FIDE GP in Palma: Missed opportunities

by Alex Yermolinsky
11/19/2017 – Round three was mostly one of missed opportunities as many games failed to capitalize on the promise of their positions. The first and foremost was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's excellent chances against co-leader Levon Aronian that fizzled out during the technical transition, while Rapport will regret his near-win not yielding its fruits. That said, Peter Svidler did deliver mate on the board against Jon Hammer! Report and analysis by GM Alex Yermolinsky | Photo: Valerij Belobeev

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Fritz 16 is looking forward to playing with you, and you're certain to have a great deal of fun with him too. Tense games and even well-fought victories await you with "Easy play" and "Assisted analysis" modes.


One problem with a short-field Swiss is that the games between top players happen too soon. The battle between MVL and Aronian would have been a better fit for the last round.

Two of the tournament favorites, and the top seeds, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (above) and Levon Aronian knocked heads in round three. | Photo: Valerij Belobeev

[Event "FIDE Grand Prix Palma 2017"] [Site "Palma de Mallorca"] [Date "2017.11.18"] [Round "3"] [White "Vachier Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C77"] [WhiteElo "2796"] [BlackElo "2801"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "92"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. a3 O-O 9. Nc3 Na5 10. Ba2 Be6 11. b4 Bxa2 12. Rxa2 Nc6 13. Bg5 Nd7 14. Bd2 Nf6 15. Re1 {MVL must be analyzing his own games very deeply. He likes to repeat them, and can always be counted on for new ideas.} ({Their previous encounter in this line, World Cup (game 8), saw Maxime embarking on a somewhat artificial queen manuever} 15. Qb1 {Levon reacted quickly,} d5 16. Bg5 dxe4 17. dxe4 Qd6 18. Qb3 {and took the initiative after} Nd4 {although the game was eventually drawn.}) 15... Qd7 ({I wonder if} 15... d5 {was possible here.}) 16. Nd5 $5 { A radical way of stopping Black's ambitions in the center.} Nxd5 17. exd5 {[#]} Nd8 $2 {An unexpected retreat.} ({It's hard to tell what Levon didn't like about the natural} 17... Nd4 {Black puts his bishop on f6 and prepares c7-c6. Say, White can try} 18. c4 {but then} Nxf3+ 19. Qxf3 bxc4 20. dxc4 f5 {seems playable.}) 18. a4 $1 {The bad position of Nd8 makes White's queenside offensive much more dangerous.} Rb8 19. c4 bxc4 20. dxc4 f5 21. b5 {There was no rush to do this.} Ra8 22. Bc3 Nb7 23. Qc2 Bf6 24. Nd2 axb5 $6 {I sensed some nervousness in Aronian's play around these parts.} ({seemed better. If White goes for a better pawn structure with} 24... Nc5 25. Bb4 e4 26. Bxc5 dxc5 27. Nb3 {Black will pick up some counterplay after} Qd6 28. Na5 axb5 29. axb5 Be5 30. g3 Qf6 31. Nc6 Rxa2 32. Qxa2 f4 {Importantly, White has no passed pawns, which wasn't the case in the game's continuation.}) 25. cxb5 Qf7 26. Qxf5 Qxd5 27. Qc2 Nc5 {[#]} 28. Ne4 $1 {Maxime executes a simple plan of taking the game into the endgame where his a-pawn will become a major factor.} Bh4 29. g3 Nxe4 30. Rxe4 Bd8 31. Bb4 Rf3 32. Ra3 $1 {The more trades the better.} Rf7 $5 33. Qc4 Qxc4 34. Rxc4 d5 $5 {Levon seeks counterplay} ({ rather than defend passively:} 34... Kf8 35. a5 Ke7 36. a6 Kd7) 35. Rc2 d4 36. Rc5 $6 {I don't understand the rationale behind MVL's desire to trade bishops.} (36. a5 Rd7 37. Bd2 Kf7 38. Rc6 {looked like a good, solid plan of further campaigning.}) 36... Be7 37. Rc4 {[#]} Bxb4 ({Engines bring attention to the risky-looking} 37... c5 $5 38. bxc6 (38. Bd2 Bd6 {is actually quite good for Black, because White cannot advance his pawns:} 39. a5 Rb7 40. Rb3 {while the black king is marching toward the commanding post on d5.} Kf7) 38... Bxb4 39. Rxb4 Rc7 40. Rb5 ({Also, in the line} 40. Rc4 Kf7 41. Rb3 Ke6 42. Rb7 Rac8 { the black king's presence in the center of action makes White's pawn advantage short-lived.}) 40... Rxc6 41. Rxe5 Rd6 {Black is hoping to achieve a trade of passed pawns, but he may not be able to force it yet after} 42. Kf1 $1 d3 43. Ke1 d2+ 44. Kd1 Rc8 45. Ra1 $16) 38. Rxb4 Rd7 39. Kg2 $2 ({Just as in the previous note, the white king has to blockade the d-pawn for White to have any winning chances, e.g.} 39. Kf1 Kf7 40. Ke2 Ke6 41. a5 Kd5 42. b6 cxb6 43. Rxb6 e4 44. a6 $14) 39... d3 40. Ra1 d2 41. Rd1 Rd4 42. Rxd4 exd4 43. Rxd2 Rxa4 { It is funny to see the engines still cheering White on, while any 2000+ human player knows it's a dead draw.} 44. Rc2 Ra5 45. Rxc7 Rxb5 {Maxime didn't even bother trying to win the d4-pawn.} 46. Rc8+ Kf7 1/2-1/2

