks can use the h-file. 25... Qg6!26. Kg2Preparing Kg7 and Rh8, which will activate the Black rooks. 26... Kg727. Nhf3Rh828. a5Ng8!I like this move. Black improves the position of his worst-placed piece. 29. Qc4Nf630. Bf5The bishop looks nice on f5, but it doesn't accomplish much and White will soon play g4, attacking the piece. 30... Qh631. Qd3
( 31. Qxc7g4And Black should win because 32. Nh4Fails to 32... Qxd2 )
31... Qh5!Simple and very effective. Black needs to activate his last piece for the attack, and after Rh6, the other rook can move to h8. 32. Rf1Rh633. Re1Ng434. Bxg4Qxg4
Vachier-Lagrave beat Richard Rapport of Hungary by punishing his provocative play. Rapport often gets away with playing that way, but not against Vachier-Lagrave.
Rapport, Richard vs. Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
Grand Prix |Sharjah, UAE |Round 2 |19 Feb 2017 |0-1
Kf8I don't like White's position, but his next move was really asking for trouble. 20. O-O?The king will not be safe on this square.
( 20. Ne5!This suggestion by the computer is very strong. White is preparing to castle queenside. )
( 20. O-O-O?Bf4 )
20... Qc7!21. Qd2Re8Black's pieces are springing to life and White's kingside is very vulnerable. 22. e3Kg823. d4Qc8!Another strong move. The pawn on h3 is not secure.
( 23... c4This would have been my instinct with the idea of keeping the center closed to put pressure on the kingside without any significant concerns. But Vachier-Lagrave's move is stronger because after my suggestion, White could fight on with 24. Ne5!Nxe525. dxe5Bxe526. Bxe5Rxe527. h4And White would have had better chances than in the game. )
24. h4Bh3!No mercy. Black is storming the gates. 25. Ne5This is a pretty desperate move, but White's position was already pretty hopeless.
( 25. dxc5Bxc526. Bd4Bxg227. Qxg2Re4!And that would be enough to win. )
25... Bxe526. dxe5Bxg2
( 26... Qg4This move would have won the game a bit more quick0ly. )
27. Qxg2Qg4Not the fastest way to win, but a very clean way to proceed. The ending is absolutely hopeless for White.
( 27... Nxh4 )
28. Rad1Nxh429. Qxg4hxg430. Rxd5Nf3+31. Kg2Rh2+32. Kg3Rxc233. Rf2Rxf234. Kxf2Nxg5I'm sure Vachier-Lagrave calculated to this point when he played Qg4. White cannot take the pawn on c5 and after the Black knight lands on e6 there will be no more hope for White. 35. Kg3
( 35. Rxc5?Ne4+ )
35... Ne636. Rd7Rd8!The rest does not require any commentary. 37. Rxb7Rd238. Ba3Rxa239. Rxa7Re240. Bc1Rc241. Ra1Rc342. Kxg4Rxb343. Kf5Rd344. Ra8+Kh745. Ra7Rd146. Rxf7Nd847. Rc7Rf1+48. Ke4Rxc149. Rc8Nf750. Rc6Nh651. e6Ng852. Rc7Nf6+53. Ke5Kg654. e7Re1
For his part, Mamedyarov won a very nice game against Evgeny Tomashevsky of Russia.
Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar vs. Tomashevsky, Evgeny
Grand Prix |Sharjah, UAE |Round 2 |19 Feb 2017 |1-0
20. Nd3Black is facing a somewhat unpleasant ending with the hanging pawns on the c and d files, but his next move did not help matters: 20... Rd7?White's pieces are now able to take up more active positions with a gain time of tempo by attacking Black's pieces. 21. Bh3
( 21. b4!?This might have been even stronger. After: 21... c422. Nc5The Black rook would be forced to retreat to a7. 22... Ra723. g4!?And it would be hard for Black to protect the pawn on d5. )
( 21... Ra7This was the best move, but it's very difficult to admit that the earlier move was an error. )
22. b4!Not fearing that Black can create a protected passed pawn. 22... cxb4
( 22... c423. Nc5Ra724. g4!The position to the situation after the 21st move; Black has real problems and White is threatening g5. )
23. axb4Now Black is left with an isolated and weak queen pawn and has basically no compensation for this disadvantage. In addition, the bishop on a8 is not very useful. 23... d424. exd4Nbd525. Be5
( 25. Nxd5Nxd526. Bd2This would have been a little more precise. 26... Nxb427. Nc5!And White has a clear edge. )
25... Nxc326. Rxc3Nd527. Rc4Nxb428. Nc5Black has restored material equality, but White's pieces are much more active. 28... Bxc5?This is a mistake.
( 28... Rb6!29. Nd7Bf3!Tomashevsky may have overlooked this move. After: 30. Ra1Rc6!31. Rxc6Nxc632. Rxa6Bd6!Black would have good chances to draw. )
29. dxc5!Not fearing the loss of the bishop. 29... Nc6
( 29... Rxe530. Rd8+Kh731. Rxa8The c-pawn will crash through and promote. )
30. Bc3Rbe731. Rd6White's bishops dominate the board. 31... Rc732. Rg4!The Black kingside is an easy target. 32... f5A sad necessity for Black.
( 32... g633. h5!g534. Rxh6 )
33. Rgg6Now the pawn on f5 is also attacked. Black never gets a chance to breath. 33... Ne534. Bxe5!Rxe535. c6The bishop on a8 will not be able to move for the rest of the game. 35... Kh736. h5Rc537. Bg2Black resigned as he would basically be playing the rest of the game down a piece.
Vachier-Lagrave faces Mamedyarov on Monday, which should be an interesting matchup.
Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 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 was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter, has his own site, 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