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. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Be3 c6 5. Qd2 b5 6. e5 Ng4 7. exd6 Nxe3 8. Qxe3 Qxd6 9. O-O-O Bg7 10. g3 Nd7 11. Bg2 Nb6 12. Qf3 Bd7 13. Ne4 Qc7 14. Nc5 Rc8 15. h4 The 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... h5 According to the computer, this move gives Black a small edge, but I prefer the move played by Nepomniachtchi.  )
16. Nxd7 Qxd7 17. h5 O-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. hxg6 hxg6 19. Ne2
19. g4 c5! 20. Qh3 Rfd8 Once again, White has absolutely no attack on the h-file.  )
19... Qd6 20. c3 b4! Black loosens up the dark squares.
20... c5 This move was also very strong.  )
21. c4 c5! 22. b3 Nc3! 23. Nxc3 bxc3 24. Qxc3 Bxd4 After 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. Qd2 Qa6! 26. Kb1 Rb8! The threat of Qxc4 is direct, but also not easy to prevent.
27. g4 The only way to stop Qf6, after which White would be defenseless.
27. Qc2 Bg7! And Qf6 cannot be stopped. That should be the end of White's resistance.  )
27... Bg7 28. g5 Qxc4! Black now is up a pawn in addition to all his other advantages.
29. Bd5 Qg4! 30. Rhe1
30. Qe3 The computer suggests this move, but after:
30... Qf5+ 31. Qe4 Qxg5 32. Qh4 Qxh4 33. Rxh4 Black should easily win the ending.  )
30... e6! 31. Be4
31. Re4 Offers no relief for White.
31... Qf5 32. Bc6 c4  )
31. Bc4 Qxc4  )
31... c4! The rest was unnecessary.
32. Qe3 cxb3 33. axb3 Rb4 34. Rd3 Rfb8 35. f3 Qg2 36. Re2 Qh1+ 37. Re1 Qh2 38. Re2 Qe5 39. Ra2 a5 40. Kc2 a4 41. Rxa4 Rxa4 42. bxa4 Qa1 43. Rd2 Qb1#

