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    « Tashkent, Round 9: Andreikin Leads After Defeating Jobava | Main | An Impressive Stockfish Game »
    Thursday
    Oct302014

    Tashkent Grand Prix: Jobava Catches The Leaders, Gelfand Plummets

    The last couple of rounds of the Tashkent Grand Prix didn't do much to shake up the crosstable, as all but three games were drawn. Moreover, two of the losses were suffered by poor Boris Gelfand, who is now ensconced in the tournament cellar. The man has a great love for the game and is a tremendously hard worker, but playing in back-to-back tournaments against the world's best is perhaps asking too much. Likewise with Fabiano Caruana. They shared first in the previous tournament, but now both are performing well below their usual form.

    Fortunately for Caruana and unfortunately for Gelfand, the latter's form is even worse than Caruana's, and the world's #2 player got his first and so far only victory of the tournament thanks to a near-blunder. Had Gelfand played 24...Rxc3 the game would almost surely have finished in a draw shortly after the move 30 threshold. Instead, Gelfand's 24...Rxa5 missed the simple shot 25.Rxa5 Qxa5 26.Rxf7!, after which White's win was a matter of course.

    Gelfand also lost in round 8, this time with White to Baadur Jobava. As usual (as always?) Jobava played an offbeat, provocative opening - in this case the English Defense - and after seven moves Gelfand had pawns on c4, d4, e4 and f4. Safe pawns! His decision to continue super-aggressively with 8.Qg4 probably wasn't the best decision given his form, and as the play got sharper things started going awry. After 21 moves White's center was still intact, but in the brief remainder the pawns started to get picked off and Black's pieces dominated. With the win, Jobava is now tied for first with Hikaru Nakamura and Dmitry Andreikin. Nakamura is one of the higher seeds in the tournament, but Jobava was the second-lowest rated player in the event and Andreikin was the third!

    The other decisive game took place in round 7, and saw Anish Giri lose his first game of the event, to Sergey Karjakin, after playing a very dubious opening system with 8...h5. I don't analyze that game, but do cover the two Gelfand losses and provide the rest of the games from these two rounds here. Today (Thursday) is a rest day, and the tournament will finish up on Friday through Sunday. Here are tomorrow's round 9 pairings:

    • Kasimdzhanov (2.5) - Gelfand (2)
    • Radjabov (4) - Caruana (4)
    • Karjakin (4) - Nakamura (5)
    • Jakovenko (4) - Mamedyarov (4.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (4.5) - Giri (3.5)
    • Jobava (5) - Andreikin (5) (A battle of the leaders.)

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    Reader Comments (3)

    And Gelfand is playing in the Petrosian Memorial, in 4 days! Crazy.

    October 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaideepblue

    "both [Gelfand and Caruana] are performing well below their usual form." - this depends on what (which time window) is applied to gauge their usual form?

    Gelfand had very good and genuinely bad results in the previous GP Series: twice shared first, once tenth, once 9th-11th. Likewise in other events: shared and clear first 2013 in Alekhine and Tal Memorial, respectively, bad result in Wijk aan Zee early 2014. True, his current performance is worse - he would need 2.5/3 from the remaining games to equalize his result from Tashkent(!) 2012.

    [DM: So in other words, even on the slightly uncharitable interpretation that understands Gelfand's "usual" performance not in terms of his rating (which he was underperforming by 175 points) but by some of his bigger swings of form, I'm still right.]

    For Caruana, it further depends on whether he is considered "a different player" since Sinquefield Cup, rather than making incremental progress (big increment, that's for sure). His last bad results were Wijk aan Zee and Dortmund 2013.

    [DM: Even if you take "normal" Caruana to be 2800, he's still playing well below that (his TPR was as low as 2691 before the Gelfand game), though not as much as Gelfand was.]

    I didn't know that 1.d4 e6 2.c4 b6 is called the English defense

    [DM: It is, but by transposition. 1.c4 b6 is the English Defense, and then 2.d4 e6 is the standard and nearly automatic sequel.]

    - quite a different approach than the English (1.c4 - solid) or the English attack against the Najdorf and other Sicilians (sharp, widely played for many years, deeply analyzed). Guess they were named after different English players?

    [DM: Basman and especially Miles, and afterwards other English players like Speelman and King got into the act as well. The opening was played before all of them, but as sometimes happens in chess an opening labeled "irregular" gets dignified with a name once one or more strong professionals use it a few times. I didn't check for correspondence games, but OTB it looks like the first instance of 1.c4 b6 was Mason-Tinsley in 1899, and the second is quite surprising: a 1911 simul game Geisser-Capablanca! White didn't try to occupy the center with a quick e4 though, so it turned into a kind of Queen's Indian. On the other hand, if we look for the position after d4 and ...e6 are added, then the first game is Wisker-Bird (so we've been rescued from another Bird's Opening!) in 1873 and the second is Mueller-Van Vliet in 1890. Capablanca won his game, but other three were won by White.]

    BTW the English defense was also used by other 2700+ players (though mostly in rapid/blitz), mavericks as Nakamura and Morozevich but also the relatively solid Ponomariov.

    [DM: In other news, the Sicilian Defense is also used by players who don't live on an island in southern Italy.]

    October 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

    Yes, I remember the English Defense suddenly getting hip and trendy with the British Invasion of the early 1980s. It was a different set of Brits that made the English Attack in the Sicilian hugely popular in the mid-80s (John Nunn, Murray Chandler, Nigel Short) to this day.

    [DM: Just don't forget to distinguish the English Attack with the Byrne Attack. The latter is an anti-Scheveningen plan; the former is the anti-Najdorf plan and predates the English version by quite a ways.]

    Dennis, did you notice that Jobava already had a go at this last July against GM Wesley So? That game went 5 Kf1!!? instead of Gelfand's more conventional 5 Bxd2. So willingly misplaced his king to avoid piece trades at all costs. The game followed the computer number one of both Houdini and Stockfish for awhile with 5...Be7 6 Nc3 d6 7 Nf3 Nf6 8 g3 0-0 9 Kg2 Nbd7 10 Qe2 c5 11 d5 Re8 12 Rd1 Bf8 13 de6 (building and waiting with 13 Qc2! might be better) and now it appears Jobava recaptured incorrectly with 13...fe6?! and went down after 14 Bc2 a6 15 Bf4 Qc7 16 Rd2 Ne5 17 Rad1 Bc6?! 18 Bxe5! de5 19 Ba4 (1-0,37). After 13...Rxe6! White's edge seems much more manageable. Stockfish 5 likes 14 Ng5 Re8 15 f3 (says Let's Check) while Houdini is unimpressed with that and goes for 14 Qc2 g6 15 Bf4 or 15 a4.

    [DM: Nope. Still haven't. :) Same answer tomorrow too.]

    In the Gelfand game after 5 Bd2 Bxd2+ I like 6 Qxd2 a little better (queen occupies color complex of missing bishop) but that's probably a matter of taste.

    Anyway, thanks for your annotations - and I love a good pedagogical battle with the (ahem) readers! :D

    October 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Steele

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