Sharjah GP Rd6: The one that got away

by Albert Silver
2/24/2017 – It was the closest of affairs, and Nakamura had to think it was in the bag as he pressed forth with a won endgame against Grischuk, but a late misstep was all it took, and the chance to join the leaders slipped away. Nepomniachtchi made no such mistakes and took down Li Chao to enter the group a half point behind the leaders, while Rapport is back at 50% after defeating Riazantsev. Full report with analysis by Tiger Hillarp-Persson.

The time control in the GP tournaments 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.

The first leg, in Sharjah, will be held February 18 - 27 (with a rest day on the 23rd) at the Sharjah Cultural & Chess Club. The first prize is €20,000; the total prize fund is is €130,000. 

2017 Sharjah GP Participants

All photos by Max Avdeev

A fairly atypical game for the great fighter, Mamedyarov agreed to split the point after a measly 13 moves

Tomashevksy had a nice advantage against Eljanov when they drew, but either saw no way to press for more, or was uncomfortable pushing the issue

Things went very wrong for Li Chao, and the 'drawing' Petroff was instead bamboozeld by a novelty by Ian Nepomniachtchi that included a surprise piece sac three moves later with 15. Bxh6!

Ian Nepomniachtchi vs Li Chao

[Event "FIDE World Chess Grand Prix 2017"] [Site "Sharjah"] [Date "2017.02.24"] [Round "6"] [White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Black "Li, Chao b"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2749"] [BlackElo "2720"] [Annotator "A. Silver"] [PlyCount "57"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventCountry "UAE"] [SourceTitle ""] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] [TimeControl "40/6000+30:20/3000+30:900+30"] 1. e4 {(0)} e5 {(13)} 2. Nf3 {(0)} Nf6 {(00)} 3. Nxe5 {(0)} d6 {(11)} 4. Nf3 { ( 00)} Nxe4 {(6)} 5. d4 {(4)} d5 {(9)} 6. Bd3 {(7)} Bd6 {(42)} 7. O-O {(9)} O-O {( 06)} 8. c4 {(5)} c6 {(8)} 9. Nc3 {(6)} Nxc3 {(01:07)} 10. bxc3 {(6)} dxc4 { (10)} 11. Bxc4 {(07)} Bf5 {(32)} 12. Bg5 {(8) The novelty, at least at master level or greater. An odd one at first sight as it forces the queen away to a better square it would normally do anyhow, and invites an attack to be evicted. However, it will be clear the Russian has this well in mind and plays very quickly.} Qc7 {(2:33)} 13. Re1 {(8)} h6 {(4:34)} 14. Nh4 {(12)} Bh7 {[#] (5:36) } 15. Bxh6 $1 {(17) Not only strong, but still well part of Nepomniachtchi's preparation as the respective time per move shows.} Bxh2+ {(26:17) Unpleasant as the move came, Li Chao spends 26 minutes no doubt trying to see what trouble he had landed in, and comes up with a good reply.} ({The obvious question is what prevents him from just taking with} 15... gxh6 16. Qg4+ Kh8 17. Nf5 Bxf5 18. Qxf5 Bxh2+ (18... f6 19. Re6 {This is the main computer line, and considering how quickly White was playing, one can be sure he knew it well and had it prepared.} Nd7 20. Rae1 Nb6 21. Bd3 {and now the attack is overwhelming. The immediate threat is Re7!} Qd7 22. Qh5 {and Black must lose material to save the king from an immediate demise.}) (18... Nd7 $2 19. Bd3 Nf6 20. Qxf6+ {etc.}) 19. Kh1 Qf4 20. Qh3 {and the Bh2 is trapped. However, as will be clear, this was still the best path for Black.}) 16. Kh1 {(26)} Bf4 { (11) The fatal imprecision.} ({Best was} 16... gxh6 17. Qg4+ Kh8 18. Nf5 Bxf5 19. Qxf5 Qf4 20. Qh3 {and it transposes to the note above.}) 17. Bxg7 $1 { (16:10)} Kxg7 {( 24)} 18. Qg4+ {(2:52)} Kh8 {(14:07)} 19. Nf5 {(37)} Bxf5 { (2:23)} 20. Qxf5 {(1:48)} Qd6 {(3:03)} 21. g3 {(17:18)} Bh6 {(2:05)} 22. Kg2 { (23) With the pbvious idea of Rh1 attacking on the h-file.} b5 {(28:42)} 23. Bb3 {(18)} Qg6 {(52)} 24. Qxg6 {(59)} fxg6 {(58)} 25. Re7 {(6)} g5 {(25)} 26. Re6 {(04:53)} Kg7 {(2:39)} 27. Rh1 {(1:12)} Rh8 {( 28)} 28. Re7+ {(12)} Kg6 { (1:09)} 29. Bc2+ {(6)} ({It is mate in six after} 29. Bc2+ Kf6 30. Rhe1 g4 31. R1e6+ Kg5 32. Rg6+ Kh5 33. Re5+ Bg5 34. Rexg5#) 1-0

It wasn't for lack of trying, by Levon Aronian was unable to make...