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. c4 e5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 c6 4. Nf3 e4 5. Nd4 d5 6. d3 exd3 7. cxd5 Bb4+ 8. Nc3 c5 9. Nb3 c4 10. Nd2 O-O 11. O-O Bxc3 12. bxc3 Bg4 13. f3 dxe2 14. Qxe2 Bf5 15. Nxc4 Qxd5 16. Rd1 Qb5 17. a4 Qa6 18. Bf1 Be6 19. Nd6 Qxe2 20. Bxe2 b6 21. Nb5 Bb3 22. Rd6 Nbd7 23. a5 Rfc8 24. Kf2 h6 25. Be3 Ne5 26. Bd4 Nc4 27. Rxf6 gxf6 28. Bxc4 Bxc4 29. Nd6 bxa5 30. Nxc8 Rxc8 31. Rxa5 Re8 32. g4 a6 33. Rc5 Bd3 34. Bxf6 Re6 35. Bd4 Kf8 36. h4 Ke8 37. Rc8+ Kd7 38. Rf8 Ke7 39. Bc5+ Kf6 40. Rh8 Kg7 41. Bd4+ f6 42. Rd8 Bc4 43. Rd7+ Kg8 44. Ra7 Bd3 45. Kg3 Rc6 46. h5 Bc2 47. f4 Bd1 48. Kh4 Rd6 49. Ra8+ Kf7 50. Rh8 Kg7 51. Rc8 Kf7 52. Rc7+ Kg8 53. Rc5 Kf7 54. g5 fxg5+ 55. fxg5 hxg5+ 56. Kxg5 Bc2 57. Rc7+ Ke6 58. h6 Rd5+ 59. Kg4 Rd7 60. Rc6+ Rd6 61. Rc7 Rd7 62. Rc5 Rd5 63. Rc8 a5 Black 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. Ra8 Kg6 I think Black should be able to hold a draw.  )
65. Ra8! White now threatens h7.
65... a4?
65... Ke6 This move offered a bit more resistance, though after:
66. Ra7 Rd7 67. Rxa5 I think that Black would still lose.  )
66. h7 Bxh7 67. Ra7+ Kc6 68. Rxh7 Ra5 White 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... Kb5 70. Rh5+ Ka6 71. Rxa5+ Kxa5 72. c4 a3 73. Kf5 a2 74. Ke6 Kb4 75. Kd5 White wins by one tempo.  )
70. Kf4 a3 71. 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... a2 72. Ra1 Kc6 73. Ke4 Kb5 74. Kd3 Ra8 75. Kc2 Kc4 76. Kb2 Rb8+ 77. Kxa2 Kd3 78. Rh1 Kc2 79. Ka3 Kd3 80. Rh5 Rb1 81. Ka4 Rb8 82. Rb5 Ra8+ 83. Kb4 Rc8 84. Rb7 Rc4+ 85. Kb5 Rc8 86. Bg7 Rd8 87. 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. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. d4 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Ne5 Nc6 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. Nxc6 Qe8 10. Nxe7+ Qxe7 11. b3 Rd8 12. bxc4 c5 13. Ba3 Qc7 14. Bxc5 Ne4 15. Qb3 Bb7 16. Qa3 Rdc8 17. Rd1 e5 18. Nc3 Nxc3 19. Qxc3 exd4 20. Bxd4 Qc6 21. f3 Qxc4 22. Qxc4 Rxc4 23. Rac1 Ba6 24. Kf2 h5 25. a3 f6 26. Rxc4 Bxc4 27. Rc1 Bf7 28. h3 a5 29. Rc5 a4 30. Bc3 Be8 31. g4 hxg4 32. hxg4 Ra7 33. g5 Kf7 34. e4 Bd7 35. Ke3 Rb7 36. Bb4 Ra7 37. f4 fxg5 38. Rxg5 g6 39. Rc5 Ra6 40. Rc7 Ke8 41. Kd4 Kd8 42. Rc1 Rc6 43. Bc5 Be6 44. Rh1 Bb3 45. Rh7 Ke8 46. Re7+ Kd8 47. Rh7 Ke8 48. Re7+ Kd8 49. Rg7 Ke8 50. e5 Bf7 51. Rh7 Bb3 52. Re7+ Kd8 53. Rg7 Ke8 54. 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... Bf7 55. Bb4? A step in the wrong direction.
55. Ke3! And I don't see a way to stop Kg5.
55... Rc3+ 56. Kf2 Rd3 57. Bb4! White threatens to play e6.
57... Rd4 58. e6!  )
55... Bb3 56. Ke4
56. Bd6! Once again, this move was strong.
56... Bf7 57. Ke3  )
56... Kd8 57. Kf3 Be6! Getting the bishop to f5 really eases Black's defensive task.
58. Be7+ Kc8 59. Bb4 Bf5 60. Ra7 White goes after the other Black pawn, but the plan is too slow.
60... Rc4! 61. Rxa4 Kb7! Now the rook on a4 looks silly.
62. Ra5 Kb6 63. Kg3
63. Ra8? Not to be recommended!
63... Be4+  )
63... Be6 64. Ra8 g5! 65. fxg5 Rg4+ 66. Kf2 Rxg5 And 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+ Kc6 68. Bd6 Rg4 69. Re8 Kd5 70. Kf3 Rh4 71. Rb8 Bd7 72. Rb1 Bc6 73. Ke3 Re4+ 74. Kd3 Rd4+ 75. Kc3 Rc4+ 76. Kb2 Ba4 77. Re1 Rc2+ 78. Kb1 Rd2 79. Kc1 Rc2+ 80. Kb1 Rd2 81. Kc1 Rc2+ 82. Kb1

Four of the games ended in quick draws, but one really stood out to me: the one involving Boris Gelfand of Israel and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan. I do not understand what happened:

Boris Gelfand vs. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
FIDE Grand Prix Moscow | Moscow RUS | Round 2.5 | 13 May 2017 | ECO: D02 | 1/2-1/2
1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Bf5 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Nf6?! I don't understand this move.
5. Nh4! White attacks Black's bishop to eliminate his bishop pair.
5... Bb4
5... Bg6 This move is usually played almost automatically. White is a little better but Black has chances to fight.  )
6. cxd5
6. Nxf5 Why wait to play this?  )
6... Qxd5 7. e3 c5 8. Bb5+ Nc6 9. O-O Qd7 10. Nxf5 exf5 Black's position already looks really unpleasant.
11. Ne2
11. d5 Was also not a bad move.
11... Bxc3 12. dxc6 bxc6 13. Qxd7+ Kxd7 14. Bd3 Be5 15. Bxf5+ White is much better.  )
11... cxd4 12. Nxd4 Bc5 13. Nxc6 bxc6 14. Qxd7+ Kxd7 15. Rd1+ Kc7 16. Bc4 White has the bishop pair, a lead in development, and a better pawn structure. Black is in trouble.
16... Rhd8 17. Bd2 Nd5 18. Ba5+ Bb6 19. Bxd5? Why play this?
19. Be1 White keeps all of his trumps and has a clear advantage.  )
19... Rxd5 20. Rxd5 cxd5 21. Bc3 g5 22. Rd1 The 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.