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    Entries in Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (10)

    Thursday
    Jun262014

    Jobava-Mamedyarov From The World Rapid Championship

    Every now and then the past few days I've been browsing some of the many games from last week's World Rapid Championship, and some have caught my eye. One exceptionally impressive game was the round 4 battle between Baadur Jobava and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, won in brilliant style by the creative young Georgian grandmaster. As usual, he punted a slightly offbeat opening (the Veresov with 3.Bf4), and is also usual he managed to orient himself better in the unfamiliar setting than his opponent.

    In this game, Jobava went all-out for the initiative, and managed to turn it into a sustained attack. Keeping it going required energetic and imaginative play, and rather than continuing to load on the adjectives I'll invite you to have a look and see for yourself. Very impressive chess, especially when played with a time control of game in 15 minutes, with only a ten second increment per move!

    Friday
    Mar212014

    Candidates 2014, Round 7: Anand and Aronian Lead At The Halfway Point After A Crazy Round

    The first cycle of the 2014 Candidates' tournament finished with a crazy and chaotic round that saw three decisive games, and it could easily have been four. In the end Viswanathan Anand and Levon Aronian were tied for first at +2*, half a point ahead of Vladimir Kramnik.

    Anand has led the entire tournament, by himself for most of it, and he probably would have kept that lead if he had played 20...Rxf2 against Peter Svidler. White's compensation looks pretty slim, so it looks like Anand has sunk into an overly safety-first mentality. If he fails to win the tournament, it will be unforced errors like this that will be to blame. After foregoing this great opportunity, Svidler was able to neutralize his minimal disadvantage and save the game.

    Meanwhile, Aronian took the opportunity to catch up to Anand at the halfway point, thanks to his convincing win over Sergei Karjakin, now the tournament tailender. Interestingly, both Aronian and Anand were Black in a 4.d3 Berlin, and in both games Black came out of the opening smelling like a rose. Karjakin played b4 on move 10, and then went for d4 some moves later. As a result, the c4 square was weakened, and Aronian managed to conquer that square and infiltrate the queenside in general. White's position got worse and worse, and a desperate counterattack ultimately led to an ending where Aronian was down the exchange but had too many pawns for White to cope with.

    (One nice quote about that game, from chess24's round report. It comes from Rustam Kasimdzhanov, a chess24 contributor, Karjakin's second and a great player in his own right - the winner of the FIDE knockout world championship in 2004. He writes this about Aronian's 47...Qc4, which was the only winning move: "Qc4!! I mean wow!! It's at times like this you recognise the greatest. I'd never pull it off, not after 5 hours of play. It was SUCH a difficult move. It just does not occur, not to mortals.")

    Kramnik bounced back from his painful loss against Topalov with a win over Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but he was very lucky. He was doing well with White after a well-played opening, but not as well as he thought. As a result he overpressed, and was soon forced to head for an ending where he hoped his queenside passers would compensate for Black's extra piece. For a long time Mamedyarov played very well, but at just the moment when he could obtain a straightforwardly winning position he blundered - twice! Worst of all, he did so with loads of time on the clock. He missed a tactic, and while that can happen to anyone he would surely have spotted it if he had spent a bit more time. Instead, he went from winning to equal to dead lost, and the game ended just a few moves later. A real tragedy for Mamedyarov, who had worked his way back from -2 after the first three games and would have finished the first cycle at +1, half a point behind the leaders. Instead, he's now -1 and it's Kramnik who is nipping at the leaders' heels.

    Another player who came into the round with an equal score also fell back to -1: Veselin Topalov. His opening preparation against Dmitry Andreikin was very good, but as in the game with Svidler two rounds earlier he fell apart almost immediately after his preparation ended. Topalov was crushed, and I'm guessing that he forgot to make sarcastic comments about his opponent at today's press conference.

    There is no break between the two cycles, and round 8 starts tomorrow (or today, if you're across the pond) at the usual time, with the following pairings (player scores are in parentheses):

     

    • Kramnik (4) - Andreikin (3)
    • Svidler (3.5) - Karjakin (2.5)
    • Topalov (3) - Mamedyarov (3)
    • Aronian (4.5) - Anand (4.5)

     

    Aronian - Anand is clearly the game of the day, but it's also an important opportunity for Kramnik, playing the white pieces against one of the relative outsiders. Svidler too needs to regain the winning habit before the leaders break away for good, and White against the tailender is a good place to start.

    Meanwhile, here are the round 7 games, with my notes.

