Grand Swiss: Najer upsets Anand

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/11/2019 – Formerly known as the Isle of Man Open, the FIDE Grand Swiss kicked off Thursday at the COMIS Hotel and Golf Resort in Douglas. A total 154 players are participating, with no less than 110 of them rated above 2600. The biggest upset of day one was Evgeniy Najer's 30-move victory over Vishy Anand. Youngsters Nodirbek Abdusattorov (b. 2004) and Raunak Sadhwani (b. 2005) also upset higher-rated opponents. | Photos: Maria Emelianova /

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Tough pairings from the get go 

The FIDE Grand Swiss is an eleven-round event that serves as qualifier to the 2020 Candiadates Tournament. It takes place from the 10th to the 21st of October, with a rest day on the 16th. You can find more info here. 

The biggest story from round one was Vishy Anand's loss against Evgeniy Najer. Anand arrived as one of the favourites to get the coveted spot in the Candidates, as the Indian has previously stunned with his strong performances in high-pressure events despite his age — most notably, his victory at the 2014 Candidates, right after having been dethroned by Carlsen. 

For Najer, on the other hand, facing particularly strong opponents seems to be a major source of motivation: he knocked out Fabiano Caruana at the 2017 World Cup and only lost in Armageddon to Anish Giri at the latest edition of the same event. The 42-year-old has also won the European Championship and the Aeroflot Open, among other important achievements.

And what an impressive win it was. It all started with Najer's principled 18.f5:


White already knows he is going to sacrifice a piece after Black's 18...e4, as instead of protecting the d2-bishop he opened lines for the attack with 19.xd3 xd2 20.fxg6 fxg6 21.xg6.

What followed was a show of bravery by the Russian, who later confessed he doubted his 24.f5 was correct. In fact, that move was winning, but Vishy did miss a chance to save the half point a little later:


You can try your own variations on the diagram above!

Anand had 28...♛f3+ here, with the idea of responding to 29.♔g1 with 29...♛f4. If White tries to continue with his attack carelessly ...♞f3+ is coming, so he will need to allow a perpetual check. None of this happened in time pressure though, as Anand played 28...d5+, allowing the king to escape: 29.h3 d3+ 30.h4. And if Black insists on giving checks with ...♞f3+ or ...♛d8, the king will continue marching up the board, even turning into an attacking piece. Anand resigned.

A markedly satisfied Najer was interviewed after the game. Fiona Steil-Antoni asked him when was the first moment in which he knew he was winning — the Russian wittily responded: "Just after the handshake, not before". 

Viswanathan Anand

Vishy Anand will begin his attempt to mount a comeback against Israeli GM Tal Baron in round two | Photo: Maria Emelianova / 

Jobava does a Jobava

Few players are as welcome in events by chess enthusiasts as Baadur Jobava. The Georgian's fearless style pushes his opponents to the limit, creating sharp, almost derailed struggles more often than not. But lately Jobava has been dearly missed — his once 2700+ Elo rating dropped below 2600, keeping him away from getting invitations to top events. In August, however, he showed he has what it takes to beat a strong field, as he got first place at the strong Abu Dhabi Open with an astounding 8 out of 9 performance.

Clearly under-rated, Jobava (2617) was paired up against David Howell (2694) — his victory cannot be dubbed an upset given his background. Strangely enough, this was the first time these two players faced each other over the board, and true to their natures they started the game with 1.b3 d5 2.b2 f5 3.e3 e6 4.h3 h6, not an opening you will see every day at such a strong event.

By move 18, Howell was a pawn to the good, but this only prompted Jobava to look for the kind of tricky manoeuvres that have made him such a gladly received presence among the followers:


With 23.xf7, the Georgian made full use of his one big asset in the position, the battery on the a1-h8 diagonal. Howell responded correctly though: 23...xd7 24.xh6+ (capturing the knight would give way to a perpetual) ♚f8 25.f4+ f6. At this point, the mating threats were under control, but now it was Howell's turn to find a path to victory, and the Englishman failed to do so:


The position is under control now, so it was time for Black to cash in with 32...gxh6. We cannot blame Howell for not finding such a move, however, as the time control was approaching and he needed to see that after 33.♖xe7 ♚xe7 34.♕c7+ ♞d7 35.♗f6+ Black must play 35...♚f7, and in case of 36.♗xd8 he has 36...♛e5+ forcing the queen trade and getting a winning endgame.

