Features Oct 12, 2013 | 3:57 PMby Colin McGourty

Winners and Losers: The Paris Grand Prix

The FIDE Grand Prix series of tournaments ended not with a bang but a whimper on Friday as draws were agreed on all boards. Chess24 takes a look back at the event in near the French capital and asks who can pat themselves on the back and who needs to go back to the drawing board (idiomatically speaking!).

The Winners

1. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Reigning World Rapid Champion Shakhriyar Mamedayrov | photo: Georgios Souleidis

True, he didn’t actually take part… but the firebrand Azeri was the runaway winner. The failure of either Fabiano Caruana or Alexander Grischuk to win the tournament outright meant Shakh clinched 2nd place in the series and a coveted place in the 2014 Candidates Tournament.

Mamedyarov told Azerisport that he watched the last round with his Azeri teammates and the first person to ring and congratulate him was his father. The last time Mamedyarov had a shot at the World Championship he lost in the first round, so he doesn’t want a repetition:

My father also said that this might be my last chance. Of course I’m young, but I need to use my second opportunity better than the first.

The second person to phone and congratulate Mamedyarov was from the Azerbaijan Chess Federation. After the ruinous expense of funding the 2013 Candidates Tournament they must be breathing a sigh of relief that no money is required to have a representative this time round.

2. Boris Gelfand

Nakamura-Gelfand definitely merits a second look! | photo: Alina L'Ami, official website

Life begins at 45! Boris Gelfand continues to prove that age needn’t be a barrier to succeeding in chess. The workaholic Israeli tied for 1st place, and in particular his demolition of Hikaru Nakamura was a joy to behold (notes by Alina L'Ami):

1. e4 c5 2. ♘f3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. ♘xd4 ♘f6 5. ♘c3 a6 6. ♗e3 ♘g4 7. ♗c1 ♘f6 8. ♗e3 ♘g4 9. ♗g5 h6 10. ♗h4 g5 11. ♗g3 ♗g7 12. h3 ♘e5 13. f3 ♘bc6 14. ♗f2 ♗e6 15. ♕d2 ♖c8 Gelfand is the first to leave the trodden path.

15... ♕a5 16. ♘b3 ♗xb3 17. cxb3 ♘g6 18. g3 h5 19. 0-0-0 h4 20. gxh4 ♘xh4 21. ♗e2 ♗xc3 22. bxc3 ♘e5 23. ♔b1 ♘hxf3 24. ♕e3 ♖c8 25. ♗xf3 ♖xc3 26. ♕a7 ♘xf3 27. ♕xb7 0-0 28. ♖d5 ♕a3 29. ♖xg5+ ♘xg5 30. ♕d5 e5 31. ♖g1 ♖fc8 32. ♕d2 ♔f8 0-1 Sutovsky,E (2671) -Vachier Lagrave,M (2722), Loo 2013

16. 0-0-0 ♘xd4 17. ♗xd4 ♕a5 18. a3 0-0 19. h4 g4 20. ♕f2 ♖c6 21. f4 ♖fc8! 22. ♕g3

22. fxe5 is impossible, as Boris Gelfand showed at the press conference: 22... dxe5 23. ♗e3 ♖xc3! 24. bxc3 ♕xa3+ 25. ♔d2 ♕xc3+ 26. ♔e2 ♗c4+

22. f5 is the move the players agreed had to be played. Gelfand's attack soon reached gigantic proportions.

Gelfand explains what went right; Nakamura what went wrong | photo: official website

22... ♘d7! 23. ♗xg7 ♔xg7 24. f5 ♖xc3 Black still kept a huge initiative with this move.

24... ♘e5 may have been even more convincing, the point being 25. fxe6 ♖xc3! 26. bxc3 ♖xc3 27. ♗d3 ♖xa3 with a mating attack.

