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    Entries in Boris Gelfand (43)

    Monday
    Oct132014

    Baku Grand Prix, Round 10: Resilience

    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.

    The tournament site is here, and the games, with my comments, are here. Finally, these are Tuesday's final round pairings:

    • 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)

    Tuesday
    Oct072014

    Baku Grand Prix, Caruana and Gelfand Lead After Five Rounds

    The last two rounds of the Baku Grand Prix have been a bit slow, at least when it comes to wins and losses. In today's round 5 action all the games were drawn, and only in the game between Hikaru Nakamura and Leinier Dominguez did anyone have serious winning chances. (Nakamura was pressing there and had a winning advantage at one point.)

    In round 4, before the first rest day, there were more opportunities for a decisive result, but only in the game between Fabiano Caruana and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov did someone manage to convert the advantage. Caruana was the winner (I've annotated the game for you here), and in the process he caught up with Boris Gelfand in first place. After five rounds they lead with 3.5 points apiece, good enough for a half point lead over Nakamura and Peter Svidler and a point plus over the next four players in the table.

    The round 6 pairings are:

    • Kasimdzhanov (2.5) -Andreikin (1.5)
    • Caruana (3.5) - Svidler (3)
    • Grischuk (2) - Radjabov (2)
    • Dominguez (2) - Mamedyarov (1.5)
    • Tomashevsky (2.5) - Nakamura (3)
    • Karjakin (2.5) - Gelfand (3.5)

    Thursday
    Oct022014

    Baku Begins: Caruana (Of Course), Gelfand Win

    The inaugural tournament of the 2014-2015 Grand Prix series started today in Baku, with the following results:

    • Gelfand - Andreikin 1-0
    • Nakamura - Svidler 1/2-1/2
    • Mamedyarov - Radjabov 1/2-1/2
    • Dominguez - Kasimdzhanov 1/2-1/2
    • Tomashevsky - Grischuk 1/2-1/2
    • Karjakin - Caruana 0-1

    The first game was rather strange, or can be seen as a confirmation of something rather strange. In interviews after the 2013 World Cup and the 2014 Candidates, Andreikin described himself as "having no openings". That's a bizarre admission (and an even stranger state of affairs) for a top GM to make, but it does seem to be the truth. Today he went into a line known to be dangerous for Black, and made a new move that made his position even worse. I don't know if Gelfand had specifically prepared for Andreikin's new move, but either way he slaughtered him in just 23 moves.

    Nakamura-Svidler was a short draw - all the draws today were short, barely making it over the 30 move minimum - but it was not the sort of phony non-effort that used to be called a "grandmaster draw". In fact Svidler was doing very well, but made the wrong choice on move 27 and let Nakamura escape with a draw.

    Mamedyarov-Radjabov, however, was a grandmaster draw. They are countrymen and friends playing in their native land, so this isn't surprising. Their tournament will begin tomorrow.

    Dominguez-Kasimdzhanov was short and bizarre. Kasimdzhanov was much better in the early middlegame, but somehow lost the threat and was worse. On move 25 he made an outright blunder, but Dominguez didn't punish it. Even so, Dominguez was now much better, but his final move - move 30 - threw away the advantage and they agreed to a draw with plenty of life still in it.

    Tomashevsky-Grischuk was a normal draw. Not a grandmaster draw or a see-saw battle with blunders, but a typically modern game. White followed an opening line that had seen success in the past, Black found a good new move that neutralized White's plan, and soon they shook hands and called it a day.

    Finally, Caruana picked up where he left off, results-wise, by winning with Black against Karjakin. This was not, however, a kind of repeat of his supreme mastery at the Sinquefield Cup. Karjakin played very well through much of the game and at one point his advantage was beginning to get serious. Near the time control, however, Karjakin started losing the thread and never recovered. From what I understand, however, this was in part due to some sort of technological quirk. Karjakin was relaxing backstage while it was Caruana's move, and remained for 15 minutes. Apparently Caruana had moved, but the monitor had not updated, and so Karjakin simply lost a bunch of time on his clock. If the loss was in part due to wholly unnecessary time trouble, that's a pity.

    The games, with my comments, are here. I definitely won't be doing this for most of the tournament, but I had a little time today and thought it would be nice to get others interested in this super-event as well. (Maybe I should ask for volunteers for at least some of the remaining rounds?)

