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    Entries in Pavel Eljanov (11)

    Saturday
    Jan212017

    Wijk aan Zee 2017, Catching Up!

    I disappeared for a few days, but the momentous occasion that took place on Friday, the 20th of January in 2017 has brought me back to blogging. I refer, of course, to Anish Giri's winning a game of chess at a classical time control.

    So let's get caught up on the action from rounds 2-6. Pavel Eljanov led through round 4, building on his first round win over Richard Rapport with further wins over Loek van Wely (round 2) and Baskaran Adhiban (round 4) - both with Black. Unfortunately for Eljanov things weren't so great with White: he could only draw with Pentala Harikrishna in round 3 and then lost to Levon Aronian in round 5.

    That dropped him into a tie for second with Magnus Carlsen, who won a couple of beautiful games with the white pieces, first against Radoslaw Wojtaszek in round 2 and against Wei Yi in round 4.

    The leader, however, is Wesley So. Like Eljanov, he has won three games - three in a row from rounds 3-5 - but unlike Eljanov hasn't lost any games. He was in grave trouble against Rapport in round 3, and probably should have lost that game, but Rapport faltered near the time control and lost the game. So's win over van Wely in round 4 wasn't overwhelming either, but van Wely made too many errors leading up to the time control to save the game. So's win in round 5 over Harikrishna was clean by comparison, but there too he didn't play anything close to his best chess, and he was also given a big headstart by Harikrishna's poor opening preparation. If So keeps playing so-so chess, he is not going to win the tournament, but if he can work his way into his best form his chances will be excellent.

    Other notables: Aronian, Giri, and Wei Yi are all +1. Aronian's one victory was already mentioned (with Black in round 5 against Eljanov), Giri inflicted a speedy defeat on Ian Nepomniachtchi in round 6, and Wei Yi's round 4 loss to Carlsen was offset by a win in round 2 over Nepomniachtchi and a round 6 victory over Rapport.

    I've analyzed all the decisive games from round 2-6, here. As for round 7's pairings, here they are:

    • Karjakin (3) - Aronian (3.5)
    • So (4.5) - Eljanov (4)
    • Wojtaszek (3) - Adhiban (2.5)
    • Andreikin (3) - Harikrishna (3)
    • Wei Yi (3.5) - van Wely (1)
    • Nepomniachtchi (2) - Rapport (1.5)
    • Carlsen (4) - Giri (3.5)

    In the B-group (aka the Challengers tournament) Top seed Markus Ragger raced out to a 4-0 start before drawing in round 5 in a game he probably should have won. The co-second seeds also went 3.5/4 in rounds 2-5: Ilia Smirin drew in round 1 before his streak to reach 4/5, while Jeffery Xiong was a further half a point behind as he started the event with a loss to Ragger. (That game was analyzed in my round 1 report.) Oddly, all three players lost in round 6, so the leaderboard there looks like this:

    • 1-2. Ragger, Gawain Jones (Jones's rating is just a touch behind Smirin's and Xiong's, and he's the one responsible for defeating Ragger in round 6): 4.5
    • 3-4. Smirin, Lu Shanglei 4
    • 5-7. Eric Hansen, Jeffery Xiong, Nils Grandelius 3.5

    Sunday
    Jan152017

    Wijk aan Zee 2017, Round 1: Eljanov the Sole Winner in the Masters Event

    The battle between the top two seeds in the Tata Steel Masters was a bit of a dud, as Wesley So and Magnus Carlsen finished in a short, peaceful draw, as did several other games in the round. And six of the seven games finished with shared honors (or dishonor, depending on the degree of one's antipathy towards draws), with the only decisive result occurring in the Pavel Eljanov vs. Richard Rapport game. Rapport played a slightly oddball opening line and had Black against a higher-rated, more experienced opponent, but it turns out that the opening wasn't to blame. Rapport was fine after the opening and even had a chance to be better. His 15th move was a critical error, and his inaccuracy on move 18 left him with a very unpleasant position. Eljanov soon obtained a dream position where Black had plenty of weaknesses and no counterplay, and confidently brought home the point.

