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Aronian, Jakovenko Win In Palma While Mamedyarov, Grischuk Qualify In Absentia
Winning GMs Dmitry Jakovenko and Levon Aronian. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Aronian, Jakovenko Win In Palma While Mamedyarov, Grischuk Qualify In Absentia

When it comes to Candidate's qualification, it turns out showing up is not half the battle.

More than half of the field in the final FIDE Grand Prix still harbored chances to win the tournament going into the final round today. Of the 10 players still within range, only two came out of the fray with the elusive +2 score.

GM Levon Aronian and GM Dmitry Jakovenko are the co-winners in Palma de Mallorca with 5.5/9, winning €17,500 each (Jakovenko took the first place trophy on tiebreaks), but some things are more important than money to a chess professional. That would be the "side competition" that was really the main event: Candidates' Tournament qualification. After all, that's why the quartet of Grand Prix events exists.

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Aronian checks his analysis just after the game. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Despite all the intricate scenarios, none of them came to be as neither GM Teimour Radjabov nor GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave could get the wins they needed. Vachier-Lagrave missed an important detail, then had to avoid an equal ending and even lost when trying to get the full point. That was the only decisive game of the day. Shortly after, Radjabov didn't see any way through and agreed to a draw. He was seeking his third-straight win.

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All eyes were on GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to see if he could create any last-minute winning chances. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.

Both GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and GM Alexander Grischuk, neither of whom competed in the fourth Grand Prix tournament in Spain, had to wait helplessly as results unfolded today since they'd already played the first three legs of the series. They can both breathe now -- they'll be going to the the Candidates Tournament in Germany after all.

We also now know for the first time the complete Candidates' field: Mamadyarov (Grand Prix); Grischuk (Grand Prix); Aronian (World Cup); GM Ding Liren (World Cup) GM Sergey Karjakin (World Championship Runner-Up); GM Fabiano Caruana (rating, unofficial but mathematically certain); GM Wesley So (rating, unofficial but mathematically certain); and GM Vladimir Kramnik (wildcard).

Palma Grand Prix | Round 9 Results

Bo. No. Name Rtg Pts. Result Pts. Name Rtg No.
1 3 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2780 ½ - ½ 5 GM Aronian Levon 2801 1
2 2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2796 0 - 1 GM Jakovenko Dmitry 2721 10
3 14 GM Tomashevsky Evgeny 2702 ½ - ½ GM Ding Liren 2774 4
4 9 GM Harikrishna P. 2738 ½ - ½ GM Svidler Peter 2763 5
5 8 GM Radjabov Teimour 2741 ½ - ½ GM Rapport Richard 2692 15
6 12 GM Eljanov Pavel 2707 4 ½ - ½ GM Gelfand Boris 2719 11
7 18 GM Hammer Jon Ludvig 2629 ½ - ½ 4 GM Inarkiev Ernesto 2683 16
8 6 GM Giri Anish 2762 ½ - ½ GM Vallejo Pons Francisco 2705 13
9 17 GM Riazantsev Alexander 2651 3 ½ - ½ GM Li Chao B 2741 7

At the beginning of the day, Radjabov knew that a win guaranteed him a trip to Berlin next March for his third Candidates'. The pity for the Frenchman is that while he didn't control his own fate when play began, he did as the round unfolded.

As if Caissa knew how to write the script, after a spate of draws, the final three boards to finish were the three that mattered most to qualification. Still, that opportunity wasn't fulfilled as Vachier-Lagrave overlooked the attack on his a-pawn, and thus will have to wait for yet another qualification cycle in two years time.

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High drama: The final three games remaining were the three most important for the qualification to the Candidates'. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Before the round is discussed in detail, here's the final Grand Prix standings of the top six:

Candidates' Qualification Final Standings (Top Six):

1st place: Mamedyarov, 340, qualifies.

2nd place: Grischuk, 336 3/7, qualifies.

3rd place: Radjabov: 241 3/7 + 71 3/7 = 312 6/7, fails to qualify.

4th place: Ding Liren: 240 + 71 3/7 = 311 3/7, already qualified via World Cup.

5th place: Jakovenko: 81 + 155 = 236, fails to qualify.

6th place: Vachier-Lagrave: 211 3/7 + 20 = 231 3/7, fails to qualify.

For more information see our first report.

Back to today. The final round began with the normal nine boards and 18 players, but those not in contention for top prizes had the first draws. The field winnowed even further when several players tied with Vachier-Lagrave and Radjabov (4.5/8) drew as well. 

First GM Evgeny Tomashevsky and GM Ding Liren agreed to peace, then GM Peter Svidler and GM Pentala Harikrishna follow suit. Those results weren't good for Mamedyrov and Grischuk, who would have preferred the "non-contending" players to grab some wins and water down the top points.

Want to get a feel for the final round? Check out this short 360-degree film by Lennart Ootes. You can grab the screen and toggle around with your mouse!

However, all of this worked out great for Vachier-Lagrave, as Aronian wasn't better on top board and that meant several of the complicated unfavorable scenarios were behind him (as chronicled in great detail in yesterday's report).

Just when it looked like Vachier-Lagrave might amp up the pressure (his opponent's knight was on h8 after all), he mistakenly allowed counterplay on his a-pawn. From there best play indicated he snap off Black's a-pawn as well, but that would remove all the kingside pressure and dynamic play. He just had to chuck all his pieces at Black's king and hope for the best.

