Teimour Radjabov wins FIDE Grand Prix in Geneva

by Albert Silver
7/16/2017 – It was a suitably exciting end to an overall excellent tournament. In the final round, Teimour Radjabov fought a tough-as-nails game against Ian Nepomniachtchi, who needed a win in order to pull the first-place rug from under the Azeri’s feet. Incredibly, both players offered draws at different moments, and both declined, though in the end, they did indeed draw, giving clear first to Radjabov, and second to Nepomniachtchi. Final report with analysis by GM Lenderman.

The Grand Prix is being organized by Agon Limited, the commercial partner of the World Chess Federation, the game’s governing body. Agon has the exclusive commercial rights to organize the cycle of the World Championship.

Each Grand Prix has a prize fund of 130,000 euros, and the Geneva Grand Prix is supported by EG Capital Advisors, Kaspersky Lab and S.T. Dupont.

Twenty-four of the world’s best players are competing in the Grand Prix, with 18 of them participating in each of the tournaments. They will play a nine round swiss open played at 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 tournament runs from June 6-15, with a rest day on June 11 after round five. Each round starts at 2 pm local time (8 am New York time).

Round nine

Bo.
No.
 
Name
Rtg
Pts.
Result
Pts.
 
Name
Rtg
No.
1
6
GM
Nepomniachtchi Ian
2742
5
½ - ½
GM
Radjabov Teimour
2724
12
2
3
GM
Giri Anish
2775
½ - ½
5
GM
Grischuk Alexander
2761
4
3
2
GM
Mamedyarov Shakhriyar
2800
½ - ½
GM
Li Chao B
2735
10
4
17
GM
Riazantsev Alexander
2654
½ - ½
GM
Adams Michael
2736
9
5
8
GM
Harikrishna Pentala
2737
½ - ½
4
GM
Jakovenko Dmitry
2703
14
6
13
GM
Inarkiev Ernesto
2707
½ - ½
4
GM
Gelfand Boris
2728
11
7
5
GM
Svidler Peter
2749
4
1 - 0
GM
Hou Yifan
2666
16
8
7
GM
Eljanov Pavel
2739
4
½ - ½
2
GM
Rapport Richard
2694
15
9
1
GM
Aronian Levon
2809
1 - 0
2
GM
Salem A.R. Saleh
2638
18

Photos by Valera Belobeev for World Chess

It had promised to be a thrilling game, but it is impossible to predict such things, and so often a final clincher has turned out as a dud. However, not so in this case, as Ian Nepomniachtchi knew he faced a situation in which the only way he might crown his rise in the second half of Geneva was by defeating Teimour Radjabov, the sole leader.

Teimour Radjabov put himself in the driver's seat and successfully finished his campaign

It was a very tough game as Teimour Radjabov admitted there was a slight trepidation that losing this last game would be incredibly unpleasant. That is a euphemism for ‘bolt the windows, and hide all sharp objects’. The opening worked well for him and he soon built a very nice position, leaving Ian Nepomniachtchi slightly worse, plus a time deficit. It was at this point that Radjabov strategically offered a draw, Nepo knew that by accepting he was effectively acceding to second place, like it or not, and like it he did not. He explained after the game that he spent a good chunk of time trying to find a way to continue the game, with a dream of turning it around, and felt that even if things did not go that way, he could hold. A bold fighting decision that is to be applauded, but his fears turned out to be correct as things began to degrade, and any hope that Radjabov might begin to buckle under the pressure was dismissed. He then decided to offer a draw himself, knowing this meant first for his opponent, but to his enormous surprise Radjabov declined!

Teimour explained that he felt there was no risk in continuing and that by now he had genuine chances to try for more, even though a draw was all that was needed. If any sign was needed to show just how differently and confidently the Azeri was playing, this was it. Eventually, the win did not materialize and a draw was the conclusion, but the warmest congratulations to both players for really showing what fighting tooth and nail in chess means. After complaints, justified, about lack of fight by players in previous GP events, this was a welcome about-face not only for the spectators but also the organizers.

