FIDE GP in Palma: Jakovenko and Aronian share first!

by Albert Silver
11/26/2017 – What an astonishing event Palma turned out to be. From the get-go, the question was on what both Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Teimour Radjabov needed to earn a spot in the Candidates. However, in spite of promising starts and chances at the end for both, neither made it and the spots will go to Mamedyarov and Grischuk. Enjoy this final report with analysis by GM Moradiabadi. | Photo: World Chess

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Round nine

It would be unfair to call the final round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Palma de Mallorca anticlimactic but for those who followed it hoping to see at least one of the players pull off the result needed to qualify for the Candidates in Berlin, it was.

It is no surprise that not only did most of the game end in draws, but quick ones at that. With neither prize money or qualifying spots on the line, there was little incentive to play hard or take risks, and most took the easy route. Still, it wasn’t quite that easy or straightforward. Consider the game between Anish Giri and Francisco Vallejo Pons. On the surface, the 23 move draw would lead one to think little or nothing happened, but that doesn’t tell the story at all. After all, 18 of those moves were not theory, and things even became dicey for Giri, though all’s well that ends well for him.


The games by the leaders all produced hard battles though, and the spectators were not left disappointed with listless battles. Teimour Radjabov was one of the players who needed a win to ensure a place, and had white against Richard Rapport. As much as he tried to shake things up, Rapport was on his guard and quite mature in his approach. He is normally the first to take off the gloves for a bare-knuckled fight, but here he knew what the score was, and he was not going to roll over for his opponent’s benefit. A fairly uneventful Queen’s Gambit Declined never even threatened to become imbalanced and a draw was the result.

Teimour Radjabov was dying for a good fight, but Richard Rapport was having none of it, and played a mature, controlled game | Photo: World Chess

Power Play 23: A Repertoire for black with the Queen's Gambit Declined

On this DVD Grandmaster Daniel King offers you a repertoire for Black with the QGD. The repertoire is demonstrated in 10 stem games, covering all White's major systems: 5 Bg5, 5 Bf4, and the Exchange Variation.

Levon Aronian was playing black, and although he was the leader with a half point over the field, with nine players trailing by that smallest of margins, he knew how tenuous his position was. Facing Hikaru Nakamura, he played his favorite Marshall Gambit and after a strange novelty found himself a pawn down in a queenless middlegame, almost an endgame. He still enjoyed some of Black’s usual development advantages and bishop pair, but it was unclear he had equalized. In a bold decision, befitting the standard he has shown, and his no.2 spot in the world rankings, he sacrificed a second pawn for activity, and this got him his draw. A fascinating game overall.

Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian played an interesting Marshall Gambit, continuing their lengthy debate on the opening's merits | Photo: World Chess