    Sunday
    Jul132014

    More Coming Events: Biel (Monday), Gelfand-Svidler (Next Week)

    In case Dortmund and the ACP Golden Classic aren't enough to keep your interest, two more major events are coming your way. Biel starts Monday - today for some of you, tomorrow for others - and looks quite attractive. The main event is a six-player double round-robin, starring Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Anish Giri, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Pentala Harikrishna, Alexander Motylev (the graybeard of the event, the 35-year-old Russian is the only player in the event not in his 20s), and women's world champion Hou Yifan.

    The second event is an eight-game rapid match between Boris Gelfand and Peter Svidler, taking place in Jerusalem from July 20-24 (HT: Chess Today). The games will be followed by live video interviews, which is especially welcome with post-mortem world champion Svidler at the helm.

    With the Olympiad starting August 1, this is a great stretch for those who not only like to play but enjoy watching the game as well.

    Friday
    Oct042013

    The Grand Prix Ends With Pusillanimousness In Paris

    Congratulations to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who is the recipient of the second qualifying spot for the next Candidates' tournament from the 2012-2013 Grand Prix. Fabiano Caruana would have taken that spot if he managed to finish ahead of Boris Gelfand, with whom he was tied for first going into the last round of the final Grand Prix event of the cycle, which concluded today in Paris.

    The task would not be easy, as Gelfand was due for the white pieces in his last-round game, against Ruslan Ponomariov, while Caruana had black against Leinier Dominguez. Caruana played a Taimanov Sicilian, and faced a new move early on, 13.Rd2. Caruana thought for about 40 minutes, and then played 13...Rc8, which is a typical move in that line of the Taimanov. The following moves quickly ensued: 14.Bxb5!? axb5 15.Nxb5 Qc6 16.Na7 Qc7 17.Nb5 Qc8 18.Na7 Qc7 19.Nb5 Qc6 and draw.

    WHAT???

    If the tournament in Paris were an end in itself, that would be a sensible decision, but it wasn't, on both counts. Winning meant qualifying for the Candidates tournament, the gateway to the world championship! If he lost the game, so what?? He'd lose something like six rating points, which he could easily regain in his next tournament. He would some prize money too, and that's not nothing. But he's a very successful tournament pro, and unless he's investing with a Bernie Madoff-type his financial future is bright. The loss is something, but not much in the big picture. And if he wins, he not only wins a bigger prize in the tournament (and maybe from taking second in the overall Grand Prix?), he's also guaranteed a further payday by making it into the Candidates, with a shot at serious money and a match for the world championship.

    Now, if refusing the repetition entailed a losing position, I'd be with him. Risk is one thing, pointless risk another. But starting with the position after the move, 13.Rd2, Caruana had several reasonable ways to avoid the repetition, none of which entailed a position that would be more than slightly worse and a few that offered approximately equal chances. Rather than take the slightest risk, however, he bailed out and took the draw. I'm dumbfounded.

    He could still take clear first in the tournament if Gelfand lost and Nakamura and Etienne Bacrot didn't win. As it turned out, nobody won in the last round, which meant that Gelfand tied with him for first place in the event (his third super-tournament win over the year - two ties and one clear first), and they were half a point ahead of Nakamura and Bacrot.

    Six of the eight spots have been settled for the next Candidates event: Vladimir Kramnik and Dmitry Andreikin qualified through the World Cup, Levon Aronian and Sergey Karjakin qualified by rating, and Veselin Topalov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov qualified through the Grand Prix. The seventh qualifier will be the loser of the upcoming world championship match between Viswanathan Anand, the champ, and his challenger Magnus Carlsen. The eighth spot is a wildcard, to be determined by the organizer. The only official requirement is that the player have a rating of at least 2725.

    Who will get it? The obvious candidates (small "c") are Nakamura (rated #4 in the world), Caruana (#5, one tenth of a point below Nakamura), Alexander Grischuk (rated #6 but less likely to be chosen, I think, unless the Candidates are held in Russia) and Boris Gelfand (#7 in the world; if he gets in it will be because he will have had the best year of anyone not already qualified for the Candidates or better). If Caruana had gone out on his sword today, then he would have been a reasonable pick for that wildcard. If I were an organizer, what I saw would tell me that he doesn't really want it that badly, and so I would give the spot to someone (like Nakamura) who will give it his all, someone who will risk losing when the situation demands it.

    Thursday
    Oct032013

    Paris Grand Prix: Caruana and Gelfand Lead Going Into The Last Round

    There is one round to go at the Grand Prix tournament in Paris, and the double race is heading for a thrilling finish. Fabiano Caruana and Boris Gelfand are tied for first with one round to go in the tournament, and unless Caruana can finish ahead of Gelfand it will be Shakhriyar Mamedyarov who wins qualification from the overall Grand Prix series to the next Candidates' tournament.