A long and hard-fought game to decide the title, doing both players credit

Ian Nepomniachtchi - Teimour Radjabov (annotated by GM Aleksandr Lenderman)

[Event "Geneva Grand Prix"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.07.15"] [Round "9"] [White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Black "Radjabov, Teimour"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C54"] [Annotator "Aleksandr Lenderman"] [PlyCount "111"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] {Welcome everyone! This is GM Aleksandr Lenderman presenting to you the Game of the Day of round nine in the Geneva Grand prix. There were some other interesting games this round, besides this draw between the leaders, but in the end I decided that since this was a critical game for the final tournament standings, and it was an interesting battle, it deserved to be the choice.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 (3... Bc5 {is also very common leading to the traditional Italian Game.}) 4. d3 (4. Ng5 {is also interesting, leading to a very sharp game after d5.} d5 5. exd5 Na5 (5... Nxd5 $6 6. Nxf7 Kxf7 7. Qf3+ Ke6 8. Nc3 $40 {is a very dangerous attack for White, called the Fried Liver Attack.}) 6. Bb5+ c6 7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Bd3 {This move has been sort of the new main line these days, which leads to very sharp play.} (8. Be2 h6 $44 {Was the old main line.})) 4... Bc5 {And now we transpose into the main line.} (4... Be7 {is an additional line, which has the benefit of being flexible with Nf6 instead of Bc5.}) (4... h6 $5 {Even this is interesting, which allows the opportunity to play with d6 and g6 and Bg7, while stopping Ng5.}) (4... d6 $2 {Of course is a mistake here, since now White will play...} 5. Ng5 $1 d5 6. exd5 Nxd5 (6... Na5 7. Bb5+ c6 8. dxc6 bxc6 9. Ba4 $16 {Here Black barely has any compensation for the pawn.}) 7. Nxf7 {And be up a tempo.}) 5. O-O d6 6. c3 a6 7. a4 O-O 8. h3 h6 {Black deviates from another game Nepomniachtchi played before. However, this position after h6 did occur in the game Nepo-Mamedyarov, so it's likely that the top Azerbaijan players had studied this position together.} (8... Be6 9. Bxe6 fxe6 10. d4 Ba7 11. Re1 exd4 12. cxd4 e5 13. Be3 d5 14. Nc3 exd4 15. Nxd4 Bxd4 16. Bxd4 Nxe4 17. Nxe4 Nxd4 18. Qxd4 dxe4 19. Qxe4 {1/2 (40) Nepomniachtchi,I (2719)-Yu Yangyi (2737) Moscow RUS 2016 Where White had a very small pull but Black held in...}) 9. Re1 Ba7 {Deviating from Mamedyarov. This is still a very theoretical position though.} (9... Re8 10. Nbd2 Be6 11. Bxe6 Rxe6 12. b4 Ba7 13. Qc2 d5 14. Nb3 $14 {1-0 (54) Nepomniachtchi,I (2740)-Mamedyarov,S (2761) Moscow RUS 2016 is already a bit unpleasant for Black and White later on won a very nice game.}) 10. Nbd2 Ne7 11. d4 (11. Nf1 $5 {Has been tried a few times by Anish Giri.}) 11... Ng6 12. Bf1 Re8 13. Qc2 (13. a5 $5 {has been tried by Kramnik against Radjabov in the Olympiad, with a lot of success, but I'm sure Radjabov did a lot of work on this position. In general, when top players lose in a certain line they usually know it really deeply next time, so very often the next opponents don't go into that line, assuming they will be better prepared.} Bd7 14. b4 Bc6 (14... d5 {Possibly this was Radjabov's improvement.}) 15. d5 Bd7 16. c4 Nf4 17. c5 g5 $6 (17... dxc5) 18. Nc4 $16 {1-0 (34) Kramnik, V (2808)-Radjabov,T (2722) Baku AZE 2016 From here White won a very nice game.} ) 13... Nh7 14. dxe5 {This is a novelty according to my database.} (14. Nb3 Nh4 15. Nxh4 Qxh4 16. dxe5 dxe5 17. Be3 Ng5 18. Bxa7 Rxa7 {0-1 (69) Dragnev,V (2515)-Zilka,S (2523) Lesnica SVK 2017 And here Black was comfortable and even later on won in ...