Strategy University Vol. 4: The technique of realising the win

Great players of the past used to say – the most difficult thing in chess is to win won positions! Every player has such problems – those at the top of the tree and (especially) juniors. The correct technique consists of proper exchange methods and of the continuation of a correctly chosen plan; it is important not to change strategy after a small material gain. The DVD shows and explains instructive mistakes made when trying to make extra material or a positional advantage count and in addition it demonstrates the correct techniques as employed in classic games.


A bit of a strange start: Teimour Radjabov has made little effort with White, but played a bloody brawl with black | Photo: Valerij Belobeev

Radjabov took another rest day with another quick draw with White. Perhaps Teimour is counting on the King’s Indian Defense to see him through to the Candidates. We'll see about that.

While the leaders sorted things out between themselves, another pre-tournament favorite, Peter Svidler finally made his presence known. Peter possesses a sharp opening repertoire with black, and for today's game he guessed right by venturing into the Sicilian instead of his usual 1...e5 lines.

[Event "FIDE Grand Prix Palma 2017"] [Site "Palma de Mallorca"] [Date "2017.11.18"] [Round "3"] [White "Hammer, Jon Ludvig"] [Black "Svidler, Peter"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B51"] [WhiteElo "2629"] [BlackElo "2763"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "78"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Nd7 4. d4 cxd4 5. Qxd4 a6 6. Bxd7+ {The latest practice has shown that White has nothing after the trade.} ({I played an interesting game, Yermolinsky-Sandipan, Hainan 2016} 6. Be2 Ngf6 7. O-O g6 8. Nc3 Bg7 9. Rd1 O-O 10. e5 $1 {Later this whole thing was repeated in Artemiev-Can, Eurpean Championship 2017, but the ownership of the idea belongs to Laurent Fressinet.}) 6... Bxd7 7. Nc3 e5 8. Qd3 Rc8 9. Nd2 ({On} 9. O-O { the correct reply is} h6 $1 {Adams-Giri, 2016} ({preventing a possible pin} 9... Nf6 10. Bg5) 10. Nd2 Qc7 11. Rd1 Bg4 12. f3 Be6 13. Nf1 Nf6 14. Ne3 Be7 { leading to a similar position as in the game. Still it makes sense for White to force Black to lose a tempo on h7-h6.}) 9... Be6 10. Nf1 Be7 11. Ne3 Nf6 12. O-O Qc7 13. a4 Qc5 14. Rd1 O-O 15. Bd2 {[#] It is instructive to watch Svidler generating chances in this stable pawn structure.} Bd8 $1 {Activating the bishop was a great idea, and it provoked Hammer's overreaction.} 16. Nf5 $4 { I don't get this at all.} Bxf5 17. exf5 d5 $17 18. Rac1 (18. Bg5 d4 19. Bxf6 Bxf6 20. Ne4 Qxc2 21. f4 {was the only way to generate some play, but I wouldn't bet on White making it work.}) 18... Bb6 19. Qe2 h6 20. a5 Ba7 21. Na4 Qc6 22. b3 ({The only redeeming value of Na4 would be to shut down the bishop, but} 22. Nb6 Bxb6 23. axb6 Rfe8 24. c3 Qxb6 25. Be3 Qb3 {looks like a technical task for somebody like Peter Svidler.}) 22... Rfe8 23. Kh1 Qd7 24. g4 d4 25. Qf3 e4 $1 $19 26. Qg2 Qc6 {Followed is Jon-Ludwig's desperate attempt to make something happen in his own time trouble.} 27. g5 hxg5 28. Bxg5 e3 29. f3 Re5 30. Qh3 e2 31. Rg1 d3 $1 {Stylish.} 32. Nb6 (32. cxd3 Qxc1 33. Bxc1 Bxg1 34. Bd2 e1=Q 35. Bxe1 Rxe1 {and White will get mated soon.}) 32... Bxb6 33. axb6 Rce8 34. Bh6 (34. Rce1 Nd5 35. cxd3 Nb4 36. Bh6 g6) 34... Ng4 35. Rxg4 e1=Q+ 36. Rxe1 Rxe1+ 37. Kg2 R8e2+ 38. Kg3 Rg1+ 39. Kh4 Qxh6# 0-1

