Rest Day Before The Rest Day: All Grand Prix Games Drawn
One afternoon before the FIDE Grand Prix in Mallorca, Spain entered its only rest day, all 18 players decided they preferred nearly a 48-hour break instead. All nine games finished drawn, with the two that are most relevant to Candidates' qualification ending the quickest.
GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave pressed as White for only 13 moves before calling it a day with GM Hikaru Nakamura. The tournament's sole leader, GM Levon Aronian, who is currently siphoning much-needed first-place points from Candidates' hopefuls, played only seven moves more than that (and at least sacrificed a pawn) before drawing with Black against GM Ding Liren. Apparently, they played enough in their 2017 World Cup final.
The start of Ding Liren vs Levon Aronian, a reprise of the World Cup final. | Photo: Valeriy Belobeev/World Chess.
"We're slowly getting accustomed to each other," Aronian said, adding that the day before the break is the "most important" since "you don't want to go to the rest day being upset." I guess in that glass-half-full way of thinking, all the players were successful.
Palma Grand Prix | Round 5 Results
|1||4||GM||Ding Liren||2774||2½||½ - ½||3||GM||Aronian Levon||2801||1|
|2||2||GM||Vachier-Lagrave Maxime||2796||2½||½ - ½||2½||GM||Nakamura Hikaru||2780||3|
|3||10||GM||Jakovenko Dmitry||2721||2½||½ - ½||2½||GM||Svidler Peter||2763||5|
|4||8||GM||Radjabov Teimour||2741||2||½ - ½||2½||GM||Harikrishna P.||2738||9|
|5||6||GM||Giri Anish||2762||2||½ - ½||2||GM||Riazantsev Alexander||2651||17|
|6||14||GM||Tomashevsky Evgeny||2702||2||½ - ½||2||GM||Rapport Richard||2692||15|
|7||13||GM||Vallejo Pons Francisco||2705||1½||½ - ½||1½||GM||Li Chao B||2741||7|
|8||12||GM||Eljanov Pavel||2707||1½||½ - ½||1½||GM||Inarkiev Ernesto||2683||16|
|9||11||GM||Gelfand Boris||2719||1||½ - ½||1||GM||Hammer Jon Ludvig||2629||18|
As for GM Teimour Radjabov, he tried the most of any player to win today, but still came up short by drawing GM Pentala Harikrishna. In fact he tried to emulate Aronian's strategy from yesterday: play a Black opening as White. Not only that, Aronian said in round four he was channeling the late GM Vugar Gashimov, and today's Reverse Benoni surely would have made Gashimov proud as well. About the only difference is that Aronian was praising the national of a country that his is at odds with, while Radjabov's ode to the Benoni mimicked a fellow Azeri's favorite.
"I tried to play something fighting today," Radjabov said. "I think I got some kind of play up until I had to solve some problems."
For Nakamura, who beat would-be qualifier Radjabov yesterday, he apparently didn't desire to hurt another man's chances two days in a row. That's consistent with what he said in St. Louis last week -- he would take no great pleasure from injuring the Frenchman's chances.
The other six games all finished without a winner as well, so today's "Candidates' Update" is simple a copy/paste from yesterday:
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 eighth place which would be 50+40+30+20+10 = 150 / 5 = 30.
Vachier-Lagrave (who needs 126 points, or 130 if Radjabov overtakes Mamedyarov) would also fall short, finishing in a six-way tie for second place which would be: 140+110+90+80+70+60 = 550 / 6 = 91 2/3.
That means for the four relevant players, the final scores would be:
Mamedyarov: 340, qualifies.
Grischuk: 336 3/7, qualifies.
Vachier-Lagrave: 303 2/27, fails to qualify.
Radjabov: 271 3/7, fails to qualify.
Today Radjabov tried to climb back into the running to overtake GM Alexander Grischuk to join his countryman GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the Candidates'. To do so, he made the bold choice to play the Benoni. Well, it's not quite as bold with the extra tempo, but it does show that he's going to make the second half of Mallorca interesting.
"It's just a reverse King's Indian," Harikrishna said, slightly mislabeling the opening with a close cousin. But he joked that Radjabov knows it well. That's surely true -- Radjabov is a noted King's Indian Defense player and took his only full point this tournament by returning to his old friend.
Whatever you want to call it, here's GM Dejan Bojkov's take on the game:
Radjabov said afterward he didn't have plans for the rest day and was ready to play as much as needed. Harikrishna asked him to stop that kind of talk, lest the organizers actually make them play tomorrow!
Speaking earlier of Candidates' hopeful Grischuk, as he waits another week to see his fate, he will actually be the busiest player on the rest day. No, he's not jumping on a plane to Spain -- Grischuk will be in action in the Speed Chess Championship semifinals against the world champion.
If you were a fan of the day's uneventful play, we've got good news for you. "Waiting for Godot" is available in full on the web:
One of the few players that didn't seem to have a late-afternoon tee time was GM Anish Giri. That's right -- the man who is often chided for his proclivity to draw did more than most to mix it up today.
Giri said that his opponent has played many variations of the Caro-Kann, yet he wasn't expecting this one. Still, his second had something prepared, although neither Giri nor team Giri expected Black to take the first pawn.
"I sacrificed one more pawn to keep the initiative going," Giri said.
But alas Giri was Giri. After offering those two pawns to GM Alexander Riazantsev, the pair also shook hands just at the height of battle. Giri had missed a key defensive resource:
Here's Aronian's effort with Ding, where the Armenian insists on giving away his c-pawn, no matter what White plays. What follows is an interview where Aronian explained that he played this line against Nakamura at the one of the previous Grand Prix legs (a minor memory error -- he was thinking of a game from 2017 Altibox Norway).
"I feel bad because recently I didn't do very well with white pieces," Ding said.
You heard in the interview about Aronian plans to swim tomorrow. In case he comes to Chess.com for his weather forecast, he was right on the money with his calculation. The sea temperature is exactly 20 degrees Celsius right now, so he can get that swim practice in after all. While trying to qualify to beat GM Magnus Carlsen in a world championship, he might also be working on a rematch of their epic pool battle.
Palma Grand Prix | Round 5 Standings
|13||7||GM||Li Chao B||2741||2,0|
|13||GM||Vallejo Pons Francisco||2705||2,0|
|18||GM||Hammer Jon Ludvig||2629||1,5|
Pairings round six: Aronian-Svidler; Harikrishna-Vachier-Lagrave; Nakamura-Ding; Giri-Jakovenko; Tomashevsky-Radjabov; Riazantsev-Rapport; Li-Eljanov; Hammer-Vallejo; Gelfand-Inarkiev.
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.