He took first on tiebreaks over Vachier-Lagrave and Mamedyarov, who finished second and third, respectively.
Alexander Grischuk of Russia has won the Sharjah Grand Prix in the United Arab Emirates. He did it on tiebreakers over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan, who finished second and third, respectively.
Grischuk and Vachier-Lagrave were tied for first before the last round and faced each other. Their game had the potential to produce an outright winner. Instead, they played a rather short draw.
The Sharjah Grand Prix is the first in a series of four tournaments that will be held throughout the year. The other locations are Moscow, Geneva and Palma de Mallorca, Spain. The series includes 24 of the world’s best players, 18 in each tournament, who are competing for one of two slots in 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 for first place. The series is being organized by Agon, the company that holds the commercial rights to the World Championship cycle, under the auspices of the World Chess Federation, also known as FIDE, which is the game’s governing body.
Max Avdeev for World Chess by Agon Ltd.
Hou Yifan lost her first game of the tournament in the last round.
Mamedyarov, who had lost to Grischuk in the penultimate round, came back by winning his last round game against Hou Yifan of China, the current Women’s World Champion (whose reign will end in a few days when a new winner is crowned at the World Championship tournament in Tehran). Almost right from the start, it looked like Yifan had confused her preparation, and she quickly found herself in a bad position.
Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar vs. Hou Yifan
Grand Prix |Sharjah, UAE |Round 9 |27 Feb 2017 |1-0
Nc711. a4!According to my database, this is the first time this move has been played in a live tournament at the elite level. It has been played a number of times in correspondence chess and is the computer's top choice even from a pretty low depth, so it is hard to miss in preparation. 11... Bb7Hou spent half an hour at this point, a clear sign she was not too comfortable with the position. Still, this is the best move. 12. Bd3h6?And now a mistake. Black cannot allow the b1-h7 diagonal to remain open.
( 12... g6This is the computer's move, and it's probably fine for Black. )
( 12... Nxd5!?I remembered liking this when I analyzed the line about a year ago. After 13. Bxh7+Kxh714. Ng5+Kg815. Qh5Qxg5!16. fxg5Nxc3The computer thinks White is better, but I am not sure. It looks very unclear to me. )
( 13... dxe5Probably this was more resilient, though White would still be better after: 14. axb5 )
14. bxc3dxe5It's unfortunate for Black that she has to allow axb5 but she had no choice in the matter.
( 14... bxa4?15. c4 )
15. axb5e4Hou desparately pitches a pawn to try to keep the center closed, but to no avail.
( 15... Qxd516. c4Qd717. Bb2!?And White's bishops are terrifying. For example: ...e418. Ne5Qe719. Bc2And Black's pieces are unbelievably badly positioned. Look at the knight on b8 and White is going to follow up with Qg4, Rad1, f5, etc. )
16. Bxe4Bxd517. Bb1!A very classy move. Normally a player doesn't want to block the rook on a1 rook, but in this case it is already on an open file! White wants to play Qc2. 17... Nd7
( 17... Bc418. Qc2g619. f5!And White should win. )
19. Ra3Ne620. Qc2Nf621. Bb2And Black gets massacred. The threat of Bxf6 is tough to handle. 21... Ne4
( 21... Be4This would lead to some exchanges, but it would not change the result: 22. Bxf6!Bxc223. Bxd8Bxb124. Rxb1Rfxd825. g3Even trading into an endgame is not helpful. White will be able to play Rba1 and Ne5-c6, after which the pawn on a7 will be lost and the White b-pawn will be able to advance. )
22. Rd3Qc723. f5Nd424. Nxd4cxd425. Bxd4Now in addition to his incredible piece activity, better attacking chances, and having the bishop pair, White is up a pawn. The rest requires no comment. 25... a626. b6Qc627. f6Rfd828. fxg7Rd629. c5Rg630. Ba2Ng531. Rg3Nh3+32. Kh1
Two other games ended decisively. Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine had a tournament to forget, but he showed great psychological toughness by winning his final two games. He ended up with a score of 50 percent. In Round 9, his victim was Salem Saleh of the host country of the United Arab Emirates.