Hikaru Nakamura ½-½ Levon Aronian

[Event "FIDE Grand Prix Palma 2017"] [Site "Palma de Mallorca"] [Date "2017.11.25"] [Round "9"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C89"] [WhiteElo "2780"] [BlackElo "2801"] [Annotator "A. Silver"] [PlyCount "86"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6 12. Re1 Bd6 13. d3 Bf5 14. Qf3 Qh4 15. g3 Qh3 16. Bxd5 {[#]} Bg4 $146 {The novelty. It is interesting this zwischenzug had never been played before, at least no record exists in Mega 2018.} (16... cxd5 {was played in the 122 previous games in the database.} 17. Qxd5 Rad8 18. Qg2 Qxg2+ (18... Qh5 19. Be3 Bh3 20. Qh1 f5 21. Bb6 Rd7 22. Qd5+ Kh8 23. Nd2 Bxg3 24. Qxd7 Bf4 25. Qc6 Bxd2 26. Bc5 Rg8 27. Qd5 Bf4 28. Re3 Bxe3 29. fxe3 Qe2 30. Bd4 h6 31. b3 Kh7 32. Qb7 Kg6 33. Qxa6+ Kh5 34. Qc6 Rc8 35. Qb7 Re8 36. Qf7+ g6 {0-1 (36) Paravyan,D (2525)-Swiercz,D (2645) Moscow 2017}) 19. Kxg2 Bxd3 20. Be3 Rfe8 21. Nd2 b4 22. Rad1 bxc3 23. bxc3 {1/2-1/2 (41) Almasi,Z (2689)-Tomashevsky,E (2743) Reykjavik 2015}) 17. Qg2 cxd5 18. Qxh3 Bxh3 19. Be3 {Granted Black still has a development edge and pressure on the White squares, but with no queens on board or mate threats, it is hard to understand why Black would enter this line willingly.} Bf5 20. d4 Rfe8 ({ The back rank pressure isn't really serious, so why not play the minority attack with} 20... Rfc8 {with the idea of ...b4?}) 21. Nd2 f6 22. Bf4 Bf8 23. Nf1 Rxe1 24. Rxe1 Rc8 25. f3 Kf7 26. Bd2 h5 27. Ne3 Be6 28. f4 Bd6 29. f5 Bd7 30. Rf1 $36 {White has some pressure.} Re8 31. Rf2 Bc6 32. Ng2 b4 33. cxb4 Bb5 {Black is down two pawns now, but in exchange has a ton of activity. Even if it is not quite enough compensation objectively, the practical problems for White extricate himelf from it are not to be underestimated.} 34. Rf3 Re2 {[#]} 35. Bc3 $1 Ke8 36. Rf2 Kd7 37. Nh4 (37. a3 $16) ({Usually the wisdom is to exchange pieces when ahead in pawns, but here after} 37. Rxe2 Bxe2 38. Kf2 Bd3 39. Ne3 Be4 {White had very little. Ex:} 40. h3 Kc6 41. g4 Kb5 42. gxh5 (42. Nf1 Bb1 43. a3 hxg4 44. hxg4 Bc2 45. Kg2 Bf4 46. Ng3 Bh6) 42... Bf4 43. h4 Bxe3+ 44. Kxe3 Bxf5 {and White is cut off.} 45. Kf4 Bc2 46. h6 gxh6 47. Kg4 Bd1+ 48. Kf5 h5) 37... Kc6 38. a3 Re8 39. Kg2 Be2 40. Nf3 {White's only ace up his sleeve is the trap threatening Ne5+! Aronian sees this easily and sidesteps it.} Bd3 ({To illustrate, if Black played} 40... Re7 $2 {White would have the winning trick} 41. Ne5+ $1 fxe5 42. dxe5 Bg4 43. exd6 Rf7 $18 { and now those extra pawns are fatal.}) 41. Ne1 Be2 42. Nf3 {A last try.} Bd3 { No dice so White accedes to the draw.} 43. Ne1 Be2 1/2-1/2

Black Repertoire against 1.e4 Vol. 1: The Marshall Attack

The Marshall Attack is one of the most dynamic replies Black has at his disposal against 1.e4. At the cost of a pawn, Black takes over the initiative from the get - go and goes after the white king. Wrongly considered to be mainly a drawing weapon by some, this DVD offers many new ideas for Black, showing how to keep the queens on the board and to play for a win in almost all cases.


An interview with Levon Aronian after his final game | World Chess on YouTube

MVL was unable to keep his cool in his game against Jakovenko, who weathered a tough position to turn the tables and win in the end | Photo: World Chess

The final decisive game was that between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Dmitry Jakovenko. The Frenchman achieved a sizable advantage and was quite possibly winning according to the Russian after the game, but nerves failed him and the game went wrong in a big way.

