Evgeny Tomashevsky refuses to make life easy for his more illustrious Grand Prix colleagues. The series leader seemed dead and buried in Round 1 in Khanty-Mansiysk, but went on to beat Baadur Jobava in a game analysed by chess24's Jan Gustafsson. Dmitry Jakovenko was the only other winner, mercilessly punishing some loose play from Anish Giri. After the games Hikaru Nakamura had interesting thoughts on the Grand Chess Tour while Fabiano Caruana talked about switching back to the US.
Khanty-Mansiysk GP Round 1 (click a result to replay the game with computer analysis)
With two wins and four draws the first round in Khanty-Mansiysk wasn’t exactly a thriller, but the tournament as a whole could still be a classic. As we pointed out in our preview, all the contenders for one of the Candidates Tournament qualification spots are in action, and Peter Svidler was comparing it to the 2013 Candidates in London:
This has the potential of being a very, very interesting and exciting tournament to follow.
That was the verdict he came up with in consultation with Alexander Grischuk, though their game in Round 1 wasn’t a case in point.
The Russian stars limped over the required 30-move mark after Svidler played a line of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted that had already earned him two easy draws with Black (against Aronian and Cheparinov). He explained:
The line is nowhere near as safe as it appears from those games… It’s good to play against people who expect the Grünfeld!
At least that gave us Peter Svidler’s services as a commentator, including a summary of both Baadur Jobava as a player and how his opening with White had gone against Evgeny Tomashevsky:
He’s one of the more naturally gifted players on the circuit right now, but if things start going wrong for him they might go really badly wrong… But if this is not better for White nothing is!
Jan Gustafsson explains how things nevertheless did go badly wrong for Jobava:
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The other decisive game saw Anish Giri, sometimes criticised for playing too solidly, throw caution to the wind against Dmitry Jakovenko. To be fair, it was already getting tough after 19.c4…
But taking the pawn with 19…Nxc4? was soon proven to be a mistake, since after the all-but-forced 20.Rc1 b5 21.Bxc4 bxc4 22.f3 Nf6 23.Rxc4 Qe6 24.Bxf6 Qxf6 25.Qxf6 gxf6 the ending was very ugly.
Perhaps all rook endings are drawn, but not today, and Dmitry Jakovenko has suddenly made himself a fourth contender for the three-horse race for the two Candidates Tournament places
None of the remaining draws was entirely routine. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave came up with the most attractive sequence of the day, with his rook going on a sacrificial rampage against Boris Gelfand:
18.Rxf6! d4 19.Rxc6! Sadly, though, it all ended with White a pawn up in a position where he could do nothing more than force a perpetual check to avoid getting mated on g2.
Caruana has earned a reputation as the greatest threat to the Berlin in world chess, but although he seemed to get something against Leinier Dominguez...
...it fizzled out into a draw:
That was the cue for an interesting press conference, with Fabiano Caruana explaining how he came to switch from the Italian to the US Chess Federation.
It seems he was the first to have the idea.
I always had the option to switch federations because I have two passports, Italian and American. In St. Louis last year I had the idea, and a lot of other people also seemed very interested in me joining the US Chess Federation. It’s something I’m very excited about. I’m looking forward to competing in team events for the US.
He was asked if this was going to be one of his last events as an Italian player, since the announcement of his switch had mentioned he might change federation before the Sinquefield Cup this autumn:
I don’t know which will be my last event, because I still have a contract with the Italian Chess Federation, but for sure next year I’ll be playing under the American flag. It was great – I played ten years for Italy, I had a lot of support from the Chess Federation and from chess fans in Italy, so it helped me grow as a player. I went there at 13 years old as a FIDE Master, so yes, it’s been a long journey.
During the press conference Hikaru Nakamura commented in the chess24 broadcast chat:
In his own game against Sergey Karjakin he played the Sicilian Dragon and things got tense when Sergey spent nearly 18 minutes on 19.g5:
Nakamura explained the computer had preferred capturing on g6 first, and spent 34 minutes to reply with 19…Ne5. Teimour Radjabov was again on hand to explain the action on Twitter:
Alas, no-one was in hara-kiri mode yet and a draw was agreed on move 30. In the post-game press conference Sergey Karjakin was asked about not playing in Norway Chess despite winning the event for the last two years:
Of course I wanted to play there and actually I was invited first, but then they changed the format. Ok, my rating is not good enough to play there, but I was hoping to be nominated… but I wasn’t. Ok, this is a question to the organisers and not to me.
Hikaru Nakamura did qualify for the Grand Chess Tour and said he was looking forward to playing the world’s top players, but…
As far as the Tour itself, I don’t really see the point, frankly. I know everyone makes a big deal about it, but you’re looking at three existing tournaments and I think each tournament had something very unique about it prior to this Grand Tour. For example, in London it was only five or six rounds (or seven rounds a few years ago), so it was a bit shorter, but there were always some exciting players, some of the Brits and some young players as well. That was very nice. St. Louis - I think the conditions were perhaps a little bit better than at some of the other tournaments and now you have uniform conditions, essentially. You look at Norway, they had a big first prize and now they have a lower first prize.
Obviously I think it’s going to be interesting, but I’m not a big fan. That’s just my take. To add one more thing, I think if there were more tournaments it could be interesting, but until there’s another tournament, you know in Indonesia or somewhere like that, to me I think it’s just similar to the Grand Prix, basically.
The prize money difference for Norway Chess is that last year Sergey Karjakin won €100,000 (about $114,000), while this year the winner gets $75,000, although there’s also $75,000 up for grabs for the overall winner of the Grand Tour.
Meanwhile, though, all the focus is on the Grand Prix in Khanty-Mansiysk, and with 10 rounds to go it’s still anyone’s to win. Round 2 starts at 12:00 CEST on Friday 15 May and you can of course watch all the games live here on chess24. Alternatively you can watch on our free mobile apps:
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