Final FIDE Grand Prix in Astrakhan

5/13/2010 – The location is the same as for the first five Grand Prix tournaments: the Caucasian region in southern Russia. There are 14 players in a round robin, with high stakes, since the players are competing for a place in the candidates' matches. This explains the sluggish start with 76% draws after three rounds. On the other hand, the opening ceremony was quite flashy. Pictorial report.

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Six months ago we asked you to guess where the final (sixth) FIDE Grand Prix tournament would be staged. Originally the plan, as announced on the Grand Prix web site, envisioned "a series of six tournaments held over two years in leading world cities." Each tournament would have 14 players and last seventeen days, without conflicting with other major events.

Despite the Cassandra predictions of many chess experts, and venue changes as sponsorship deals broke down, FIDE did manage to successfully stage five of the planned Grand Prix tournaments – in Jermuk, Nalchik, Elista, Sochi and Baku. These cities are all in a relatively small area of the world. Our readers were asked to guess where the sixth one woule be held.

The answer was in Astrakhan, completing the circle of venues in Caucasian region in southern Russia.

Astrakhan' itself was first mentioned by travellers in the early 13th century. Tamerlane burnt it to the ground in 1395. From 1459 to 1556, Xacitarxan was the capital of Astrakhan Khanate. The ruins of this medieval settlement were found by archaeologists 12 km upstream from the modern-day city.


Astrakhan in the 17th century [photo from Rambaud's Russia]


The Maria Ascension cathedral in Astrakhan today

The Sixth Grand Prix has started on May 10th in the new Astrakhan State Drama Theatre of the city. The stakes are extremely high, not only due to high prestige of winning the event, but also because one can win here a ticket to the candidates matches. The traditional opening ceremony was attended by...


... the President of FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and the Governor of Astrakhan Region Alexander Zhilkin


The traditional colorful opening ceremony at the Grand Prix


A boy's dance troupe: if you want to see them in action go to the final part of this video


The pictures from the opening ceremony were eagerly snapped up by chess blogs...


... who were clearly fascinated by the massive display of legs


The full lineup: Wang Yue, Eljanov, Gelfand, Radjabov (barely visible), Svidler, Leko,
Gashimov, the girl with the Leko sign, Ponomariov, Jakovenko, Alekseev, Akopian and Inarkiev.


The chief arbiter, IA Faik Gasanov, helped by two charming girls, spun the drum and
the tournament players got to choose balls with their numbers.

Round one – May 10, 2010

Eljanov Pavel
½-½
Svidler Peter
Akopian Vladimir
½-½
Gelfand Boris
Mamedyarov Shakhriyar
½-½
Jakovenko Dmitry
Gashimov Vugar
1-0
Ivanchuk Vassily
Wang Yue
½-½
Leko Peter
Alekseev Evgeny
½-½
Radjabov Teimour
Inarkiev Ernesto
½-½
Ponomariov Ruslan

.
Round one under way. There is a lot at stake in this final Grand Prix, which probably
explains the rather peaceful first round: only one decisive game...


Vugar Gashimov, playing white, defeated Vassily Ivanchuk.

The Azeri grandmaster selected a quiet variation of the Ruy Lopez, Ivanchuk tried to create active counterplay in the center, but he was unable to seize the initiative, and Gashimov got a notable advantage after opening the f-file, winning the game in 36 moves

Round two – May 11, 2010

Svidler Peter
0-1
Ponomariov Ruslan
Radjabov Teimour
½-½
Inarkiev Ernesto
Leko Peter
1-0
Alekseev Evgeny
Ivanchuk Vassily
½-½
Wang Yue
Jakovenko Dmitry
½-½
Gashimov Vugar
Gelfand Boris
1-0
Mamedyarov Shakhriyar
Eljanov Pavel
1-0
Akopian Vladimir

In this above game Peter Leko, Alekseev’s opponent, played peacefully in a well-known line of the Benoni Defense. The game transposed to an ending with a slight advantage to White. Alekseev was forced to defend, and he started to consume too much time, which eventually led to a time loss on the 40th move in an approximately even position. For the first time hin his career Alekseev lost his game on time.

Peter Svidler failed to obtain any opening advantage in the Berlin Variation of the Ruy Lopez, and his opponent Ruslan Ponomariov was even slightly better when Peter committed a blunder...

Svidler,P (2735) - Ponomariov,R (2733) [C67]
FIDE GP Astrakhan RUS (2), 11.05.2010
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.Nc3 h6 10.h3 Bd7 11.b3 c5 12.Rd1 Kc8 13.a4 a5 14.Nd5 g5 15.Bb2 Be6 16.c4 b6 17.Kh2 Ne7 18.g4 Ng6 19.Kg3 Be7 20.Nf6 Kb7 21.Nh5 Rhg8 22.Ng1 Rad8 23.Ne2 Bd7

White can still draw, but not after 24.Rd2? Bxa4 25.Rxd8 Rxd8 and because of the fork after 26.bxa4 Rd2 the result is 0-1.

Round three – May 12, 2010

Akopian Vladimir
½-½
Svidler Peter
Mamedyarov Shakhriyar
½-½
Eljanov Pavel
Gashimov Vugar
½-½
Gelfand Boris
Wang Yue
½-½
Jakovenko Dmitry
Alekseev Evgeny
½-½
Ivanchuk Vassily
Inarkiev Ernesto
½-½
Leko Peter
Ponomariov Ruslan
½-½
Radjabov Teimour

All games of the third round ended peacefully, the longest being between Ernesto Inarkiev and Peter Leko.


Vladimir Akopian and Peter Svidler made a relatively quick 23-move draw


Vugar Gashimov created some problems for Boris Gelfand in the Petroff Defense. Black’s king looked unsafe in a complicated endgame, however, White suddenly sacrificed a rook and forced a draw by move repetition.

Evgeny Alekseev obtained an advantage against Ivanchuk’s Petroff. The Ukrainian transposed to a worse rook ending, but Alekseev lost the pace of attack, and Ivanchuk managed to build a fortress, fixing the kingside pawn structure, and not allowing the enemy rook to help its monarch.

Information, images and games by courtesy of FIDE

Standings after three rounds


Links

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