Caruana Slips, Nakamura, Dominguez Catch Up to Share Lead

Caruana Slips, Nakamura, Dominguez Catch Up to Share Lead

Friday produced one of the most exciting rounds of the event thus far with four decisive games, most notable being Fabiano Caruana's loss to Dmitry Jakovenko after blundering and effectively losing the game in one move. This opened up the door for his closest rivals, Hikaru Nakamura and Leinier Dominguez, who were able to catch up and reach 5/8 points.

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A determined Nakamura will no doubt look to finish strong in the final rounds. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Nakamura had an advantage for most of the game against Baduur Jobava, finally taking the point in a long and complex endgame, while Dominguez held a draw after being pressed by Evgeny Tomashevsky for over 100 moves (!) to join the leaders. With three rounds to go Caruana and Nakamura are the most likely to finish 1st and 2nd in the overall Grand Prix (and qualify into the 2016 candidates tournament).

Other results of the day include Boris Gelfand outplaying Peter Svidler and Alexander Grischuk winning a radical affair against Sergey Karjakin, who blundered just before the first time control.

Lastly, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was finally able to halt his brutal skid with calm play and a draw against Anish Giri.

Caruana, who held a half-point lead heading into this round seemed to be in good shape out of the opening, slowly improving his position in a 4.d3 Berlin until Jakovenko was forced to give up a pawn with 25...e4, just to free his position. 

Caruana then failed to find the best way to make the most of his extra pawn and Jakovenko looked as though he had enough pressure to compensate. A draw was the most logical result until the move 36.Qb3??, which ran into 36...c4!, winning the game since 37.dxc4 Qa5! would lead to a large loss of material for White. Caruana instead gave up the d3-pawn but his position quickly collapsed after that.

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A most unexpected result, Caruana - Jakovenko 0-1 | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

In one of the most fascinating games of the year, Nakamura came prepared to challenge Jobava's signature Veresov Opening. The game got interesting quite early, when Jobava sacrificed a pawn with 11.g6!? -- Nakamura called it a "bad move", while Jobava felt that he had positional compensation.

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The two highly creative players gearing up for a tense battle | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

As the middlegame progressed White did find nice squares for his minor pieces, and had some pressure along the c-file, but faltered badly with 27.b4?, which allowed Nakamura to open up the queenside and generate serious counterplay.

Nakamura pressed on to reach a winning endgame, but relaxed and surprisingly alllowed Jobava to get counterchances of his own, mainly by setting up potential mating nets against Black's king. The complexity continued for some time, with Jobava just narrowly missing out on a draw with the blunder 67.Ke7?, instead of continuing the defense with 67.Kd5.

Play through the whole game with annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov:

Tomashevsky gained an advantage both on the board and the clock against Dominguez, but confessed that he couldn't remember the exact move-order of his home preparation and thus had to burn his extra time. In a sharp Grunfeld, Dominguez sacrificed two pawns for active piece play, only to be countered by a nice exchange sacrifice by Tomashevsky, who seized the initiative. After Dominguez returned the exchange to ease the pressure, Tomashevsky ended up with an extra pawn around move 22.

Up a pawn Tomashevsky progressed slowly and improved his position, but the presence of opposite colored bishops gave Black good drawing chances. In the end Tomashevsky's persistence netted him two extra pawns, but in a likely-drawn endgame he was unable to win, allowing Dominguez to draw and join the leadergroup. "Objectively White should be winning," said Tomashevsky, "but it was not so easy."
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Tomashevsky tried and tried but could not break the in-form Dominguez | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

In the ultra-sharp Anti-Moscow Gambit of the Semi-Slav, which hasn't been seen at the very top in recent memory, both Grischuk and Karjakin played quite uncompromisingly, with White playing for the initiative while Black tried to hold on to his extra pawn. The players reached a highly unusual structure, with Karjakin having several weaknesses in his position but also a powerful protected passed pawn on d3.

