Nakamura Grabs the Lead in Tashkent as Vachier-Lagrave Loses First

Nakamura Grabs the Lead in Tashkent as Vachier-Lagrave Loses First

Oct 26, 2014, 1:55 PM |
39 | Chess Event Coverage

A new leader has emerged at the Grand Prix in Tashkent: Hikaru Nakamura. The U.S. grandmaster is the only player on 3.5/5 after beating Boris Gelfand since Maxime Vachier-Lagrave lost to Dmitry Jakovenko.

Baadur Jobava won his second game in the tournament; he beat Sergey Karjakin with a bishop sacrifice on h3.

The fifth round in Tashkent followed after the first rest day, and so the players had  even more time to prepare for their games. And some of the games were indeed highly theoretical, with novelties only after move 20, although one player started thinking as early as move three.

First, let's see what happens when someone is not that well prepared. In the Giri-Shirov Univé match we recently saw what a difference of preparation can lead to, but Giri was also higher rated and much younger. The rating and age difference between Jakovenko and Vachier-Lagrave is smaller, but here too preparation was everything.

Jakovenko playing the Anti-Grünfeld. | Photo © Yulia Monakova courtesy of FIDE.

Jakovenko was surprised that his opponent repeated a line in the Anti-Grünfeld that he had played before against the Polish grandmaster Grzegorz Gajewski: “It's a more or less forced line where Black just fights for a draw without almost any chance for a win and without a guarantee for a draw.”

MVL said that he chose to play this and not something else because he was “most familiar” with it, but “I forgot to check. I knew that if you don't remember the line it's a tough day.” And it sure was — the Frenchman lost the game, and with it the top position in the leaderboard.

Especially in the Berlin Ending the level of preparation is gigantic these days. Radjabov and Andreikin played what is one of the main lines these days (first h2-h3 before Nb1-c3, and Black going Kd8-e8, ...h7-h5 and Rh8-h6) and basically on every move the database spits out a top level game. Andreikin said he had already prepared everything for his game against Caruana.

Another Berlin Endgame in the making.| Photo © Yulia Monakova courtesy of FIDE.

A check on move 22 was when the players left theory: Anand-Karjakin, Candidates’ (Khanty-Mansiysk) 2014. A few moves later the last minor pieces were traded and so this meant that the players' preparation had basically consisted of studying a rook ending! That's adjourned games all over again!

At the press conference a young kid asked the grandmasters how much time they study chess per day. While Andreikin stressed the importance of having fun with chess (and football) at his age, Radjabov answered: “These days it's very important to work hard to get good positions. I study about 6-8 hours a day but there are days when you don't study at all.”

Radjabov on studying chess. | Photo © Yulia Monakova courtesy of FIDE.

What a contrast with the game between Karjakin and Jobava! After 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Nc3 the Georgian number one, who had expected 3.e5, thought for 34 minutes before going 3...dxe4, 4...Nf6 and taking on f6 with the e-pawn. He had spent his time comparing the line with Tartakower's 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6 exf6 and found a subtle difference (explained in the annotations to the game below).

Jobava pondering his third (!) move. | Photo © Yulia Monakova courtesy of FIDE.

At some point White played h2-h3, Black went Bc8-e6 and then Karjakin said he “blundered” ...Qd7 when a sacrifice on h3 was almost unavoidable. Online commentator Alexei Barsov called the sac “exciting and brave play” by Jobava, but was it really? “When I sacrificed I thought it must be enough for a draw so I don't risk anything so practically I will win or draw. Why not to sacrifice,” said Jobava.

In practice it turned out to be difficult to defend, but Karjakin did OK for a while, until he blundered. The Russian GM blamed it on playing too fast. “Very stupid.”

Karjakin, who arrived at the playing hall just thirty seconds before the start of the round, said he “forgot about the time”, adding “but maybe it was a good decision not to come [at all]!”

Journalists, young chess fans and top GMs watching a press conference! | Photo © Yulia Monakova courtesy of FIDE.

Caruana and Mamedyarov also played a rather theoretical line in the Slav. Yet again the Italian's preparation wasn't as successful as e.g. at the Sinqufield Cup. He said he felt that 11.Ra4 is the principled move, but in the game he played 11.Ke2. Mamedyarov played a novelty, Caruana didn't find the most dangerous moves and soon it was equal.

Asked about his bad start, Caruana said: “It's sometimes hard to say why a player doesn't play well. (..) This just weren't going very well for me, at least... I should have won the second game; the position I got after more or less ten moves was overwhelming, so it's pretty disappointing. In general I think there's always chances up until the end of the tournament. A lot of players have shown that even if you start badly there's always chances to come back so I still keep some hope for a decent result.”

Caruana: still optimistic. | Photo © Yulia Monakova courtesy of FIDE.

Kasimdzhanov and Giri drew a game that started as a 4.e3 Grünfeld. “I didn't expect my opponent to play the Grünfeld and therefore I played not a very principled variation,” said the Uzbek GM, who nonetheless got a promosing position as White. Kasimdzhanov: “Black got a really sad endgame but as usual I didn't show enough technique to win it.”

Kasimdzhanov: not expecting a Grünfeld. | Photo © Yulia Monakova courtesy of FIDE.

