Radjabov's Qualification Chances Take Hit After Second GP Loss
GM Teimour Radjabov's Candidates' chances may have evaporated on b6. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Radjabov's Qualification Chances Take Hit After Second GP Loss

| 26 | Chess Event Coverage

The two men attempting to qualify for the next Candidates' tournament tried the hardest today. The hardest not to lose. Only one was successful.

GMs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Teimour Radjabov played the two longest games of round seven of the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. The Frenchman had some chances to win or lose, but the Azeri player was mostly just trying to keep any hopes alive.

In the end, Vachier-Lagrave held to remain in the hunt, while Radjabov lost his second game of the tournament. The former wunderkind Radjabov is now 1.5 points off the lead and his chances to qualify are on life support. He may well need to go 3.0/3 the rest of the way (he needs clear third, and there's two fistfuls of players ahead of him right now).

On the top board, GM Peter Svidler wanted to quell his chessic "ennui" as he told

Peter Svidler

GM Peter Svidler thinking about his next DVD series and what other "SAT words" he'll use in his interviews. | Photo: Mike Klein/

His Benoni against tournament leader GM Levon Aronian was a fun adventure for fans as well before the eventual repetition.

Palma Grand Prix | Round 6 Results

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

Before those three closing rounds are played, let's see the qualification race as it stands today. Radjabov's potential points went way down while Vachier-Lagrave took only a minor hit (one more player joined his score group, watering down his points slightly).

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 six-way tie for 11th place which would be 20+10+8+6+4+3 = 51 / 6 = 8 1/2.

Vachier-Lagrave (who needs 126 points, or 130 if Radjabov overtakes Mamedyarov) would also fall short, finishing in a seven-way tie for second place which would be: 140+110+90+80+70+60+50 = 600 / 7 = 85 5/7.

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

Mamedyarov: 340, qualifies.

Grischuk: 336 3/7, qualifies.

Vachier-Lagrave: 297 1/7, fails to qualify.

Radjabov: 249 6/7, fails to qualify.

For more information see our first report.

Put another way: Vachier-Lagrave told that his minimum qualification score will be at least "plus two" (one more win) while Radjabov's maximum score at the moment is plus two, and that's only if he runs the table. One more curious twist: They've still not played, and quite possibly won't as they are several score groups away at present.

Radjabov began the day on an even score and did just about everything he could to get into positive territory and join the large peleton chasing Aronian. As Black against GM Evgeny Tomashevsky, the Azeri played the Pirc, then he eschewed a repetition, then started advancing pawns in front of his king.

Tomashevsky vs Radjabov

GM Teimour Radjabov tried to win as Black against GM Evgeny Tomashevsky with the Pirc (recall Carlsen uses it occasionally, like at this year's Isle of Man). | Photo: Mike Klein/

It all came to nothing, and then just after bailing out by trading queens and entering a slightly worse opposite-colored-bishop ending with rooks, Radjabov erred badly and allowed a neat decisive breakthrough. The snap loss means he will need to be perfect down the stretch to qualify.

GM Dejan Bojkov

Unlike Radjabov, Vachier-Lagrave's imbalances actually gave him some hopes for a full point. His rook+two pawns vs. two minors against GM Pentala Harikrishna eventually fizzled when the Indian decided to form a fortress rather than go for activity. The draw was agreed with only Tomashevsky and Radjabov still battling in the playing hall.

"I thought I was better," the Frenchman told "I missed one move - 37. f5 - and after that I'm already back to fighting for my life."

Before the tournament began, Vachier-Lagrave told that he estimated his chances at qualification at "30 percent." Does he feel that number has gone up or down? We caught up with Vachier-Lagrave afterward to ask him about that percentage, playing in a hotel that is closed for winter, and the all-important question of French vs. Spanish beaches:


On top board Aronian and Svidler only played 24 moves but most were exciting. In typical Svidler fashion, he performed his usual sound byte that combined humor with self-deprecation.

"I have a suspicion that Levon Aronian looked at the line, which happened in the game, in more detail, because I think it’s more difficult to look at it in less detail than I did."

Like Vachier-Lagrave, Aronian said he didn't mind the solitude afforded by choosing a closed hotel as the site.

"Nothing affects a chess player’s play, he said. "Once you’re in the playing hall, nothing affects your play.”

Levon Aronian and Peter Svidler

GM Levon Aronian and GM Peter Svidler chat amiably about their game afterward. | Photo: Mike Klein/

The man is clearly excited about playing chess these days. After winning the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz, then the World Cup, he got married and now leads here in Mallorca. That's enough to make anyone bounce in his chair: caught up with Svidler to ask him about the choice of the Benoni and why his opponent had a "long think, wrong think." You may also be further impressed by the Russian's vocabulary in English, which is already legendary: did get that answer from Aronian on why he played 20. Ng5.

"I saw 20. Ra3 leads to a big advantage for me," he said. "I thought, ‘Why don’t I mate him?’ I just got carried away. I just forgot that the rook could take on e6. That came as an unpleasant surprise."

In other action, GM Boris Gelfand lost to GM Ernesto Inarkiev, meaning something that hasn't happened for a dozen years just occurred:

The only other winner of the round was GM Richard Rapport, who crept up into the +1 score group with what he called "coffeehouse" chess at the finish. In an equal position but in terrible time pressure, GM Alexander Riazantsev allowing a punishing knight infiltration that led to an Arabian mate:

On playing the Reverse Stonewall today, Rapport joked to that it's part of his regular repertoire anyway, and perhaps the only person who used it at a higher rate lives in his house (WGM Jovana Rapport, née Vojinović).

"The only person who played it more is my wife," Rapport said. "She changed her name just to secure this achievement!"

All other games were drawn. We also learned today that in addition to playing sports on yesterday's rest day (mostly football), a few of the players watched the Speed Chess Championship semifinal, where GM Magnus Carlsen beat GM Alexander Grischuk

GM Ding Liren watched much of the match (this time at a safer distance than last week, when the world champion demolished him at the Champions Showdown). As for GM Hikaru Nakamura, he stopped following after the lopsided five-minute section, where Carlsen built up his big lead.

Hikaru Nakamura and Ding Liren

GM Hikaru Nakamura (left) told that he did see GM Ding Liren's G/30 and G/20 games in St. Louis last week as part of his preparation. | Photo: Mike Klein/ asked Nakamura on pure speculation: If he gets passed GM Sergey Karjakin in his own semifinal, how would he feel about a finals rematch with the Norwegian?

"I like playing Magnus," he said. "If you gave me a choice, the list goes: Magnus one, then Karjakin and Grischuk together [in second].”

Palma Grand Prix | Round 6 Standings

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

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

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.

Previous reports:

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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