}) 14... dxe5 15. Nc4 Qf6 16. Ne3 Ne7 (16... Nf4 {Seems like a reasonable alternative.} 17. Nf5 {Would lead to a complex game though, and probably the idea of Ne7 was to prevent Nf5.}) 17. Ng4 {Not sure about the objective value of this move.} (17. Be2 {Maybe at this point objectively it was better to play a humble move like Be2 to try to maintain equality, but of course Nepo needed the win, being a half a point behind, so he was willing to take some risks to unbalance the game.}) 17... Bxg4 18. hxg4 Ng6 19. Bc4 Rad8 20. a5 $6 (20. Be3 {Again, perhaps it was better objectively to steer the game to equalish grounds.}) 20... Nf4 21. Nh2 $6 {This move makes matters worse for White.} (21. Rf1 {Was objectively a better defence but here Black is the only one who can be better.} Ng5 22. Nxg5 Qxg5 23. Bxf4 exf4 24. Qe2 c6 {And only Black can be better. White can't really dream of winning such a position at an elite level, if Black is ok with a draw.}) 21... Rd7 22. Be3 Bxe3 23. fxe3 Ne6 $17 {Now Black is much better. White's pawn structure is really spoiled with a pair of doubled isolated pawns.} 24. Rf1 Qe7 25. b4 Nhg5 $6 {Here, however, Black lets go of a big portion of his advantage. This move wasn't so logical since now the knight on e6 isn't as happy, and the knights become redundant.} ( 25... Nf6 $1 26. Rf5 Qd6 (26... Ng5 {Should also be sufficient.}) 27. Raf1 Ng5 $19 {And Black is basically already winning material here.}) 26. Nf3 Nxf3+ 27. gxf3 {Now thanks to the threat of the e5 pawn, at least White was able to fix his pawn structure. He's still worse with a weak king though and really never risked winning the game.} Qg5 28. Rae1 Red8 29. Qh2 Rd2 30. Re2 Rd1 31. Bd5 Rxf1+ 32. Kxf1 c6 33. Bxe6 Rd1+ $1 {Important in-between move AKA a 'zwischenzug'.} (33... fxe6 34. Rd2 $11 {is just equal.}) 34. Kf2 fxe6 35. Qh5 $1 {White finds the best defensive resource here, transposing into a rook endgame with excellent drawing chances.} Qxh5 36. gxh5 Kf7 37. Rb2 Rc1 38. Rd2 Ke7 39. Rd3 Rh1 40. Kg2 Rxh5 41. c4 {White is in time to create counterplay.} Rg5+ 42. Kh2 Rh5+ 43. Kg2 Rg5+ 44. Kh2 h5 {Black could've forced a draw here, but at this moment Grischuk hasn't officially drawn yet, and had Grischuk won, Radjabov would've not won clear first. So he still tried to press. Besides Radjabov really has no risk here. However, maybe a slightly better way to press was with Rg6!?} ( 44... Rg6 $5 45. b5 axb5 $1 46. cxb5 Rf6 $1 {And here after this unusual move, Rf6, Black still has some winning chances. However, finding a variation like that isn't natural for the human eye, giving White a passed pawn, especially when all you really need is a draw, the last thing you want to do is to take an unnecessary risk.} (46... cxb5 47. Rb3 $11)) 45. b5 h4 46. Kh3 (46. bxa6 bxa6 47. c5 Rg3 48. Rd6 Rxf3 49. Rxc6 Rxe3 50. Rxa6 Rxe4 51. Ra7+ $1 Kd8 $1 52. c6 {Would've also secured a draw, and in fact Black had to play Kd8, or else he could even risk losing here, since White's 2 passed pawns are more dangerous than Black's 4.}) 46... Rg3+ (46... Rg1 {Might've offered slightly better winning chances but I'm pretty sure this should be a draw as well.} 47. bxa6 bxa6 48. Kxh4 Ra1 49. Rb3 Rxa5 50. Kg5 Ra1 51. c5 {And White has enough counterplay.}) 47. Kxh4 Rxf3 48. bxa6 bxa6 49. c5 {Now the game peters out to a draw by force.} Rf1 50. Rd6 Ra1 51. Rxc6 Rxa5 52. Kg5 Kd7 53. Rd6+ Ke7 54. Rc6 Kd7 55. Rd6+ Ke7 56. Rc6 {A very nice last round battle. Nepo really tried hard to create chances but Radjabov was really prepared well in the opening, and also was in excellent form in the event and could've only won this game. Congratulations to Radjabov with a huge result, and possibly even giving him some outside chances to qualify for the Candidates.} 1/2-1/2

