General May 13, 2015 | 6:48 PMby Colin McGourty

Grand Prixview: What’s at stake in Khanty?

The fourth and final stage of the 2014-15 FIDE Grand Prix begins on Thursday, and by the time it’s over we’ll know two players who will join Vishy Anand in the 2016 Candidates Tournament – the qualifier to play a World Championship match against Magnus Carlsen. New soon-to-be US teammates Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura are among the favourites, but every player competing in Khanty-Mansiysk has at least a mathematical chance of qualification!

Evgeny Tomashevsky, Anish Giri and Fabiano Caruana at the opening ceremony | photo: official website

The Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix is a 12-player, 11-round tournament that starts tomorrow at 12:00 CEST.

The Round 1 pairings are as follows:

  • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave – Boris Gelfand
  • Baadur Jobava – Evgeny Tomashevsky
  • Alexander Grischuk – Peter Svidler
  • Fabiano Caruana – Leinier Dominguez
  • Dmitry Jakovenko – Anish Giri
  • Sergey Karjakin – Hikaru Nakamura

Grandmaster Jan Gustafsson previewed the event for chess24, first taking a look at the Road to the 2016 World Championship and then focusing on the three Grand Prix favourites: Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Evgeny Tomashevsky:

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Let’s follow up on Jan's work by taking a detailed look at how players can qualify for the 2016 Candidates Tournament.

Grand Prix standings

The current standings in the 2014-5 FIDE Grand Prix series are given below. Each player competes in three of the four events, all results count, and the cross (x) shows the players who will play in Khanty-Mansiysk. The final column shows the odds of a player finishing in the Top 2 and qualifying for the Candidates Tournament, as calculated by Tai Pruce-Zimmerman in his fascinating Chess by the Numbers blog (update: we've now changed the numbers to reflect Pruce-Zimmerman's latest calculations, based on the event pairings and the current live ratings):

PlaceNameBakuTashkentTbilisiKhanty-MansiyskTotalChance of 1-2
1Evgeny Tomashevsky82170x25251.8%
2Shakhriyar Mamedyarov35125752350%
3Fabiano Caruana15575x23071.1%
4Teimour Radjabov50501102100%
5Hikaru Nakamura82125x20749.1%
6Dmitry Andreikin20170102000%
7Boris Gelfand15515x1707%
8Dmitry Jakovenko30140x1708.6%
9Sergey Karjakin8275x1577.5%
10Rustam Kasimdzhanov3515751250%
11Alexander Grischuk8240x1223.1%
12Baadur Jobava7540x1150.2%
13Anish Giri4075x1151.1%
14Maxime Vachier-Lagrave7540x1150.6%
15Peter Svidler8220x1020.1%
16Leinier Dominguez1075x850.003%

Peter Svidler wasn't letting his 0.1% chance of qualifying get him down! | photo: official website

Some observations:

  • All players competing in Khanty-Mansiysk have a mathematical chance of qualifying
  • No player not competing in Khanty-Mansiysk can qualify, not even 2nd-placed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, since a last-place finish for Fabiano Caruana would still see the Italian/American earn 10 points and move above Mamedyarov
  • In most cases a 3rd place for Tomashevsky would be enough for him to qualify, though if it finished (with no shared places) 1. Nakamura, 2. Caruana, 3.Tomashevsky the first two would qualify, since the points on offer are 170, 140 and 110
  • Tomashevsky is still the frontrunner, but his predicted chance of winning is lower than Nakamura or Caruana’s due to his rating – a big factor in the simulation of final outcomes.

The chances of winning the Grand Prix are only part of the picture when it comes to Candidates Tournament qualification, though, so to explain some of the players’ motivations in Khanty-Mansiysk we have to look at other possible routes to qualification.

