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    Entries in 2017 Geneva Grand Prix (6)

    Tuesday
    Jul182017

    Geneva Finishes; Radjabov Wins

    When we last left off after round 7 of 9, Teimour Radjabov led the Grand Prix event in Geneva with 5/7; Pentala Harikrishna and Alexander Grischuk were half a point behind. Two rounds later, the tournament is over and Radjabov held on to his victory with a pair of draws against Alexander Riazantsev in round 8 (in just 12 moves), and more significantly against Ian Nepomniachtchi in the last round.

    Nepo had defeated Levon Aronian in round 8 when the latter went a bit too sac-crazy, and moved into the tie for second with Grischuk. (Harikrishna lost to Li Chao to fall out of the tie for second and out of contention for first.) With a win over Radjabov, Nepomniachtchi would take clear first (Grischuk drew with Anish Giri), but despite having the white pieces it was only his opponent who enjoyed winning chances before the game was drawn.

    Apart from the games already mentioned, most of the wins in the last two rounds took place on lower boards. In round 8, Giri and Michael Adams defeated Hou Yifan and Richard Rapport, respectively, in both cases with the black pieces. In round 9 Hou Yifan lost again, and so did Saleh Salem, to Peter Svidler and Aronian, respectively; in this cases the wins came with the white pieces.

    Full results and games here; overall Grand Prix standings and information here. The upshot is that Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Alexander Grischuk lead for the top two spots overall, which would mean qualification into next year's Candidates event, but they won't be playing in the last Grand Prix event of the year. That takes place in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and Teimour Radjabov, Ding Liren, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave will all have their chances to leapfrog their way into qualification.

    Thursday
    Jul132017

    Catching Up on Danzhou and Geneva

    We soldier on, despite the absence of readers submitting groans at our Geneva Convention pun in the last post. Very disappointing. (Maybe such word plays were prohibited by that Convention as cruel and unusual punishment? Sorry.*)

    Starting with Danzhou, when we left off after round 3 there were only two players who had a win to their names: Wei Yi, who had won two games, and Ding Liren, who had won one. They played in round 4 and drew, but Wei Yi was in some trouble for a few moves after playing 29...Bf6(?) rather than 29...Ne4. Keeping both pairs of rooks with 33.Re7 was more promising, aiming to set up the "blind pigs" (doubled rooks on the 7th rank, for those unfamiliar with that expression). Instead, Ding played 33.Re3, and Black played well to hold the single rook ending.

    Others took up the slack for them. Yu Yangyi, the second-highest rated Chinese player (after Ding Liren) at the start of the tournament (but see below) defeated bottom seed and tournament rabbit Lu Shanglei, while Le Quang Liem defeated Vladimir Malakhov. That left the day's winners tied for second with Ding, half a point behind Wei, but round 5 restored the previous pattern.

    Wei Yi guaranteed that he would remain in clear first for another round by defeating Yu Yangyi, and in the process he leapfrogged his opponent on the rating list. (He is now #14 on the list, at 2751.8.) The game itself is a treat, with Wei either uncorking some remarkable preparation or even more impressive over-the-board inspiration against his opponent's Petroff. (Most likely a combination of the two.) Black rose to the challenge until move 21, when he finally stumbled into one of White's many tactical tricks. 21...Be6 would have held the balance, but the natural 21...Bf5 ran into a nice trick: 22.Rh5! Unfortunately for White, that was only the second-best move. First playing 22.Bxf5 and only then (after 22...Qxf5) 23.Rh5! would have been even stronger. Still, White enjoyed an advantage, and with persistence and good technique Wei was able to break down Yu's resistance in the queen vs. rook and bishop ending that soon ensued.

    Ding Liren also did his job, defeating Ruslan Ponomariov with Black in a Nimzo-Indian. Ponomariov got in trouble in the opening, but avoided the worst when Ding grabbed the exchange after 18.f4 rather than maintaining the bind with 18...Nd3. Ponomariov was known as a great technician even in his teenage days (he was seen as a sort of second coming of Karpov in the late '90s and early '00s, in the years before, during, and just after he won the FIDE World Championship at the ripe young age of 18), but it was his opponent who showed better technique in this game. It wasn't perfect, but it was very good, and while we're on the subject of ratings Ding Liren jumped over Anand to reach 9th on the rating list.

    Over to Geneva (which Agon/World Chess is doing their best to publicize by putting everything but the live moves behind a paywall until the round is over). When we left off after round 5, early leader Teimour Radjabov had just been caught by Alexander Grischuk, and they played in round 6. (The event is a swiss.) They played in round 6, and while Grischuk pressed throughout with White he never came close to getting anything serious, and it finished in a draw.

    That allowed Pentala Harikrishna to make it a triumvirate at the top, when he defeated Levon Aronian with Black - impressive! That said, Aronian was better until he played 20.f4? (instead of 20.e3, which was a better way of neutralizing Black's own dreams of playing ...f4), and after the further error 22.e3? (too late!) Black took over in impressive style after the alert 22...Ne5! Ironically, Harikrishna soon achieved ...f4 despite White's best efforts, and when it came it was much stronger than it would have been had he allowed it on move 22.

    The day's other wins were on the lower boards. Nepomniachtchi defeated Inarkiev, Li Chao beat Eljanov, Riazantsev beat Rapport (with Black against the latter's favorite 1.b3), and Hou Yifan bounced back out of the cellar by defeating Salem (also with Black).

