Baku Grand Prix Round 3 (click a result to view the game with computer analysis)
When it comes to the battle for the World Championship title Boris Gelfand is a man possessed, whose whole life has been directed towards that goal. In a 2010 interview for Crestbook he shared what Viktor Korchnoi told him back in 1991:
Since then Gelfand did in fact fight his way to a World Championship match, defeating Alexander Grischuk in the final game of the final match of the 2011 Candidates Tournament in Kazan. Although he lost the subsequent match against Anand – edged out in the rapid play-off – his fire was by no means extinguished. In the 2013 Candidates Tournament in London his defence of a close to lost position against Vladimir Kramnik in the penultimate round saw that tournament swing back in Magnus Carlsen’s favour. He destroyed more dreams in the 2013 Grand Prix in Paris, when his joint first place meant that Fabiano Caruana – who formally won the tournament on tiebreaks but had to share the points – would have to wait at least another three years for a shot at the title. Gelfand finished 4th out of 22 players.
I remember as if it were today the closing ceremony at which Korchnoi sat between me and Ivanchuk. And he said: “guys, don’t get upset, you’ve got every chance of becoming World Champion. I reached my peak playing in Baguio, aged 47… Then I played another match for the World Championship when I was 50. In this hall here there are lots of guys who shout that they’re going to be World Champion, or promise they will be. They haven’t got a hope, while you’ve got every chance. So work on it and everything will be ok”. I remembered Viktor’s words and continue to work, not thinking about results, but about the process of improvement itself.
At 46 Gelfand is now getting even closer to Korchnoi’s peak,
and has been in fine form in Baku, playing a beautiful game against Andreikin
in Round 1, a fascinating draw with Caruana in Round 2, and now getting the
better of Grischuk in Round 3. The result was logical, since Boris had won an
extra pawn and went on to up the pressure and, at one point, achieve a
winning position, but there was of course an element of luck. By the end
Grischuk was left with 6 seconds for 2 moves, then 2 seconds for his last move,
and finally he hit the clock just after he’d been flagged making the move 60...Kg6:
The position was drawn and from move 61 onward increments would have been added. Grischuk's dismay was compounded by the fact this was amazingly the first classical game in which the time trouble addict had actually lost on time.
In some ways, though, that was only the clearest time tragedy of the day, since the clock wreaked havoc elsewhere as well. Leinier Dominguez seemed to have things under control against Sergey Karjakin, until the Cuban, pressed for time, went for a forced sequence at breakneck speed. When the dust had settled after 40.Bc5!…
…it was time to resign. Black is in zugzwang – if the king moves Bf8-g7 will make the win trivial, while a bishop move (Dominguez played 40…Bh8) allows the king to advance and support the h-pawn.
Both players were unhappy with the time control with increments only after move 60, which although entertaining for fans seems to have survived due to copy/paste inertia despite player pressure and an open letter from the ACP President Emil Sutovsky.
Rustam Kasimdzhanov, while not especially in favour of the current time control, made it clear in dicussions between the players that he was unhappy with Sutovsky’s approach, and commented in Saturday’s press conference:
I think the best players in the world should have no trouble managing their time, with or without increment.
That was said after the Uzbekistan player made his last ten moves up to the first time control in around two minutes, surviving what he discovered was a surprisingly unpleasant position against Evgeny Tomashevsky.
The only game of the day not to feature time issues at all was Radjabov-Svidler, where an offbeat opening saw Peter Svidler thinking on move 4 and Teimour Radjabov burning up time from move six onwards. Afterwards both players felt the real drama had been the hidden one of the opening, but it didn’t last long, with Svidler concluding:
The game was effectively over on move 11.
As the regulations don’t allow draws quite that early, though, the players stretched things out to move 31. Mamedyarov-Andreikin, meanwhile, went to move 36. Dmitry Andrekin finally seemed to get a good position with winning chances, but took the Soviet approach after two losses in a row and settled for a stabilising draw.
The game of the day was Nakamura-Caruana, with Hikaru playing the same structure Svidler had used to beat Mamedyarov the day before. Unsurprisingly, however, Caruana knew exactly what he was doing, while Nakamura was kicking himself afterwards for his decision on move 16:
Here he played 16.Rd1 and 17.Kf2, rather than castle long. Although you can imagine the c-file not seeming the most welcoming home for the king, Nakamura commented in the press conference:
In this game I should just be a man, castle long and try and attack. If I lose I lose, but just attack.
He was even more succinct later on Twitter:
Once again Caruana, for whom the colour of the pieces seems
to make little difference, seized the initiative, and soon he was on course to
pick up another win, aided by the fact that his American opponent was
dangerously low on time. Instead, though, it was Caruana who first missed some
clearer chances and then let all his edge slip with one bad blunder:
36…Ng2? in fact left Caruana needing to play very precisely to force a perpetual check and avoid defeat. He commented:
I wanted to play Ne6, and then I saw Ng2 and I thought I’m winning... I thought e3 wasn’t protected. Ng2 was a terrible move. The rest I can live with!
So Caruana is so far demonstrating the kind of form he showed in the Sinquefield Cup when his streak of wins came to an end – still managing to get winning positions, but failing to seal the deal. He remains tied on 2/3 with Nakamura and Svidler, with Gelfand leading the pack:
It’s still early for the Baku Grand Prix, however, as no less than eight rounds remain, with Round 4 on Sunday before the first rest day on Monday. You can replay all the games so far, and watch the action live with computer analysis and video commentary here on chess24.
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