Fabiano Caruana Still In Lead; 3 Winners In Khanty-Mansiysk

Fabiano Caruana Still In Lead; 3 Winners In Khanty-Mansiysk

| 19 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Fabiano Caruana won the longest game of the sixth round against GM Alexander Grischuk to keep his lead at the Grand Prix in Khanty-Mansiysk.

GM Sergey Karjakin won his second straight game against GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who lost his third in a row. GM Peter Svidler beat GM Anish Giri

Before the start of the final Grand Prix, three players were the main favorites to finish in the top two places in the overall GP standings: Caruana, Nakamura and Tomashevsky. With Caruana in the lead, today's game between GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Evgeny Tomahevsky was an important one!

Whereas he often plays the King's Indian or the Dutch, for this game Nakamura decided to go for something more solid: a Queen's Gambit — or rather, a Catalan, as his opponent fianchettoed his king's bishop.

It became an Open Catalan with 6.Ne5 Nc6, a remarkable pawn sacrifice that became popular in the early 1970s and is still a very solid way to play for Black.

Tomashevsky's 12.dxe5 is a rare move order and then, with 14...Nd5, Black “accepted that he's a bit worse,” as the players put it.

In the ensuing middlegame Black's doubled pawn was only a slight problem and the presence of opposite-colored bishops helped him to create an unbreakable setup.


Ultra-solid play from Nakamura this time. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

At the press conference Nakamura shared some interesting thoughts about stamina, and the advantage young players have over old(er) players these days:

I think we all have an advantage over Boris. Boris is also very unlucky that were two Grand Prix back-to-back at the start. If you look at his results, he did very well in Baku and then he did very badly in Tashkent.

“I think the advantage is deeper in games, as they go longer and longer. We all have an advantage, and that's also why I was a little bit disappointed that I played Boris in the second round. I was hoping to get him towards the end of the tournament!

“Only if you're much older does it really matter. Boris tries very hard every game, it's quite difficult, whereas someone like Vishy for example, there are quite a few games where he's not trying, he's just trying to make a draw and go home. I think because of that it's easier for him than Boris.

“Nevertheless, they both play quite well and you need long games to beat them, or at least to get really good chances I would say.”

Tomashevsky and Nakamura at the press conference.| Photo Kirill Merkurev.

GM Sergey Karjakin seems to have joined the Grand Prix race after winning his second game in a row. Celebrating his one-year wedding anniversary with his wife on the rest day might have been the reason, as he pointed out at the press conference!

The Russian grandmaster beat GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who lost his third game in a row. The poor Frenchman had prepared well, or maybe not.

12.a3 maybe not the best choice for today as it is very complicated,” said MVL. “As soon as I got out of my preparation, which I'm not sure is one, then I started to make bad move after bad move. But the position is really difficult to play.”

Only a few moves later Vachier-Lagrave “immediately blundered,” as he said himself, with 21.Rc1. “Up till here it's probably all still in my computer... After 21...c5 I suddenly realized I didn't know what to do.”

Suddenly White's pieces were bad, and Black's were all very good. Not surprisingly, the tactics worked in Karjakin's favor.

After this game Karjakin is 11th in the world in the live ratings, while Vachier-Lagrave dropped to 27th — something the organizers of the Grand Chess Tour surely didn't anticipate.


 Karjakin's second straight win, Vachier-Lagrave's third straight loss. | Photo Kirill Merkurev. 

We have already seen that GM Baadur Jobava has his own interpretation in many variations. This is also the case for offbeat openings such as 1.b3, because even there he continually comes up with new ideas. 

Against GM Dmitry Jakovenko, after 1...e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 Nf6 he didn't go for the automatic 4.Bb5 but played 4.h3!? instead.

“I found [this] before the Grand Prix. I thought I had to try it at least once. It is not such a stupid move as it seems,” Jobava argued.

Jakovenko responded with logical moves, Jobava castled queenside and for a moment it seemed that it was one of those games with opposite attacks. But then the queens were traded, and Black's bishop seemed to give him an edge.

