Reports Dec 14, 2019 | 9:53 AMby Colin McGourty

Jerusalem GP R1 Tiebreaks: Mamedyarov falls

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is out of the race to qualify for the 2020 Candidates Tournament (unless Azerbaijan make the Russian organisers a wild card offer they can’t refuse!) after he took the lead but went on to lose to Dmitry Jakovenko in tiebreaks. The battle is now between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ian Nepomniachtchi, who won their tiebreaks 2:0, with Wesley So the only other player still in contention. So plays Nepo next in the quarterfinals and could help Maxime, since a win for Wesley would let MVL wrap up Candidates qualification this weekend.

Jakovenko shattered Mamedyarov's hopes of qualifying for the Candidates | photo: Niki Riga, official website 

You can replay all the Jerusalem FIDE Grand Prix games using the selector below:

And here’s the Round 1 tiebreaks commentary from Evgeny Miroshnichenko and Ernesto Inarkiev:

Jakovenko knocks out Mamedyarov

It’s been a tough year for Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who was rated 2817 and world no. 3 in January. He then went on to drop 50 points before stabilising and now finding himself at 2770 and world no. 7. He went into the Jerusalem Grand Prix with 10 Grand Prix points for winning the Riga Grand Prix, making him Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s closest pursuer. As in Moscow, however, he’s now been knocked out in Round 1 in Jerusalem, ending his hopes of qualifying for the Candidates via the Grand Prix.

For a while Mamedyarov looked like a very realistic challenger for Magnus Carlsen, but if he is going to play a World Championship match his next chance will be in 2022 | photo: Niki Riga, official website 

That didn’t seem a likely outcome when he started the day by comfortably beating Dmitry Jakovenko with the white pieces in the first game. Jakovenko is a dangerous opponent, however, as MVL discovered in the Round 3 tiebreaks of this year’s World Cup, and the Russian managed to hit back to take the match to 10-minute games. It looked like self-inflicted damage for Mamedyarov, who, needing only a draw, instead stayed true to his style and pushed an early g5. Initially it went well, but after 14.cxd4 things began to go wrong for the Azerbaijan player:

14…Be6!, or 14…Bd7, hoping to castle queenside, were strong moves for Black, who is still applying heavy pressure on f2. Instead Shakh opted for 14…Kf8?! and after 15.h3 was committed to sacrificing the knight with 15…Nxd4 16.Nxd4 Bxd4 17.hxg4. It was still a murky position after 17…Bxg4, but Dmitry managed to consolidate before gobbling up pawns and easing to victory.

Mamedyarov got nothing with White in the first 10-minute game, and then in the second Jakovenko repeated his trick of neutralising Shakh’s attacking efforts on the kingside before going on to win the game smoothly with his queenside pawns. 

That’s probably the end of the road for Mamedyarov when it comes to the 2020 Candidates Tournament, since it was announced that the wild card would be decided between Russian players only. On the other hand, you wouldn’t entirely rule out sources in Azerbaijan offering an eye-watering sum of money to buy their guy at least a chance.

MVL and Nepo remain on collision course

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is now tantalisingly close to qualifying for his first ever Candidates, but we've said that before! | photo: Niki Riga, official website 

The other main Candidates contenders Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ian Nepomniachtchi also won their first tiebreak games with the white pieces, but unlike Mamedyarov they made no mistake in the second, going on to win 2:0. For MVL it was a case of his proving yet again that the Berlin Wall can be toppled if you’re willing to invest the time in mastering it. As so often, it was the traditional central break that sealed the deal:

28.e6! left Veselin Topalov helpless, but in fact the Bulgarian had already by this point completely misplayed the opening. There was no stopping the white king infiltrating to pick up pawns, help the e-pawn queen and even win the black rook, if given the chance. Veselin had seen enough and resigned on move 32.

MVL stayed true to his Najdorf in the following game and Topalov got a position with potential, but when complications arose Maxime was at his razor-sharp best and easily defused Veselin’s attempt to win on demand.