    Today, round 10 showed both Caruana and Gelfand rising to the occasion. Caruana did what he needed, defeating Evgeny Tomashevsky with the white pieces to keep his hopes alive. Meanwhile, Gelfand had the more challenging task, facing Hikaru Nakamura, then the tournament leader, with Black. Nakamura made the practical mistake of going head-to-head with Gelfand in the Najdorf. Gelfand won a fantastic game, and now he and Caruana have 6.5 points apiece heading into the last round. Nakamura has 6, as does Etienne Bacrot, who obliterated Laurent Fressinet on the black side of a Bayonet King's Indian.

    About this last game: if someone can explain it to me that would be wonderful. (Insomnia? Illness?) In an extremely well-known theoretical line, Fressinet suddenly stopped to think for more than 40 minutes and played the near-novelty 15.exf5. (It was played once before in a non-correspondence game featuring a 2000 vs. a 1900.) This is by no means a typical capture in the variation, and to all appearances it gives Black what he wants. It's hard to know what Fressinet had in mind or what he may have overlooked, but five moves later he was a pawn down without much compensation. His 22nd and 23rd moves were both blunders, and he resigned after Black's 24th move. He was down two pawns with a horrible position and further material losses to come. Anyone can blunder, but this game was just odd from move 15 on.

    Key Last Round Pairings:

    • Gelfand (6.5) - Ponomariov
    • Dominguez - Caruana (6.5)
    • Giri - Nakamura (6)
    • Bacrot (6) - Grischuk

    Monday
    Sep302013

    Paris Grand Prix, Round 7: Gelfand Wins, Caruana Loses

    It was a great day for Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, as the only two players to lose were the only two players who could still pass him in the Grand Prix standings. Alexander Grischuk was a point out of first, but with a win over one of the leaders, Boris Gelfand, he would have helped his cause greatly. Had he won, he'd have been just half a point behind Hikaru Nakamura heading into the final four rounds. Instead, he's two points behind Gelfand and almost surely out of contention.

    By contrast, Caruana was in very good shape, coming into the round tied with Gelfand for first. Unfortunately for his cause, he lost to Nakamura thanks to a blunder in the opening. When I first replayed the game, zipping through, it looked as if 15...Qxd4 was some sort of spectacular scholastic chess-style blunder. Obviously 15...Bxd4! But look for a few moments, and you'll realize that Black is just as dead after 16.Qh6, which threats like 17.Qh7+ Kf8 18.Rxd4 Qxd4 19.Qh8+ Qxh8 20.Rxh8+ Kg7 21.Rxd8, winding up with an extra piece. The real blunder came the move before, when he recaptured on g6 with the h-pawn. Capturing with the f-pawn was a must, when the position is complicated and both sides have their trumps.

    So after seven rounds of this, the final Grand Prix event of the current cycle, Boris Gelfand leads with 5 points, half a point ahead of Nakamura and a point ahead of Caruana. By no means is all lost for Caruana, however, as he has the white pieces against Gelfand in the very next round. Meanwhile, I'd really love to know what is Gelfand's secret. The last six years he has been improving like a teenager or at least a young adult, and is in the running for player of the year this year. Of course Magnus Carlsen will get that award, and deservedly so if he defeats Anand, but if Gelfand holds on and wins this tournament is there anyone else whose year compares with his? But Gelfand fans shouldn't count their chickens yet, as he will also have Black against Nakamura in round 10.

    Saturday
    Sep282013

    Catching Up on the Grand Prix

    (Or Grands Prix, if you prefer. You can find all sorts of interesting discussion about this on the interweb.)

    In the men's/open Grand Prix in Paris two more rounds have passed since we last took notice, and at the end of these two rounds - making six in total of the eleven to be played - Boris Gelfand is still in front, but sharing the lead with Fabiano Caruana. Gelfand has drawn his last two games, whlie Caruana just won, taking advantage of the precipitously plummeting Vassily Ivanchuk.

    Ivanchuk had shared the lead after four rounds, but it was very shaky, as he was lost or nearly lost in the two games he went on to win. In round five against Alexander Grischuk he got another lousy game early on, but this time there was no reprieve. Despite having the white pieces, he was crushed in just 31 moves. In round six, as already mentioned, he lost to Caruana - weirdly. First, he committed a fingerfehler on move 16, intending or at least calculating 16...f6 and then playing 16...Bd7. (Chalk this up as another of the horrors we discussed here some weeks ago, as well as yet another odd episode in Ivanchuk's strange [though often spectacularly successful] career.) Second, he resigned rather prematurely, even if his position may have been lost with best play by Caruana. Ivanchuk should have continued, but he just couldn't stand his position!

