Radjabov Bounces Back While Aronian, MVL Fail To Pull Away
GM Teimour Radjabov worked out the winning lines with eyes closed. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Radjabov Bounces Back While Aronian, MVL Fail To Pull Away

| 17 | Chess Event Coverage

Shortly after GM Teimour Radjabov was born, the band De La Soul opined that "Three, that's the magic number." He's certainly hoping it is for him too.

For a man who just recently won his third European Team Championship, and who previously was the first player ever to beat three world champions as Black in the same year, Radjabov entered round seven at the FIDE Grand Prix in Mallorca probably needing three wins to participate in his third Candidate's Tournament. He got the first one today, beating GM Li Chao


GM Teimour Radjabov: Can he win three in a row? | Photo: Mike Klein/

And while GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has been working out the points and calculations (he does have a math degree after all), Radjabov told after the round today that he's done no such addition.

"I just don't care," he said. "I just wanted to play the game." There was no malice in his tone -- Radjabov seemed to know last round's loss made his mission critical, and he just had to refocus on the remaining games and let the standings and points fall where they may. He said he knows his chances are "slim."

"It's going to be really tough," Vachier-Lagrave said of the possibility of winning three in a row on demand. He could recall no such case in chess history where a play won a triple when needed.

For his own quest, today the Frenchman got an advantage in one of his two remaining Whites but could only draw against GM Evgeny Tomashevsky. Previously, he told that he likely needed to win at least one of his final games to gain some distance with the field and earn enough points.

One piece of good news for both players: GM Levon Aronian, the tournament's sole leader and current bearer of the largest bounty of points, remains within striking distance after today he couldn't convert a winning ending against GM Richard Rapport.

Palma Grand Prix | Round 7 Results

Bo. No. Name Rtg Pts. Result Pts. Name Rtg No.
1 15 GM Rapport Richard 2692 ½ - ½ 4 GM Aronian Levon 2801 1
2 2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2796 ½ - ½ GM Tomashevsky Evgeny 2702 14
3 5 GM Svidler Peter 2763 ½ - ½ GM Nakamura Hikaru 2780 3
4 10 GM Jakovenko Dmitry 2721 ½ - ½ GM Harikrishna P. 2738 9
5 4 GM Ding Liren 2774 ½ - ½ 3 GM Giri Anish 2762 6
6 16 GM Inarkiev Ernesto 2683 3 ½ - ½ GM Vallejo Pons Francisco 2705 13
7 8 GM Radjabov Teimour 2741 1 - 0 GM Li Chao B 2741 7
8 12 GM Eljanov Pavel 2707 1 - 0 2 GM Hammer Jon Ludvig 2629 18
9 17 GM Riazantsev Alexander 2651 0 - 1 GM Gelfand Boris 2719 11

The math is all still speculative on what score will be needed, but as always here's the computations if the tournament ended right now:

Candidates Update: What If This Were The Final Round?

Radjabov and Vachier-Lagrave are trying to qualify for the 2018 Candidates' Tournament. For this, they need to finish among the top two in the overall Grand Prix standings.

Each round we will update the situation with the question: What if the tournament ended here?

Today, Radjabov (who needs 96 points) would fall short, finishing in a four-way tie for 10th place which would be 30+20+10+8 = 68 / 4 = 17.

Vachier-Lagrave (who needs 126 points, or 130 if Radjabov overtakes Mamedyarov) would also fall short, finishing in a eight-way tie for second place which would be: 140+110+90+80+70+60+50+40 = 640 / 8 = 80.

That means for the four relevant players, the final scores would be:

Mamedyarov: 340, qualifies.

Grischuk: 336 3/7, qualifies.

Vachier-Lagrave: 291 3/7, fails to qualify.

Radjabov: 261 3/7, fails to qualify.

For more information see our first report.

Just how did the Azeri keep his hopes alive? If you guessed that against Li the two would play the Adorjan Defense, you really should go to Vegas.

Although the opening sequence has been played in other high-level games, for example Polugaevsky-Timman Bugojno 1980, Radjabov introduced the new move 11. N2f3. If nothing else, it avoids the Berlin-type pawn structure that would occur after instead trading knights like Polugaevsky did. In fact the new move also created some problems that Li couldn't solve.

Radjabov said the opening is "quite well known" but said Li's knight on h5 languished. He also didn't like the Chinese player's decision to take on c4 which ruins Black's structure (it would be the second high-profile game today where a- and b-pawns were far superior to a- and c-pawns).