... Spaniard Francisco "Paco" Vallejo crack.

Richard Rapport bounced back from a difficult phase and defeated Riazantsev to reach parity

In spite of the two outright victories in the sixth round, the game of the day was unquestionably...

... the near win by Hikaru Nakamura over....

... Alexander Grischuk.

Annotating the fascinating game is Tiger Hillarp Persson

Hikaru Nakamura vs Alexandre Grischuk (annotated by Tiger Hillarp-Persson)

[Event "Sharjah Grand Prix"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.24"] [Round "6"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Grischuk, Alexander"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B90"] [Annotator "Tiger Hillarp-Persson"] [PlyCount "123"] [EventDate "2016.11.19"] [EventCountry "UAE"] 1. Nf3 c5 2. e4 {Who is tricking who?} d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 { Both players have the Najdorf on their repertoire so a more advanced theoretical fight than what we are to witness is hard to imagine. For the poor guy who is to comment on it it's a complete nightmare. What are the odds that I will get even half of it right? For those of you who find no interest in theory I recommend you to skip to move... 31!} 6. Be3 {Nakamura hasn't played this for some time, so if Grischuk expected the Najorf, it is still unlikely that he managed to guess the line.} Ng4 {Both players tend to favour this with the Black pieces.} (6... e6 7. f3 (7. Be2 {leads to the Scheveningen system.}) 7... b5 8. Qd2 {leads to freakishly complicated lines where memory is a key factor.}) (6... e5 {is the classical Najdorf treatment, when White can either go for the solid} 7. Nf3 ({or play} 7. Nb3 {, when there is a great likelyhood for opposite side castling and wild attacks.})) 7. Bg5 {White doesn't have much of a choice when it comes to moving the bishop.} (7. Bc1 Nf6 {is back to square one}) ({and} 7. Bd2 {is a non-move that leaves Black with the better chances after} Qb6 $1) 7... h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Bg3 Bg7 10. h3 {This has been considered the most critical move for a long time, but lately White has had some success with other moves:} (10. Qd2 Nc6 11. Nb3 {scores well, but this is one of these (majority) cases where one must see past the statistics. After} b5 {Black has been doing well. The latest game went} 12. h4 b4 13. Nd5 Bxb2 14. Rb1 gxh4 15. Bxh4 Bg7 16. Rc1 {A novelty compared to earlier games.} Nge5 $6 ( 16... Be6) 17. f3 $6 (17. c3 $1) 17... Be6 {with mutual chances, in Shevchenko, K (2450)-Khismatullin,D (2635) 13th Moscow Open A 2017}) (10. Be2 {seems quite challenging too:} h5 (10... Ne5 11. Nf5 Bxf5 12. exf5 Nbc6 13. Nd5 {is similar to our game, but Be2 should be a better move to have played than h3.}) 11. Bxg4 hxg4 12. O-O $5 {has scored two wins lately by Bartosz Socko, but the last one seems to have had little to do with the opening:} Nc6 13. Nf5 Bxc3 14. bxc3 Qa5 15. Qxg4 f6 16. f4 Bxf5 17. exf5 gxf4 18. Qxf4 Qxc3 19. Rae1 Kd7 (19... Kf7) 20. Qe4 Rag8 $6 (20... Qd4+ $15) 21. Re3 Qd4 22. Qe6+ {and the tables were turning, in Socko,B (2595)-Vachier Lagrave,M (2755) World Rapid 2015.}) 10... Ne5 ({Black can also play} 10... Nf6 {, but Black has struggled to find a good reply to} 11. Qf3 {, targeting the weak f5-square.} {The latest game saw} Qb6 12. O-O-O Nc6 13. Nxc6 Qxc6 14. Be2 Nd7 15. Nd5 Ne5 16. Qa3 Rb8 17. h4 g4 18. f4 $36 {, Schmaltz,R (2485)-Meissner,F (2255) 26th Erfurt Master Open 2016}) 11. Nf5 {It's interesting to see that Nakamura keeps to the main line here.