Caruana Wins 2014-2015 GP, Qualifies For 2016 Candidates With Nakamura

Caruana Wins 2014-2015 GP, Qualifies For 2016 Candidates With Nakamura

| 73 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Hikaru Nakamura finished first and second in the 2014-2015 FIDE Grand Prix series. The Khanty-Mansiysk event ended in a three-way tie for first place as all key games ended in draws.

Caruana and Nakamura shared first place with GM Dmitry Jakovenko, who finished third in the overall GP. In the last round, only one game was decided: GM Peter Svidler defeated GM Baadur Jobava.

The final round of the final Grand Prix wasn't just about calculating good moves. At stake were two spots in the 2016 Candidates Tournament, and four players still had a (theoretical) chance: Caruana, Nakamura, Jakovenko and, in a very unlikely scenario, Tomashevsky.

The key game in this round was Nakamura-Jakovenko, because on this board one of those spots was most probably going to be decided. With a win, Jakovenko could take over second place in the overall Grand Prix from his opponent. A draw would be enough for Nakamura, unless Caruana, Tomashevsky, Gelfand, and Dominguez all won their games.

At some point it became clear that a draw in this game would guarantee Nakamura qualification with 100 percent certainty because GM Leinier Dominguez didn't win. The Cuban grandmaster drew his game with GM Alexander Grischuk in a highly theoretical Sveshnikov:


A quick, theoretical draw in Dominguez vs Grischuk. | Photo: Kirill Merkurev.

Soon after, about three hours into the round, GM Hikaru Nakamura did draw his game with GM Dmitry Jakovenko to become the second participant in the next Candidates, after GM Viswanathan Anand (who earned his spot as the loser of the last title match).

Nakamura was asked how he had prepared for this crucial game: “It's more difficult because I thought maybe Dmitry would try and play something more aggressive. I wasn't so sure if he would play solid or try something crazy to create an imbalance.”

But Jakovenko didn't go crazy, and he explained why: a third place in the GP might be enough too, if Caruana or Nakamura reach the final of the World Cup later this year. “The problem for me was that I had something to lose because for example if Giri beats Caruana, I would qualify because the third place also gives some chances. I hope Hikaru will play the World Cup!”

Nakamura confirmed that he will play the World Cup. Caruana hasn't decided yet, saying “I might, because it's an interesting event. This knockout system is pretty unusual.”


The key game between Nakamura and Jakovenko. | Photo: Kirill Merkurev.

GM Fabiano Caruana then also drew his game, with GM Anish Giri, to secure shared first in Khanty-Mansiysk and clear first in the overall Grand Prix standings.

The game already looked very drawish after 20 moves, but then Giri suddenly played the surprising 22.g4!?. “I thought that I don't risk to lose this game today since Fabiano is probably extremely happy with a draw,” the Dutchman said. “So I thought I might as well see if he maybe he will have a heart attack after g4.”

The problem for Giri was that Caruana did not have a heart attack — on the contrary. With a series of ultra-solid moves he not only avoided danger, but actually took the upper hand. But with the knowledge that a draw was OK, Caruana didn't push it.

“This was the thing,” said Caruana. “It was back in my mind, I had this idea that a draw is kind of quite a good result. It all seemed to be heading for that and then 22.g4 came!”


Giri vs Caruana. | Photo: Kirill Merkurev.

Caruana looked back at the tournament as follows: “[Before the start] I was feeling relatively confident. I wouldn't say I was a clear favorite or anything. I had slightly the highest rating ahead of Nakamura but anyway we saw it was a very close event. I even lost a game and it's a pretty big tie for first.

“The first half of the event went very well for me and then I pretty much ruined quite a bit with my game against Jakovenko. At the end it was very shaky. I had plenty of chances to win more games but OK, it's still a decent result.

“I'm glad that I qualified at the first moment so this tournament isn't hanging over my head for the rest of the year.”

Fabiano Caruana, the winner of the 2014-2015 FIDE Grand Prix. | Photo: Kirill Merkurev.