    Here are the round 2 pairings:

    • Aronian (.5) - Wei Yi (.5)
    • Nepomniachtchi (.5) - Andreikin (.5)
    • Carlsen (.5) - Wojtaszek (.5)
    • Giri (.5) - So (.5)
    • Rapport (0) - Karjakin (.5)
    • van Wely (.5) - Eljanov (1)
    • Harikrishna (.5) - Adhiban (.5)

    In the Challengers tournament the battle between #1 and #2 took a different turn. Markus Ragger obtained a serious advantage in the early middlegame, and although an error later gave Jeffery Xiong an opportunity to scrape out with a draw Ragger was the deserved victor when Xiong missed his chance. There were two other decisive games in this section: Jorden Van Foreest beat Erwin L'Ami, while Benjamin bok defeated Tingjie Lei.

    I've annotated the Eljanov-Rapport and Ragger-Xiong games, which you can replay here.

    Friday
    Jun032016

    Shamkir, Round 7: Caruana Misses a Big Chance

    There were two decisive results in the antepenultimate round of the Vugar Gashimov memorial tournament in Shamkir, and there should have been three or even four.

    There was only one non-game in the round, and surprisingly it wasn't the all-Azeri match between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Eltaj Safarli. Why exactly this was a real game while all of the other intra-national games featuring the home players were short, effortless draws is a mystery to me, but Mamedyarov came to play. Unfortunately for Safarli, he played a very poor game and was in trouble after just 12 moves. Mamedyarov dominated for a long time, but his knight misadventure 32.Nc6 and 33.Nd8 gave Safarli a couple of chances to save the game. Perhaps due to time pressure, he didn't succeed, and Mamedyarov was winning easily by the end of the time control.

    The one short draw was instead between Sergey Karjakin and Teimour Radjabov, and there wasn't much to see there. The other two draws were full of life, however, and that includes the game between Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri. Caruana entered the round half a point ahead, and with a win the tournament would have been on ice. The players seemed to be prepared almost to move 30, but then the adventures started. Giri's foolhardy 31st move exposed his king to grave danger, and he was very fortunate that Caruana didn't venture Qf7 on either move 35 or 37. (Time pressure?) Luckily for Giri, Caruana allowed a threefold repetition, and the question of first place remains open.

    The other draw was less significant for the top places, but was an interesting battle all the same. Pentala Harikrishna managed to draw with Rauf Mamedov, but despite having the white pieces he was in trouble for a long time and probably lost at one or two moments.

    Finally, in the battle of the tailenders Pavel Eljanov escaped the cellar by defeating Hou Yifan, who is now in last place half a point behind Eljanov and Safarli. Eljanov played very aggressively and it paid off, and the game finished with an attractive, study-like win.

    The two decisive games, plus Caruana-Giri, are here (with my comments).

    The round 8 pairings look like this:

     

    • Giri (5) - Hou Yifan (2)
    • Mamedov (3) - Eljanov (2.5)
    • Radjabov (3) - Harikrishna (3.5)
    • Safarli (2.5) - Karjakin (4)
    • Caruana (5.5) - Mamedyarov (4)

     

    Thursday
    May262016

    Shamkir, Round 1: Five Draws

    Mostly short and bloodless ones at that, but Safarli - Eljanov was a massive exception. Eljanov played the first half of the game brilliantly, and could have converted his winning advantage. Instead he missed his chance, and as getting that chance involved sacrificing material he wound up with a lost position. Fortunately the position was still complicated, and Safarli missed his chance as well.

    So everyone is tied for first (and last) going into round 2, which sees the following pairings:

    • Giri - Karjakin
    • Harikrishna - Mamedyarov
    • Eljanov - Caruana
    • Hou - Safarli
    • Mamedov - Radjabov

    Tuesday
    Sep292015

    World Cup 2015: Round 6 (Semifinals), Day 3: Karjakin Squeaks Through in a Tiebreaker

    It wasn't easy, and he had some good fortune along the way, but Sergey Karjakin's resourcefulness and resilience enabled him to qualify for the finals of the World Cup and for next year's Candidates' tournament by defeating Pavel Eljanov 2.5-1.5 in the tiebreaker. Eljanov, whose overall play in the World Cup was probably the best of all 128 players, came extremely close to qualifying, but one narrow miss after another stopped him just short of the event's ultimate prize.