An extremely intricate middlegame followed, with Grischuk needing to create tactical chances in order to compensate for Black's pawn on d3. Finally Karjakin slipped up with 36...Nxe5 and 39...Nf7? (39...Kh6 was the only move, good for a draw), missing 40.Qg8, after which it was time to resign.
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Grischuk dealt a devastating blow to his compatriot Karjakin | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

In another theoretical Grunfeld Svidler erred right out of the opening with 17...b4, allowing Gelfand to respond with the pretty 18.Ne4! after which 18...Bxe4 19.Ng5 is winning for White. Interestingly enough, Svidler confessed that he had long seen this resource was possible in home preparation, but somehow tricked himself at the board and forgot about the idea. Instead followed the "only move" 18...Nf8, where Gelfand had to choose from several highly promising possibilities.

Despite having the initiative and a superior position, Gelfand eventually misplayed his hand and in time-trouble allowed Svidler to escape into a slightly worse endgame. But Gelfand still retained decent winning chances with the outside passed pawn, and managed to convert the advantage in the rook + bishop endgame, though not without some help from Svidler, who perhaps could have held if not for 56...f5.
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Gelfand had to win the game twice to crack Svidler's Grunfeld. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

In a bit of "feel-good" news for the day Vachier-Lagrave finally put an end to his losing streak, getting a small advantage out of the opening against Giri, who chose a very solid line with 8...e5 in the 5.e3 Variation of the Semi-Slav defense. 


In the post-game press conference MVL made it clear that he wanted to play it safe today, and not risk losing for the fifth game in a row. Giri considered to play something sharper against his "wounded opponent" but did not see any way to continue the game without taking on too much risk, and so the players drew without much intrigue.

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At least MVL can head into the rest day with some peace of mind. | Photo Kirill Merkurev.

Round 8 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf Pts SB GP Points
1 Dominguez,Leinier 2734 2850 5.0/8 21.25 140
2 Caruana,Fabiano 2803 2830 5.0/8 17.25 140
3 Nakamura,Hikaru 2799 2831 5.0/8 17.25 140
4 Gelfand,Boris 2744 2803 4.5/8 17.75 80
5 Jakovenko,Dmitry 2738 2797 4.5/8 15.50 80
6 Karjakin,Sergey 2753 2796 4.5/8 15.25 80
7 Svidler,Peter 2734 2765 4.0/8 17.25 55
8 Grischuk,Alexander 2780 2747 4.0/8 15.00 55
9 Giri,Anish 2776 2707 3.5/8 40
10 Tomashevsky,Evgeny 2749 2672 3.0/8 12.25 25
11 Jobava,Baadur 2699 2677 3.0/8 12.25 25
12 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2754 2571 2.0/8 10


Virtual standings overall Grand Prix

Rank Name Rtg Baku Tashkent Tbilisi Ka-Ma Total Virtual
1 Fabiano Caruana 2811 155 75 140 230 370
2 Hikaru Nakamura 2776 82 125 140 207 347
4 Evgeny Tomashevsky  2716 82 170 25 252 277
6 Boris Gelfand 2747 155 15 80 170 250
7 Dmitry Jakovenko 2733 30 140 80 170 250
3 Sergey Karjakin 2760 82 75 80 157 237
5 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2759 35 125 75 235 235
9 Leinier Dominguez 2726 10 75 140 85 225
8 Teimour Radjabov 2731 50 50 110 210 210
10 Dmitry Andreikin 2737 20 170 10 200 200
12 Alexander Grischuk 2810 82 40 40 122 162
11 Peter Svidler 2739 82 20 55 102 157
13 Anish Giri 2797 40 75 40 115 155
14 Baadur Jobava 2696 75 40 25 115 140
15 Rustam Kasimdzhanov 2706 35 15 75 125 125
16 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2775 75 40 10 115 125

May 23 will be a much welcomed rest day for the players, and round 9 will take place on May 24. 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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