And so Anish Giri has a 3-1 lead over Alexei Shirov and Baadur Jobava a 2.5-1.5 lead against Jan Timman in their showcase six-game matches at the Unive chess tournament.
A couple of days ago I reported on the demise of the New York Times's chess column, but according to a couple of articles (here and here; HT to Allen Becker) this may not be so. Perhaps it will continue online.
As noted in both articles, Garry Kasparov tweeted that "few will mourn" the column's termination, "even as a symbolic loss". Maybe there was a context to his remark, but it is surprisingly unsentimental from a player who has written six colossal books on his career since 2008, much of them consisting of prose recollections.
Both Alexei Shirov and Jan Timman were pressing today against Anish Giri and Baadur Jobava, respectively, but in the end both games were drawn. Giri leads 2.5-.5 and Jobava leads 2-1 going into the rest day. Three rounds remain in these sub-events of the Unive chess tournament.
Ken Regan, whose work has been mentioned and discussed on this blog many times (and in many other places as well), will be giving a TEDx talk live in a little more than half an hour from now, at 10:40 a.m. ET. The primary focus of Regan's work has been to develop a sophisticated algorithm to help detect chess cheaters, and as an added side benefit it can be used to evaluate players' performances in various interesting ways. (One surprising result is that contrary to popular belief, the FIDE ratings have not been inflating over the years but have been rather stable.)
With two leaders and four players just half a point behind one could have expected last round fireworks at the Baku Grand Prix. As it turned out, however, all of the games that were relevant to the fight for first were drawn shortly after move 30, and so Fabiano Caruana and Boris Gelfand tied for first in the opening event of the new Grand Prix series. Only one game finished with a winner, and that was Alexander Grischuk's victory over Leinier Dominguez.
- 1-2. Caruana, Gelfand 6.5 (out of 11)
- 3-7. Karjakin, Grischuk, Svidler, Tomashevsky, Nakamura 6
- 8. Radjabov 5.5
- 9-10. Mamedyarov, Kasimdzhanov 5
- 11. Andreikin 4.5
- 12. Dominguez 3
This fun event (the Unive chess tournament), comprising a pair of six-game classical matches, began Sunday in the Dutch city of Hoogeveen. The marquee match is between Dutch prodigy Anish Giri and Latvian superstar Alexei Shirov of "fire on board" fame. If Shirov were playing at his best the match would be a toss-up, but his results have been declining the last couple of years and in the last few months his results have been awful. Indeed, Giri leads 2-0 so far, and if this keeps up he might bridge the 14-15-point gap separating him from the top 6 in the world.
The second match is between top Georgian grandmaster Baadur Jobava and Dutch legend Jan Timman. Their first game was drawn, but Timman lost the second game after a couple of blunders. (He had been under some pressure, but objectively the position was fine.)
The top seed, Wesley So, played like the top seed, and is now $100,000 richer as the winner of the Millionaire Open. (At least until the IRS gets a hold of him.) In the semi-final match against Zhou Jinchao the 25-minute games were drawn, but then So won easily with Black to put himself in the driver's seat for the second game. Though he made his life more difficult than he needed to with the mistaken 24.Qc4, Zhou was unable to take advantage and lost this game as well.
The other semi-final was more dramatic. Yu Yangyi was a certain favorite against Ray Robson, and was crushing him in the first 25-minute game with White. Robson's 24...f5 was a blunder that was met by 25.Bxf5, after which Yu was rolling him. Yu had many ways to win, with the most elegant being 32.Rxf5+! Qxf5 33.Qxg8+! Kxf8 34.Nxe7+ and 35.Nxf5, after which White would be a piece and a pawn up. A couple of moves later White had only one clean win left - 34.Rxe7+ - but after 34.Qh5+ he was no longer better. Several moves later Robson's king had scuttled off to safety, and with the extra piece he won easily. In the rematch Robson was always doing fine, and was able to draw without any trouble, eliminating his higher-rated opponent.
The finale was a match between friends, university teammates and former roommates. Of course there wasn't any friendship over the board, and So took care of business. Robson had White in the first game, an unusual Classical French, and didn't get any advantage from the opening. So had a very comfortable position until the slightly suspicious 26...Bxe4 27.Rxe4 Rhf8, but Robson didn't manage to keep his small edge for long and the game was soon drawn.
The second game was a bit of a blowout. Robson was unfamiliar with the line So chose against the Fianchetto Gruenfeld with ...c6 and ...d5, and was soon burning lots of time without managing to equalize. Worse, he simply blundered a pawn on move 12, after which he was simply lost. Of course, Robson had been "dead" lost in round 7 of the main tournament and in the first game of the semi-final, too, but So kept his foot on the accelerator and finished the job with power. Meanwhile, Robson finished with $50,000 for his troubles, so his disappointment is unlikely to last for long.
Until their simultaneous failure last round, either Fabiano Caruana or Boris Gelfand - or both - led the Baku Grand Prix, and I think that with the exception of round 3, no one else shared that lead with them. Coming into round 10 there was a six-way tie for first, and with Caruana in particular having lost two of his last three games it looked as if they had been swallowed up by the field.