    * Remember last year: there are no real ties for first. In case of a tie, tournament victory is determined by tiebreaks rather than a playoff. As Anand defeated Aronian in round 1, he would qualify for the match with Magnus Carlsen if they alone finish tied for first and Aronian doesn't beat Anand in the second cycle.

    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.

    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
    Sep212013

    Paris Grand Prix: Play Starts Tomorrow

    Play in the final event of the 2012-2013 Grand Prix cycle begins tomorrow in Paris, France, in a tournament that will decide one more place in the next Candidates' tournament. Two spots were available from the Grand Prix series, and while Veselin Topalov has clinched the overall first place three players are in the running for the second. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov currently leads that race, but he has already played in the maximum number of Grand Prix events (four) and isn't in this one. That leaves Alexander Grischuk and Fabiano Caruana the chance to snipe him for that second spot. If either of the latter takes clear first in this tournament, they're in; anything less and it's Mamedyarov who will go to the Candidates.

    Here's the full list of players:

    • Alexander Grischuk (2785)
    • Fabiano Caruana (2779)
    • Hikaru Nakamura (2772)
    • Boris Gelfand (2764)
    • Leinier Dominguez Perez (2757)
    • Ruslan Ponomariov (2756)
    • Anish Giri (2737)
    • Wang Hao (2736)
    • Vassily Ivanchuk (2731)
    • Etienne Bacrot (2723)
    • Laurent Fressinet (2708)
    • Evgeny Tomashevsky (2703)

    Sunday
    Jun302013

    A Deep Look at Mamedyarov-Kramnik From The Geneva Finale

    As mentioned in the previous post, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's win in game one of the final match against Vladimir Kramnik was impressive, and I decided to take a closer look. Between what I saw watching live and worked out analyzing afterward, it looked like a nice, clean game, and this was seconded once I switched on the engine - for the first part of the game.

    What came as a big surprise was the second phase of the game, the part that should have been a mopping-up operation. Mamedyarov really misplayed the ending, to the point where Kramnik may have had a draw near the end. More importantly for us as chess fans, there are some fantastic variations that emerge at that stage where the balance between a win and a draw is precariously poised. It's a very long analysis, but one I hope you'll enjoy.

    Sunday
    Jun302013

    Mamedyarov Wins Geneva Masters

    In the last few weeks Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has managed to win two impressive rapid events. First there was the world rapid championship, and now the Geneva Masters.

    In the first semi-final, Vladimir Kramnik squandered several winning opportunities against Hikaru Nakamura before finally cashing in in a big way in their second blitz game. Kramnik was winning in the first rapid game - at least twice - but the horrible 52.Kxe4?? (overlooking 52...Kd6, as Kramnik freely admitted after the game and as his body language admitted during the game) let Nakamura escape.

    Game 2 was a respite for Kramnik, as Nakamura seemed more eager to go for blitz (a la Grischuk in the previous Candidates' cycle). In fact, the game itself was blitz-like, as Nakamura wound up with several seconds more than he started with when the draw was agreed after 43 moves.

    In the first blitz game, Kramnik was winning once again, and once again let his resourceful opponent. The mistake this time (46...Qf6 rather than 46...Rc3) was less glaring, in part because of time trouble, and in part because there was more work to do than in the other game.

    In game four, Kramnik finally broke through. Nakamura played a Hippopotamus with a King's Indian twist, something he has done with lots of success on ICC. Here, he didn't react well to Kramnik's energetic 12.c5, and soon he was flat busted. The engine suggests that he may have made some chances to grovel with 20...Rbc8; after 20...Kg7 Kramnik played accurately and energetically, and Black never got another chance.

    In the second semi-final, Mamedyarov won game 1 with Black when Etienne Bacrot desperately went all-in with 21.Bf6 and 22.Ng5. Mamedyarov collected the material, repulsed the attack, and won the game.

    To Bacrot's credit, he came back in the second game, winning a nice game with the Dutch Defense. Bacrot was pressing throughout, and when Mamedyarov fell into a nice trap with 32.Rd3? the game ended with the pretty 32...Rxd3 33.Kxd3 c5! Taking on e5 allows 34...Nxf2+ winning the rook; retreating the bishop to e3 is met by 34...f4, either winning the bishop or again forking on f2 (unless White plays 35.Rg1, and then the win is 35...fxe3 36.Rxg4 exf2, when the threat of promotion wins the knight after 37.Ke2 Bxc3+); finally, 34.dxc6 Rd8 again either wins a piece or, after something like 35.Ne2, the rook to the 35...Nxf2+ fork.