It isn't everyday that one sees a mate played on the board between two top grandmasters, yet that is precisely what happened between Jon Hammer and Peter Svidler | Photo: Valerij Belobeev

1000x Checkmate

In this extended update of the ChessBase mating course, Lubomir Ftacnik initiates you into the fine art of mating your opponent. In four videos the grandmaster explains typical mating patterns. At the same time, two small collections of material allow systematic assimilation of the subject of delivering mate. After that, it is all about answering the training questions in 1000 mating exercises.


In yesterday's report I lamented the absence of upsets in Palma so far. In general, it concerns the entire Grand Prix series. Indeed, among all the players scoring 5.5/9 and 6/9 in the three previous tournaments, only Mamedyarov suffered a defeat in Sharjah, and it was against fellow heavyweight Grischuk.

Other contenders such as Grischuk, MVL and Radjabov, never lost a single game. The closest thing to an upset happened in the very first round of the first event in Sharjah, when Ding Liren lost to Rapport. I blame it on the nonchalant attitude sadly exhibited by many second-tier contestants.
A prime example is below.

[Event "FIDE Grand Prix Palma 2017"] [Site "Palma de Mallorca"] [Date "2017.11.18"] [Round "3"] [White "Tomashevsky, Evgeny"] [Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E63"] [WhiteElo "2702"] [BlackElo "2780"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2rq1rk1/5pbp/p2ppnp1/3n4/3N4/PP2P1P1/3BRPBP/RQ4K1 b - - 0 20"] [PlyCount "43"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] {[#] Here Hikaru surprised his fans by a strange-looking move.} 20... Nd7 $6 ({ Black has no problems after} 20... Qb6) ({but he'd better avoid} 20... Nc3 $6 21. Bxc3 Rxc3 22. Rc2 Rxc2 23. Qxc2 $14) 21. Bxd5 exd5 {White's structural advantage can be countered by active play, but Nakamura wasn't able to find anything concrete.} 22. Qd1 Qb6 (22... Nc5 23. Rc1 Ne4) 23. Rc1 h5 24. Bc3 Bxd4 $5 {One of Hikaru's strengths is his ability to accept worse positions when he has to.} 25. Qxd4 Qxd4 26. exd4 Nb8 $1 {Great defense, as usual.} 27. Rec2 Rc6 $1 28. Bb4 Rfc8 29. Rxc6 Rxc6 {[#]} 30. Rxc6 $4 {I could not believe my eyes. For a high-class player like Tomashevsky, trading the last pair of rooks in such positions is criminal.} ({Mind you, I am questioning Tomashevsky's heart, not his chess ability. Anybody who bothers to go to chess tournaments must try to keep the game going. Actually, White's chances after} 30. Re1 $1 {shouldn't be underestimated:} Kf8 31. Kf1 Nd7 32. Ke2 Nf6 (32... Rc2+ 33. Kf3 Nf6 34. Bxd6+ Kg8 35. Re2 Rc3+ 36. Kf4 Rxb3 37. Rc2 $16) 33. f3 Rc2+ 34. Kd3 Rxh2 35. Bxd6+ Kg8 36. Re7 Rb2 37. Rb7 $14) 30... Nxc6 {Nothing to see here, move along. } 31. Bc3 Kf8 32. f3 f5 33. Kf2 Ke7 34. Ke3 Nd8 35. Kd3 Kd7 36. Bd2 Ne6 37. h4 Kc6 38. Be3 Nc7 39. a4 Ne6 40. Bd2 Kc7 41. Kc3 Kd7 1/2-1/2

Tomashevsky was there in body only, not in spirit | Photo: Valerij Belobeev

Pray tell me, what Evgeny gained from this draw: one rating point? At least, he made some moves, I'll give him credit for that much.