M. Vachier-Lagrave 0-1 Dmitry Jakovenko (Annotated by GM Elshan Moradiabadi)

[Event "FIDE Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca"] [Site "Palma de Mallorca, Spain"] [Date "2017.11.22"] [Round "9"] [White "Vachier Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Jakovenko, Dmitry"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C54"] [Annotator "GM Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2017.11.25"] [SourceVersionDate "2017.11.25"] {In what was probably the most important game of MVL's career to this point, he needed to beat the solid Jakovenko!} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 a6 6. O-O d6 7. a4 Ba7 $5 {The Russian's approach to Anand's a4!} 8. Re1 (8. Na3 {would have been my choice but proabably the two super GMs had this prepared till the end so MVL chose a line that keeps more pieces on the board and avoids early exchanges.} h6 9. Nc2 O-O 10. Be3 Bxe3 (10... Ne7 $6 11. Bxa7 Rxa7 12. Ne3 c6 13. Qc2 $14) 11. Nxe3 Be6 12. Bxe6 fxe6 13. a5 (13. b4 Qe8 { does not seem to offer whole lot}) 13... d5 14. Qb3 Qd6 15. exd5 exd5 16. c4 Kh7 17. Nxd5 Rad8 18. Qxb7 Nxd5 19. cxd5 Qxd5 20. Rac1 Rd6 21. Nd2 Rg6 22. Ne4 Qxd3 23. Ng3 Nd4 24. Rc3 Ne2+ 25. Nxe2 Qxe2 26. Re3 Qd2 27. Qe4 Qxb2 28. Rg3 Rff6 29. Rxg6 Rxg6 30. g3 Qd4 31. Qf5 Qd5 32. Re1 Qxa5 33. Rxe5 Qa1+ 34. Kg2 Qc1 35. h4 Qc6+ 36. Kg1 Qf6 37. Qe4 Qc6 38. Qd3 Kh8 39. Qd8+ Kh7 40. Qd3 Kh8 41. Qd8+ Kh7 42. Qd3 {1/2-1/2 (42) Adams,M (2761)-Eljanov,P (2751) Shamkir 2017 }) 8... O-O 9. h3 (9. Nbd2 Ng4 10. Re2 Kh8 11. h3 f5 {would not be so much fun at all! Especially when you are desperate for a win!} 12. exf5 Nxf2 13. Rxf2 Bxf2+ 14. Kxf2 d5 15. Bb3 Bxf5 16. Kg1 Bxd3 17. Ne1 Bg6 18. Ndf3 e4 19. Nh2 Ne7 20. Be3 Qd6 21. Nc2 Rad8 22. Qd2 c5 23. Rd1 h6 24. Ng4 Bh5 25. Ba2 a5 26. Qe1 Be8 27. b3 b6 28. Bf2 Bh5 29. Bh4 Rd7 30. b4 axb4 31. cxb4 d4 32. Nce3 Bxg4 33. hxg4 Ng6 34. Bg3 Qf6 35. Nf5 e3 36. bxc5 bxc5 37. Qe2 Ne5 38. Bb1 Rfd8 39. Bxe5 Qxe5 40. Nh4 Qg5 41. Ng6+ Kg8 42. Qc4+ Rd5 43. Be4 Qxg4 44. Bxd5+ Kh7 45. Qd3 { 1-0 (45) Topalov,V (2761)-Nakamura,H (2787) Leuven 2016}) 9... h6 10. Nbd2 Re8 {The most solid line.} (10... Ne7 11. Nf1 (11. Bb3 {was played twice by MVL himself.} Ng6 12. d4 Re8 13. Bc2 Bd7 14. a5 c6 15. dxe5 dxe5 16. Nc4 Qe7 17. Qd6 Qxd6 18. Nxd6 Re6 19. Rd1 Rb8 20. Kf1 Re7 21. Nc4 Rbe8 22. b3 Be6 23. Nb6 Bxb6 24. axb6 Rd7 25. Be3 Rc8 26. c4 Rxd1+ 27. Rxd1 c5 28. Ne1 Nd7 29. Nd3 f6 30. Ra1 Ne7 31. Ke2 Kf7 32. Kd2 f5 33. f4 exf4 34. Nxf4 g5 35. Nxe6 Kxe6 36. exf5+ Nxf5 37. Bg1 Nd4 38. Re1+ Kf6 39. Rf1+ Ke7 40. Re1+ Kd8 41. Be4 Nxb3+ 42. Kc3 Nd4 43. Bh2 {1-0 (43) Vachier Lagrave,M (2791)-So,W (2810) Saint Louis 2017 }) 11... Ng6 12. Ba2 Re8 13. Ng3 Be6 14. Bxe6 Rxe6 15. d4 Qd7 16. Be3 Ree8 17. dxe5 dxe5 18. Bxa7 Rxa7 19. Qxd7 Nxd7 20. Rad1 Nc5 21. a5 Raa8 22. b4 Na4 23. Ne2 Rad8 24. Kf1 f6 25. g3 Ne7 26. Rd2 Rxd2 27. Nxd2 Rd8 28. Nc4 Rd3 29. Rc1 Nc8 30. Ke1 b5 31. axb6 cxb6 32. Rd1 Rxd1+ 33. Kxd1 Kf7 34. Kc2 Ke6 35. Ne3 Nd6 36. f3 b5 37. Nc1 Nc4 38. Nf5 Kf7 39. g4 Nab6 40. Nb3 Nd7 41. Kd3 Nb2+ 42. Kc2 Nc4 43. Kd3 Nb2+ 44. Kc2 Nc4 {1/2-1/2 (44) Giri,A (2782)-Caruana,F (2804) Leuven 2016}) 11. b4 Ne7 $5 {An interesting idea.