Moscow Grand Prix Winner to Be Decided in Last Round
BySamuel ShanklandMay 21 — 4:42 AM
Image by Maria Emelianova
Most of the games were drawn in Round 8 on Saturday, leaving the top of the leaderboard unchanged. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Ding Liren continue to lead.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan and Ding Liren of China continue to lead the Moscow Grand Prix after most of the games in Round 8 on Saturday were drawn. They each have 5 points.
Seven players are tied for third with 4.5 points each, so the tournament is still up for grabs heading into the final round on Sunday.
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.)
There was only one decisive game on Saturday: Pentala Harikrishna of India beat Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia after Nepomniachtchi began to lose his way in a good position.
Ian Nepomniachtchi vs. Pentala Harikrishna
FIDE Grand Prix Moscow |Moscow RUS |Round 8.7 |20 May 2017 |ECO: A18 |0-1
1. c4Nf62. Nc3e63. e4d54. e5d45. exf6dxc36. bxc3Qxf67. d4e58. Nf3exd49. Bg5Qe6+10. Be2Be711. cxd4Bxg512. Nxg5Qg613. f4O-O14. O-ONc615. Rb1h616. Nf3Qd617. d5Ne718. Nd4c619. f5Qf620. Ne6fxe621. fxe6Qe522. Rxf8+Kxf823. Qf1+Qf624. d6b625. Bg4Ng626. Re1Bxe627. Bxe6Rd8Until this moment, Nepomniatchi had played a very energetic and inspired game. But, now he began to err. 28. g3?This costs White his d pawn.
( 28. c5!The d6 pawn had to be saved at all costs. White would be much better. For example: 28... bxc529. Qc4!Nf430. Rf1g531. g3Rxd632. Bg4Qd4+33. Qxd4cxd434. gxf4Black is down a piece and will struggle to try to draw. )
28... Rxd629. Qe2Qc3!30. Kh1?
( 30. Qf1+!It was time to play for a draw. 30... Qf631. Qe2 )
( 30. Rf1+Ke7!White does not have any good discovered checks. )
30... Rd231. Rf1+
( 31. Qe4Rf2Is also a bad position for White. )
31... Ke732. Qe4Ne5!33. Bh3Kd6!Simple and strong. The king is quite safe and can even move to c5. Black is up a pawn and has a very solid position with all of his pieces on dark squares. The White pawn on c4 will soon fall and the White king is just as exposed as the Black one. With proper technique, the game is all but over. 34. Qf5Kc535. Bg2Qd4
( 35... Kb4!Amusingly, the best move was to continue the king march. )
( 36. Rf4!Qa1+37. Bf1The threat of Re4 is pretty annoying. )
36... Qd637. Qf4Qd438. Qf8+Qd639. Qf4Re2Of course Black does not want a draw, but he had a better move.
( 39... Nxc4This is pretty straightforward, but the move played in the game is also good. )
40. Qc1Qd341. Qf4g5!Time control has been reached and Harikrishna won the game without too much trouble. 42. Qf8+Qd643. Qf5Qd244. Bxc6Rxh2+45. Kg1Re246. Bb7Qe3+47. Kh1Re1!Forcing more trades. 48. Qf8+Kd449. Qd6+Kc350. Qa3+Kc251. Qxe3Rxe352. Rf2+Kc353. Kg2Nxc454. g4Rd355. Rf6Ne3+
Ding played Anish Giri of the Netherlands, who seemed well prepared and had good counterplay from the outset of the game:
Ding Liren vs. Anish Giri
FIDE Grand Prix Moscow |Moscow RUS |Round 8.1 |20 May 2017 |ECO: D02 |1/2-1/2
1. Nf3d52. d4Nf63. c4e64. g3Bb4+5. Bd2Be76. Bg2O-O7. O-ONbd78. Qc2c69. Rd1b610. b3a511. Bc3Ne412. Ne5Nxe513. Bxe4f5!?An enterprising pawn sacrifice, and probably prepared by Giri before the game. Without this idea Black would have a poor position.
( 13... Nd714. Bxh7+ )
( 13... Ng614. Bg2Looks a bit better for White as he is going to follow up with e4. )
( 13... dxe414. dxe5Qc715. Qxe4Black does not have enough compensation for his pawn deficit. )
14. Bxd5exd515. dxe5f4!Black is down a pawn but he has the possibility to open lines around the White king. The absence of the White light-squared bishop gives Black compensation. 16. cxd5cxd517. Bd4Ba6The computer already evaluates the chances in this position as equal. 18. Qc6
( 18. Nc3Looks more natural, but after: 18... Rc8!19. Qd2Rc6!Black has a dangerous initiative. )
18... Bxe219. Re1Qc8
( 19... Bg4I'd be a bit hesitant to give up the pawn on d5, but Giri's choice is not bad. )
( 20. Qxc8Raxc821. Rxe2?Rc1+22. Kg2f3+ )
20... Kh821. Nc3
( 21. Rxe2?Qc1+22. Kg2f3+ )
( 21. e6This is the computer's recommendation, but after: 21... Rd822. Qe4Ba623. Qxf4Qc6Black has a lot of counterplay and his plan is to play Bb7. )
21... Ba622. e6Rd823. Qe4Bb724. Qxf4Qc6Black's activity forces White to simplify the position. 25. Bxg7+!
