Fabiano Caruana is now the sole leader of the Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix after winning his second game in a row, this time with the black pieces against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Jan Gustafsson analyses what was the clear game of the round. All the other battles were drawn, and though some of them featured spectacular moments it was only the longest game of the day, Tomashevsky-Jakovenko, that really threatened to end decisively.
Khanty-Mansiysk GP Round 4
Is Fabiano Caruana finally getting back on track after a shaky nine months following his Sinquefield Cup heroics? Yesterday he beat the Grand Prix leader Evgeny Tomashevsky and today it was the turn of the French no. 1, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
Jan Gustafsson gives us the low-down on the game!
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You can also watch the post-game press conference:
Almost all the other games and press conferences were about the intricacies of grandmaster preparation. We had improvements:
Jobava ½ - ½ Grischuk
In the Russian Team Championship Baadur Jobava lost a single game, but it wasn’t because of his opening:
Jakovenko played 9…Bd7 here and, despite being worse for much of the game, went on to win after Jobava blundered a whole rook in a spectacular meltdown that made it into our final report on that event.
Grischuk instead chose the stronger 9…0-0, and from the speed at which both players played it was clear they’d analysed the resulting complications. 14…Ba5! sacrificed a pawn:
Then after 15.Nxc6 Grischuk threw in a piece with 15…Qh4!, and after 16.Nxa5 he added a rook to the fire with 16…Rxf2! It all looked scary enough that he later asked his opponent if he’d thought he was getting mated but alas, it was only enough to force a perpetual check, with the game lasting a mere 30 minutes.
Gelfand ½ - ½ Giri
Here the new move came after 14.Nb3:
Peter Leko had played 14…Rfd8 against Boris in the World Team Championship, spending barely any time on his moves until move 20. It seems Giri has been using chess24, since he commented:
Nowadays you can see how much time people spent and I was shocked about why he played it instantly. Why do you instantly go to such a terrible position?
It should perhaps be noted that Leko still drew with some ease, but Giri’s 14…Na5 had the advantage that the computer’s suggested line for his opponent required some tricky only moves… and only seems to end in perpetual check in any case. Boris instead chose a more pragmatic approach, and though he was the defending side in a 4-rook ending it looked implausible he could lose a position in which he had an extra pawn.
Giri remarked afterwards:
I expected to get this position against Jakovenko, but he chose something else and got worse with White… and then beat me.
Giri added the moral that Jakovenko had then gone on to lose his next two games and was struggling against Tomashevsky, “so I don’t advise anyone to beat me!”.
Dominguez - Nakamura was a game where Nakamura was better prepared for a Sicilian battle, but could do nothing to prevent a quick draw when his opponent chose a safe response.
The most enjoyable account of opening adventures came, not for the first time in top chess history, from Peter Svidler.
Svidler ½ - ½ Karjakin
Peter Svidler came up with the idea of playing a “reversed” Grünfeld which, although not unknown to theory, he pointed out was “not particularly popular, because not everybody wants to play Black with White!” He set his second Maxim Matlakov onto it, and they came up with a novelty which Svidler got the opportunity to play in this position:
10.c4!? So far so good? Yes, though Peter noticed something during the game:
We looked at this and got to this position and I just started laughing out loud at the board, because I still remembered what we looked at and our preparation, but somehow only at the board it dawned on me that this is exactly the same position you get from the Bd2 line, if Black plays Bg7. It’s exactly the same position with colours reversed, and I started trying to remember theory…
I became incredibly upset because I could actually check all this theory from Black’s side before the game and see if there’s anything better than what we prepared, but then finally I thought there was some energy invested in this 10.c4 idea, which is a very interesting idea. This is still a novelty regardless of which colour you look at this position.
Soon afterwards Svidler spent nearly 16 minutes on his 12th move, but explained he was just choosing between ideas they’d looked at in preparation, and picked 12.Nd2 as it was the most tricky and “gives Black a chance to think he’s better”. In fact it was a triumph of preparation all the way up until 19…Rhd8:
He’d had this position on the board during preparation, but had decided that Karjakin would instead play 19…h6 - in the unlikely case the game got this far. When it did, Svidler immediately gave away any real advantage with 20.Bxh7?! and lamented afterwards:
Why couldn’t I spend half an hour at home looking at this, if I had this position on my screen?
The game fizzled out into a draw.
If anyone was going to recognise a Grünfeld position...
You can watch the post-game press conference in glorious technicolor:
Tomashevsky ½ - ½ Jakovenko
He was helped by something going badly wrong for his
opponent in the opening, with Tomashevsky highly critical of 12...a6, “a serious
positional mistake after which White gets a free advantage”, while 14…Nh5 also backfired, just encouraging an invasion of the white queen with 17.Qe7!
Jakovenko found some tricks to stay afloat, but ended up defending a bleak position a pawn down. Tomashevsky couldn’t quite break through, though, and was left ruing another missed opportunity.
So it’s Fabiano Caruana who leads both the table and the race for the two qualification spots, though Nakamura and Tomashevsky are still neck and neck and have seven rounds in which to stake a claim.
First there’s a rest day, though, before battle recommences on Tuesday. Let’s hope for less theoretical draws!
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