In the game, Black opted for 32...h5 and Jobava found the strong 33.xg7+. And now, to rub salt into the wound, Howell missed 33...♞xg7 and played the losing 33...e8. Unlike his opponent, Jobava did not falter in the conversion of his advantage and eventually got a 54-move win in a game that, in his own words, reduced his life expectancy by five years.

Baadur Jobava, David Howell

Baadur Jobava talking to the arbiter after — or during? — his game against David Howell | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

Carlsen lives dangerously, and other news

Such exciting encounters have delayed our announcement of the news regarding the world champion. But not due to a lack of interest: Magnus Carlsen came quite close to losing against 2636-rated Yuriy Kuzubov. Let us not forget that the Norwegian arrived in the Isle of Man with an undefeated streak of 90 games in classical chess — if he finishes the Grand Swiss with zero losses, he will break Ding Liren's 100-game record from last year.

Kuzubov got a clear advantage after Carlsen faltered by playing 31.b4 instead of 31.♕c5, but the Ukrainian could not find the right continuation under such pressing conditions a couple of moves later:


Black immediately captured the rook with 33...xd2, when 33...♛xe5 first was better. After the text, White has 34.xd2 xe5 (too late) 35.f5, while if Black had captured the pawn first 34.♘f5 of course does not work due to 34...♛e1+, winning the rook.

Kuzubov still had an edge, but he gave it away in time trouble. And when it was time to battle it out in the endgame, Carlsen showed his class and ended up outplaying his shell-shocked opponent.

Yuriy Kuzubov, Magnus Carlsen

Yuriy Kuzubov could not convert against the world champion | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

Carlsen's elite colleagues also had a difficult time on day one. On the top ten boards, four games ended decisively, and that is including Anand's loss. Fabiano Caruana beat yet another Chinese unknown strong grandmaster, Zhang Zhong, while Yu Yangyi defeated Argentina's Sandro Mareco. 

As mentioned above, the other upsets were achieved by two young guns. Nodirbek Abdusattorov (2608) beat two-time British champion Gawain Jones (2688) with the black pieces, while Raunak Sadhwani (2479) defeated Sanan Sjugirov (2662) with White — the young Indian IM recently participated in a training camp with none other than Vladimir Kramnik.

Nodirbek Abdusattorov

15-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

In terms of rating, it was also surprising that Erwin l'Ami (2619) got the better of Sam Shankland (2705), although the former is a household name in the chess circuit, as he has participated in the Wijk aan Zee tournament more than once and has been a second of Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri, among others.    

Commentary webcast

Commentary by GM Daniel King and IM Anna Rudolf

Pairings for Round 2 (top 20 boards)

Name Pts. Res. Pts. Name
Sarana Alexey 1   1 Carlsen Magnus
Caruana Fabiano 1   1 Sevian Samuel
Oparin Grigoriy 1   1 Yu Yangyi
Motylev Alexander 1   1 Artemiev Vladislav
Melkumyan Hrant 1   1 Vitiugov Nikita
Mamedov Rauf 1   1 Wang Hao
Bu Xiangzhi 1   1 Riazantsev Alexander
Bluebaum Matthias 1   1 Vidit Santosh Gujrathi
Xiong Jeffery 1   1 Adhiban B.
Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son 1   1 Anton Guijarro David
Adly Ahmed 1   1 Cheparinov Ivan
Najer Evgeniy 1   1 Fedoseev Vladimir
L'ami Erwin 1   1 Shirov Alexei
Jobava Baadur 1   1 Dreev Aleksey
Abdusattorov Nodirbek 1   1 Demchenko Anton
Karjakin Sergey ½   1 Sadhwani Raunak
Jumabayev Rinat ½   ½ So Wesley
Alekseev Evgeny ½   ½ Grischuk Alexander
Aronian Levon ½   ½ Abasov Nijat
Van Foreest Jorden ½   ½ Harikrishna Pentala

...77 boards

All Round 1 games



Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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