    All the other round 6 games were drawn, while in round 5 there was a second decisive game: Etienne Bacrot defeated Anish Giri with the black pieces. So Gelfand and Caruana lead with four points, and remember that if Caruana takes clear first in the tournament he qualifies for the Candidates'. Likewise if Grischuk wins, but for the moment he's a point behind, in a six-way tie for 4th-9th place. Just so I don't have to be accused of "forgetting" something, I'll note that Hikaru Nakamura is in third, half a point behind the leaders.

    In the Women's Grand Prix (in Tashkent, Uzbekistan), round nine was very strange. After eight rounds Humpy Koneru was plowing through the field with a great score of 6.5/8, gaining tons of rating points and making steady overall progress towards winning a spot in the 2015 World Championship match. She led by a point over the persistent peleton led by Harika Dronavalli and Kateryna Lagno, both of whom were a full point behind. So what happened in round 9? All three lost!

    Their relative positions are obviously the same, and no one has passed any of them. Someone has joined the tie for second, though, and that's Bela Khotenashvili, who defeated Humpy in round 9. Two rounds remain, and as Humpy's last two opponents aren't doing very well in the tournament she's still a strong favorite to take clear first.

    Wednesday
    Sep252013

    Updates on Ongoing Events

    1. FIDE Grand Prix (Men): After four rounds it's time for the first rest day in this, the final Grand Prix event of the 2012-2013 cycle. Recall that this event has greater competitive signficance only if either Alexander Grischuk or Fabiano Caruana takes clear first, in which case that person will qualify for the next Candidates' event (rather than Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who has already played his full complement of Grand Prix events in this cycle). Grischuk and Caruana played in round 4, and Grischuk was winning and really should have collected the point. It looks like the win slipped when he played 39.gxh3, hoping that the quantity of pawns would suffice and outweigh the slight cost to their quality that capture entailed. It was a plausible decision - who wants to allow a "coffin nail" like the pawn on Black pawn on h3 to survive? - but apparently a mistaken one.

    The draw left Grischuk at -1 and Caruana at +1. The latter is in third, half a point behind Boris Gelfand, who won in round 3, and Vassily Ivanchuk, who was rather lucky to win in round 4 against Laurent Fressinet. Fressinet was completely winning early on, but he lost the game a little at a time.

    In sum, from someone who is completely impartial: guys born in the 1960s still rule the chess world!

    2. FIDE Grand Prix (Women): Humpy Koneru continues to lead - solo at the moment - after 7 of 11 rounds. Her score of 5.5 points puts her half a point ahead of her fellow Indian Harika Dronavalli and the Ukranian Kateryna Lagno.

    3. World Junior Championships: There's one round to go, and while it's still technically a two-player race in the Open (Boys') division it's nearly a done deal. Top seed Yu Yangyi has a fantastic score of 10.5/12 and leads second seed and defending champion Alexander Ipatov by a full point. Yu has White in the last round too, so he's a pretty big favorite to get at least a draw and clinch the title. In the Girls' section it's a little closer, but Aleksandra Goryachkina is a pretty big favorite to win the title. Her 9.5 points gives her a half point lead over Zhansaya Abdumalik, and in addition she (Goryachkina) will have White in the last round against a player rated 200 points lower while Abdumalik has the black pieces against a higher-rated opponent.

    4. Topalov-Laznicka Match: This finished nicely for Veselin Topalov, who won both games 4 and 6 with Black while drawing game 5 with White. As a result of this Hou Yifanesque performance in the second half of the match, he defeated Viktor Laznicka by a 4-2 margin.

    Thursday
    Jul042013

    Beijing Grand Prix, Round 1: Topalov Beats Gelfand

    It's only round 1, but Veselin Topalov must be very happy to beat one of his main competitors, Boris Gelfand, and with the black pieces too. It's a nice way for him to start his final grand prix event of the current cycle.

    Other round 1 results in Beijing: Karjakin won with Black against Giri, Grischuk won with Black against Kamsky (so much for the fourth of July!), and the other three games (Morozevich-Wang Yue, Ivanchuk-Wang Hao and Leko-Mamedyarov) were drawn.