Eljanov-Nepomniachtchi: Was The Pawn Ending Winning?
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
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.
Geneva Grand Prix | Round 3 Standings
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.