"I've played two good games, two bad games, so I don't even know what to expect tomorrow," Radjabov said.

Although the social media maven told that he prefers Twitter to Instagram, he's been posting a lot of the latter recently. Here's a bit of chess-themed sightseeing he came across recently:


Screenshot of GM Teimour Radjabov's Instagram page. The street he found is named after native Mallorcan GM Arturo Pomar, seven-time Spanish champion, who died last year.

Radjabov's game was again one of the longest, but today the length award went to board one, where Rapport was fighting for his life against Aronian. Rapport was surely being silently cheered on by Radjabov and Vachier-Lagrave, who would both benefit from not letting those first place points get too far out of reach.


While the 17 other players shuffle around the room, GM Levon Aronian (right) has been camped out on board one since round three. | Photo: Mike Klein/

It looked bleak for the Hungarian, who's position showed that, like in school, an "A" and a "C" is not as good as an "A" and and "B." Of course here the "lesson" Aronian was trying to give dealt with pawn structure.

Here's their Catalan in Catalonia:

The hold for Rapport means he continues his lifetime advantage over Aronian, with two wins, one loss, and now four draws.


GM Richard Rapport could indeed relax mid-round, as his position was stable... | Photo: Mike Klein/


...But as the ending approached, he strained to find a way to hold. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Vachier-Lagrave tried his utmost to join Aronian on +2 today, the minimum score he thinks he needs to earn a spot in the Candidates'.

"The position got really pleasant for me," he told "For a while I was doing a remarkable job of increasing the pressure."


GM Evgeny Tomashevsky (right) is turning out to be one of the most important "wildcards" in the Candidates' race. | Photo: Mike Klein/

He said he didn't make any decisions today that were based solely on qualification, but still moves like 19. Rfe1 showed he was in for a fight. Black could and should take on c2, but since Vachier-Lagrave offered that pawn without much thought, Tomashevsky may have been out of his knowledge.

"If he plays it, it's obvious he's prepared for it," Vachier-Lagrave said. "The computer says it likes White if he doesn't play it."

Tomashevsky said that you need a really powerful computer for this line, and even his endgame position against Radjabov yesterday was mis-analyzed by some chess press who weren't using a strong enough processor (he diplomatically did not name any names!).

After the game, Vachier-Lagrave said he was frustrated at not winning, but also praised Black's defense.

"I probably should have done better," he told

Tomashevsky is turning out to be one of the most important men in the Candidates' qualification. Yesterday he beat Radjabov, today he held against Vachier-Lagrave, and in round eight he rises to top board to play Aronian. One wonders who's calling his phone each night with unsolicited help!?

The only other two winners today were GMs Pavel Eljanov and Boris Gelfand, meaning that combined with Radjabov, only the bottom three boards avoided draws. The organizers inverted the physical placement of boards four through nine last round, so maybe the bottom-enders got inspired. Gelfand's four gained rating points puts him back in the 2700 club, where he's been for every day except for one (yesterday) in the last dozen years.

Palma Grand Prix | Round 7 Standings

Rk. SNo Name FED Rtg Pts.
1 1 GM Aronian Levon 2801 4,5
2 2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2796 4,0
3 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2780 4,0
4 GM Ding Liren 2774 4,0
5 GM Svidler Peter 2763 4,0
9 GM Harikrishna P. 2738 4,0
10 GM Jakovenko Dmitry 2721 4,0
14 GM Tomashevsky Evgeny 2702 4,0
15 GM Rapport Richard 2692 4,0
10 6 GM Giri Anish 2762 3,5
8 GM Radjabov Teimour 2741 3,5
12 GM Eljanov Pavel 2707 3,5
16 GM Inarkiev Ernesto 2683 3,5
14 13 GM Vallejo Pons Francisco 2705 3,0
15 7 GM Li Chao B 2741 2,5
11 GM Gelfand Boris 2719 2,5
17 GM Riazantsev Alexander 2651 2,5
18 18 GM Hammer Jon Ludvig 2629 2,0

Pairings round eight: Aronian-Tomashevsky; Nakamura-Harikrishna; Svidler-Ding; Rapport-Jakovenko; Inarkiev-Vachier-Lagrave; Vallejo-Eljanov; Li-Giri; Gelfand-Radjabov; Hammer-Riazantsev.

The Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix takes place November 16-25 (with a rest day on Nov. 21) in the Iberostar Cristina hotel in Palma de Mallorca. It is a nine-round Swiss with 18 players. The prize fund is €130,000 / $152,892. The time control is 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, 50 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move one.

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FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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