    If there was any momentum from this save, it was quickly erased in the first blitz game, which was an absolute massacre. At first I thought 18...c6 was the losing move, refuted by the simple 19.Nxg5 - as played in the game. It was a blunder, that's true, but even the better 18...Be7 is still met by 19.Ng5! White wins there too, but it's more complicated and Black can still resist. After 18...c6 19.Nxg5 it was sheer destruction, and Mamedyarov rounded the game off with a nice final move.

    Bacrot was unable to make a second comeback in their second blitz game. He enjoyed a slight edge with White, but it didn't last long, and Mamedyarov was able to liquidate into a drawn rook ending. In fact he wound up with an advantage, primarily due to the gyrations Bacrot was forced to undergo to try to keep some play alive. Ultimately, Mamedyarov was happy to force a draw rather than go for a win, and so he advanced to the final against Kramnik.

    On the very first day of the tournament, in the very first set of matches, Mamedyarov defeated Kramnik 1.5-.5. Then he drew the first game with White and won the second with Black; this time he did things the usual way and won with White and drew with Black. The first game was a Four Knights with 4.g3, a tactical shootout that saw Mamedyarov fire the best shots. Impressive play by Mamedyarov, and the kind of game that makes for a deserving tournament winner.

    The opening of game two was a bit odd. Kramnik played a rare gambit in a Symmetrical English, and then seemed completely dumbfounded when Mamedyarov accepted it. Kramnik spent several minutes in thought, and didn't manage to achieve very much by way of compensation; if anything, he consistently lost ground over the next 10-15 moves. Soon enough an ending was reached where Black kept his extra pawn and had the more comfortable-looking position and not even a shred of danger anywhere on the horizon. That Kramnik somehow managed to regain his pawn and even press a little was incredible, but even so the position was too drawish for him to really get anything going. As in the final game with Bacrot, Mamedyarov didn't play ambitiously with the advantage, knowing that the most important thing was to keep control and hold the position. Normally, the game would have been agreed drawn at move 55 (if not sooner), but Kramnik tried for another 48 moves before running out of mating material.

    In sum, an impressive success by Mamedyarov. Will the boost in confidence translate into success at the World Cup in August? Conversely, will Kramnik pull himself out of his funk by then and regain his best form? Beats me, so I'll leave the prognosticating to the experts - my readers.

    Saturday
    Jun082013

    Mamedyarov Wins World Rapid Championship

    Shakhriyard Mamedyarov trailed Ian Nepomniachtchi by 2.5 points entering the last day; that is, with five rounds to go, and besides that he lost in their individual game, which meant that if the two of them tied for first Nepomniachtchi would win the title of World Rapid Champion on tiebreak. With Nepomniachtchi "on fire" with 9/10 after the first two days, the idea that Mamedyarov could win seemed almost absurd...but win he did.

    Whatever Nepomniachtchi had going those first days disappeared on Saturday. He drew his first two games with difficulty, while Mamedyarov won his first two to close to within a point and a half. Mamedyarov won his third game too, and in the meantime Nepomniachtchi lost with the white pieces to Alexander Grischuk. That put Mamedyarov just half a point back and Grischuk a point behind. In the penultimate round Nepomniachtchi drew - again with difficulty - while Mamedyarov won with Black against his countryman Gadir Guseinov and Grischuk beat Francisco Vallejo Pons. Mamedyarov's win was odd, as Guseinov self-destructed in a draw rook ending, succumbing perhaps to the deadly combination of too much ambition and too little time on the clock.

    Going into the last round then, Nepomniachtchi and Mamedyarov were tied for first, with Nepo having in effect draw (or tie) odds, with Grischuk half a point back. If they finished in a three-way tie it would have been Grischuk who would triumph on tiebreaks, so amazingly there was still everything to play for. Nepomniachtchi had White against Alexander Riazantsev, but didn't gain an advantage and Black obtained a fairly easy draw. Grischuk couldn't win with Black against Nikita Vitiugov either, but Mamedyarov broke through once again, finishing the day 5/5 by defeating Ernesto Inarkiev.

    That was a great result by Mamedyarov, and a startling collapse by Nepomniachtchi, though again in keeping with the recent trend of tournament leaders falling to pieces on the last day: Carlsen, Kramnik, Moiseenko, Kamsky, etc.