} ({ The other option is} 11. Be2 Nbc6 12. Nb3 b5 13. a4 b4 14. Nd5 {, when} e6 15. Ne3 Bb7 16. Qd2 Qc7 17. O-O-O O-O-O 18. Kb1 Kb8 19. f3 {turned out to be too good for White, in Ivanchuk,V (2715)-Vachier Lagrave,M (2757) Wijk aan Zee 2015. The ball seem to be in Black's court here, but considering Nakamura's choice he seems to have found a way to throw it back into White's.}) 11... Bxf5 12. exf5 Nbc6 (12... Qa5 13. Qd5 $1 $14 {Spasov,V-Kempinski,R/Leon 2001}) ( 12... Nbd7 {temporarily took over as the main line in 2016.} {The latest word here was:} 13. Be2 Rc8 14. O-O Nb6 15. Rb1 O-O 16. f4 Nec4 17. fxg5 Ne3 18. Qd3 Nxf1 19. gxh6 {which left White with a strong initative for the exchange, in Najer,E (2680)-Artemiev,V (2665) TCh-RUS Men 2016.}) 13. Nd5 {White is planning to play c3 and thus dissolve the pressure along the h8-a1 diagonal.} e6 (13... O-O {has almost only been played by engines, so I am suspicious about its logic. After} 14. Be2 e6 15. Ne3 d5 16. fxe6 fxe6 17. O-O {Black's acitivity doesn't quite make up for the weak central pawns.}) 14. fxe6 { White can postpone this move, but sooner or later it has to be done.} fxe6 15. Ne3 Qa5+ {This move has already been played no less than 200 times.} (15... O-O 16. Be2 Qe7 17. O-O Rad8 18. Bh5 $1 {and with the bishop out of the way and Black's kingside pawns robbed of the dynamism, White was better, in Kasimdzhanov,R (2670)-Anand,V (2788) San Luis 2005.}) 16. c3 Nf3+ $5 { According to my database, this move was first played by the relatively unknown player Rodriquez Ibran in 2003. Some years later it caught on and became the main line.} (16... d5 17. Be2 O-O {is basically a worse version of 15...0-0, since the queen is badly placed on a5, whereas c3 helps White.}) 17. Qxf3 Bxc3+ {This is the whole idea behind Black's 16:th move.} 18. Kd1 ({Not} 18. bxc3 Qxc3+ 19. Kd1 Qxa1+ 20. Kd2 Qxa2+ 21. Nc2 Qxc2+ $1 {when Black gets a clear advantage.}) 18... Qa4+ (18... Bxb2 $6 19. Qe4 $1 Bxa1 20. Qxe6+ Kd8 (20... Ne7 21. Bxd6) 21. Qxd6+ Ke8 22. Qe6+ Ne7 (22... Kd8 23. Bd3 $16) 23. Bd6 Qa4+ 24. Nc2 Qd7 25. Qxe7+ Qxe7 26. Bxe7 Kxe7 27. Nxa1 $16) 19. Nc2 Bxb2 {The engine now states: "0.00", which ought to mean that the position is absolutely equal. It could also be the engine-equivalent of "I have no idea". At a dinner with my chess club in Malmö, Georg Meier said something that caught my imagination: "Eventually the engines will be so strong that it makes no sense to use them". He meant that if chess is indeed a draw with best play and the engines come to see that clearly, then most positions in the 0.01-0.5 spectra (and perhaps higher) will be evaluated as precisely "0.00".} 20. Rc1 $1 {This has proved to be the most challenging move.} ({An early encounter went} 20. Qb3 Qxb3 21. axb3 Bxa1 22. Nxa1 Ke7 {with an unclear game, in Svidler,P (2738)-Topalov,V (2788) San Luis 2005.}) 20... Rc8 {Grischuk took 22 minutes to play this move, which he has played before himself. Nakamura continued to blitz out his moves.} ( 20... Bxc1 21. Qf6 Kd7 22. Kxc1 Qxa2 23. Bd3 {gave White the advantage, in Svidler,P (2735)-Grischuk,A (2726) Mexico City 2007. A game that have been expertly commented upon in Chessbase Magazine, by Mihail Marin.}) 21. Bd3 Rf8 { Now we are "down to" only about a hundred games in the databases.} ({If} 21... Bxc1 {then} 22. Qf6 {is annoying. For instance} Kd7 23. Kxc1 Nb4 24. Qg7+ Kc6 25. Nxb4+ Qxb4 26. Kd1 $14 {Almeida,D (2341)-Piccoli,F (2335) ICCF 2012}) 22. Qh5+ ({The lines after} 22. Qg4 {become long and forced. I honestly doesn't understand them:} Nd4 23. Re1 Qxa2 24. Re4 Bxc1 25. Rxd4 Bf4 26. Bxf4 Rxf4 27. Rxf4 gxf4 28. Qg8+ Kd7 29. Qf7+ Kd8 30. Qf8+ Kd7 31. Qxf4 Qd5 32. Qf7+ Kd8 33. Ke2 Rxc2+ 34. Bxc2 Qe5+ {and after another 11 checks the game Karjakin,S (2760) -Grischuk,A (2771) Moscow 2010, ended in a draw.