25. bxc3 ♕xa3+ 26. ♔d2 ♘f6 27. ♕d3 ♗c4 28. ♕d4 d5 29. exd5 ♗xd5 30. ♖g1 ♗e4 31. ♗d3 ♕a5 32. ♕b4 ♕c7 33. ♗xe4 a5 34. ♕xb7 ♕f4+ 35. ♔e2 ♖c7 36. ♕b6 ♘xe4 37. ♕d4+ ♔h7 38. c4 In mutual time trouble (both players had under a minute to reach move 40) Gelfand delivered the final blow with:

38... ♖d7! 39. ♕e3 ♘g3+ 40. ♕xg3 ♕xg3 41. ♖xd7 ♕e5+ White resigned. Wherever the king goes one of the white rooks will fall with check.

Gelfand hit his highest ever rating, moved up to no. 7 on the live rating list and edged ahead of his World Championship conqueror Vishy Anand. Not bad for a couple of week’s work!


Yes, the World Chess Federation could easily have found itself among the losers. AGON, the company that was supposed to organise the Grand Prix series (and revolutionise chess...), is a distant memory. The Grand Prix points system is horribly convoluted to explain and open to all kinds of manipulation ("if I lose to him that takes points away from my rival…") and many players lose interest after a couple of tournaments. The biggest stars are missing and the dream of holding events in major European cities didn’t quite pan out – even the Paris Grand Prix wasn’t smack in the centre of that great city…

  • Chapelle de la Villedieu
  • Route de Dampierre, CD 58
  • Élancourt 78990
  • France

On the other hand… by hook or by crook FIDE managed to hold all six of the 12-round tournaments, if not in precisely the right place then at least at more or less the right time. The series gave almost two dozen players both regular play and a chance to fight for the World Championship. What more could you ask for? (please treat that as a rhetorical question...)

4. WGM Alina L’Ami

The tournament press officer managed to take photographs, conduct press conferences for the live video feed and also write long and thoughtful reports on each round. A heroic effort! 

The Losers

1. Fabiano Caruana

This might seem an odd way to categorise the Italian-American’s tournament:

RkNameRtgFED123456789101112Pts.GP Points
1Caruana Fabiano2779ITA*10½½½1½1½1½7155
2Gelfand Boris2764ISR0*1½11½½½½½17155
3Nakamura Hikaru2772USA10*1½½1½½½½½100
4Bacrot Etienne2723FRA½½0*½½½1½½11100
5Grischuk Alexander2785RUS½0½½*½1½½½0175
6Dominguez Perez Leinier2757CUB½0½½½*½½½½½175
7Ivanchuk Vassily2731UKR0½0½0½*½½11½545
8Ponomariov Ruslan2756UKR½½½0½½½*½½½½545
9Tomashevsky Evgeny2703RUS0½½½½½½½*½½½545
10Wang Hao2736CHN½½½½½½0½½*½½545
11Fressinet Laurent2708FRA0½½01½0½½½*½20
12Giri Anish2737NED½0½000½½½½½*10

But first place on tiebreaks was a bitter sweet result. Caruana needed nothing less than outright first place to qualify. Like Nakamura he remains a realistic World Championship contender who’s out of the running for the next two years.

Many were puzzled by his decision to take a draw by repetition when he had an unbalanced position in the final round:

The players repeated moves with: 15...Qc6 16.Na7 Qc7 17.Nb5 and so on

Caruana explained he thought he was worse and would be unable to forgive himself if he lost the game when a draw would have clinched qualification. As it happened Boris Gelfand also drew by repetition soon afterwards, and that was that.

Caruana explains his decision? | photo: official website

A lack of fighting spirit!? Perhaps, but few will forget in a hurry what happened to Vladimir Kramnik when he chose to play for a win in the final round of the 2013 Candidates. Damned if you do…   

2. Anish Giri

In this case, however, the table doesn’t lie. 19-year-old Giri celebrated life after school with a spectacularly bad result – over to him:

3. Sergei Tiviakov

Sergei Tiviakov during his live commentary | photo: official website

Another case where it’s hard to choose winner or loser, but harder still to stay neutral. Live video commentary without a partner is a hugely difficult challenge, and it was refreshing to see Sergei challenging the opinions of his super grandmaster colleagues… but perhaps at times he pushed things a little too far. At least it made for good "train-wreck" TV – in the following press conference Hikaru Nakamura can’t stop laughing at the Dutch grandmaster’s suggestions (see e.g. 6:43):


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