Eljanov, Pavel vs. Saleh, Salem
Grand Prix |Sharjah, UAE |Round 9 |27 Feb 2017 |1-0
17. a4Black has a good position, but as the center is opened, tactical possibilities arise. In the ensuing complications, Eljanov ended up on top. 17... d5?This was too rash
( 17... Qb6!Simple and strong. Black develops a new piece and keeps d4 protected. 18. axb5d5!And White is much worse, since the game continuation would not work here: 19. exd5Bb420. Rxe5Rxe5And d4 is defended. )
18. exd5!Bb4Black defends the knight on e5 while gaining a tempo tempo and is ready to take on d5 next. But... 19. Rxe5!Anyway! 19... Rxe520. Qxd4And now in addition to having a pawn for the exchange, White has extremely active pieces, while two of Black's pieces are attacked. 20... Bd621. Nf3Qb6?
( 21... Re8!This was stronger. Saleh may have overlooked that after: 22. Bg5Be723. d6He has 23... Bxf3!24. gxf3Rc6!And Black just barely holds everything together. This kind of continuation is very hard to find during a game. )
22. Qh4!Material will be equal again but White will retain his superior activity. 22... Nxd523. Nxe5Bxe5Not all symmetrical positions are equal. 24. Qe4!Cold blooded and strong. White does not fear any discovered attacks by the bishop on b7. It is more important to chase the knight on d5 so that the White bishop on b3 can have more scope. 24... Qe625. axb5Bxb226. Qxe6fxe627. Rxa7White has emerged from all the complications with an extra pawn and a big advantage. Eljanov converted that into a win with no trouble. 27... Rc328. Rxb7Rxb329. Ne4Bd430. g3Rb231. Kh1Rb1+32. Kg2Rb233. Ng5Rxf2+34. Kh3Be535. Ra7Nb636. Re7Bd637. Re8+Bf838. Nxe6
The other win by Ding Liren of China, who beat Levon Aronian of Armenia in a very nice game. Ding has proved to be quite a difficult opponent for Aronian in the past and Round 9 was no exception.
Ding Liren vs. Aronian, Levon
Grand Prix |Sharjah, UAE |Round 9 |27 Feb 2017 |1-0
28. Qb3Black has a very unpleasant position. White has the bishop pair, a space advantage in the center, and has made progress toward a kingside attack. Aronian understandably did not want to wait for a slow death as White maneuvered his rooks to the h-file, but opening the center did not offer any salvation. 28... c5?
( 28... Bh6The computer suggests this waiting move, but this is beyond depressing. But it would offer better chances to hold a draw. 29. Re2Bg730. Bg4!White will follow up with f4. )
34... Qb635. Bc4White's bishops are glaring down on the kingside. Black is in big trouble. 35... Rb7
( 35... Rd8This forces a rook trade but doesn't help much. After 36. Rxd8Black must take with the knight on d8. 36... Nxd837. Qd7And the invasion continues. )
36. b3!A great move. Calmly and patiently, White protects everything in his position and makes room for the bishop on c3 to retreat. 36... Qa737. Rd6!A fine move that quickly settles the game. 37... Bxd6This is forced, but now the dark squares will be weakened decisively.
( 37... Rb638. Rxe6! )
( 37... Qb638. Rxc6!Qxc639. Qd4 )
( 37... Rc7I guess Black could have tried this. 38. hxg6hxg639. Qh1Bg740. Qa1Bxc341. Qxc3White is winning rather easily. )
38. Qxd6Qb639. Qf4The threat is Qf6. 39... Kf840. Bxe6With time control reached, any practical hope that Black can draw is gone. Ding and his bishops easily finished off the Black king. 40... Nb441. Qf6Nd342. Bd4Qd6
When all was said and done, it was a pretty quiet tournament with a lot of draws. It was a bit of surprise that 5.5/9 was enough for a share of first despite having nearly twice as many players as in a standard round robin, but one cannot draw any conclusions from just one tournament. I look forward to seeing how the next Grand Prix in Moscow in May will play out.
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