Ian Nepomniachtchi's risky chess was ultimately rewarded | photo: Niki Riga, official website 

Ian Nepomniachtchi had lived very dangerously against Boris Gelfand in the classical games and didn’t entirely convince when he varied from the Sicilian line in which Magnus Carlsen had mated Peter Svidler in the GRENKE Chess Classic earlier this year with 11.h4!? (Peter played 11.Ne3)

Boris took the chance to play as boldly as possible – 11...b5!? 12.Bxb5 d5!? 13.Ne3 d4 14.Nd5 f5!? – but when he later pushed f4 instead of taking on e4 he allowed Nepo to liquidate into a heavy-piece position where White was totally dominant and won in 44 moves. Gelfand came close to hitting back in the second game, but when his attack ran out of steam it turned out he was losing material due to his weak back rank.      

That meant that although the Jerusalem Grand Prix started with 9 players in with a mathematical chance of qualifying for the Candidates only 3 remain: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who will reach at least 14 points (and can score a maximum of 24), Ian Nepomniachtchi with 10 (max 20) and Wesley So with 6 (max 16). The curiosity is that they’re in the same half of the draw:

MVL can now clinch a place in the Candidates in the quarterfinals. If So beats Nepomniachtchi then an MVL win over Andreikin will be enough. Alternatively, of course, if Nepo and MVL both win their matches then the MVL-Nepo semi-final becomes huge. Maxime’s advantage is that even if he loses he can still make the Candidates if Nepo fails to win the final. In fact if Maxime loses to Andreikin in the quarterfinals he’ll still qualify if Dmitry can win the semifinal.

Wild card Dmitry Andreikin can be the Candidates kingmaker, and he might also have a route there himself - as with Karjakin and Jakovenko if he won the tournament with some wins in classical chess he could still theoretically finish 3rd in the series and become eligible for a match for the Russian wild card spot | photo: Niki Riga, official website 

Andreikin looks in good form after pressuring Radek Wojtaszek in both classical games, finding a nice drawing resource in the first tiebreak game and then surviving some dicey moments to outplay Radek in complications in the second.

And in other news...

Wei Yi's victory meant it was a 3rd Round 1 defeat for Anish Giri in the Grand Prix series | photo: Niki Riga, official website 

With Mamedyarov’s defeat the bottom half of the pairings tree has suddenly become much less relevant for the Candidates, but it provided a lot of action on the first day of tiebreaks in Jerusalem. The quickest match to end was Giri vs. Wei Yi. In the first game Anish Giri thought for a long time in what appeared a promising position for White, but finding nothing he decided to repeat for a draw. Anish wasn’t going to make the same mistake in the second game, but this time his aggression backfired:

30…Nxf4? A nice but fundamentally flawed idea. 31.Qe7! Nh3+ 32.Kf1 Qf5+ 33.Kg2 Rd7 34.Nxf6+ Bxf6:

Now Giri would be winning if not for the idea he’d missed: 35.Qe8+! Driving the king to a dark square. 35...Kg7 36.Qxd7+! and Black resigned, since 36…Qxd7 is met by 37.Bxf6+ and White emerges an exchange up with an easily won position.

Perfection, of a kind, was what Sergey Karjakin was after | photo: Niki Riga, official website 

That meant it was left to Sergey Karjakin to live the dream and win a 9-game match by drawing every game (the final one was Armageddon, where a draw for Black counts as a match win):

To be fair, it was Karjakin who had pressed in more of the games and had been completely winning in Armageddon.

7 tiebreak matches meant the stage was still crowded on Friday | photo: Niki Riga, official website 

Wang Hao-Navara almost went the same way, though the 7 draws it began with were no reflection on how hard the players had fought. Wang Hao missed a good chance in the penultimate game before David Navara scored a convincing positional win in the final blitz game:

Black has attacked the troublesome c5-knight, but David could ignore that with 28.Ng4! (threatening Qxh6+ and mate) 28…g5 29.Nf6+ Kg7 30.Nxe8+ Rxe8 31.Nxe6+ Nxe6 and he went on to exploit his extra material in style.

Navara faces Jakovenko in the quarterfinals, with all-Russian semi-finals still a possibility. Tune in to all the crucial quarterfinal action live here on chess24 from 14:00 CET!

See also:

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