    In round 7, the game Harikrishna-Grischuk was drawn fairly quickly. It looked like it would be a thriller - a 6.h3 Najdorf that turned into a sort of Keres Attack-like position. The players castled on opposite sides and the race was on...until Harikrishna pulled the plug with 17.Bxc5 dxc5 18.Qxd8. Too bad - it could have been a spectacular game.

    Radjabov played more ambitiously, albeit in a slow-motion way against Peter Svidler. In his heyday, Ulf Andersson had some success with the Anti-Gruenfeld system 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.Nf3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Qxd1+ 7.Kxd1, most notably in his 1979 game with Marcelo Tempone, when Black played 7...c5. Against Svidler, Radjabov managed to achieve the same structure (and in fact, Andersson also used to play this way as well), and while Black has generally managed to draw in this variation it's not a particularly pleasant ending. Svidler was in trouble very soon, and the ending was amusing in a way. Radjabov had been tacking back and forth between attacks on Black's isolated a- and c-pawns. When the final blow came, it was on the b-file.

    In the day's other decisive battles, Alexander Riazantsev won a long game against Li Chao on the white side of a Schlechter Slav. The game was "drawn" for a very long time, but just because an ending is drawn by the tablebase doesn't mean it can be saved over the board by flesh and blood players. Li Chao's 71st move lost the game, but it's not exactly obvious at a glance that it loses while 71...Ke3 and 71...Kd4 draw. Finally, Saleh lost again, this time to Eljanov in a Modern Benoni.

    With two rounds to go, Radjabov leads with 5/7; Harikrishna and Grischuk are half a point behind, and Mamedyarov, Nepomniachtchi, and Riazantsev each have four points.

    * Not sorry.

    Monday
    Jul102017

    The Daily Update: Geneva & Danzhou

    Round 5 of the Grand Prix tournament in Geneva is in the books, and while most of the games on the top boards were drawn (and quickly), one wasn't. Alexander Grischuk won with Black against Pavel Eljanov, and is now tied for first with Teimour Radjabov with four rounds remaining. Two other games ended with a winner, on the bottom two boards. Ernesto Inarkiev beat the bottom seed, Saleh Salem, while Richard Rapport escaped the cellar by defeating Hou Yifan - who has taken his place at the back of the pack.

    In Danzhou, all five games were drawn, so Wei Yi remains as the sole leader while Lu Shanglei remains alone in last place. Of today's games, I would draw your attention to Yu Yangyi - Wang Hao. I'm assuming - maybe wrongly - that Wang Hao blundered the exchange on move 22. But the remarkable thing is that Yu could do absolutely nothing with it. Black didn't have a pawn for it, and White didn't have any problems with his king. Obviously some conditions were in Black's favor: there were no open files and Black's bishop had excellent control of some important light squares. But even so, it was surprising that White never even came close to putting Black under pressure. Very instructive.

    Monday
    Jul102017

    Geneva Grand Prix, Rounds 3 and 4: The Pace Has Slowed; Radjabov Still Leads

    After two uncharacteristically hard fought rounds (by the standards of this year's previous Grand Prix events), a sort of regression to the mean has set in. In both rounds 3 and 4 the draws were both plentiful and - in many cases, sadly - short. Still, the wins have no dried up completely. In round 3, Pavel Eljanov defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi while Dmitry Jakovenko's persistence in a drawn ending finally paid off against Richard Rapport.

    Round 4 had even fewer interesting games, which was slightly compensated by one extra win. Peter Svidler won a very good game against Michael Adams on the white side of a Queen's Gambit Declined, Nepomniachtchi bounced back from his loss in round 3 by defeating Hou Yifan in a 4.d3 Berlin, and Saleh Salem relegated Rapport to clear last by defeating him with White in an O'Kelly Sicilian (though the opening was not to blame).

    With five rounds to go, Teimour Radjabov maintains the lead with 3/4, but six players are only half a point behind: Levon Aronian, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Alexander Grischuk, Svidler, Eljanov, and Pentala Harikrishna.

    TWIC coverage here.

    Friday
    Jul072017

    Geneva Grand Prix, Round 2: Radjabov Leads

    Another good round at the Geneva Grand Prix, this time with five decisive games out of nine! Teimour Radjabov is the sole leader after defeating Pavel Eljanov on the white side of a Queen's Indian. Other wins: Levon Aronian pulled out a win with Black over Dmitry Jakovenko in a Giuoco Piano, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov defeated Ernesto Inarkiev in just 20 moves in a...well, I'm not sure what to call it - an offbeat Queen's Gambit Declined, I guess. Alexander Grischuk ground out a victory in the Spanish torture against Richard Rapport, and Anish Giri bounced back from yesterday's loss by defeating Saleh Salem with Black in another Giuoco.

    TWIC page, with games, here.

    Thursday
    Jul062017

    Geneva Grand Prix Underway

    The Grand Prix series is an important part of the chess calendar, as the top two finishers automatically qualify for the next Candidates event. In addition to their importance, they feature very strong players as well, so one would think they are a boon for chess fans. Unfortunately, the play in the first two events, at least, was rather boring, with loads of short draws.

    The third event in the series began today (Thursday) in Geneva, and happily, unlike its not-so-great predecessors, the players seem much more combative this time around. Of the nine games, four finished with a winner and four of the five draws seemed well-contested. (Only the 20-move draw between Svidler and Jakovenko made one pine for the Sofia rules.)

    Tournament website here, handy TWIC link here, and Grand Prix info here.