Jan was dwarfed by the current leader, who has his eyes on the Grand Prix trophy | photo: official website 

The 2016 Candidates Tournament will feature eight players:

  1. Vishy Anand - the previous challenger, and the only player already confirmed
  2. The Top 2 from the World Cup - except in the unlikely event Anand both plays and makes the final, in which case the 3rd placed player would qualify
  3. The Top 2 from the Grand Prix - unless one or both players make the final of the World Cup, in which case they would be replaced by the next player below them in the Grand Prix
  4. The Top 2 by rating - unless one or both already qualified through the World Cup or Grand Prix, in which case the qualifiers would be the next players by rating. Note that to qualify by rating you must also play in either the Grand Prix or the World Cup – so Veselin Topalov may need to play the World Cup, although he dislikes the rapid chess element
  5. 1 player nominated by the organiser - so far we have no venue, but Russia, Azerbaijan or a Rex Sinquefield-backed US look like possible contenders, all of whom would no doubt nominate a local player

It’s worth looking at the race to qualify by rating in greater detail. The relevant rating is the average of all 12 monthly rating lists for 2015. After 5 months we have (an asterisk shows a player competing in Khanty-Mansiysk):

  1. * Fabiano Caruana: 2807.6 (2820, 2811, 2802, 2802, 2803)
  2. Veselin Topalov: 2798.8 (2800, 2800, 2798, 2798, 2798)
  3. * Alexander Grischuk: 2797.6 (2810, 2810, 2794, 2794, 2780)
  4. * Hikaru Nakamura: 2789.4 (2776, 2776, 2798, 2798, 2799)
  5. * Anish Giri: 2787.4 (2784, 2797, 2790, 2790, 2776)
  6. Vladimir Kramnik: 2781.8 (2783, 2783, 2783, 2783, 2777)
  7. Wesley So: 2780.8 (2762, 2788, 2788, 2788, 2778)
  8. Levon Aronian: 2778 (2797, 2777, 2770, 2770, 2776)

You can see that Giri and Grischuk, whose chances of finishing in the Top 2 of the Grand Prix series are slim, might actually be keen to see Caruana and Nakamura win the Grand Prix series! That would remove two of their closest ratings rivals from the race while, in contrast, a Grand Prix victory for Tomashevsky and Gelfand would be their nightmare scenario.

Update: Martin Bennedik made a reasonable suggestion on Twitter:

If we do that for the current live ratings (14/5/2015, before any games), we get:

  1. Caruana: 2804.92
  2. Topalov: 2798.33
  3. Nakamura: 2795.18
  4. Grischuk: 2790.02
  5. Kramnik: 2782.38
  6. Giri: 2780.75
  7. So: 2779.17
  8. Aronian: 2778

We can see there that Nakamura has moved ahead of Grischuk and Kramnik ahead of Giri, but of course Grischuk and Giri's ratings and hence any predictions based on them are likely to change in the next two weeks.

Of course the players in Khanty-Mansiysk also have a vested interest simply in increasing or maintaining their ratings during the Grand Prix.

Nakamura started the year with a relatively low 2776 rating, but if he keeps up his current level he might not need to qualify via the Grand Prix | photo: official website

Just to confuse matters still further, it’s worth pointing out that 3rd place in the Grand Prix series might still be enough. All that would require is for one of the Grand Prix qualifiers to get to the final of the World Cup – or for a qualified Candidates Tournament player to withdraw for any reason.

Another point of note is that Kramnik and Aronian’s chances of qualifying for the Candidates Tournament now seem to lie – barring a ratings surge or a wild-card nomination – in the 128-player World Cup knockout in Baku this September. 

Vladimir Kramnik and Levon Aronian earned some champagne - and rating points - for helping Siberia to win the Russian Team Championship recently, but was it too little too late? | photo: Russian Chess Federation

Vladimir did manage to win in Tromsø in 2013, but it’s a very tough trick to pull off even once, never mind twice in a row. The same seems to apply to Wesley So, with US Championship Chief Arbiter Tony Rich no doubt hoping the ratings points the young player lost when he was forfeited against Varuzhan Akobian don't later make a crucial difference.

But enough of the bigger picture! For the next two weeks we get to watch another 11 days of chess action featuring 12 top players. The really dedicated can even warm up by watching the opening ceremony  

We’ll of course have all the games live here on chess24 and you can also watch on our free mobile apps:


Don’t miss it!

See also:

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