Reports May 16, 2021 | 11:24 PMby Colin McGourty

Anish Giri wins the Mr Dodgy Invitational… again!

Anish Giri has won the Mr Dodgy Invitational for the 2nd year in a row after defeating Baadur Jobava 7:3 in the final. What Baadur described as “a cool match” was much closer than the scoreline suggests, with the players exchanging blows for the first five games. The Georgian no. 1 found some incredible moves, but it’s Anish who continues to own the same photo of a man on a horse. Where can he go from here? Well, Baadur suggested “dance chess” as the new chess boxing.

How many pictures of a man on a horse does one man need?

You can replay all the games from the Mr Dodgy Invitational using the selector below.

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Jan Gustafsson and Mr Dodgy, who were joined first by Peter Svidler and later by the players after the match was over.

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Five days after 16 players began the Mr Dodgy Invitational it had all come down to a match between the tournament’s two stand-out players. Anish Giri started where he left off a year ago and defeated Pepe Cuenca (7:0), Nils Grandelius (6.5:2.5) and Daniil Dubov (7:5) on the way to the final. He’s only ever trailed in a match in the Mr Dodgy Invitational for a single game, against Dubov.

Baadur Jobava announced his presence in the tournament not just by taking down 3-time Blitz World Champion Alexander Grischuk in the 1st round (6.5:5.5) but by doing it while spending the whole time rocking to music on his stream. He went on to beat David Navara (6.5:3.5) and Vidit (6.5:4.5) to set up a showdown with Giri.

After last year’s final, where Navara didn’t win a game, this one was almost all we could have hoped for.

“Baadur’s tricky, he checked some Petroff for today - that’s tricky!” said Anish Giri after the match was over, and although the Petroff brought the Georgian no. 1 only four losses in a row, both players agreed that the positions out of the opening hadn’t warranted those results. The Petroff story began in Game 1, with Indian Grandmaster Sethuraman providing further proof that there’s a Chessable course out there for almost every opening you can try.

Black’s position should still have been defendable, but 31…Re8? ran into 32.Rg3!

There was nothing better than 32…g5, simply giving up the h6 pawn, and although after 33.Nxh6+ the conversion that followed was a little shaky, Anish got the job done in the end.

Game 2 was a relief to anyone who expected a walkover, as Baadur landed the killer blow after an enthralling game in which both sides had serious winning chances. The black queen had been tied to the defence of the f7-pawn for 16 moves, but it seemed safe to play 37…Qd6? now the pawn was only attacked once.

It wasn’t, as Baadur unleashed 38.Rxf7+! Kxf7 39.a7! and the a-pawn queens. The knight on f4 can’t give any discovered checks as it suddenly finds itself pinned to the king by the queen on f3.

Game 3 saw another blunder by Jobava in the Petroff and another win for Giri, but Baadur again struck back to win what looked sure to be a drawn rook endgame in the next game. He let Anish take the lead again, however, and this time not on account of a blunder but a pure mouse-slip. Baadur tried to trade off rooks on e1, but stopped one square short.

After five wins in a row for White, Jobava missed a trick with the white pieces in Game 6 and found himself in trouble. Just when it looked over, however, Giri stumbled with 40…Rc7? (40…Kg8! was the winning move), and Baadur struck with 41.Re6!

Things suddenly got wild, with 41…Rb1+ 42.Kh2 Qxf4! 43.gxf4 Rxa7, and although Black was soon briefly better it looked much more likely that Baadur would manage to win on time and prolong White's winning streak. It wasn’t to be, however, as Anish remained laser-focused and drew with some ease.

After stopping the sequence of wins for White, Giri went on to score perhaps his smoothest win of the match in Game 7 to take a 2-point lead. It would become 3 points in the next game, a minor tragedy given that Baadur played the move of the match.

Peter Svidler was highly critical of Giri not capturing with his knight on c6, but even if that decision was asking for trouble, the trouble only came because Anish failed to stop and ask himself just what Baadur had been thinking about when he spent 1 minute and 6 seconds on 13.Ndb5!?

Moves such as 13…Na6! seem to give Black the advantage, though there could be tricky times ahead for the black queen. Instead Anish blitzed out 13…Ne8? only to get hit by an “incredible” move that he admitted left him “completely shocked”, 14.Nd5!!

14…cxd5 15.Be3! was the point, and after 15…d4 16.Nxd4 Qxc4?! 17.Bxa8 Baadur was completely winning. From there on it was shaky, though as late as move 36 he had a trivial win (36.Bxg6!) before disaster struck on move 40, when he blundered away a full rook and the game. It was painful to watch.

That left Anish leading 5.5:2.5 and needing only a win to clinch the title, while Baadur needed a miracle. In a way that’s what he got in Game 9, since his switch to the Sicilian didn’t improve matters, and with 18.Rxh6! Giri should have been home and dry in the match. A couple of moves later, however, the Dutchman fumbled the win.

21.Qxc5 bxc5 22.Be4 should be a clear technical win, but the forced tactical alternative would have been a fitting way to end the match: 21.Bf7+! Kg7 22.Bxf6+! Kxf6 and 23.Ne4+! forks the king and queen.

Instead after 21.Qxh6?! Qxc3+ the game went on, and in fact for a while Jobava had chances. It helped that Anish mouse-slipped 52.g3? instead of 52.g4, but in the end a 79-move draw left Anish just half a point away from the title.

It wasn’t quite over, as Baadur got the chance to play one more flashy move, 14.Qxd6!?, capturing a pawn on d6.

The immediate justification is of course 14…exd6 15.Nxd6+, winning back the queen with a fork, but in fact 14…cxb5!, or the more spectacular 14…Qxc3+!, would have given Black an edge. Anish instead trusted his opponent with 14…0-0?!, and after 15.Qxc6 White could hope to win. In the end, however, Anish extinguished White’s initiative and went on to clinch the game and title when Baadur had to overpress in a must-win game.

Anish did a little dancing at the end.

Baadur himself hadn’t danced so much, which he put down to having chosen terrible music! He commented:

Thanks to Mr Dodgy for the invitation. It was really a big pleasure for me to play and I really enjoyed it very much. Also I want to tell to everybody that what I was dancing, this stuff, it’s not like disrespect to my opponents or something. I’m doing it already one year, starting from no. 1 in the FIDE list finishing with 100, so it doesn’t matter who I play, I’m just enjoying the life, the music and so on. Don’t take it personally! I do it anyway.

He put his successful tournament down to not bothering too much about the results.

Somebody cares too much. Players like Carlsen and Kasparov, for example, they’ve always been motivated by the result, they’re aiming at the result, but for somebody else it’s better not to focus on the result, just play and enjoy it.

Anish, meanwhile, had left nothing to chance, not even his music.

I had good music today. Yesterday I had to spend a lot of time to prepare against you, of course, all your openings, but also I had to select good songs for my playlist. But I think, Baadur, everybody loved your dancing. Everybody’s very happy.

For Anish (this is the song he mentions in the tweet), winning the photo of Mr Dodgy on a horse was the culmination of a deep plan.

It was worth it! Saving all my energy in the Candidates, and all my preparation directed towards this event. You saw, perhaps, a lot of novelties I kept still, so that I could show them. I had my goals clear, I had my priorities set before the start of the year, and it’s all coming true. So now I guess I will rest, take it easy, until the next year’s Mr Dodgy Invitational 3.

We’d all like to take a rest, of course, but the chess schedule simply won’t allow it. There’s just one week until the 3rd and final Major event on the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour (starting 17:00 CEST on Sunday May 23rd) and we’ll soon be announcing an incredible line-up! Stay tuned to all the action here on chess24.

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