    In the first g/25 Eljanov won an excellent game with the white pieces, but in the rematch Karjakin won an equally impressive win in his white game. Eljanov had more chances to hold than Karjakin, but in both cases the player with White kept up the pressure until his opponent cracked. In the g/10 battles, however, Karjakin saw Dame Fortune smile on him repeatedly. In the first game, Eljanov had a big advantage, but 42.h4? made it equal and 43.h5?? left him lost. Even after that he had a couple of subtle chances to save the game or at least make Karjakin's job a lot tougher, but without time to find these better moves Karjakin reeled in the point. Needing to win with the black pieces to stay alive, Eljanov somehow managed to outplay Karjakin and obtain a winning endgame, but he missed several wins and then stumbled into a threefold repetition. (The games, with my comments, are here.)

    A huge pity for Eljanov, but sport can be cruel. Karjakin will meet Peter Svidler in the final, and while there's money and the title at stake both players have achieved their main competitive goal; namely, qualification to next year's Candidates' tournament. The other known candidates are Viswanathan Anand (for making it to the last world championship match), Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana (both from the Grand Prix). I think the expected favorites to qualify by having the best average rating in 2015 are Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri, and that will leave one more player to be determined by the organizers of the Candidates' tournament (scheduled for March of 2016). As of this moment, the venue isn't yet known - or at least not publicly known, but standard operating procedure is for the host country (or at least the organizer's/sponsor's host country) to get the pick.

    Anyway, that's off in the more distant future. First things first: the final match will be a best-of-four (rather than a best-of-two), to be followed if necessary by the same set of rapid tiebreakers. Tomorrow (today - Wednesday) is a rest day, and the match will begin on Thursday.

    Sunday
    Sep272015

    World Cup 2015: Round 6 (Semifinals), Day 1: Svidler Wins, Karjakin Escapes

    Anish Giri has excellent chances to qualify for next year's Candidates' tournament by rating, and if he can't pull off a win with the black pieces against Peter Svidler tomorrow that will be the only way he can make it to the Candidates'. Giri rarely loses, but he picked just about the worst possible time to do so, losing with White in the semis of the World Cup to Svidler.* Giri had a slight advantage out of the opening, an increasingly popular sideline of the Zaitsev Ruy, but he failed to stabilize the queenside and Black broke through on that wing before Giri's kingside attack took flight. His window was a narrow one: he was fine after 28 moves, but had a lost postition just four moves later.

    That's good news for one underdog, and the superstar underdog of the event, Pavel Eljanov, was very close to a win of his own. He played a new move in the opening, a mainline Queen's Indian with 4...Ba6 5.b3 Bb4+, and when Sergey Karjakin didn't react particularly well Eljanov had a winning position after 20 moves. Unfortunately for the Ukranian, he failed to play Qd2 on either move 22 or 24, when it would have a pawn for nothing (or even less than nothing), and Karjakin equalized. Despite that, Karjakin soon got into trouble for a second and even a third time, though the situation never got as bad as it did right out of the opening. Eljanov was unable to make the most of these chances either, and Karjakin escaped by the skin of his teeth with a draw. Will Eljanov bounce back to become another Rustam Kasimdzhanov (2004 edition), or will he falter at the final hurdle, like Evgeny Tomashevsky did in the last World Cup? We'll find out tomorrow and possibly on Tuesday.

    In the meantime, here are today's games, with some game citations and brief annotations.

    * Or maybe it's strategy on his part? If Giri qualifies for the Candidates' by reaching the finals of the World Cup, then someone else would get the rating spot, someone 50-60 points higher-rated than Svidler. I don't actually believe that Giri would throw a game, even for this reason, but it could very well be in his best interest if Svidler qualifies rather than someone like Alexander Grischuk or Vladimir Kramnik.

    Friday
    Sep252015

    World Cup 2015: Round 5 (Quarterfinals), Day 2: Eljanov, Giri Advance

    Hikaru Nakamura is a ferocious fighter at the chess board, but needing a win to stay alive against Pavel Eljanov in the World Cup, he was unable to achieve anything, even with the white pieces, and their game finished in a draw just after the time control. Eljanov simply played very well, as he has pretty much throughout the event, and he moved on to the semi-finals. For Nakamura it's likely a disappointment, of course, but in the big picture it's no big deal as he has already qualified for next year's Candidates' tournament all the same.