} 12. Qb3 {So Black loses a tempo but how good is the queen on b3?} Rf8 13. d4 exd4 {the typical reaction.} 14. cxd4 d5 15. exd5 Nexd5 16. b5 Be6 $6 {A serious inaccuracy.} (16... axb5 17. axb5 Be6 {seems reasonably more solid! I do not know why Jakovenko chose such a provocative move.}) 17. bxa6 bxa6 18. Ba3 Re8 19. Ne5 Nf4 {[#] Here comes the moment of truth!} 20. Ndf3 $6 {A poor practical decision.} (20. Nc6 Qd7 21. Qf3 {is rather artificial but poses more problems.} Bxd4 22. Rad1 Bxc4 23. Nxc4 Rxe1+ 24. Rxe1 {what else?} Bxf2+ 25. Qxf2 Nxh3+ 26. gxh3 Qxc6 27. Qg2 Qxg2+ 28. Kxg2 {Good or bad MVL should have gone for this endgame!}) (20. Ndf3 Bxc4 21. Qxc4 Qd5 22. Qxd5 N4xd5 23. a5 Nc3 24. Bb2 Nb5 25. Nc6 Nd5 26. Rac1 Rxe1+ 27. Nxe1 Re8 28. Kf1 Re6 29. g3 h5 30. Nf3 f6 31. Ne1 g5 32. Nd3 Rd6 33. Kg2 Re6 34. Rc2 Rd6 35. h4 g4 36. Rc4 Re6 37. Kf1 Nd6 38. Rc1 Nb5 39. Nxa7 Nxa7 40. Nc5 Rd6 {0.43/32}) 20... Bxc4 21. Qxc4 Qd5 $1 {And Black equalizes easily. MVL tries some tricks but the position remains close to equal until Jakovenko starts making inaccuracies.} 22. Qxd5 N6xd5 23. Nc6 Rxe1+ (23... Re2 $1 { makes more sense.} 24. Kf1 Rc2 25. Rac1 Rxc1 26. Rxc1 a5 $1 {equalizes.}) 24. Rxe1 a5 25. g3 $1 {Now MVL has a tangible initiative. The e-file is very important and Jakovenko has been neglecting it.} Ng6 26. Nxa7 Rxa7 27. Re8+ Kh7 28. h4 $1 {Let's go to the Candidates! Just not yet!} Rb7 29. Nd2 $6 ( 29. Bc5 Rb3 30. Nd2 {would have posed a lot of difficulties for Black.}) 29... Nc3 30. h5 Nh8 {an awkward square but the knight will come back to the game soon. Without the a4-pawn White's hopes to win this game would be close to zero!} 31. Nc4 Nxa4 32. Ne5 Nb6 33. Bc5 a4 {It is time to make a draw but MVL goes all in. He has never been this close to making it to the Candidates so his choice, regardless of its incorrectness, is praiseworthy. Any great player would have tried this regardless of the result!} 34. d5 $2 {Now the position is bad for White but still manageable.} f6 35. Nc6 Nd7 $2 {gives back White some hope after he had given up!} (35... Nxd5 36. Nd4 Nf7 37. Ra8 {is better for Black but still very tenacious.}) 36. Bd4 Rb5 37. Nd8 $4 {A terrible blunder} (37. d6 cxd6 38. Re7 Ne5 39. Bxe5 dxe5 40. Ra7 {should still be a draw.}) 37... Rb8 $1 {A deadly pin! The game and fate of the Candidates is sealed now.} 38. Bb2 Rxb2 39. Ne6 a3 40. Re7 Nf7 $1 {No miracle this time!} 41. Rxf7 a2 42. Rxg7+ Kh8 43. Rxd7 a1=Q+ 44. Kg2 Qe1 {There is no perpetual! White resigned. MVL fought hard but a few misses prevented him from scoring the much needed win! I am sure we will see MVL in the coming Candidates cycles soon! Just not this time!} 0-1