Alexander Grischuk, who had drawn with Anish Giri just minutes before, comes to congratulate Teimour Radjabov

Radjabov and Nepomniachtchi share their post-game impressions 

The organizers had tried to market sales of live video commentary, this time featuring Evgeny Miroshnichenko and young Daniil Dubov, who just won the Russian Higher League, but with tales of multiple draws being concluded before the opening was even over, it was a tough sell. The price of $10 for the duration of the event could hardly be considered a prohibitive entry fee. In fact, as a means of demonstration, they provided the full round nine commentary on their YouTube channel for future consideration.

Full video of round nine live commentary 

For Teimour Radjabov this was more than just a win, it was an end to a drought that had plagued the former prodigy for the last years. After peaking at 2799 on the Live Rating in 2012, he suffered a loss of form that prolonged itself for so much time that no player could be impassive, and in the end of 2016 he momentarily misplaced his membership card to the 2700 club. It bears remembering that Teimour Radjabov is the second youngest player to break into the world Top 100 since FIDE adopted the Elo ratings system, doing so at the age of 14! Quick quiz question: can you name the youngest player to ever break into the Top 100? And while we're at it, here is Quiz Question number two: Radjabov holds a distinguished record in chess as the youngest ever at something. Without looking it up, can you guess what it is?

The awards for the winners

Speech time as the players receive their due

Teimour Radjabov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Levon Aronian is definitely a wit

Ian Nepomniachtchi will be delighted with his shared second place finish, especially after a 1.0/3 start, and must be congratulated not just for his aforementioned fighting spirit in the last games, but his stamina as well. He played almost non-stop in the last month, not to mention flying between events, from Paris to Leuven to Khanty-Mansiysk to Geneva, and all against the world’s very best players.

The players enjoy the end of the tournament and the tension

Ian Nepomniachtchi

Alexander Grischuk will also be delighted with his excellent shared second finish, though possibly with not quite the same enthusiasm as Nepomniachtchi. One cannot take away from his result and performance, but of the players challenging for the gold, he was the one who had the best chances. While he may regret agreeing to a draw in a slightly better position in round seven, the huge position he had against Mamedyarov in round eight that he let escape will gall him slightly. Had he been successful, he might be sharing first, and the difference would be everything in the overall Grand Prix. As it stands, although he is the player with the second highest total, he knows his position is tenuous at best, since three players could quite feasibly demote him in Palma de Mallorca in a couple of months.

Boris Gelfand and Ernesto Inarkiev grab a board and go over their game

Levon Aronian (right) broke his two loss streak with a win in the last round against Saleh Salem

Let’s take a look at the current Grand Prix standings. You will notice that the list is showing only six of the 24 players, and the reason is that only five (not six) have any chance now of winning one of the two spots in the next Candidates via the Grand Prix. Hikaru Nakamura is shown, merely to help illustrate how a good performing player in the series is now already out of that chance, even if he wins Palma outright.

 
Player
Jul 2017 Elo
Sharjah
Moscow
Geneva
Palma
Total
1
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE) (P)
2800
140
140
 60
 
340
2
Alexander Grischuk (RUS) (P)
2760
140
71
 125
 
336
5
Teimour Radjabov (AZE) (P)
2785
 
71
 170
 
241
4
Ding Liren (CHN) (P)
2796
70
170
 
 
240
5 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) (P)
2742
140
71
 
 
211
9
Hikaru Nakamura (USA) (P)
2710
70 
71
 
 
141

A win is worth 170 Grand Prix points, and shared places then see their points totaled and then split evenly. There is no playoff or tiebreak score to award one player with more GP points. Since Nakamura has 141 points right now, even a perfect 170 in Palma giving him a total 311 won’t be enough to get past Mamedyarov and Grischuk. This isn’t to suggest his chances to play in the Candidates are over, just that his qualification won’t come from the Grand Prix cycle.