}) 22... Ke7 (22... Kd7 { has also been played a number of times and if I was to chose a move by instinct here, this would be it. A possible downside is that} 23. Qxh6 Bxc1 ( 23... Qxa2 24. Ke2) 24. Kxc1 Qxa2 25. Rd1 $1 {leaves the king wishing it had gone to d7. Not conclusive though.}) 23. Qxh6 Bxc1 24. Re1 Ne5 25. Rxe5 dxe5 26. Kxc1 Qa3+ 27. Kd2 Rxc2+ 28. Bxc2 Qb4+ 29. Ke2 Qb5+ 30. Ke1 Qb4+ {This has been played before too, with draw as a result. But instead of taking the draw Nakamura continues:} 31. Kf1 $1 {A novelty and a strong move, that I guess was part of Nakamura's preparation. Black gets to take the bishop on c2, but the ruined pawn structure and the vulnerable position of Black's king gives White plenty of compensation for the slight material deficit.} Qc4+ 32. Kg1 $1 Qxc2 33. Qxg5+ Kf7 34. Qxe5 {Other moves are also possible, but centralizing the queen, while keeping f2 properly protected seems like a good idea.} Qd1+ $6 ({ I believe Black should just grab the pawn on a2, thus getting a passed pawn of his own.} 34... Qxa2 {After} 35. Qc7+ Kg6 36. Qxb7 a5 {it is hard to evaluate the position with precision, but one thing is sure. White is trying to win, while Black is trying to draw. If White is able to find a way to push the h-pawn two steps forward while putting the bishop on e5, then Black will be in trouble. If the engine is to be believed we are - again - at a 0.00 situation, but it doesn't mean a thing for a human. Grischuk's reaction, to bring the queen closer to the defense, is a very natural one.}) 35. Kh2 Qd5 36. Qc7+ Kg8 37. Be5 Rf7 38. Qc3 (38. Qc8+ $5 Rf8 39. Qc3 {looks even stronger. Black's rook is a better defender on the seventh rank.}) 38... Kf8 39. f4 {The last five moves have been a success for White. With the bishop safely installed on e5 it becomes possible to move the kingside pawns forward.} Ke7 40. Qc8 Qc6 41. Qg8 Qe8 42. Qg3 Kd8 43. h4 Rh7 44. Qg5+ Kd7 45. g4 Qc8 46. Qg6 $2 {According to the notes I have, Nakamura thought for more than 20 minutes before playing this move and still he misses the win. I do not think that he missed it because he doesn't calculate well enough, but rather because he is used to calculating almost too well. The result is that he looks for a very forced win with very small margins, when a small mistake in the calculation will upset everything.} ({The rather natural} 46. h5 {seems to set White up for a win. Qg6, followed by h6 and g5, is hanging in the air, so Black must act, now:} Qc2+ 47. Kg3 Qe4 (47... Kc6 48. Qg6) 48. Qg6 Qxg6 49. hxg6 Rh6 50. f5 {and the two passed pawns will win the game for White. Perhaps Nakamura was afraid that Black would get the chance to sacrifice the rook for two pawns and then hold the endgame since the a-pawn is of the wrong colour?! Perhaps there was another reason.} exf5 51. gxf5 Rh1 52. Bd4 {stopping the rook from coming to g1 is the key.} Rc1 53. Kf4 Ke7 54. f6+ Ke6 55. f7 Rf1+ 56. Ke4 Rxf7 57. gxf7 Kxf7 58. Kd5 Ke7 59. Kc5 b5 60. Kb6 Kd7 61. Kxa6 Kc7 62. Be5+ {and Black doesn't reach the corner with the king. Not exactly a conclusive variation, but an indication. It must feel terrible to miss such great chance to win the game.}) 46... Rxh4+ 47. Kg3 Rh1 48. f5 Rg1+ 49. Kh2 Qc2+ {This is another move that could be missed. Now Black holds the draw without much effort.} 50. Kxg1 Qc5+ 51. Kg2 Qxe5 52. Qf7+ Kd6 53. Qf8+ Kd5 54. f6 Qe4+ 55. Kh2 Qxg4 56. Qg7 Qf4+ 57. Kh3 Qf5+ 58. Kh4 Kd6 59. Qg3+ (59. f7 Qf4+ 60. Kh5 Qf5+ 61. Kh6 Qh3+ 62. Kg6 Qf5+ {is also a draw.}) 59... Kd7 60. Qg7+ Kd6 61. Qg3+ Kd7 62. Qg7+ 1/2-1/2