We didn't even get a token effort from Jakovenko-Riazantsev and Inarkiev-Harikrishna today. Of the players involved, only Hari can be given a pass because Black isn't supposed to turn down a repetition of moves in that line. Where's Silvio Danailov when we need him?

At least there were a couple of interesting games on the bottom boards today.

[Event "FIDE Grand Prix Palma 2017"] [Site "Palma de Mallorca"] [Date "2017.11.18"] [Round "3"] [White "Vallejo Pons, Francisco"] [Black "Gelfand, Boris"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B77"] [WhiteElo "2705"] [BlackElo "2719"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/1r1bRp2/3p1kp1/3P3p/prP3P1/5P1P/BP6/2K1R3 w - - 0 26"] [PlyCount "75"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] {[#] Gelfand played another one of his Accelarated Dragon lines, once again setting himself up for a fruitless task of defending a pawn down.} 26. R1e4 $6 ({Here Paco missed the near-crushing} 26. c5 $1 dxc5 27. d6 c4 28. R1e4 $1 { Perhaps, this move escaped his attention.} Be6 (28... Rxb2 29. Rxd7) 29. Bxc4 $1 Bxc4 (29... Rxe7 30. g5+ $1) 30. d7 Rb8 31. Re8 {Black can put up further resistance with} a3 $1 {but White is on top after} 32. bxa3 Rb1+ 33. Kc2 R1b2+ 34. Kc3 Be6 35. Rb4 {which is even stronger than queening the pawn right away.} ) 26... h4 27. f4 Kg7 28. Re2 Kf8 29. R7e3 Rb8 30. Re4 Kg7 31. Re7 R8b7 32. R7e3 Rb8 33. Ra3 Kf6 34. Rc3 Kg7 35. Rf3 Kf6 36. Rd3 Kg7 37. Rd1 Kf6 38. Rdd2 Kg7 39. Re7 R8b7 40. Re3 Rb8 41. Ree2 Kf6 42. Rc2 R8b7 43. Kd1 Rb8 44. Ke1 R4b6 45. Kf2 Rb4 46. Kf3 Kg7 47. Ke4 {[#] White didn't seem to be going anywhere in particular until Boris miscalculated his counterplay attempt.} f5+ 48. Kd3 fxg4 $2 (48... Kf8 49. g5 $14) 49. Re7+ Kh6 50. Rxd7 gxh3 {It looked good, but there followed} 51. Rxd6 $1 Rxb2 52. Re6 $1 h2 53. Re1 Rxc2 54. Kxc2 Re8 55. Rh1 Re2+ 56. Kc3 {and the white pawns decided the outcome.} Rxa2 57. c5 Ra3+ 58. Kb4 Rf3 59. c6 Rxf4+ 60. Kb5 Rd4 61. c7 Rxd5+ 62. Kb4 Rd4+ 63. Kc3 1-0

Richard Rapport had excelletn chances, but Li Chao was stubborn as a mule and would not be dragged to his demise | Photo: Valerij Belobeev

[Event "FIDE Grand Prix Palma 2017"] [Site "Palma de Mallorca"] [Date "2017.11.18"] [Round "3"] [White "Rapport, Richard"] [Black "Li, Chao b"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2692"] [BlackElo "2741"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1r2k3/1p1Rnp2/p5p1/8/5P1K/1P5B/1P5P/8 b - - 0 39"] [PlyCount "79"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] {[#]} 39... f6 $2 {A time trouble error, allowing the white bishop to reign supreme.} (39... b5 40. Kg5 Rb6 {is nothing special for White.}) 40. Be6 $1 a5 41. Kg4 Kf8 42. h4 b5 43. h5 gxh5+ 44. Kxh5 a4 45. b4 (45. Kh6 $1 {would cut down on Black's counterplay:} axb3 46. Bxb3 Ke8 47. Be6 Rb6 48. f5 $16) 45... Ke8 46. f5 Nc6 47. Rh7 Rd8 48. Kg6 Rd2 49. Kxf6 Kd8 50. Rb7 Nxb4 {[#]} 51. Rxb5 ({The win wasn't that close, but still within Richard's reach had he found} 51. Kg7 $1 Na6 (51... Rg2+ 52. Kf8 Rxb2 53. Rd7+) 52. f6 Nc5 53. Rb8+ Kc7 54. Rc8+ Kb6 {and now the study-like idea} 55. Bf5 $1 (55. Bh3 Rxb2 56. f7 Rf2 57. f8=Q Rxf8 58. Kxf8 a3 59. Ra8 b4 60. Ke7 Ne4 {is likely going to be a draw.}) 55... Rf2 56. Kg6 Rg2+ 57. Kh5 Rf2 58. Kg5 Rg2+ 59. Kf4 Rf2+ 60. Ke5 Re2+ 61. Kd4 { getting the king in the middle of action.}) 51... Rxb2 52. Ra5 (52. Rb7 a3 53. Rd7+ Kc8 $1 (53... Ke8 54. Rd6 $18) 54. Ra7+ Kb8 55. Rxa3 {would lead to the same thing.}) 52... Nc6 53. Rxa4 {Rapport put in a great effort here, but the position is objectively drawn, and he couldn't overcome the stubborn resistance by Li Chao.} Rb4 54. Ra3 Kc7 55. Kf7 Ne5+ 56. Ke7 Nc6+ 57. Kf7 Ne5+ 58. Kg7 Rg4+ 59. Kf8 Rf4 60. Ke7 Nc6+ 61. Kf7 Rf2 62. Ra1 Rf4 63. Ra2 Kd6 64. Ra6 Kc7 65. f6 Ne5+ 66. Kg7 Rf1 67. Bh3 Rf3 68. Be6 Rf1 69. Ra7+ Kd6 70. Bh3 Rg1+ 71. Kf8 Rg3 72. Bc8 Rc3 73. Ra6+ Kc7 74. Re6 Re3 75. f7 Kxc8 76. Ke8 Nxf7 77. Rxe3 Nd6+ 78. Ke7 Nf5+ 1/2-1/2

