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. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4 d5 4. e5 d4 5. exf6 dxc3 6. bxc3 Qxf6 7. d4 e5 8. Nf3 exd4 9. Bg5 Qe6+ 10. Be2 Be7 11. cxd4 Bxg5 12. Nxg5 Qg6 13. f4 O-O 14. O-O Nc6 15. Rb1 h6 16. Nf3 Qd6 17. d5 Ne7 18. Nd4 c6 19. f5 Qf6 20. Ne6 fxe6 21. fxe6 Qe5 22. Rxf8+ Kxf8 23. Qf1+ Qf6 24. d6 b6 25. Bg4 Ng6 26. Re1 Bxe6 27. Bxe6 Rd8 Until 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... bxc5 29. Qc4! Nf4 30. Rf1 g5 31. g3 Rxd6 32. Bg4 Qd4+ 33. Qxd4 cxd4 34. gxf4 Black is down a piece and will struggle to try to draw.  )
28... Rxd6 29. Qe2 Qc3! 30. Kh1?
30. Qf1+! It was time to play for a draw.
30... Qf6 31. Qe2  )
30. Rf1+ Ke7! White does not have any good discovered checks.  )
30... Rd2 31. Rf1+
31. Qe4 Rf2 Is also a bad position for White.  )
31... Ke7 32. Qe4 Ne5! 33. Bh3 Kd6! 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. Qf5 Kc5 35. Bg2 Qd4
35... Kb4! Amusingly, the best move was to continue the king march.  )
36. Qf8+
36. Rf4! Qa1+ 37. Bf1 The threat of Re4 is pretty annoying.  )
36... Qd6 37. Qf4 Qd4 38. Qf8+ Qd6 39. Qf4 Re2 Of course Black does not want a draw, but he had a better move.
39... Nxc4 This is pretty straightforward, but the move played in the game is also good.  )
40. Qc1 Qd3 41. Qf4 g5! Time control has been reached and Harikrishna won the game without too much trouble.
42. Qf8+ Qd6 43. Qf5 Qd2 44. Bxc6 Rxh2+ 45. Kg1 Re2 46. Bb7 Qe3+ 47. Kh1 Re1! Forcing more trades.
48. Qf8+ Kd4 49. Qd6+ Kc3 50. Qa3+ Kc2 51. Qxe3 Rxe3 52. Rf2+ Kc3 53. Kg2 Nxc4 54. g4 Rd3 55. Rf6 Ne3+

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. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. g3 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 Be7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O Nbd7 8. Qc2 c6 9. Rd1 b6 10. b3 a5 11. Bc3 Ne4 12. Ne5 Nxe5 13. Bxe4 f5!? An enterprising pawn sacrifice, and probably prepared by Giri before the game. Without this idea Black would have a poor position.
13... Nd7 14. Bxh7+  )
13... Ng6 14. Bg2 Looks a bit better for White as he is going to follow up with e4.  )
13... dxe4 14. dxe5 Qc7 15. Qxe4 Black does not have enough compensation for his pawn deficit.  )
14. Bxd5 exd5 15. dxe5 f4! 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. cxd5 cxd5 17. Bd4 Ba6 The computer already evaluates the chances in this position as equal.
18. Qc6
18. Nc3 Looks more natural, but after:
18... Rc8! 19. Qd2 Rc6! Black has a dangerous initiative.  )
18... Bxe2 19. Re1 Qc8
19... Bg4 I'd be a bit hesitant to give up the pawn on d5, but Giri's choice is not bad.  )
20. Qxd5+
20. Qxc8 Raxc8 21. Rxe2? Rc1+ 22. Kg2 f3+  )
20... Kh8 21. Nc3
21. Rxe2? Qc1+ 22. Kg2 f3+  )
21. e6 This is the computer's recommendation, but after:
21... Rd8 22. Qe4 Ba6 23. Qxf4 Qc6 Black has a lot of counterplay and his plan is to play Bb7.  )
21... Ba6 22. e6 Rd8 23. Qe4 Bb7 24. Qxf4 Qc6 Black's activity forces White to simplify the position.
25. Bxg7+!
25. f3 Rxd4 26. Qxd4 Bc5  )
25. Ne4 Rxd4  )
25. Re4 Rxd4  )
25... Kxg7 26. Qf7+ Kh8 27. Ne4 Qe8 28. Ng5 The position is unclear but balanced. Both sides could continue to fight, but a draw does seem like the most likely result after:
28... Bxg5 29. Qxb7 Rab8 30. Qc7 Qe7 31. 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. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. d3 b5 6. Bb3 Bc5 7. Nc3 d6 8. Nd5 h6 9. c3 O-O 10. Nxf6+ Qxf6 11. Bd5 Bd7 12. 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... h5 According 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. Bxa8 Rxa8 14. g4 Qe6 15. 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. Nf5 Bc6 17. Qe2 dxe4 18. dxe4 Ng6! Avoiding an exchange and preparing to play Nf4.
19. Kf1?
19. Rg2! This is best, but very inhuman. The point is that after:
19... Nf4 20. Bxf4 exf4 White can play
21. f3  )
19... Nf4
19... b4! This was an even stronger move.
20. c4 Nf4 With a better position than Black had in the game.  )
20. Bxf4 exf4 21. Re1 Re8 The pressure on e4 will enable Black to win some material.
22. b4 Bb6 23. f3 Bxg1 24. Kxg1 Material is again equal and Mamedyarov has survived the worst of it. The computer evaluates chances as equal and Mamedyarov had no trouble drawing.
24... Bd7 25. Rd1 Qb6+ 26. Qf2 Bxf5 27. gxf5 Qxf2+ 28. Kxf2 a5 29. a3 axb4 30. axb4 Ra8 31. Rd7 c6 32. Rc7 Ra2+ 33. Kg1 Ra1+ 34. Kg2 Ra2+ 35. Kg1 Ra1+ 36. Kg2 Ra2+ 37. Kh3 h5 38. Rxc6 f6 39. 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. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 Bb4+ 5. Nd2 O-O 6. Nf3 dxc4 7. a3 Bxd2+ 8. Bxd2 Nc6 9. e3 Rb8 10. O-O b5 11. b3 cxb3 12. Qxb3 Bb7 13. Rfc1 Ne7 14. Bb4 Re8 15. Ne5 Nd7 16. Bxe7 Rxe7 17. Nc6 Bxc6 18. Rxc6 Nf6 White 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. Rac1 I 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... Rb6 20. R6c5 And Black has a lot of problems to solve.  )
19... c5! Black gains some much-needed breathing room.
20. dxc5 Qc8
20... Rc7 Looks a bit more accurate to me as it prevents Rc6.  )
21. Rc6 Rc7 22. Rxc7 Qxc7 23. c6 a5 24. Rc1 h6 I 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.