Leaders Draw, Two Rounds to go in Khanty-Mansiysk

Leaders Draw, Two Rounds to go in Khanty-Mansiysk

Following the final rest day Round 9 saw some exciting action but ultimately no change to the leaderboard, as Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura drew against Sergey Karjakin and Alexander Grischuk, respectively, inching one step closer to qualifying for the 2016 Candidates Tournament. The other leader of the event, Lenier Dominguez also drew, against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but is not in contention for the top two spots in the overall FIDE Grand Prix cycle.

Other results include Evgeny Tomashevsky bouncing back with a win against Peter Svidler, Anish Giri defeating Baduur Jobava in just 25 moves, and Dmitry Jakovenko letting Boris Gelfand off the hook in one of the most unexpected finishes in recent memory (annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov below).

Nakamura holds his fate in his own hands and is two rounds away from the 2016 Candidates Tournament. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Sergey Karjakin - Fabiano Caruana 1/2-1/2
Karjakin and Caruana entered a theoretical endgame where White has an advantage in space and Black must defend somewhat passively. However Karjakin was unable to pose any serious problems to Fabiano, allowing equality after the rooks were traded on the 27th move, leading to a drawish ending with bishops of the same color. In what seemed like a trivially drawn position, Karjakin started to drift, first with 31.a5?!, giving Black a passed a-pawn which Caruana labelled as "unnecessary".

While Caruana was trying to maneuver and triangulate his way further, a strange controversy took place shortly after the first time control. Karjakin stopped the clocks and claimed a draw by three-move repetition just before playing 49.Bd2. After examining his scoresheet the arbiter agreed with Karjakin's claim, as did Caruana, and the game was ruled drawn--both players had signed their scoresheets with the result 1/2-1/2. A few minutes later the arbiter had realized that the decision was wrong (!), and that the three-move repetition had not actually occurred. The mistake happened as a result of Karjakin misreading his scoresheet (he mistook 36...Kc6 for 36...Ke6, in which case there would have been a repetition). In order to rectify his error, the arbiter asked Caruana if he wished to continue playing, and still having some minor winning chances, Fabiano agreed.

Despite missing a chance to regain the clear lead, Caruana is still the most likely winner of the 2014-2015 FIDE Grand Prix Cycle. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

"I was sure it wasn't a repetition", explained Caruana, "but while we were checking the moves on the board I got confused and was suddenly convinced that there was one." The game indeed continued and Karjakin did not defend with precision, allowing Caruana to slowly make progress. Eventually the players both queened and Caruana was left with an extra pawn and a winning position according to endgame tablebases. Alas, with little time remaining he could not find the narrow route to victory (apparently 74...Qc3+ and 75...d4 was winning) and allowed Karjakin to trade into a drawn king and pawn endgame.

Hikaru Nakamura - Alexander Grischuk 1/2-1/2
Nakamura tried the rare 7.Qa4+ against Grischuk's Grunfeld and the players reached a fairly typical middlegame, with White having a nice center that was put under pressure by Black's fianchettoed bishops. Although Hikaru had some pressure and a strong passed d-pawn once Grischuk exchanged all the rooks it was pretty clear White could not do anything and the game was drawn on move 31:

The trusty Grunfeld proved reliable for Grischuk today. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Lenier DominguezMaxime Vachier-Lagrave 1/2-1/2
While less attention has been paid to Dominguez, he is still having a strong tournament and retained his share of the lead with a draw against MVL. Essaying the English Attack against the Najdorf, Lenier played the rare 13.Na4 and definitely got a good position, especially after Maxime daringly grabbed a pawn with 21...Nxe4, allowing both of his knights to be pinned. Not seeing a way to proceed, however, Dominguez forced a repetition. Though the engines give White an edge after 26.Rdf1, things would still be far from clear:

Dominguez played it somewhat safe today against a wounded MVL. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Dmitry Jakovenko - Boris Gelfand 1/2-1/2
In a where both players needed to win in order to keep their slim qualification hopes alive, Jakovenko opted for the trendy 6.h3 variation against Gelfand's Najdorf. The players followed a sharp line that Gelfand confessed was all part of his home preparation, up until move 24. At this point instead of repeating moves and forcing a draw with 24...Qd7, Boris suddenly went into the tank, and blundered with 24...Nd7?", overlooking Jakovenko's reply. "I missed 25.Re4 and here basically I had to resign", said Gelfand, whose position was suddenly completely lost! The turn of events allowed Jakovenko to sacrifice a piece for four pawns, and had a winning position for most of the game, up until the end where he fell for Gelfand's last trick and blundered with 49.hxg4?, allowing a combination that ended in...stalemate!!

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov:

A thematic pose for recalling home analysis. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Peter Svidler - Evgeny Tomashevsky 0-1
Tomashevsky kept his qualification hopes alive with a win over Svidler in an Anti-Marshall variation of the Ruy Lopez. In a sharp middlegame Svidler allowed Black to generate quite serious queenside counterplay, starting with the strong move 22...c4!. This led to some complications after which Black emerged with an extra pawn and the more active position. Tomashevsky returned his extra pawn but infiltrated with his queen and rook into White's 2nd rank, putting enough pressure on Svidler's position to eventually force capitulation:

In the final position Svidler resigned in view of 42...Rb3+ 43.Kh2 Rxh3+ 44.Qxh3 Nxh3 45.Kxh3 Qxa3+ with a hopeless endgame for White.

The often jovial Svidler did not show his best chess today. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Anish Giri - Baduur Jobava 1-0
Repeating the 3...Nc6 French that he played against Karjakin, Jobava tried a slightly different approach against Giri, and the two players (with wildly contrasting styles) took on an unusual middlegame. Jobava did quite well to justify his choice of opening until he played the strange-looking 19...Rf5?, which landed him in serious trouble: 

The players agreed that instead 19...Bf5 would have given Black excellent chances to hold. The game should have lasted longer, but Jobava inexplicably blundered with 24...Qe3?, simply allowing Giri to win the d5-pawn with check, after which White's material advantage is decisive.
Jobava prefers to analyze openings without the help of an engine. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

After 9 rounds the standings for the tournament and the overall grand prix can be seen here:


The penultimate Round 10 will take place on May 25. The tournament is a round robin of 11 rounds, played from May 14 - 26. The venue is the Ugra Chess Center in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

You can watch this tournament every day on Chess.com/tv with commentary by GMs Evgeny Miroshnichenko and Viorel Iordachescu.


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