Standings after Round 3

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

All games (Round 3)



Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.
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lajosarpad lajosarpad 11/20/2017 10:47

Imagine the commentator of any sports who is openly criticizing the participants of a top event and the organization to the degree we see here. Of course the commentator should point out the lack of effort a player is showing in case that is true, but here we have seen much more than this, including, but not limiting to generalized rants towards the players. We found two reports in a row where the journalist ranted against the organization and belittled the players' determination. MVL and Radjabov are very much determined to play, Giri, who has been accused of drawish chess recently has played fighting chess, Aronian is on a rampage, Rapport is showing extreme fighting chess, so Yermo is not right in criticizing the players' determination here. So, his criticism is exaggerated and wrong in this case. But even if he was right, the very fact that he is writing about the event should make sure that he is criticizing mistakes in games, or lack of fighting in some games where it is obvious, without crossing the line of constructivity. Yes, he has written about the games, which is nice, but he should have left most of his rant to the spectators. Such rants by the commentator will convince some of the spectators that there is nothing to see, lowering the publicity of the event, which is against the interest of those who are actually interested to see the event.

Players are competitors and they fight for ÉLŐ points, prize money, podium position and invitation to the Candidates Tournament. I understand them when they take risks to try and perform well, but it is also understandable when they avoid risks and therefore the danger of a drawback in their career. If their strategy is plausible, they will end up with a decent result, otherwise they will fail. Whoever is ambitious and successful, will gradually take over those, who are less ambitious and/or successful. They are playing for themselves and their country and we, spectators can value or disvalue their efforts. Their obligations are present in the contracts they have signed. Please, point out the point in their contract where they have agreed to take risks even against their interests, also point out why such points in a contract is desirable.

And "searching" for Danailov, the man behind the toilet gate, the person who acted in a sinister way according to Short's reports in the 2005 San Luis FIDE World Championship Tournament, the guy, who tried to compensate for the failure of his protege by accusations is plainly wrong. The guy tried to profit from the volcano eruption in 2010 just before the Sofia World Championship match, when he had nothing against organizing the match in the home country of his protege, while in 2006 he was disagreeing strongly to the fact that the match has been played in the home of Topalov's opponent. Yermo is missing a guy, who damaged the reputation of a World Champion, used double standards, is incorrect to the core, just because he has introduced some anti-drawish rules and by the way, forcing players to continue a game when it is not okay for them is taking out the energy of players, who, as a result will have less focus on key games.

I find these things in the two articles incorrect.
anandymous anandymous 11/20/2017 05:19
I've got a fever and the only prescription is more Yermo.
Bertman Bertman 11/19/2017 02:57
First, GM Yermolinsky did actually highlight the games mentioned and provided notes to no fewer than five games in all. Second, as a grandmaster he would know better than most how much effort was made, or not made, to actually fight at the board. These players are all professionals and have an obligation not only to themselves, but to the sponsors and spectators as well.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 11/19/2017 12:51
I do not really like when the journalist complains about lack of satisfaction of an event. We, who are interested about the event would like to see what was the most interesting of a given round and one can point out the Svidler, the Gelfand, the Aronian or the Rapport game in this specific round.