    Joining Eljanov in the semis - but not meeting him there - is Anish Giri. Giri's first game with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave finished in a draw, but he won the rematch with White, finishing the game off with a deftly handled rook and pawn ending. Giri has been in very good form as well in the event, and it didn't hurt that MVL gave him the sort of position he likes - one with a safe positional advantage.

    The other two games were drawn, and those matches are headed for tomorrow's (today's) tiebreaks. After their marathon game yesterday Sergey Karjakin and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov called it quits after just 14 moves; not terribly interesting, but the Wei Yi - Peter Svidler game was much more interesting. Svidler had an edge and a very promising position, but a couple of inaccuracies allowed the young Chinese player to escape.

    More coverage of the tiebreaks tomorrow, and on Saturday the four semi-finalists will at last enjoy a day off.

    Thursday
    Sep242015

    World Cup 2015: Round 5 (Quarterfinals), Day 1: Eljanov!

    Pavel Eljanov is having the tournament of his life at the 2015 World Cup, though there's still a long ways to go before he reaches the finals and qualifies for the Candidates' tournament. He has scored 8/9 so far in the classical games, and that includes not just his 2-0 victory over Alexander Grischuk in round 3 but now a very impressive and convincing win over Hikaru Nakamura in the first game of the quarterfinal round. He played the 8.a4 line in the Classical Open Catalan, a line that is supposed to promise White nothing, and somehow he managed to reach a position where Black had to wait and suffer. Nakamura tried to solve his problems in one shot with 19...Na6, but the exchanging combination starting with 20.Nxb7 and culminating with 25.Nxd8 Rxd8 left Black with a prospectless position. All he could do was wait for the guillotine, and Eljanov's slow but steady technique got the job done. It wasn't always as efficient as it could have been - 50.Kf6 would have forced a quick mate and immediate resignation, for instance - but it was definitely up to the task. It was a very impressive game by Eljanov, and if he can keep this form to the end of the tournament it would be hard to see anyone else knock him out.

    On the day, no one else managed to knock anyone else out. The games Peter Svidler - Wei Yi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - Anish Giri were both drawn quickly. It wasn't a question of energy-saving collusion, however, but good opening prep by the players with black in both games. The fight between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Sergey Karjakin was another story altogether. Mamedyarov had a big advantage and really should have won, by Karjakin hung on like a barnacle and saved half a point, to the dismay of the local Azeri fans.

    The second game starts in a few hours, and if anyone manages to win their match in the classical stage they'll get not just one but two, count 'em, two days off. There's the tiebreak day on Friday, whether there are any matches left to play off or not, and then at long last there's a rest day for everyone on Saturday.

    Thursday
    Sep172015

    World Cup 2015 Round 3, Day 1: Draws Aplenty; Grischuk Loses a Won Game

    There weren't too many short draws on day 1 of round 3 at the World Cup, but one way or another 12 of the 16 games finished in a peaceful way. Of these, perhaps the most notable was the board 1 game between Veselin Topalov and Shanglei Lu. Topalov was winning - by a mile, and with multiple ways of cashing in. For instance, 25.Ref1 (rather than 25.Rhf1, which should also have been good enough) 25...Qg3 26.Qf6 is beyond devastating, threatening captures on f7 and f5 as well as 27.Rhg1. Later, 30.Bb3 f6 31.Rxe5 fxe5 32.Rxg6 would have been a fairly easy win as well. Finally 32.Bxh5 may still be winning, but this is a lot less certain. It seems at first as if it should be easy, as White's pieces appear to escape while Black's knight remains in the box, but Black can escape to a rook ending that at first glance may not seem completely clear after a line like 32.Bxh5 Rc5 33.Be2 Re5 34.Rxe1 Rde8 35.Rf1+ Kg7 36.Nf5+ Rxf5 37.Rxf5 Rxe2. Maybe it would be unclear if Black's king were on d6, but cut off from the queenside I suspect this is a win for White as well.