Short interview with the co-winner of Palma, Dmitry Jakovenko after his win over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave | World Chess on YouTube

A tragic result for the French player and his fans, but two players will be heaving huge sighs of relief: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Alexander Grischuk. Prior to the beginning of Palma, both had known they could easily see their results beaten and be left out of Berlin, In fact, Grischuk declared before the beginning that he already considered he would not make it, and was conformed to this. With the lower total score of the two, his qualification was by far the most vulnerable. Even in the final round here, all it took was one of the two players to score a win and he was out. However, the stars aligned in his favor, and both he and Mamedyarov will have the right to play in Berlin for a chance at a match with Carlsen at the end of 2018.

The winners of the tournament were Levon Aronian and Dmitry Jakovenko, both with 5½ / 9. Jakovenko had the slightly better tiebreak and was thus the official gold.

Round 9 results

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Nakamura Hikaru ½ - ½ 5 Aronian Levon
Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 0 - 1 Jakovenko Dmitry
Tomashevsky Evgeny ½ - ½ Ding Liren
Harikrishna P. ½ - ½ Svidler Peter
Radjabov Teimour ½ - ½ Rapport Richard
Eljanov Pavel 4 ½ - ½ Gelfand Boris
Hammer Jon Ludvig ½ - ½ 4 Inarkiev Ernesto
Giri Anish ½ - ½ Vallejo Pons Francisco
Riazantsev Alexander 3 ½ - ½ Li Chao B

Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Jakovenko Dmitry 5,5 0,5
2 Aronian Levon 5,5 0,5
3 Radjabov Teimour 5,0 0,0
4 Rapport Richard 5,0 0,0
5 Tomashevsky Evgeny 5,0 0,0
6 Nakamura Hikaru 5,0 0,0
7 Svidler Peter 5,0 0,0
8 Ding Liren 5,0 0,0
9 Harikrishna P. 5,0 0,0
10 Inarkiev Ernesto 4,5 0,0
11 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 4,5 0,0
12 Eljanov Pavel 4,5 0,0
13 Li Chao B 4,0 1,5
14 Vallejo Pons Francisco 4,0 1,0
15 Giri Anish 4,0 0,5
16 Riazantsev Alexander 3,5 0,0
17 Gelfand Boris 3,0 0,5
18 Hammer Jon Ludvig 3,0 0,5

All games (with analysis)



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, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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