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Jakovenko looks into the crystal ball and sees ... a tournament win! | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

The Frenchman told Chess.com he already wasn't thinking clearly at that moment, and since a draw and a loss were equivalent, he went for the gusto but came up short.

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Vachier-Lagrave spoke with Chess.com about his game today, and the bigger picture of coming so close yet not qualifying. Here's our video interview:

Just moments after Vachier-Lagrave's qualification quest ended, Radjabov's did as well. Some were surprised at the abruptness. While the Frenchman was getting mated, the Azeri at least had equal material and more space against GM Richard Rapport.

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GM Teimour Radjabov (left) couldn't make it a "chess turkey" to win his third straight. GM Richard Rapport played capable defense. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Objectively there's not much there, but if two players with nothing at stake could play eight hours and 140 moves yesterday, many expected more moves to follow today. They did not, so Radjabov's heroic effort just to get back into consideration ended. He had won two games in row leading up to the weekend, and he finishes with a tournament-best three overall wins.

nullGM Teimour Radjabov almost renamed the "back against the wall" comeback scenario "The Raja" but it was not to be. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Around the same time, GM Hikaru Nakamura also ended his effort against Aronian. The American could not qualify for the Candidates' but could still win the tournament. His two-pawn advantage stemming from the Marshall Gambit wasn't quite enough. Immediately after the game, even he wasn't sure if there was a missed win.

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The sharks all want to see what the devout Marshall practitioner Aronian has conjured for this edition. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Aronian has now used the Marshall Gambit more than three dozen times throughout his long career. Despite it being a gambit, so much is known in the opening that his first novelty came on move 16. His career draw rate in the opening is around 78 percent, but of course it made sense today as a split point ensured him all or a slice of first.


Previously, the two had also played a Marshall in 2005, which ended drawn as well. 

Chess.com caught up with Aronian to ask about this game, his recent form, and his preparation for the Candidates'. Here' the video interview.

2017 Palma Grand Prix | Final Standings

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3 Rp rtg+/-
1 10 GM Jakovenko Dmitry 2721 5,5 0,5 2 2748 2823 12,7
2 1 GM Aronian Levon 2801 5,5 0,5 2 2742 2821 2,6
3 8 GM Radjabov Teimour 2741 5 0 3 2723 2764 2,6
4 15 GM Rapport Richard 2692 5 0 2 2720 2762 8,3
5 14 GM Tomashevsky Evgeny 2702 5 0 1 2755 2791 10,8
6 3 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2780 5 0 1 2749 2792 1,2
7 5 GM Svidler Peter 2763 5 0 1 2745 2782 2,1
8 4 GM Ding Liren 2774 5 0 1 2729 2771 -0,7
9 9 GM Harikrishna P. 2738 5 0 1 2728 2767 3,2
10 16 GM Inarkiev Ernesto 2683 4,5 0 2 2740 2734 6,2
11 2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2796 4,5 0 1 2741 2741 -6,8
12 12 GM Eljanov Pavel 2707 4,5 0 1 2729 2724 2,2
13 7 GM Li Chao B 2741 4 1,5 1 2700 2656 -10,2
14 13 GM Vallejo Pons Francisco 2705 4 1 1 2727 2679 -2,8
15 6 GM Giri Anish 2762 4 0,5 1 2739 2693 -8,3
16 17 GM Riazantsev Alexander 2651 3,5 0 0 2725 2640 -1,5
17 11 GM Gelfand Boris 2719 3 0,5 1 2703 2580 -16,7
18 18 GM Hammer Jon Ludvig 2629 3 0,5 0 2712 2586 -4,9

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Vachier-Lagrave (right) chats afterward with GM Romain Edouard about what might have been. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Download Tournament PGN

2017 Grand Prix | Final Standings

Rk. Fed Name Sharjah Moscow Geneva Palma Total
1 Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 140 140 60 x 340
2 Grischuk Alexander 140 71,4 125 x 336,4
3 Radjabov,Teimour x 71,4 170 71,4 312,8
4 Ding Liren 70 170 x 71,4 311,4
5 Jakovenko Dmitry 70 x 11 155 236
6 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 140 71,4 x 20 231,4
7 Nakamura Hikaru 70 71,4 x 71,4 212,8
8 Svidler,Peter x 71,4 60 71,4 202,8
9 Nepomniachtchi Ian 70 3 125 x 198
10 Aronian Levon 7 x 11 155 173
11 Harikrishna,Pentala x 20 60 71,4 151,4
12 Giri, Anish x 71,4 60 6 137,4
13 Adams Michael 70 3 60 x 133
14 Rapport Richard 25 x 2,5 71,4 98,9
15 Tomashevsky Evgeny 3 20 x 71,4 94,4
16 Li Chao 25 x 60 6 91
17 Hou Yifan 7 71,4 2,5 x 80,9
18 Riazantsev Alexander 1 x 60 3 64
19 Eljanov Pavel 25 x 11 20 56
20 Vallejo Pons Francisco 25 7 x 6 38
21 Gelfand,Boris x 20 11 1,5 32,5
22 Inarkiev,Ernesto x 1 4 20 25
23 Hammer Jon Ludvig 3 7 x 1,5 11,5
24 Salem A.R. Saleh 3 3 1 x 7

The Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix took place November 16-25 (with a rest day on Nov. 21) in the Iberostar Cristina hotel in Palma de Mallorca. It was a nine-round Swiss with 18 players. The prize fund was €130,000 / $152,892. The time control was 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, 50 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move one.


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