Image by Max Avdeev for World Chess by Agon Limited
Ding joined Hou in the lead after winning in Round 2. Nepomniachtchi also won.
With a win Saturday in Round 2 of the Moscow Grand Prix, Ding Liren of China joined his compatriot, Hou Yifan, as co-leaders of the tournament.
The only other decisive result in Round 2 was recorded by Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia, who bounced back from his loss to Hou in Round 1 to beat Jon Ludvig Hammer of Norway.
The Moscow Grand Prix is the second in a series of four tournaments to select two players for the 2018 Candidates tournament. The tournament is being held in the Telegraph, an historic building in central Moscow that is only steps from the Kremlin. The Telegraph was also the site of the 2016 Candidates tournament.
Twenty-four of the world’s best players are competing in the Grand Prix, with 18 of them participating in each of the tournaments. Each Grand Prix has a prize fund of 130,000 euros.
The Grand Prix is sponsored by Kaspersky Lab, the global cybersecurity company, PhosAgro, a giant Russian fertilizer company, and EG Capital Advisors, a global financial management company.
In his victory, Nepomniachtchi demonstrated the power of an unopposed dark-squared bishop:
Jon Ludvig Hammer vs. Ian Nepomniachtchi
FIDE Grand Prix Moscow |Moscow RUS |Round 2.9 |13 May 2017 |ECO: B07 |0-1
1. e4d62. d4Nf63. Nc3g64. Be3c65. Qd2b56. e5Ng47. exd6Nxe38. Qxe3Qxd69. O-O-OBg710. g3Nd711. Bg2Nb612. Qf3Bd713. Ne4Qc714. Nc5Rc815. h4The bishop on g7 is passive at the moment, but Nepomniatchi manages to force open the long diagonal, making the bishop much more effective. 15... Na4!?
( 15... h5According to the computer, this move gives Black a small edge, but I prefer the move played by Nepomniachtchi. )
16. Nxd7Qxd717. h5O-O!It looks risky to castle into the attack, but Black does not have to be concerned about the open h-file as long as the dark-squared bishop cannot be traded. 18. hxg6hxg619. Ne2
( 19. g4c5!20. Qh3Rfd8Once again, White has absolutely no attack on the h-file. )
19... Qd620. c3b4!Black loosens up the dark squares.
( 20... c5This move was also very strong. )
21. c4c5!22. b3Nc3!23. Nxc3bxc324. Qxc3Bxd4After some minor complications, the dust has settled and White is in huge trouble. The dark squares round his king are chronically weak and the bishop on g2 is unable to play a role in White's defense. 25. Qd2Qa6!26. Kb1Rb8!The threat of Qxc4 is direct, but also not easy to prevent. 27. g4The only way to stop Qf6, after which White would be defenseless.
( 27. Qc2Bg7!And Qf6 cannot be stopped. That should be the end of White's resistance. )
27... Bg728. g5Qxc4!Black now is up a pawn in addition to all his other advantages. 29. Bd5Qg4!30. Rhe1
( 30. Qe3The computer suggests this move, but after: 30... Qf5+31. Qe4Qxg532. Qh4Qxh433. Rxh4Black should easily win the ending. )
30... e6!31. Be4
( 31. Re4Offers no relief for White. 31... Qf532. Bc6c4 )
Ding beat Ernesto Inarkiev of Russia in an ending with a pair of rooks and opposite-colored bishops, in which Ding had an extra pawn:
Ding Liren vs. Ernesto Inarkiev
FIDE Grand Prix Moscow |Moscow RUS |Round 2.4 |13 May 2017 |ECO: A20 |1-0
1. c4e52. g3Nf63. Bg2c64. Nf3e45. Nd4d56. d3exd37. cxd5Bb4+8. Nc3c59. Nb3c410. Nd2O-O11. O-OBxc312. bxc3Bg413. f3dxe214. Qxe2Bf515. Nxc4Qxd516. Rd1Qb517. a4Qa618. Bf1Be619. Nd6Qxe220. Bxe2b621. Nb5Bb322. Rd6Nbd723. a5Rfc824. Kf2h625. Be3Ne526. Bd4Nc427. Rxf6gxf628. Bxc4Bxc429. Nd6bxa530. Nxc8Rxc831. Rxa5Re832. g4a633. Rc5Bd334. Bxf6Re635. Bd4Kf836. h4Ke837. Rc8+Kd738. Rf8Ke739. Bc5+Kf640. Rh8Kg741. Bd4+f642. Rd8Bc443. Rd7+Kg844. Ra7Bd345. Kg3Rc646. h5Bc247. f4Bd148. Kh4Rd649. Ra8+Kf750. Rh8Kg751. Rc8Kf752. Rc7+Kg853. Rc5Kf754. g5fxg5+55. fxg5hxg5+56. Kxg5Bc257. Rc7+Ke658. h6Rd5+59. Kg4Rd760. Rc6+Rd661. Rc7Rd762. Rc5Rd563. Rc8a5Black has defended admirably up to this point, but he might have been getting tired. He still needed to play accurately. 64. Re8+Kd7?This takes the king too far away from the h-pawn.
