Eljanov-Nepomniachtchi: Was The Pawn Ending Winning?

Eljanov-Nepomniachtchi: Was The Pawn Ending Winning?

| 12 | Chess Event Coverage

Pavel Eljanov won an attractive game against Ian Nepomniachtchi in Saturday's third round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Geneva, Switzerland. With a nice exchange sacrifice he ensured a free path for Delroy the d-pawn, but was it really winning?

Pavel Eljanov in round three. | Photo: WorldChess.

With seven draws out of nine games, the standings in Geneva didn't change much today. Radjabov kept his lead, and Eljanov joined the group of people on plus one—it's now a group of six players. Rapport lost his second game, after almost seven hours of play, as he spoilt a drawn R vs RN endgame vs Jakovenko.

Geneva Grand Prix | Round 3 Results

Bo. No. Fed Name Rtg Pts. Result Pts. Fed Name Rtg No.
1 1 Aronian 2809 ½-½ 2 Radjabov 2724 12
2 8 Harikrishna 2737 ½-½ Mamedyarov 2800 2
3 9 Adams 2736 ½-½ Grischuk 2761 4
4 3 Giri 2775 1 ½-½ 1 Li Chao 2735 10
5 5 Svidler 2749 1 ½-½ 1 Gelfand 2728 11
6 7 Eljanov 2739 1 1-0 1 Nepomniachtchi 2742 6
7 13 Inarkiev 2707 ½ ½-½ ½ Hou Yifan 2666 16
8 15 Rapport 2694 ½ 0-1 ½ Jakovenko 2703 14
9 17 Riazantsev 2654 ½ ½-½ 0 Salem 2638 18

Sometimes you believe in an idea, and your belief is so strong that others will start to belief it too. This is not about some world religion or the existence of UFO's; it can also be the case for a certain concept in chess.

Take this position, Black to move.

In his calculations during the game, Pavel Eljanov seems to have assessed this pawn endgame as winning for White. In his comments afterward, he stated: "After the exchange sacrifice it's already hopeless. I'm just in time to defend everything and push my pawn." 

The position never reached the game, because Ian Nepomniachtchi decided to avoid it. He probably also thought that Black is lost, because of White's distant passed pawn.

However, in reality the pawn endgame might well be a draw. At least in the time that was available for this author, obviously helped by an engine, a win for White hasn't emerged.

That pawn was named Delroy in the intro of this report since Jonathan Rowson christened the d-pawn like that in his "Understanding the Grünfeld," published a generation ago—long before Simon Williams started calling the h-pawn Harry!

Anyway, apologies for digressing. The point was: Maybe it wasn't hopeless yet for Black...

WGM Anna Burtasova spoke with GM Pavel Eljanov after the game.

After winning two in a row, Teimour Radjabov survived his first big test as Black against Levon Aronian. He came well prepared for Aronian's 8.Na3, with which the Armenian player had won a nice game against Anish Giri in Wijk aan Zee this year.

Radjabov said that he was happy to play a Stonewall position because he had played this type of positions all his life, but also because Magnus Carlsen was successful with it in recent games. To reach such a comfortable draw against someone like Aronian is an achievement.

WGM Anna Burtasova spoke with GM Teimour Radjabov after the game.

Richard Rapport had one of the worst experiences a chess player can have. You get a worse position, have to give a pawn, and you start defending. You are doing a good job, but your opponent keeps on trying and trying. After six hours and 45 minutes you finally reach the safe haven when your opponent had nothing better than liquidating to a R vs RN endgame.

That's a draw, and an easier draw than R vs RB, right? Well, not if the clock is approaching nine, and you've been sitting behind the board since two in the afternoon. One slip of the finger, and White was suddenly lost.

Credits should go to Dmitry Jakovenko, who kept on trying. That's part of being a good chess player too.


A tough day at the office for Richard Rapport. | Photo: WorldChess.

Geneva Grand Prix | Round 3 Standings

Rk. SNo Fed Name Rtg Perf Pts.
1 12 Radjabov, Teimour 2724 3053 2,5
2-7 1 Aronian, Levon 2809 2841 2
2-7 2 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 2800 2844 2
2-7 4 Grischuk, Alexander 2761 2832 2
2-7 7 Eljanov, Pavel 2739 2831 2
2-7 8 Harikrishna, Pentala 2737 2850 2
2-7 9 Adams, Michael 2736 2832 2
8-12 3 Giri, Anish 2775 2699 1,5
8-12 5 Svidler, Peter 2749 2722 1,5
8-12 10 Li Chao 2735 2777 1,5
8-12 11 Gelfand, Boris 2728 2763 1,5
8-12 14 Jakovenko, Dmitry 2703 2750 1,5
13-16 6 Nepomniachtchi, Ian 2742 2600 1
13-16 13 Inarkiev, Ernesto 2707 2622 1
13-16 16 Hou Yifan 2666 2580 1
13-16 17 Riazantsev, Alexander 2654 2560 1
17-18 15 Rapport, Richard 2694 2456 0,5
17-18 18 Salem, Saleh 2638 2443 0,5

Round four pairings: Radjabov-Harikrishna, Grischuk-Aronian, Mamedyarov-Eljanov, Svidler-Adams, Gelfand-Giri, Li Chao-Jakovenko, Nepomniachtchi-Hou Yifan, Riazantsev-Inarkiev and Salem-Rapport.

The Geneva Grand Prix takes place 6-15 July in the Hotel Le Richemond in Geneva. The prize fund is €130,000 / $148,520. The time control is 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 1.

Previous reports:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

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