    Leading Standings:

    1. Mamedyarov 11.5/15
    2. Nepomniachtchi 11
    3. Grischuk 10.5
    4. Le Quang Liem 10
    5-14. Various players with 9

    The World Blitz Championship starts tomorrow at the same site with (at least approximately if not exactly) the same cast of characters.

    Wednesday
    Oct032012

    London Grand Prix: Gelfand, Mamedyarov and Topalov Tie For First

    The first leg of the current FIDE Grand Prix has come to an end, with three players sharing first (no tiebreaks) in the inaugural leg in London. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov came into the round in clear first, but whether due to a lack of ambition or simply good prep from Peter Leko he got nothing with the white pieces and finished quickly (in terms of time) with a 41-move draw.

    That gave Boris Gelfand, Veselin Topalov and Alexander Grischuk the chance to catch him in a tie for first, if they could win in the last round, and two of them did. Grischuk had White against Hikaru Nakamura, but despite that and the latter's generally poor form in the tournament he held a draw without much trouble. Nakamura repeated a relatively minor line of the Dragon he used as a surprise weapon against Anish Giri in Wijk aan Zee earlier this year. Grischuk was probably prepared and varied first, but may have been surprised anew by Nakamura's 18...Rab8 (18...b4 is usual). Grischuk didn't get much, and after 24.Bxg7 (the engine claims that 24.axb4 may offer White a very small edge...maybe) it was equal and the players were satisfied with an unforced (but reasonable) draw by repetition.

    Veselin Topalov won a Carlsen-like game. Anish Giri had a very small pull with White in a Queen's Gambit Declined sideline, but it looked for all the world like it was heading for a quick draw. It was an even ending, but Giri started to drift. His 30th and 31st moves weren't so bad, but they sowed the seeds of his later troubles. The bishop remained shut out on a5 for a long time, while 31.h4 allowed Topalov to break up the kingside and eventually create a pair of central passers. For whatever reason, Giri was badly outplayed in the endgame, and Topalov won (or at least tied for first) in a major event for the first time in some years.

    Another player who had gone quite some time without winning a round-robin event was Boris Gelfand, but with an impressive win over Rustam Kasimdzhanov, he did it. Generally speaking, it was a convincing victory, but as he admitted after the game he "blundered" 14...Bc6. (Linguistic note: there's a strange trend I've only noticed over the past year or so, but it seems to be everywhere now, and that's using the word "blundered" as a synonym for "overlooked". That isn't what the word means!) Fortunately for him, Kasimdzhanov "blundered" it too, and Gelfand went on to win in style. Kasimdzhanov blundered (correct usage!) into a forced mate at the end, but even without the helpmate White's win was routine.

    Final Standings:

    1-3. Topalov, Gelfand, Mamedyarov 7
    4. Grischuk 6.5
    5. Leko 6
    6. Wang Hao 5.5
    7-8. Ivanchuk, Adams 5
    9-10. Kasimdzhanov, Dominguez 4.5
    11-12. Giri, Nakamura 4

    Friday
    Sep282012

    London Grand Prix, Rounds 6 & 7: Gelfand Still Leads, Mamedyarov Surges, Nakamura Falters

    In round 6 of the London Grand Prix the action heated up after two rest days, one official and one not. Three games were decisive, and the other three were interesting as well.

    The leader, Boris Gelfand, drew with Vassily Ivanchuk in just 25 moves, but it was extremely interesting and saw the players break new ground. After 4.g3 Ba6 5.b3 b5 in a Queen's Indian, Gelfand played the relatively rare 6.Nbd2, to which Ivanchuk replied with the extremely rare 6...c5. Gelfand's response was a novelty, sacrificing a pawn with 7.d5. Such ideas are common, especially in the Queen's Indian, but with a knight on d2 and the pawn on b5 it was a genuinely different setting. Both sides had plenty of options along the way, so it would be interesting to see other players take up this variation. After a complex middlegame, the players repeated moves, and this was not a matter of laziness or fear: the repetition really was best for both players.

    Alexander Grischuk's game with Michael Adams was instructive for those who play closed systems against the Ruy. Adams' 16...c4 inaugurated a typical idea for Black in the Ruy, though in an unusual setting. (The normal setup sees Black play ...d5 to create a center where both players' center pawns are attacking each other.) This more or less sacrificed a pawn to get the bishop pair and control of d5 with a light-squared bishop against an extra but isolated d-pawn. Adams drew without any special difficulty.