Jobava then found some very nice moves, going for full activity, and the game remained equal. 


 More creative (opening) play from Jobava. | Photo Kirill Merkurev. 

GM Leinier Dominguez got to play the Bogo-Indian in two consecutive rounds. In the footsteps of Giri, GM Boris Gelfand played the same, more positional 9.0-0 instead of the topical 9.h4.

Despite his opponent's preparation it was the Cuban who found a very nice pawn sacrifice (18...b5!, 19...Ra5!). Gelfand gave back the pawn, and also his queen for two rooks. Black was better, and in terrible time trouble winning, but Dominguez missed his chance.



A very tense battle between Gelfand and Dominguez. | Photo Kirill Merkurev. 

The round finished two deep endgames, and both ended decisively. First it was GM Peter Svidler who beat GM Anish Giri, after many adventures. 

With 6.Bf4 and especially 7.Rc1 the game quickly left Ragozin theory, and the middlegame looked like an Exchange QGD. The big difference was Black's strong bishop on f5, and because of this Svidler thought Black should be fine.

Giri didn't choose the right plan and ended up in a typical and rather annoying isolated queen's pawn position.

“I just couldn't find the moves anymore,” the Dutchman said at the press conference, and while Svidler was showing lots of variations, Giri got more and more disgusted.

Calling his 20...Qf8 a “horrible move,” Giri wanted to “skip this part. Every move I made was terrible.”

But then Svidler cursed himself for not finding a winning idea on move 34 despite having 10 minutes on the clock. He had to try and win a game with QR vs QR and three versus three on the kingside, and an extra d-pawn for White.

This should have been a draw (GM examples of this type of position usually end in a draw when the pawn hasn't reached the sixth rank yet), but Giri missed something and had to go for a rook ending which was not as easy a draw as he thought.

“I was not ready to solve problems,” he said.

Annotations by Dejan Bojkov:


A loss for Giri against Svidler that will be hard to swallow. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

By then both Karjakin and Svidler had virtually joined GM Fabiano Caruana in first place. What was the tournament leader going to do in his game with GM Alexander Grischuk?

This game had a fascinating start because, in one of the most classical positions possible, Grischuk had found yet another way to play an early g2-g4 — after 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. d4 d5 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bg5 h6 he went 6. Bf4 O-O 7. e3 Nbd7 8. g4!?.

However, again the Russian GM wasn't happy with his preparation at all: “I played a new move, and after the very first reply I could not remember what to do.”

Caruana found a good setup, and when Grischuk realized that his kingside attack would come too late, he “started to play for equality.” He got away with an ending with rooks and opposite-colored bishops, and both holding a passed pawn.

Black's passer was much more advanced, and his king more active. Caruana managed to build up a winning advantage, but then, on move 60 (the second time control!), he spoiled it. The position was a draw again, but eventually Grischuk collapsed -- a thriller of a round.


An amazing battle between Grischuk and Caruana. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Update: it turns out that Grischuk missed a beautiful draw at the very end. He could have played 74.Ba7! Bxc4+ 75.Rxc4! Rxc4 76.Kf2 and the resulting position is a theoretical draw!



2015 Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix | Round 6 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf Pts SB
1 Caruana,Fabiano 2803 2932 4.5/6  
2 Svidler,Peter 2734 2895 4.0/6 12.00
3 Karjakin,Sergey 2753 2878 4.0/6 10.25
4 Dominguez Perez,Leinier 2734 2827 3.5/6  
5 Nakamura,Hikaru 2799 2749 3.0/6 9.50
6 Gelfand,Boris 2744 2757 3.0/6 7.50
7 Jakovenko,Dmitry 2738 2741 3.0/6 6.00
8 Jobava,Baadur 2699 2702 2.5/6 7.25
9 Grischuk,Alexander 2780 2689 2.5/6 6.75
10 Tomashevsky,Evgeny 2749 2704 2.5/6 6.75
11 Giri,Anish 2776 2630 2.0/6  
12 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2754 2562 1.5/6  


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 and Viorel Iordachescu.

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