Nakamura Beats Rapport In Sharjah Round 3

Nakamura Beats Rapport In Sharjah Round 3

| 14 | Chess Event Coverage

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave kept his lead at the Sharjah Grand Prix by playing a thrilling draw with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. The only winner in the third round was Hikaru Nakamura, who beat Richard Rapport.

The results are definitely deceiving on this third day of play. Yes, eight out of nine games ended in draws, but many were fascinating battles.

Let's start with that one decisive game anyway. It was Richard Rapport's second loss in a row with a fun opening. His choice of the Chigorin Defense against Hikaru Nakamura led to a very interesting game.

Rapport had played the same opening a couple of times in 2015, but only once in 2016. However, he won that last game, against none other than Levon Aronian (at the European Club Cup in Novi Sad).

In today's game, White got the two bishops (which were rather passive at first) vs two knights. Rapport sacrificed a pawn for a strange kind of compensation; he was mostly keeping Bg2 passive.

Rapport playing the Chigorin vs Nakamura.

It all didn't really work out, and Nakamura quickly built up a winning advantage. Especially on move 24 there were some strong alternatives.

The way it went, White kept on being better for a while, but around the time control it was just equal—until Rapport blundered the game away, ironically just after the time control.

"It's usual for me now," said Rapport. "I play some kind of weird stuff, I get some interesting position and then someone will blunder and usually it's me I guess!"

"I like playing with Richard because you'll always get something interesting," said Nakamura. "It's much more fun when you can play something interesting and it's not just all preparation."

Rapport seemed to be taking his loss lightly today.

Of the eight draws, the following was not only the best battle, but also the top encounter of the round. We're talking about Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (the only player on 2/2) vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

The latter was better prepared in the Ruy Lopez, and got a slight edge out of the opening. When you have castled kingside as White and you have to play g2-g4 to prevent ...f7-f5 (and it's not a King's Indian!), it's usually a bad sign.

The Frenchman got into a bad endgame, but managed to create counter-chances with a knight sac for two pawns that became two strong passers. Both MVL and Mamedyarov felt that Black was winning somewhere, but they couldn't tell for sure.

Mamedyarov at the press conference: It's not a normal position! MVL: "We're not normal players, that's why!"

And at the end of the press conference, Mamedyarov summed it up nicely: "It was a very nice show for everyone."

With great defense MVL kept his lead in the tournament.

The very quick draw by Alexander Grischuk and Levon Aronian would normally be skipped in this report (since you can find it in the PGN file at the end of the report!), but there's a story. Aronian played a new move order in a well-known line of the Ruy Lopez, and at move 11 Grischuk spent a full hour on the clock!

The Russian is famous for such long thinks (and the time troubles that follow). At the press conference he explained that he was "not just taking a nap" but really worked at the board. He showed some nice lines, which were much more spectacular than the game continuation.

Grischuk took an hour to decide on his 11th move.

Jon Ludvig Hammer was obviously satisfied with his third draw (not fourth, as this reporter erroneously stated in the interview afterward!) against a higher-rated opponent, Ding Liren.

Another underdog drew his game with a smile; Salem Saleh split the point with Evgeny Tomashevsky and got his zero off the scoreboard. This, and Vallejo-Nepomniachtchi, Hou Yifan-Jakovenko, and Riazantsev-Li Chao you can find in the PGN file.

Salem Saleh, who lives in Sharjah but stays in the players' hotel "to get the feel for the tournament," drew after starting with two losses.

We're finishing with Michael Adams vs Pavel Eljanov, a game that was almost surely going to end in 1-0 after Adams had played a strong exchange sacrifice. However, the English GM missed a crucial move just before the time control.

He played a few inaccurate moves because he was heading to a position that seemed to be completely winning...except that it was not.

Adams came very close to a win today.

Pairings for round 4:

Bo. No. Fed Name Rtg Pts. vs Pts. Fed Name Rtg No.
1 3 Nakamura Hikaru 2785 2 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2796 1
2 4 Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 2766 2 2 Adams Michael 2751 7
3 2 Aronian Levon 2785 Riazantsev Alexander 2671 15
4 12 Jakovenko Dmitry 2709 Ding Liren 2760 5
5 6 Eljanov Pavel 2759 Hou Yifan 2651 17
6 8 Nepomniachtchi Ian 2749 Grischuk Alexander 2742 9
7 18 Hammer Jon Ludvig 2628 Vallejo Pons Francisco 2709 13
8 10 Li Chao  2720 1 1 Tomashevsky Evgeny 2711 11
9 14 Rapport Richard 2692 1 ½ Salem A.R. Saleh 2656 16

This new Grand Prix series consists of four legs. The other three tournaments will be in Moscow (in May this year), Geneva (in July) and in Palma de Mallorca (in November).

A total of 24 players are competing, with each tournament having 18 participants. The two best performing players will qualify for next year's Candidates' Tournament.

Games from TWIC.

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