With two U.S. grandmasters in the Candidates it seems likely that a bid from the USA will arrive at the FIDE office in Athens. Nakamura commented:

“First of all I think this is a big rumor. At least from what I've heard there's no actual bid so I don't know where this rumor comes from. I don't believe it. For example, I know it will not be St. Louis. If it happens, it happens, but the possibility of that is maybe five percent.”

Tony Rich, Executive Director of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, confirmed this to “The Chess Club is focused on our scholastic mission, U.S. Championships, the Sinquefield Cup and all events in the Grand Chess Tour, which certainly keep us busy. While it would be nice to bring events like the Candidates to America, we will not be bidding on it for 2016.”

Besides Nakamura only one other player managed to stay undefeated: GM Boris Gelfand. In the last round the oldest participant split the point with GM Sergey Karjakin:


At the press conference Gelfand defended the Grand Prix series: “Generally I'm very happy that this GP series exists because there's too much criticism sometimes. OK, the last cycle was organized better than this one but still, the idea is great and sometimes it's just political criticism for no reason whatsoever, even from players who qualify, which is surprising.

“I remember Veselin Topalov said that it is his worst nightmare that the GP took place, and he plays and he qualifies. And also the whole cycle he curses organisers. These are four great tournaments for top players, so many good games, good for players, for [the] public... I don't understand why [there's] so much criticism.”

Gelfand also revealed that he will play a four-game match with Chinese GM Ding Liren in July. | Photo: Kirill Merkurev.

And so everything was more or less decided before the only decisive game had finished! GM Peter Svidler refuted GM Baadur Jobava's unorthodox play in a Fort Knox French. Here's the game annotated by GM Dejan Bojkov:


The last game of the whole tournament to finish was GM Evgeny Tomashevsky vs GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. It's the nightmare of any chess organizer: one more game still under way on stage, in a queen ending, postponing the closing ceremony.



Tomashevsky tried in vain to win a queen ending with an extra pawn. | Photo: Kirill Merkurev.

Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix 2015 | Final Standings

# Name Rtg Perf Pts SB GP Points
1 Jakovenko,D 2738 2820 6.5/11 34.50 140
2 Caruana,F 2803 2814 6.5/11 33.50 140
3 Nakamura,H 2799 2815 6.5/11 33.50 140
4 Dominguez,L 2734 2788 6.0/11 34.00 85
5 Gelfand,B 2744 2787 6.0/11 32.75 85
6 Grischuk,A 2780 2753 5.5/11 29.75 55
7 Svidler,P 2734 2757 5.5/11 29.75 55
8 Giri,A 2776 2754 5.5/11 28.75 55
9 Karjakin,S 2753 2755 5.5/11 28.50 55
10 Tomashevsky,E 2749 2725 5.0/11   30
11 Jobava,Ba 2699 2664 4.0/11   20
12 Vachier Lagrave,M 2754 2623 3.5/11   10


FIDE Grand Prix 2014-2015 | Final Standings

Rank Name Rtg Baku Tashkent Tbilisi Ka-Ma Total
1 Fabiano Caruana 2811 155 75   140 370
2 Hikaru Nakamura 2776 82 125   140 347
3 Dmitry Jakovenko 2733   30 140 140 310
4 Evgeny Tomashevsky 2716 82   170 30 282
5 Boris Gelfand 2747 155 15   85 255
6 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2759 35 125 75   235
7 Sergey Karjakin 2760 82 75   55 212
8 Teimour Radjabov 2731 50 50 110   210
9 Dmitry Andreikin 2737 20 170 10   200
10 Alexander Grischuk 2810 82   40 55 177
11 Anish Giri 2797   40 75 55 170
12 Leinier Dominguez 2726 10   75 85 170
13 Peter Svidler 2739 82   20 55 157
14 Baadur Jobava 2696   75 40 20 135
15 Rustam Kasimdzhanov 2706 35 15 75   125
16 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2775   75 40 10 125


The top three in the final GP and also in the overall standings: Caruana, Nakamura and Jakovenko. | Photo: Kirill Merkurev.

Caruana showing his GP trophy (and a smaller copy of it). | Photo: Kirill Merkurev.


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