The real problem with Alexander Grischuk’s chances is that even a sole second place finish (not shared though) by either Teimour Radjabov or Ding Liren would give them 125 points and put them ahead of even Mamedyarov, bumping the Russian to third. In fact, even Mamedyarov might find himself denied a berth, if two of the three players still in contention grab a share of first. It isn’t just Radjabov and Ding Liren, as there is one more player still in the running: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. If he gets any piece of first in Palma, whether as a two-way tie or a three way tie that doesn’t include both Ding Liren and Radjabov, then he will snatch a spot as well.

As you can see, the Grand Prix is far from over, and the final tournament in Palma will be decisive. More on that when it comes!

Final standings

Rk
SNo
 
Name
FED
Rtg
Pts
1 12 GM Radjabov Teimour AZE 2724 6,0
2 4 GM Grischuk Alexander RUS 2761 5,5
  6 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian RUS 2742 5,5
4 2 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar AZE 2800 5,0
  3 GM Giri Anish NED 2775 5,0
  5 GM Svidler Peter RUS 2749 5,0
  8 GM Harikrishna Pentala IND 2737 5,0
  9 GM Adams Michael ENG 2736 5,0
  10 GM Li Chao B CHN 2735 5,0
  17 GM Riazantsev Alexander RUS 2654 5,0
11 1 GM Aronian Levon ARM 2809 4,5
  7 GM Eljanov Pavel UKR 2739 4,5
  11 GM Gelfand Boris ISR 2728 4,5
  14 GM Jakovenko Dmitry RUS 2703 4,5
15 13 GM Inarkiev Ernesto RUS 2707 4,0
16 15 GM Rapport Richard HUN 2694 2,5
  16 GM Hou Yifan CHN 2666 2,5
18 18 GM Salem A.R. Saleh UAE 2638 2,0

Links

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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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mythiclott mythiclott 7/16/2017 01:37
Congrats to all. Its really nice to see Teimour Radjabov back in the swing of things.
cashparov1 cashparov1 7/16/2017 01:50
What if both Radjabov and Liren finish in last place in Palma, MVL finishes sole second, collecting 125 points, and now Shak has 340 (he's through), but both Grischuk and MVL have 336. Who of the two goes through?
Bertman Bertman 7/16/2017 06:48
@cashparov - I don't know how what the tiebreak used is in the case of a genuine tie. When Palma starts, I'll research it and find out.
FramiS FramiS 7/16/2017 08:19
@cashparovi1
in the case that two ormore players have equal cumulative points at the top, the following criteria will be utilized to decide the overall winner and other overall placings by taking into account all three tournaments:

a.) No. of actual game result points scored in the three tournaments;
b.) Number of games played with black in the three tournaments;
c.) Number of wins in all three tournaments;
d.) Number.of wins with black in all three tournaments;
e.) Drawing of lots

( cdn.worldchess.com/media/downloads/2017-02/FIDE_GP_Regulations_2016_2017.pdf )
kevinkin@comcast.net kevinkin@comcast.net 7/16/2017 11:08
"They will play a nine round swiss open played at 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."

How is this an open tournament? The editors of this web site are often asleep. Every article seems to have rookie errors. Not in the chess, but in the coverage of it.

Kevin
charles augustus charles augustus 7/17/2017 01:03
Interestingly it was in the interest of Radjabov to draw his game against Nepomniachtchi more than winning it! This way Grischuk is only sharing second place and not getting all the GP points for second place that would have placed him further above Radjabov in the final GP standings. Radjabov made Nepomniachtchi share 2nd place with his main contender, Grischuk. A masterful decision!
bomalley bomalley 7/17/2017 04:38
@KyleReese - Should Richard Rapport be invited to "men's tournaments" or is he a "MENTAL MIDGET" too? I would agree that Hou Yifan's rating is significantly lower than the average rating for this tournament, but the same can be said for several of the male participants. The tournament had a large rating spread, is that your complaint?
genem genem 7/17/2017 06:41
I wonder who all Radjabov has had as his trainers over the past 5-10 years?
/
Now that Yifan has played in several open events, against stronger players, can she assess whether the stronger competition is propelling her chess skill forward, as common opinion predicts it should?
Zmeu Zmeu 7/17/2017 07:56
Dear Editors,
Please moderate the comment boards more frequently. KyleReese's comment (7/17/2017 12:38) clearly contravenes the rules for reader comments and should be deleted.
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