    So Topalov let his young and much lower-rated (though also underrated) opponent escape, and so did Alexander Grischuk. (Both players have something else in common, too. Can anyone recall what that might be?) In Grischuk's case, he not only lost a chance to win against Pavel Eljanov with 38.a7 and then a move later (though less clearly) with 39.Qf5, he even went on to lose the game. Beating Eljanov, a solid 2700 who has been as high as 2761 is not going to be an easy task for him tomorrow, especially with the black pieces.

    The other three decisive games were won by the white pieces. Sergey Karjakin his recent string of super-human results against Chinese players, smoothly outplaying Yu Yangyi in a Sicilian. Fabiano Caruana also won smoothly in a Sicilian, defeating Anton Kovalyov after the latter chose 23...dxc5 rather than 23...bxc5. I'm not sure what Kovalyov was hoping for, as d6 doesn't look like a great blockading square in this particular position while the b-file could have proved useful to him, if only to distract White's pieces from building at leisure in the center and on the kingside.

    Finally, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov defeated S. P. Sethuraman in a sharp line of the Panov-Botvinnik Attack against the Caro-Kann. I haven't looked at the theory of the variation they played in a while, but my understanding was that Black normally flicks in 7...h6. White doesn't have to play 8.Bh4, but if he does then Black goes for the same line as in the game, with the point being that after 14...Ne6 (actually 15...Ne6) the rook on c4 attacks the bishop on h4, gaining a crucial tempo for the defense. The way Sethuraman played it has been known for a long time and the evaluation has always been in White's favor. My inclination was to say that he must not have thought White's advantage amounted to very much, but considering that he spent 36 minutes on his 16th move in a position that is well-known in this variation and arises almost by force once Black plays 7...Qxd4, I'm at a loss to explain what Sethuraman was thinking. Maybe his 7th move was a fingerfehler and he intended to play 7...h6 first? If someone comes across an answer, please share it in the comments.

    Saturday
    Nov222014

    Ongoing & Completed Events: St. Louis (x3), Ukrainian Championship, Tal Memorial Blitz

    The ongoing world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand has drawn the lion's share of the chess world's attention the past couple of weeks, but some other interesting events have taken place in the meantime as well. Let's take a quick tour of the landscape.

    1. Aronian - Nakamura. This is the main event in St. Louis, a five day match with four classical games (worth four points apiece) followed by 16 blitz games (worth one point per game). Game 1 was won by Hikaru Nakamura, when Levon Aronian got into time trouble and lost what would normally be considered a very drawish position. Today the reverse happened: it looked like Nakamura wanted to squeeze blood from a stone, and to his surprise wound up in an ending that should still have been drawn but turned out to be more challenging. He lost, and so the match is tied 4-4.

    2. There are concurrent GM and IM norm tournaments in St. Louis, and the big story is taking place in the GM event, where 13-year-old Sam Sevian is about to earn - or perhaps, has now earned - his grandmaster title. He already had the three norms needed, and simply had to get his rating over 2500 at some point. He entered the tournament rated 2484, and his 4-0 start, including two wins over GMs, has brought him to the promised land. He won't be awarded the title on the spot, but he has now become the youngest American player in history to achieve the grandmaster title. Have a look at these two wins from the tournament, and you won't find his accomplishment at all surprising. Congratulations to him!

    3. The Ukranian Championship finished earlier today (yesterday now, for the Ukranians themselves), and after a dramatic last round Yuriy Kuzubov and Pavel Eljanov finished tied for first with 7.5 points out of 11, with Kuzubov finishing first on tiebreaks.

    4. Tal Memorial Blitz. This took place a week or so ago, but deserved to be mentioned. It was a 12 player double-round robin event spread over two days, and on day 1 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had a fantastic score of 10/11, giving up just two draws. He received enough gifts for a couple of Christmases, and not all of them could be chalked up to his very great tactical resourcefulness. He had a big lead, but the next day he had only normal luck and scored just 6 points out of 11, but Alexander Grischuk couldn't quite catch up and finished half a point behind. Alexander Morozevich, Boris Gelfand and Sergey Karjakin tied for third. Video coverage links: day 1, rounds 1-6; day 1, rounds 7-11; day 2, all rounds.