The last game to finish produced the new tournament leader as Hikaru Nakamura defeated Boris Gelfand in an ending that was drawn for most of the time. Avoiding the Najdorf, Nakamura played 3.Bb5+ and then the sideline 6.e5, but Gelfand's response was solid.

At the press conference the players suggested several improvements for Black, and Nakamura said that only around the time control he actually got an advantage in the ending. Even after White broke through on the kingside the position was still a draw, but with only two minutes on the clock Gelfand failed to find the correct defense.

Nakamura is the new leader after beating Gelfand. | Photo © Yulia Monakova courtesy of FIDE.

On Monday Nakamura will defend his pole position against the top seed, world #2 Caruana, who is however on the 10th spot in the standings.

2014 Grand Prix, Tashkent | Round 5 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 Pts SB
1 Nakamura,H 2764 2890 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 3.5/5
2 Andreikin,D 2722 2831 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 ½ ½ 3.0/5 7.25
3 Jobava,B 2717 2831 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 ½ 1 3.0/5 6.25
4 Vachier-Lagrave,M 2757 2828 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 0 1 1 3.0/5 6.00
5 Radjabov,T 2726 2742 ½ ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 2.5/5 7.00
6 Karjakin,S 2767 2739 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ 2.5/5 6.00
7 Jakovenko,D 2747 2741 1 ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 2.5/5 5.75
8 Giri,A 2768 2766 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.5/5 5.50
9 Mamedyarov,S 2764 2769 ½ 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 2.5/5 5.50
10 Caruana,F 2844 2676 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 2.0/5
11 Kasimdzhanov,R 2706 2596 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1.5/5 4.00
12 Gelfand,B 2748 2615 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1.5/5 3.75


2014 Grand Prix, Baku | All Results

Round 1 15:00 UZT 21.10.14   Round 2 15:00 UZT 22.10.14
Giri ½-½ Gelfand   Gelfand ½-½ Karjakin
Mamedyarov 0-1 Andreikin   Jakovenko ½-½ Radjabov
Nakamura 1-0 Jobava   Vachier-Lagrave 1-0 Kasimdzhanov
Caruana 0-1 Vachier-Lagrave   Jobava ½-½ Caruana
Kasimdzhanov ½-½ Jakovenko   Andreikin ½-½ Nakamura
Radjabov ½-½ Karjakin   Giri ½-½ Mamedyarov
Round 3 15:00 UZT 23.10.14   Round 4 15:00 UZT 24.10.14
Mamedyarov 1-0 Gelfand   Gelfand ½-½ Jakovenko
Nakamura ½-½ Giri   Vachier-Lagrave ½-½ Karjakin
Caruana ½-½ Andreikin   Jobava ½-½ Radjabov
Kasimdzhanov 0-1 Jobava   Andreikin ½-½ Kasimdzhanov
Radjabov ½-½ Vachier-Lagrave   Giri ½-½ Caruana
Karjakin 1-0 Jakovenko   Mamedyarov ½-½ Nakamura
Round 5 15:00 UZT 26.10.14   Round 6 15:00 UZT 27.10.14
Nakamura 1-0 Gelfand   Gelfand - Vachier-Lagrave
Caruana ½-½ Mamedyarov   Jobava - Jakovenko
Kasimdzhanov ½-½ Giri   Andreikin - Karjakin
Radjabov ½-½ Andreikin   Giri - Radjabov
Karjakin 0-1 Jobava   Mamedyarov - Kasimdzhanov
Jakovenko 1-0 Vachier-Lagrave   Nakamura - Caruana
Round 7 15:00 UZT 28.10.14   Round 8 15:00 UZT 29.10.14
Caruana - Gelfand   Gelfand - Jobava
Kasimdzhanov - Nakamura   Andreikin - Vachier-Lagrave
Radjabov - Mamedyarov   Giri - Jakovenko
Karjakin - Giri   Mamedyarov - Karjakin
Jakovenko - Andreikin   Nakamura - Radjabov
Vachier-Lagrave - Jobava   Caruana - Kasimdzhanov
Round 9 15:00 UZT 31.10.14   Round 10 15:00 UZT 01.11.14
Kasimdzhanov - Gelfand   Gelfand - Andreikin
Radjabov - Caruana   Giri - Jobava
Karjakin - Nakamura   Mamedyarov - Vachier-Lagrave
Jakovenko - Mamedyarov   Nakamura - Jakovenko
Vachier-Lagrave - Giri   Caruana - Karjakin
Jobava - Andreikin   Kasimdzhanov - Radjabov
Round 11 11:00 UZT 02.11.14        
Radjabov - Gelfand        
Karjakin - Kasimdzhanov        
Jakovenko - Caruana        
Vachier-Lagrave - Nakamura        
Jobava - Mamedyarov        
Andreikin - Giri        

The total prize fund is €120,000. The games start each day at 14:00 local time which is 11:00 in Amsterdam, 10:00 in London, 05:00 in New York, 02:00 in Los Angeles and 19:00 in Sydney. The last round starts three hours earlier. The winner and second placed player in the overall final standings of the Grand Prix will qualify for the Candidates’ Tournament to be held in the last quarter of 2015 or the first half of 2016. | Games via TWIC phpfCo1l0.png

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