Fabiano Caruana is back. The Italian-American’s third win in four games – analysed for us by Jan Gustafsson - not only kept him ahead of the pack in the final FIDE Grand Prix in Khanty-Mansiysk but helped cement his position as Magnus Carlsen’s leading rival. Peter Svidler and Sergey Karjakin were the other winners on the most exciting day of the Grand Prix so far, with only wild time trouble saving Boris Gelfand against Leinier Dominguez and Baadur Jobava sowing some more mayhem on the board.
Despite, or perhaps because, so much is at stake, we’ve seen
a slow start to the Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, but on Wednesday things really got going:
Even the one relatively quick draw, Tomashevsky-Nakamura, was hugely tense. Evgeny Tomashevsky came into the final Grand Prix leading the series as a whole and despite his current -1 score would still qualify for the 2016 Candidates Tournament if the event ended today.
He could have dealt a killer blow to his closest rival in that race if he’d beaten Nakamura, and after 14…Nd5!? that was a distinct possibility:
Both players agreed Black is acknowledging he’s worse and White is now playing for only two results, but Tomashevsky couldn’t find any way to make progress.
According to a simulation carried out by the Chess by the Numbers blog we referred to in our preview article, Tomashevsky now has a 44.3% chance of qualification, while after six draws Nakamura’s chances are 31.1%. The other big contender is Sergey Karjakin, who's up to 21% after heaping yet more misery on Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
Outwardly things seemed to start off well for the Frenchman when his 12.a3 sent his opponent into a 33-minute think, with Sergey burning up almost an hour and a half on his next eight moves. That was where the good news ended for Maxime, though. He explained:
I played this interesting move that’s more or less a novelty, at least when I prepared it. It leads to very interesting play. Maybe it was not the wisest choice for today as the play is very complicated and as soon as I got out of my preparation I started to make bad move after bad move. I immediately blundered with 21.Rc1?
Karjakin played 21…c5! and neither he nor the c-pawn ever looked back. The final position on move 38 was crushing:
So it was three losses in a row for Maxime and two wins in a row for Sergey, but Karjakin couldn’t quite take the lead due to yet another win for Fabiano Caruana.
Alexander Grischuk also played a novelty that seemed to backfire, later commenting:
I played a new move and after the very first reply I couldn’t remember what to do and I started to fight for equality four moves afterwards.
Jan Gustafsson takes us through what developed into a fantastic 75-move battle:
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Watch the post-game press conference:
The day’s other winner was Peter Svidler, who was yet another Grand Prix participant to play a near novelty - 6.Bf4 - and then regret it almost immediately when Anish Giri replied with 6…0-0 instead of the “premature” 6…c5. Svidler spent over half an hour on his next three moves, but gradually went on to establish a stranglehold over the position, with Giri lamenting that he simply couldn’t find any moves. The game could have been over quickly after 33…Ne6?
Svidler had 10 minutes for his remaining 6 moves and commented, “frankly, I have no excuse” for missing that taking twice on e6 and then playing Qb6 (hitting the c7-rook and the e6-knight), wins on the spot. Instead he played 34.Nxd5?!, with Giri commenting:
I think we would both have been happy to finish the game here.
Instead there were another 50 moves of an endgame in which Svidler was a passed pawn up but faced a huge fight to convert it into a win. The problem for Giri, though, was that there was no clear-cut way to force a draw, and finally he slipped from a probable theoretical draw to a loss:
The two games I won in this tournament were both rook endings but I honestly have no idea about them, so don’t listen to anything I say. I’m just lucky that when I get to the endgames I have an extra pawn.
Anish, who now has two losses and no wins in consecutive tournaments, couldn’t argue with the result:
It was one of the worst games I ever played and it would be weird if one of the worst games I ever played ended in a draw... so it’s logical.
Watch the post-game press conference, which includes some off-camera kibitzing from Fabiano Caruana!
That leaves “only” two draws, but both were thrillers. Baadur Jobava “got back to basics” (for him), by playing the wonderfully eclectic 1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 Nf6 4.h3 against Dmitry Jakovenko:
Jobava explained that his point was to stop Black replying to 4.Bb5 with the standard 4…Bd6:
I found it before the Grand Prix and told myself that at least in one game I need to try this. It’s not so stupid a move as it seems. The idea is that if Black plays, for example, 4…Be7, then 5.Bb5, and then I switch to what I want. 5…Bd6 now looks stupid.
Jakovenko responded sensibly, though, and resisted Jobava’s outright aggression with ease, before he was perhaps lulled into a false sense of security by the queens leaving the board.
With 26.Ne4! Baadur showed that there were stilled plenty of threats to the black king, with Nf6+ in the air:
The computers claim Jakovenko is still on top, but he was far behind on the clock and rather than go for risky double-edged play he chose the solid 26…Bg6!? and simplified the position until it was drawn on move 46.
That was the mildest of time trouble compared to what happened in Gelfand-Dominguez, though, with Gelfand admitting he “totally lost control” when he played 32.Bb1?. Dominguez, however, later found himself down to 10 seconds to make 3 moves (remember, there’s no increment until move 61), and couldn’t find a killer blow:
39…Qc8! was one, with 40.Be3 running into 40…hxg3! when the pawn can’t be captured due to 41.hxg3 Qh3! or 41.fxg3 Qc6! Instead Leinier bashed out 39…Bf3?, when White avoided material losses. In the play that followed Gelfand’s willingness to give up pawns to reduce the chance of getting mated led him into some difficulty, but the eventual draw was a logical outcome.
Boris Gelfand now has six draws and still retains a slim 3.2% chance of qualifying for the Candidates Tournament. Asked earlier in the day about how the tough schedule affects people of different ages, Nakamura commented:
We all have an advantage over Boris. He was very unlucky that there were two Grand Prix back to back in Tashkent and Baku, because if you look at his result he did very well in Baku (joint 1st with Caruana) and then he did very badly in Tashkent… I was a little bit disappointed that I played Boris in the 2nd round here - I was hoping to get him at the end of the tournament… Someone like Boris tries very hard in every game, so it’s quite difficult, whereas someone like Vishy, for example, has quite a few games where he’s not trying. He’s just trying to make a draw and go home. So because of that I think it’s easier for him than Boris, but nevertheless they both play quite well and you need long games to beat them, or at least to get really good chances.
There are still five games to go in Khanty-Mansiysk, with Nakamura and Gelfand both on 50%:
In Round 7 Caruana has White against Gelfand, while Nakamura will no doubt be thinking of inflicting a fourth loss in a row on Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Don't miss the action live here on chess24! Alternatively you can watch on our free mobile apps:
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