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Wins For Li, Salem As Draw Fest Continues

Wins For Li, Salem As Draw Fest Continues

Feb 25, 2017, 12:00 AM 12,654 Reads 20 Comments Chess event coverage

With draws on the top seven boards in round seven, the field remains closely packed at the Grand Prix in Sharjah. On Saturday Salem Saleh won his first game and Li Chao his second.

Photo: Maria Emelianova.

"It's safety first," said commentator Viktor Bologan today, when four games ended in draws after about two hours: Ding Liren vs Hikaru Nakamura, Richard Rapport vs Levon Aronian, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Dmitry Jakovenko and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs Ian Nepomniachtchi. The drawing percentage after seven rounds is almost 75 percent.

So why exactly is this happening? Well, for starters, the Grand Prix is all about who finishes first or second after four events, so it's more important to avoid a disaster here, than try and go for a win. Besides, it's a self-enforcing process where more draws will lead to more draws...

Four tables without players, for most of the day.

Hikaru Nakamura played 28 moves but had the luxury of using no less than 26 moves of prep to equalise against Ding. "I had prepared it a long, long time ago and I was able to remember the lines. When you're able to remember the lines things turn out very easily."

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had won the last two games as White against the Berlin, but today he got nothing against Jakovenko. He drew after 21 moves. "I think I just played very inaccurately at some point. The whole [concept] I used was flawed. I am really not quite happy with my play today."

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov played his pet line 4.Bg5 against the Grünfeld but also didn't get an advantage and split the point as early as move 14 vs Nepomniachtchi. "It was a very bad opening. He played the ...Qb6 move and I absolutely forgot everything about this move. I don't know how to play as White. I started to think how to play for a draw."

The hand of Nakamura, playing some excellent preparation.

Paco Vallejo, who drew in 21 moves as White against Hou after the latter found an excellent defensive move, explained the drawing tendency as follows: "It's not that surprising. I think people try to use the white pieces to see what's happening in the opening. If you are lucky, you keep playing. If nothing happens a draw is fine, and you can try and keep your energy for more important moments maybe."

Asked whether the people on 50 percent might take more risks in the last two rounds, the Spanish GM replied: "Well, the problem is even if you want to take risk, nowadays chess openings are so solid. It's actually hard. You need both players to take some risk, otherwise it doesn't work."

Vallejo: "You need both players to take some risk."

There are two players who are off form in Sharjah, and Alexander Riazantsev is doing the worst. The reigning Russian Champion today lost to local hero Salem Saleh, who in fact wasn't too happy with the game, but obviously the more so with the result.

The agony continues for Riazantsev (click for larger version). | Photos Maria Emelianova.

Salem: "I am very happy that I won. A point is very important; maybe it will improve my play in the next two games."

A first win for Salem Saleh.

Pavel Eljanov is not having a great tournament either. Today he was much less solid than usual, and lost to Li Chao due to one very strange move.

Eljanov about his play so far: "If you're out of form anything can happen. In critical positions I play badly, that's all."

The start of Li Chao vs Pavel Eljanov.

Two more games haven't been mentioned yet, but they also ended in draws: Tomashevsky-Hammer, and Grischuk-Adams. This means that MVL and Mamedyarov are still tied for first place. Both play with the black pieces tomorrow.

Pairings for round 8:

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


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.

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