( 64... Kf7!65. Ra8Kg6I think Black should be able to hold a draw. )
65. Ra8!White now threatens h7. 65... a4?
( 65... Ke6This move offered a bit more resistance, though after: 66. Ra7Rd767. Rxa5I think that Black would still lose. )
66. h7Bxh767. Ra7+Kc668. Rxh7Ra5White still has to play precisely to win, but it is not too difficult to figure out. 69. Rh6+!Forcing the Black king backward. 69... Kd7
( 69... Kb570. Rh5+Ka671. Rxa5+Kxa572. c4a373. Kf5a274. Ke6Kb475. Kd5White wins by one tempo. )
70. Kf4a371. Rh1!The only winning move, but also more than enough. White's c-pawn is solidly and permanently defended, so he can concentrate of winning the Black a-pawn, after which the rest should be easy. 71... a272. Ra1Kc673. Ke4Kb574. Kd3Ra875. Kc2Kc476. Kb2Rb8+77. Kxa2Kd378. Rh1Kc279. Ka3Kd380. Rh5Rb181. Ka4Rb882. Rb5Ra8+83. Kb4Rc884. Rb7Rc4+85. Kb5Rc886. Bg7Rd887. c4
Francisco Vallejo Pons of Spain nearly won a similar ending against Pentala Harikrishna of India, but he came up just short as Harikrishna defended very well:
Francisco Vallejo Pons vs. Pentala Harikrishna
FIDE Grand Prix Moscow |Moscow RUS |Round 2.8 |13 May 2017 |ECO: E06 |1/2-1/2
1. Nf3Nf62. c4e63. g3d54. d4Be75. Bg2O-O6. O-Odxc47. Ne5Nc68. Bxc6bxc69. Nxc6Qe810. Nxe7+Qxe711. b3Rd812. bxc4c513. Ba3Qc714. Bxc5Ne415. Qb3Bb716. Qa3Rdc817. Rd1e518. Nc3Nxc319. Qxc3exd420. Bxd4Qc621. f3Qxc422. Qxc4Rxc423. Rac1Ba624. Kf2h525. a3f626. Rxc4Bxc427. Rc1Bf728. h3a529. Rc5a430. Bc3Be831. g4hxg432. hxg4Ra733. g5Kf734. e4Bd735. Ke3Rb736. Bb4Ra737. f4fxg538. Rxg5g639. Rc5Ra640. Rc7Ke841. Kd4Kd842. Rc1Rc643. Bc5Be644. Rh1Bb345. Rh7Ke846. Re7+Kd847. Rh7Ke848. Re7+Kd849. Rg7Ke850. e5Bf751. Rh7Bb352. Re7+Kd853. Rg7Ke854. Bd6!White has an ideal setup. Black's rook is stuck on the 6th rank as otherwise e6 would give White a decisive advantage. I think that White could now run the king to g5. For example: 54... Bf755. Bb4?A step in the wrong direction.
( 55. Ke3!And I don't see a way to stop Kg5. 55... Rc3+56. Kf2Rd357. Bb4!White threatens to play e6. 57... Rd458. e6! )
55... Bb356. Ke4
( 56. Bd6!Once again, this move was strong. 56... Bf757. Ke3 )
56... Kd857. Kf3Be6!Getting the bishop to f5 really eases Black's defensive task. 58. Be7+Kc859. Bb4Bf560. Ra7White goes after the other Black pawn, but the plan is too slow. 60... Rc4!61. Rxa4Kb7!Now the rook on a4 looks silly. 62. Ra5Kb663. Kg3
( 63. Ra8?Not to be recommended! 63... Be4+ )
63... Be664. Ra8g5!65. fxg5Rg4+66. Kf2Rxg5And White does not have enough material to win. Note that his bishop is the wrong color for supporting the promotion of the a-pawn 67. Rb8+Kc668. Bd6Rg469. Re8Kd570. Kf3Rh471. Rb8Bd772. Rb1Bc673. Ke3Re4+74. Kd3Rd4+75. Kc3Rc4+76. Kb2Ba477. Re1Rc2+78. Kb1Rd279. Kc1Rc2+80. Kb1Rd281. Kc1Rc2+82. Kb1
( 11. d5Was also not a bad move. 11... Bxc312. dxc6bxc613. Qxd7+Kxd714. Bd3Be515. Bxf5+White is much better. )
11... cxd412. Nxd4Bc513. Nxc6bxc614. Qxd7+Kxd715. Rd1+Kc716. Bc4White has the bishop pair, a lead in development, and a better pawn structure. Black is in trouble. 16... Rhd817. Bd2Nd518. Ba5+Bb619. Bxd5?Why play this?
( 19. Be1White keeps all of his trumps and has a clear advantage. )
19... Rxd520. Rxd5cxd521. Bc3g522. Rd1The players agreed to a draw at this point. While I think White badly misplayed his position in the last few moves, it baffles me that he would not want to continue. Black has an isolated pawn, White has a healthy queenside pawn majority against an unhealthy center/kingside majority for Black, and White's pieces are secure on good squares. He could have gotten much more out of the position, so I'm shocked to see the game end at this point.
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.