Dmitry Jakovenko can now snatch Candidates Tournament qualification from Hikaru Nakamura’s grasp if he manages to win their encounter in tomorrow’s final round. Jakovenko will have the black pieces after today’s victory over Sergey Karjakin enabled him to catch the leaders, Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana, who drew their game. Caruana needs a draw to be sure of joining Vishy Anand as a participant in the 2016 qualifier to play a match against Magnus Carlsen.
Round 10 was relatively tame compared to the high drama of the previous round, but it set things up nicely for the final day showdown:
The suspicion had been that Caruana and Nakamura might play out a tame draw rather than risk their qualification chances, but Hikaru came out punching with the Dragon Sicilian.
Caruana steered things towards safer waters, but 15…Nb6 got him thinking, and saw an amusing moment in the post-game press conference:
Caruana: I could remember what happened after Rd8 but not Nb6.
Nakamura: Nb6 is a novelty, so it’s not that you forgot anything!
Caruana spent a long time thinking over the next few moves, but was doing fine even before he began to get optimistic after 26…h5?!
Teimour Radjabov was shocked by Nakamura’s choice:
h5 is a crazy move – somehow I just thought I was much faster, but I’m not faster at all.
The race of pawns on either side of the board began to look like one Caruana could actually win, but he described the position as “a mess” and was down to 5 minutes when he decided he wasn't in the mood for a pawn race:
36.Rd1!? followed by the rook going to d7 and giving perpetual checks stopped the game in its tracks. Caruana explained he’d thought he wasn’t running any risks in the other lines he could have played, but:
I didn’t have much time and for no reason I decided to just end the game.
Watch the full press conference:
The other critical game was Jakovenko-Karjakin. Both Russian players needed a win to have any chance of qualifying for the Candidates through the Grand Prix, so Karjakin went for a dangerous line with Black. The risk was within reasonable limits until 23…Ng4?!, which ran into a fine refutation Sergey had missed:
24.Bb4! Rd8 25.Bd6! Nxe3 26.Rc5! and Karjakin was forced to give up his queen with 26…Rxd6. For a while after that nothing seemed to be happening, but then a kingside pawn storm saw Jakovenko break through the black defences. Even then, there were unwelcome echoes of the miraculous escape Gelfand had pulled off the day before.
Here Jakovenko was afraid that if he played 42.Qc7 Rxf6 43.Qxb7 his opponent would be able to build a fortress with his rook against the queen, so instead chose 42.g5. The spectre of a fortress never quite went away until the very last moves, though, when a relieved Jakovenko finally knew he was winning.
Jakovenko now has more wins than anyone else in Khanty-Mansiysk but could really do with one more – with the black pieces against Hikaru Nakamura. A tough ask? Yes, although he did already beat Fabiano Caruana with Black!
The day’s other win was less dramatic, in part because neither Baadur Jobava nor tournament leader Leinier Dominguez were challenging for the top Grand Prix places, but also because Dominguez failed to put up much resistance. Things started to slip with 19…Qh5?! (19...Qf6!) and then 22…Ba5? was a clear mistake:
Dominguez told Jobava he’d missed 23.Qxa5 Qxe5 24.Rc1 Rfc8 (instead he played 24…Rac8) 25.Rc6!, but even without that move the line is bad for Black. In the game there was nothing Dominguez could do to stop Jobava creating a passed pawn on the queenside, when the outcome was inevitable.
That win meant only Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has failed to win yet in Khanty-Mansiysk. In Round 10 the Frenchman drew with ease against Peter Svidler, who in turn was happy to end a run of three defeats in a row. He was less happy when Maxime mentioned he’d actually played a game in this line of the Zaitsev Variation of the Ruy Lopez, which had escaped Peter's attention:
If it turns out that I repeated something Maxime had already played and this is the first novelty then this lines up perfectly with the first three losses. Because to go for this knowing this might happen is idiocy of the highest order - this is not a pleasant endgame.
The good and bad news for Svidler was that there was indeed a 2010 Aeroflot game of Maxime’s that had reached exactly the same position after 15.Qf3 (Svidler had thought for 18 minutes 30 seconds on his 14th move), though 15…c6 already deviated from 15…g6 in that game. The endgame Svidler disliked was reached with 21.gxf3:
He felt that if Maxime could get his king to d3 and play f4 he’d be winning. In fact both those things did happen in the game…
But Black was in time to liquidate the position with 31…Rxe4 32.Rxd6+ Kxd6 33.Kxe4 exf4+ Draw
The post-game press conference was as enjoyable as ever when Svidler’s involved, including a discussion of his regular breaking of limbs and:
Everyone has his favourite Svidler loss to tease Svidler with. Generally it’s those games where I resigned in drawn positions, but this one I’m surprised by… I’ll add it to my collection.
Of the two remaining games Gelfand-Tomashevsky can safely be passed over in silence. It seems it was again good preparation from Evgeny Tomashevsky, who noted the position he played for is better than the computer indications initially suggest. Gelfand was never worse, though, and accepted a draw by repetition.
The remaining encounter between Alexander Grischuk and Anish Giri was extremely double-edged, with Giri claiming he’d thought he was winning until Grischuk’s 20.d5! came as a rude awakening. In the following sequence White seemed to be well on top, but Alexander was suffering from his usual time trouble issues. That led to an otherwise illogical result – a draw after 32.Qc2:
Giri explained why he accepted his opponent’s draw offer:
You offered me a draw and I had a big time advantage, but against you it doesn’t count! So I thought, what is my position? And my position feels as though Black is worse.
Both players noted that after 32…Bh4 things are far from clear and agreed the minimum 30 move Sofia Rules in place in the tournament were misguided. As Grischuk put it:
I think it’s an extremely stupid move that you can offer a draw after move 30. It’s such a stupid number. Either you should allow draws from the beginning or at least after move 40. 30 moves just interrupts a lot of very interesting games. The people are in zeitnot (time trouble), the position is double-edged and they agree to a draw. It’s extremely stupid.
Who are we to argue? You can watch that press conference below:
So then, the cross table before the final round is as follows:
Points to note (now updated with much-needed help from Chess by the Numbers):
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