Caruana Wins Again, Leads In Khanty-Mansiysk

Caruana Wins Again, Leads In Khanty-Mansiysk

| 13 | Chess Event Coverage

Going into the first rest day GM Fabiano Caruana is the sole leader at the Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix. On Sunday the 22-year-old grandmaster beat GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with black. All other games were drawn.

Photo Kirill Merkurev.

The topic of opening theory, and memorizing variations, was discussed deeply between Giri and Nakamura yesterday. The U.S. grandmaster confirmed once again what most of us suspect: modern chess is all about opening preparation.

When players are spending some hours in the morning behind their laptops, going through old work and trying out last-minute ideas with the engine running, it can be rather annoying when you opponent plays something else. Something he never played before.

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave said that he looked at the Grünfeld and the Queen's Gambit, but instead GM Fabiano Caruana surprised him with the Ragozin. “That's why I played this 7.Rc1 which was popular some time ago,” said the Frenchman.

Caruana plays his first ever Ragozin — and likely not his last. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Caruana gave another peek into a top GM's kitchen (and made it sound not so magical): “I just decided today I wanted to play something a bit new. I had a few options, I've done quite a bit of analysis but it was a bit chaotic and before the game I couldn't get all the variations in my head.”

After twenty moves the position was dynamically equal, but then MVL made a mistake. A queen move to b3, pointed at d5, was parred easily. Black could defend that pawn tactically. A few more inaccurate moves from White followed, and when Black could open the h1-a8 diagonal it was basically over.

Vachier-Lagrave: “Until now my play as been really chaotic here. A lot of oversights, too many of them, I need a new state of mind, let's say, for the next games.”

MVL: “I need a new state of mind.” | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

The following game had quite a funny story, also about opening preparation. GM Peter Svidler started the press conference by thanking Anish Giri, because thanks to the Dutchman he came across the game Kramnik-Karjakin game from Zurich 2015.

Svidler continued explaining that he had prepared the 10.c4 idea with his second GM Maxim Matlakov, but after eight moves he started smiling behind the board.


Here Svidler recognized the position with colors reversed, which appears on the board after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bd2 Bg7 6.e4 Nb6 7.Be3 0–0 8.Nf3 Bg4 9.Be2.

Grünfeld theory

“I tried to remember theory,” said Svidler, and he was slightly annoyed that before the game he could have checked the theory from Black's perspective!

Svidler-Karjakin: a remarkable “transposition” into reversed-color theory. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Eventually he went for 9.Bxf6 and 10.c4 anyway (“with so much energy going into it”), and until move 19 he was still in his notes. With a bishop against a knight the ending was slightly better for him, but Karjakin held it without too much effort.

Svidler and Karjakin comparing their game with the Grünfeld. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

And to continue the theme, opening theory also dominated the game GM Leinier Dominguez vs GM Hikaru Nakamura. Nowadays the American grandmaster plays so many openings, that Dominguez had decided to take it easy. “Actually I didn't look too deeply into anything, I was just trying to rest.”

That was a good choice, because Nakamura surprised him with the Kalashnikov Sicilian. “I was not expecting to get this opening at all,” said Dominguez. “I couldn't remember much during the game.”

The battle was rather theoretical anyway (a novelty on move 17) but quickly petered out to a draw.

Nakamura and Dominguez checking that Kalashnikov. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

GM Boris Gelfand vs GM Anish Giri: same story. The Dutch grandmaster had seen a recent game (Gelfand-Leko from the World Teams) from his 26 years older opponent, improved upon Black's play and could force the draw right away.

OK, there was still a rook ending to play, with two very active rooks giving Black a slight advantage, but being a pawn down it was a bit too much to hope for more than a draw.

Giri scores a comfortable draw against Gelfand. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Gelfand called Giri's 14...Na5 “more challenging” than Leko's 14...Rfd8: “Of course I analyzed it but I couldn't remember all the details.” Giri: “To be honest I expected to get this variation against Jakovenko but he decided to try and get worse with White and I collapsed.”

Giri was better prepared than Gelfand this time. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

The quickest draw was actually the most spectacular of the five. “My opponent knew my game with Jakovenko and found a clear way to equality,” said Jobava. Sounds familiar, right?

A spectacular but rather short draw between Jobava and Grischuk. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Now that Caruana has excellent chances to finish in one of the first two places in the overall Grand Prix standings, the fight for the other spot is now mostly between Nakamura and GM Evgeny Tomashevsky. Time will tell how important it was that the Russian GM couldn't beat GM Dmitry Jakovenko from what was a very promising position:

The players analyzed their game for half an hour at the press conference
that was more like a good old post-mortem. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

2015 Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix | Round 4 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf Pts SB
1 Caruana,F 2803 2933 3.0/4
2 Svidler,P 2734 2857 2.5/4 5.00
3 Dominguez Perez,L 2734 2861 2.5/4 5.00
4 Karjakin,S 2753 2760 2.0/4 4.25
5 Nakamura,H 2799 2752 2.0/4 4.00
6 Grischuk,A 2780 2734 2.0/4 3.75
7 Tomashevsky,E 2749 2755 2.0/4 3.25
8 Gelfand,B 2744 2757 2.0/4 3.25
9 Giri,A 2776 2670 1.5/4 3.00
10 Vachier Lagrave,M 2754 2668 1.5/4 2.75
11 Jobava,B 2699 2669 1.5/4 2.75
12 Jakovenko,D 2738 2660 1.5/4 2.50

The tournament is a round robin of 11 rounds, played May 14 to 26 with rest days on the 18th and 23rd. The venue is the Ugra Chess Center in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

You can watch this tournament every day on with commentary by GMs Evgeny Miroshnichenko & Viorel Iordachescu.

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