Not so! Caruana and Gelfand both won in round 10, and while there were two other decisive results all of the players who entered the round tied with them finished it trailing them once more. Leinier Dominguez had White against Caruana, but played unsuccessfully in the English and soon found himself suffering in a position where Black dominated the dark squares while White suffered with a bad light-squared bishop. White was worse, but wasn't losing until he swapped rooks on move 26. He clearly wanted to open lines on the queenside for counterplay, but the end result was a vulnerable king. Caruana took speedy advantage, ensuring himself of at least a share of the lead while leaving Dominguez in the cellar.
Gelfand took on one of the co-leaders, Teimour Radjabov, and won very smoothly - too smoothly, perhaps. Radjabov eschewed his old favorite King's Indian and went into an Open Catalan, which is a Gelfand specialty. They followed a Kramnik-Radjabov game from their 2011 Candidates match, and although Radjabov produced the novelty on move 14 Gelfand was quickly better. Radjabov was clearly worse by move 19, and a further error on move 24 resulted in a 28 move win by the 2012 "vice-champion".
Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler entered the round tied for first, and both may have had their moments of optimism. For Karjakin, he was on the white side of a Ruy line that had scored 8.5/9; for Svidler - who of course improved on the earlier games - he obtained a dangerous kingside attack with the help of a piece sacrifice. Luckily for Karjakin, Svidler either missed something or underestimated his chances, and took a perpetual in a clearly better position.
Hikaru Nakamura was another leader who could only draw, not managing much on the white side of an Exchange Slav.
Evgeny Tomashevsky remained within half a point of the lead, making it a four-way tie behind Caruana and Gelfand, by defeating Dmitry Andreikin. The game was decided in what I assume was mutual time pressure, wherein Andreikin made more, and more severe, errors than his opponent. By the time they made the time control Tomashevsky was up three pawns for nothing, so Andreikin gave up on his 41st turn.
Finally, the game between Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Alexander Grischuk was won by the latter when the former FIDE champ underestimated Black's kingside play.
- Mamedyarov (4.5) - Kasimdzhanov (4.5)
- Radjabov (5) - Nakamura (5.5)
- Svidler (5.5) - Gelfand (6)
- Andreikin (4) - Karjakin (5.5)
- Caruana (6) - Tomashevsky (5.5)
- Grischuk (5) - Dominguez (3)
What's the best way to avoid stringing losses together? Don't lose the first game! Fabiano Caruana's reign of terror has come to at least a temporary end in the wake of his second loss in three games, this time to Alexander Grischuk, with White. Caruana was up a pawn in a position that was very difficult to keep controlled, and in time trouble allowed Grischuk to strike a crushing tactical blow.
Life wasn't good for Boris Gelfand, either, and he lost as well, to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Caruana and Gelfand still lead the Baku Grand Prix, but they have company - lots of company. Hikaru Nakamura won very quickly against Rustam Kasimdzhanov when the latter blundered with 22...Rxe4 (22...Ne6 was alright), and thereby joined the tie for first. The other players caught up with draws, and so after nine rounds Caruana, Nakamura, Sergey Karjakin, Gelfand, Teimur Radjabov and Peter Svidler all have five points, and they're just half a point ahead of Kasimdzhanov and Evgeny Tomashevsky.
The seventh and last round of the preliminary stage of the open section of the Millionaire Open was a dramatic one. The top four players would advance to "Millionaire Monday", a final knockout stage to determine the distribution of the top prizes. Entering the round six players had five points and nine more had four and a half.
On the top board, top seed Wesley So (now in the world's top ten) was the first to assure himself of qualification, thanks to a convincing victory over Timur Gareev. On board two, Daniel Naroditsky and Yu Yangyi drew. That assured them of at least (and practically speaking, at most) a shot in a playoff event to move on to Monday. The board three battle between Ray Robson and David Berczes must have been a roller coast ride for their fans. First Robson was better, but in the lead up to the time control Berczes was simply winning, and it's hard to believe that he wouldn't have won the game and qualified for the final four had he chosen the straightforward 39...Rxe4. Even after missing (or just avoiding) that move he continued to be better for quite some time, but by move 48 it was anyone's game. On move 52 Black would have been fine after 52...Bxf3, but instead the overoptimistic 52...Rcc2? left him lost. Robson grabbed his chance with both hands, and like So punched his ticket to Monday's rounds.
In the realm of the 4.5 pointers, two players won to force a four-man playoff with Yu and Naroditsky. Surprisingly, both won with Black: Zhou Jianchao beat Rauf Mamedov and Sergei Azarov defeated Alejandro Ramirez.
The playoffs, which took place Sunday night, were effected by means of a g/15 (with five second time delay) single round robin. In the first round the Chinese players drew with each other while Azarov drew with Naroditsky. In the latter game Azarov had a somewhat better position while Naroditsky had a substantial lead on the clock, but he must have felt that with the time delay his opponent would be able to hold the position (or more) without undue risk of losing on time. In round two Naroditsky drew with Yu while Zhou beat Azarov, and in the last round both Chinese players won and qualified.
I'm not sure as of this writing what the pairings are for tomorrow's first round, but the semi-final round will start at 10:00 a.m. local time (= 1 p.m. ET) and the last round at 5 p.m. local time/8 p.m. ET.