Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Ding Liren continue to lead, but there are now seven players trailing them by only half a point.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan and Ding Liren of China each drew their games on Friday in Round 7 of the Moscow Grand Prix and they continue to lead the tournament. Each now has 4.5 points.

But Anish Giri of the Netherlands beat Salem Saleh of the United Arab Emirates, putting him in the pack of seven players who trail the leaders by only half a point. With two rounds to go, the tournament is far from decided.

Hou Yifan of China also won on Friday, beating Jon Ludvig Hammer of Norway after Hammer erred in the endgame.

The Moscow Grand Prix is the second in a series of four tournaments. The top two finishers will qualify for the Candidates tournament next year to select a challenger for the World Championship.

Twenty-four of the top players in the world are competing in the Grand Prix, with 18 playing in each tournament. (Each player competes in three of the four competitions.)

Hou played a fine game against Hammer, but it always pains me to see my friends lose.

Yifan Hou vs. Jon Ludvig Hammer
FIDE Grand Prix Moscow | Moscow RUS | Round 7.7 | 19 May 2017 | ECO: E06 | 1-0
1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qa4 a6 8. Qxc4 b5 9. Qc2 Bb7 10. Bd2 Be4 11. Qc1 c6 12. Rd1 Nbd7 13. Nc3 Bg6 14. a3 c5 15. Be3 Qc7 16. Ne5 cxd4 17. Nxg6 hxg6 18. Bxa8 dxe3 19. Nd5 exf2+ 20. Kf1 Qc5 21. b4 Qxc1 22. Nxe7+ Kh7 23. Raxc1 Rxa8 24. Kxf2 a5 25. Rd4 g5 26. h4 g4 27. Rc8 Ra6 28. Rc7 axb4 29. axb4 Ne5 30. Rc5 Nc4 31. Rxb5 Nd6 32. Ra5 Rb6 33. Kg2 g6 34. Rc5 Nb5 35. Rdc4 Kg7 36. Nc8 Rb8 37. Rc6 Na3 38. Rc3 Nb5 39. R3c4 Na3 40. Rc3 Nb5 41. Rc1 Nd5 42. Kf2 Na3 43. Ra1 Nb5 44. Rc5 f5 45. Kf1 Kf6 46. Ra6 Nbc7 47. Rac6 Rxc8 48. Rxd5 Nxd5 49. Rxc8 Nxb4 50. Kf2 Nd5 51. Ke1 Ne3 52. Rb8 Ke5 53. Rb5+ Kf6 54. Rb3 Nc4 55. Rb4 Nd6 56. Kd2 Ke5 57. Kd3 Kd5 58. Ra4 Ke5 59. Ra5+ Kf6 60. Kd4 Ne4 61. Ra3 Nf2 62. Rb3 Ne4 63. Re3 Nd2 64. Rd3 Nf1 65. Ra3 Black had a lousy position for a very long time, but defended resourcefully and finally has a draw within grasp. But he still needed to play precisely and sensibly.
65... f4? There was no need for drastic action
65... Nd2 Black has a fortress.  )
66. gxf4 Kf5 67. Ra1! Nd2
67... Ng3 68. e3 Also wins for White as Black cannot set the g-pawn in motion.  )
67... Nh2 68. Ke3!  )
68. Kd3! Nb3 69. Rb1 Nc5+ 70. Ke3 White has consolidated her position and retained the extra pawn that Black gave up by playing f4. In fact, the computer gives White a +7 score.
70... e5 71. Rb5 Nd7 72. fxe5 Nf8 73. e6+ Kf6 74. Kf4 Nxe6+ 75. Kxg4 Nd4 76. Rb6+ Kf7 77. e4 Kg7 78. e5 Kf7 79. Rf6+ Kg7 80. Kg5

The other decisive game was Giri’s win over Saleh. The rook ending was probably not salvageable, but Saleh put up less resistance than he could have:

Anish Giri vs. A R Saleh Salem
FIDE Grand Prix Moscow | Moscow RUS | Round 7.5 | 19 May 2017 | ECO: B12 | 1-0
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nd2 e6 5. Nb3 c5 6. dxc5 Bxc5 7. Nxc5 Qa5+ 8. c3 Qxc5 9. Be3 Qc7 10. f4 Ne7 11. Be2 O-O 12. Nf3 Nbc6 13. O-O Na5 14. Bf2 a6 15. Rc1 Rac8 16. b3 Nac6 17. Qd2 Rfd8 18. b4 Be4 19. a4 Nf5 20. g4 Nfe7 21. Ng5 Bg6 22. Bc5 Rd7 23. Nf3 Na5 24. Nd4 Nc4 25. Bxc4 dxc4 26. Bxe7 Rxe7 27. f5 exf5 28. gxf5 Bh5 29. Qg5 g6 30. e6 f6 31. Qxf6 Rg7 32. Rc2 Bg4 33. Qh4 Bxf5 34. Rg2 Re8 35. Re1 a5 36. bxa5 Qxa5 37. Nxf5 Qxf5 38. Qxc4 Rge7 39. Rf2 Qa5 40. Rf7 Qb6+ 41. Kg2 Qc6+ 42. Qxc6 bxc6 43. Rxe7 Rxe7 44. Kf3 Kf8 45. a5 Ra7 46. Re5 Ke7 47. Ke4 Rb7 48. Kd3 Rb1 49. Kc2 Ra1?! I think this is a step in the wrong direction. The rook belongs in front of the pawn.
49... Rb8 I don't see a clear plan for White. It's very hard to get the a-pawn mobilized with the king cut off along the b-file.
50. c4 h6 51. Kc3 g5 52. Kd4 White would probably still win in this position, but it would be much more difficult than in the game.  )
50. Kb2 Ra4 51. Kb3 Ra1 52. Kb2 Ra4 53. Kb3 Ra1 54. c4! The start of a clever plan. White will play Kb4 and then Re3-a3 to support the advance of the a-pawn. This is why I would rather have the rook on b8.
54... h6 55. Kb4 g5 56. Re3! c5+ This prevents Ra3 but also allows the White king to invade.
56... h5 57. Ra3  )
57. Kb5! Black is unable to stop the a-pawn
57... g4 58. h3 gxh3 59. Rxh3 Kxe6 60. Rxh6+ Kd7 61. a6 Kc7 62. Rh8 Kd6 63. a7 Rxa7 64. Rh6+ Ke5 65. Kxc5 Ra8 66. Kb6

Ernesto Inarkiev of Russia might have had a chance to get a decent middlegame against Ian Nepomniatchi, a compatriot, but it looked as if Inarkiev misassessed the position, or perhaps he was not in a mood to take chances:

Ernesto Inarkiev vs. Ian Nepomniachtchi
FIDE Grand Prix Moscow | Moscow RUS | Round 7.9 | 19 May 2017 | ECO: D80 | 1/2-1/2
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bg5 Bg7 5. Bxf6 Bxf6 6. cxd5 c5 7. Nf3 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Qb6 9. Nb3 O-O 10. Qd2 Rd8 11. Rd1 Na6 12. e4 Bg4 13. Be2 Bxe2 14. Qxe2 Nb4 15. e5 Bg7 White is up a pawn, but he is a little behind on development and the threat of Nxa2 is pretty annoying. White forced a draw at this point, but I think he could have tried:
16. Nc1
16. f4 Nxa2 17. Nxa2 Qxb3 18. Nc3 The computer evaluates chances as about equal, but the position looks a little unpleasant for Black -- I hate having a bishop with little scope.  )
16... Qa5! 17. Nb3?! Acquiescing to a draw.
17. Qe4! This move was better. With one more tempo, White can play a3 and he will have a huge advantage. That forces Black to immediately open the center to gain counterplay.
17... e6 18. dxe6! Rxd1+ 19. Kxd1 fxe6 20. f4 Rd8+ 21. Ke2 I do not believe Black ha enough compensation for his one-pawn deficit.  )
17... Qb6 18. Nc1 Qa5 19. Nb3

Peter Svidler of Russia tried mixing things up with an enterprising pawn sacrifice against Boris Gelfand of Israel, but it was not enough for an advantage:

Peter Svidler vs. Boris Gelfand
FIDE Grand Prix Moscow | Moscow RUS | Round 7.4 | 19 May 2017 | ECO: D45 | 1/2-1/2
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. b3 O-O 8. Be2 b6 9. O-O Bb7 10. Bb2 Qe7 11. Rad1 Rad8 12. Rfe1 Rfe8 13. Bf1 Middlegames arising from the anti-Meran opening are very tense, but they can often simplify quickly if one side plays a pawn break. That is what happened in this game.
13... e5!? Opening the center.
14. dxe5
14. cxd5? This is strategically desirable but Black has a tactical respite:
14... e4! 15. dxc6 The only way to try to justify White's previous play, but pawn grabbing is no good:
...  exf3! 16. cxb7 Bxh2+ 17. Kxh2 Qd6+! 18. Kh3 Re5! And Black would win.  )
14... Nxe5 15. Nd4 dxc4! Black needs to play this while he still can. If he does not, White will play cxd5.
16. Nf5 Qe6 17. Nxd6 Rxd6 18. Rxd6 Qxd6 19. Rd1!? In this position, White has no problem being down a pawn.
19. bxc4 This equalizes material but Black would have a lot of play after:
19... Nfg4! When the threat of Nf3+ is hard to meet.  )
19. Bxc4  )
19... cxb3 20. axb3 Qb8 21. Ne4 Nxe4 22. Qxe4 White has a lot of activity and an impressive bishop pair for his pawn deficit, but black has a solid position and is not worse.
22... f6 23. Bxe5 Rxe5 24. Bc4+ Kh8 25. Qd4 Re7 26. Qd8+ Re8 27. Qd7 Qc8 28. Qf7 The threat of Rd7 forces black to make a draw here
28... Rf8 29. Qe7 Re8 30. Qf7

————————————————————————-

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.