( 25. f3Rxd426. Qxd4Bc5 )
( 25. Ne4Rxd4 )
( 25. Re4Rxd4 )
25... Kxg726. Qf7+Kh827. Ne4Qe828. Ng5The position is unclear but balanced. Both sides could continue to fight, but a draw does seem like the most likely result after: 28... Bxg529. Qxb7Rab830. Qc7Qe731. Rac1
Mamedyarov, who played Peter Svidler of Russia, looked like he was caught by surprise in the opening and seemed to have a really lousy position. But Svidler did not play quite well enough and he allowed Mamedyarov to create the counterplay he needed to save the game:
Peter Svidler vs. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
FIDE Grand Prix Moscow |Moscow RUS |Round 8.2 |20 May 2017 |ECO: C77 |1/2-1/2
1. e4e52. Nf3Nc63. Bb5a64. Ba4Nf65. d3b56. Bb3Bc57. Nc3d68. Nd5h69. c3O-O10. Nxf6+Qxf611. Bd5Bd712. Rg1!This move has become very popular recently and has been causing Black a lot of problems. Mamedyarov was evidently not prepared for it. 12... Ne7?!I understand the temptation to avoid the attack, but sacrificing an exchange seems like a high price to pay.
( 12... h5According to my analysis, this is the best move. It is a dangerous position for Black, but he really cannot allow White to play g4. )
13. Bxa8Rxa814. g4Qe615. Nh4?!I don't think white should be attacking at this point. He is up an exchange and should try to consolidate.
( 15. Be3!And White can follow up with Qe2 or Qd2 and prepare to castle long. I think his extra material should give him a decisive advantage. )
15... d5!Black needs counterplay, and he needs it quickly. 16. Nf5Bc617. Qe2dxe418. dxe4Ng6!Avoiding an exchange and preparing to play Nf4. 19. Kf1?
( 19. Rg2!This is best, but very inhuman. The point is that after: 19... Nf420. Bxf4exf4White can play 21. f3 )
( 19... b4!This was an even stronger move. 20. c4Nf4With a better position than Black had in the game. )
20. Bxf4exf421. Re1Re8The pressure on e4 will enable Black to win some material. 22. b4Bb623. f3Bxg124. Kxg1Material is again equal and Mamedyarov has survived the worst of it. The computer evaluates chances as equal and Mamedyarov had no trouble drawing. 24... Bd725. Rd1Qb6+26. Qf2Bxf527. gxf5Qxf2+28. Kxf2a529. a3axb430. axb4Ra831. Rd7c632. Rc7Ra2+33. Kg1Ra1+34. Kg2Ra2+35. Kg1Ra1+36. Kg2Ra2+37. Kh3h538. Rxc6f639. c4
One game that surprised me was between Alexander Grischuk of Russia and Hikaru Nakamura of the United States. Both players are among the group that is half a point out of first and I expected them to come out fighting. But after Grischuk got a very pleasant position, he released his bind and then agreed to a draw in a position in which he probably should have continued:
Alexander Grischuk vs. Hikaru Nakamura
FIDE Grand Prix Moscow |Moscow RUS |Round 8.3 |20 May 2017 |ECO: E01 |1/2-1/2
1. d4Nf62. c4e63. g3d54. Bg2Bb4+5. Nd2O-O6. Nf3dxc47. a3Bxd2+8. Bxd2Nc69. e3Rb810. O-Ob511. b3cxb312. Qxb3Bb713. Rfc1Ne714. Bb4Re815. Ne5Nd716. Bxe7Rxe717. Nc6Bxc618. Rxc6Nf6White is down a pawn, but he has a powerful positional bind on the queenside. It looks like he has a clear edge, but Grischuk now began to stray. 19. Ra6?This releases the bind too soon.
( 19. Rac1I find it strange that White did not play this move. It looks so natural. It increases the pressure on the c-file and activates his last piece. 19... Rb620. R6c5And Black has a lot of problems to solve. )
19... c5!Black gains some much-needed breathing room. 20. dxc5Qc8
( 20... Rc7Looks a bit more accurate to me as it prevents Rc6. )
21. Rc6Rc722. Rxc7Qxc723. c6a524. Rc1h6I dislike how White played the last few moves, in particular allowing c5 when it was not necessary. But White still has an edge. His active pieces and passed c-pawn are obvious advantages, so I am very surprised Grischuk chose not to continue.
With first place still up for grabs, there could be some fireworks in the final round.
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.