If you enjoyed Tiger's analysis, be sure to check out the next issue of ChessBase Magazine where a more in-depth version of his analysis will appear.

Round 6 on 2017/02/24 at 15:00

Bo No Ti. Name Rtg Pts. Result Pts. Ti Name Rtg No
1 7 GM Adams Michael 2751 3 ½ - ½ GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2796 1
2 12 GM Jakovenko Dmitry 2709 3 ½ - ½ GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar 2766 4
3 3 GM Nakamura Hikaru 2785 3 ½ - ½ 3 GM Grischuk Alexander 2742 9
4 2 GM Aronian Levon 2785 ½ - ½ GM Vallejo Pons Francisco 2709 13
5 17 GM Hou Yifan 2651 ½ - ½ GM Ding Liren 2760 5
6 8 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian 2749 1 - 0 GM Li Chao B 2720 10
7 14 GM Rapport Richard 2692 2 1 - 0 2 GM Riazantsev Alexander 2671 15
8 6 GM Eljanov Pavel 2759 2 ½ - ½ GM Tomashevsky Evgeny 2711 11
9 18 GM Hammer Jon Ludvig 2628 2 ½ - ½ GM Salem A.R. Saleh 2656 16

Round six games (with times per move)

Standings after six rounds

Rk SNo Ti. Name FED Rtg Pts
1 1 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2796 4,0
2 4 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar AZE 2766 4,0
3 7 GM Adams Michael ENG 2751 3,5
4 12 GM Jakovenko Dmitry RUS 2709 3,5
5 9 GM Grischuk Alexander RUS 2742 3,5
6 3 GM Nakamura Hikaru USA 2785 3,5
7 8 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian RUS 2749 3,5
8 14 GM Rapport Richard HUN 2692 3,0
9 5 GM Ding Liren CHN 2760 3,0
10 13 GM Vallejo Pons Francisco ESP 2709 3,0
11 2 GM Aronian Levon ARM 2785 3,0
12 17 GM Hou Yifan CHN 2651 3,0
13 10 GM Li Chao B CHN 2720 2,5
14 18 GM Hammer Jon Ludvig NOR 2628 2,5
15 6 GM Eljanov Pavel UKR 2759 2,5
16 11 GM Tomashevsky Evgeny RUS 2711 2,0
  15 GM Riazantsev Alexander RUS 2671 2,0
18 16 GM Salem A.R. Saleh UAE 2656 2,0

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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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ricardoalves ricardoalves 2/24/2017 08:51
The site of AGON is terrible....
pölönc pölönc 2/25/2017 03:14
Also these pictures are terrible..
sxb103 sxb103 2/25/2017 03:40
as @Polonc mentioned, the pictures are not good and look way too stark ! I think during processing the photographer pushes up "clarity " way too much and has the "blacks" and "shadows" slider down too much
Seryhaber Seryhaber 2/25/2017 01:07
In Nepo - Li, 12.Bg5 is not a novelty. The new move is 14.Nh4! instead of 14.Bg5 which was played before in games between amateurs... I would like to take this opportunity to thank ChessBase and the commentators of the games that allow us to follow this tournament !
parselmouth parselmouth 2/25/2017 03:02
Nothing wrong with photos. This kind of event is very tough on the nerves.
Fianshetto Fianshetto 2/25/2017 09:06
AGON monopoly of chess broadcast hurts the game of chess more than the quality of their photographs polonc !