    The draw between Peter Leko and Anish Giri was interesting as well. Leko gave up a pawn for a nasty initiative as White in a Byrne Attack Najdorf (sometimes mislabeled the English Attack, but that's only when Black meets 6.Be3 with ...e6; when it's ...e5 then American GM and former Candidate Robert Byrne gets the credit). It looked like Giri might be in some trouble, too, but 18...a5! was just the thing to spark his counterplay, and came just in the nick of time. Leko decided to keep things safe after that, and the result was a heavy piece ending where neither side could make any progress without serious risk to his king's safety.

    On to the decisive games. Hikaru Nakamura lost his third straight game to Wang Hao. He played a Reti and the position soon locked up. In the trench warfare that ensued, the most important pawn break would be ...f5, so Nakamura might have considered (and probably did consider) 34.g4 (not just restraining Black, but with the idea of pushing on to g5) as well as meeting 34.Nb1 Bxd5 with 35.cxd5, even though it's a pawn sac. On move 37, Nakamura's 37.Bc1 either missed or underestimated Wang Hao's "sweeper sealer" 37...e4! 38.dxe4 f4, followed by the second sac 39.g5 f3! Black was clearly better by this point, but not yet winning in case of 40.Bh3. Short of time, Nakamura grabbed the pawn with 40.Bxf3, and after 40...Be5 was lost. Black finished off with a series of power shots and gained the full point after his 47th move.

    Rustam Kasimdzhanov played a rare line against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's Meran and seemed to obtain an advantage, but he couldn't figure out what to do with it. One thing it seems he definitely should not have done was allow Mamedyarov's pawn to f3. There were plenty of inaccuracies and outright errors after that (notably, 29...fxg2 won pretty much on the spot - 30.Bxg2 Ng4 being the most obvious and straightforward point), but White's weak kingside eventually cost him the point.

    Finally, Veselin Topalov won a nice game with White against Leinier Dominguez. A slow strangulation-style game finished in a more characteristically Topalovian way, as he gave up a piece for what was eventually three pawns. As those three pawns were far advanced, connected passers and Dominguez's bishop had little to do, White won in comfort.

    That was round 6; on to round 7. Dominguez-Leko, Wang Hao-Topalov, Giri-Grischuk and Ivanchuk-Kazimdzhanov were all drawn; the last one, incredibly, in just 11 moves. If there's any mystery to this game it's around Kasimdzhanov's decision not to go for more with 7...Nb3. Then Black's queen has the c5 square, thus ruling out the "perpetual" in the game. The engines don't think White's compensation is sufficient, but judging by the speed with which the players finished I'm sure they know perfectly well what the engines have to say, and know that in the end White is doing alright.

    As for the decisive games, there were two. In one of them, Mamedyarov-Nakamura, both players continued their trend from yesterday: Mamedyarov won again to reach clear second, while Nakamura lost again and fell into a tie for last. Mamedyarov just outplayed Nakamura from the jump in a Fianchetto King's Indian, and although Mamedyarov often failed to prosecute his advantage as cleanly as he might have, he never let Nakamura catch back up, either. After 33...Qxc5(?), White's advantage was decisive, and there were no further hiccups. 37.Rxf4 was a nice shot, and Mamedyarov handled the final tactics perfectly.

    This would have put him into a tie for first, were it not for Gelfand's managing to win once again. Adams decided to put Gelfand's 2...Nc6 Sicilian to the test with the Rossolimo, but instead of an immediate swap on c6 (a la several of the Anand-Gelfand world championship games) he allowed Black to play ...Nge7 first and to recapture with the knight. Adams' position was certainly more pleasant to the eye and seemingly easier to play, but Gelfand's position relied on the power of the bishop pair. If he could unravel on the kingside, then the bishops (plus potential pressure down the c-file) could give him an advantage. Adams thus hastened to open the board before Black could finish his development, and with 24.c5 gave up a pawn. He never quite had enough, but he maintained some compensation until 34.Ng5?, a tactical error that allowed Gelfand to liquidate to a won rook ending.

    Winning the game, Gelfand moved to plus three and maintained his lead over the field. He has 5/7, Mamedyarov has 4.5, while Grischuk, Topalov and Leko all have 4. Here are the round 8 pairings, with player scores in parentheses:

    • Leko (4) - Grischuk (4)
    • Gelfand (5) - Giri (3)
    • Kasimdzhanov (2.5) - Adams (3)
    • Nakamura (2.5) - Ivanchuk (3)
    • Topalov (4) - Mamedyarov (4.5)
    • Dominguez (3) - Wang Hao (3.5)