FIDE Grand Prix - Geneva: Alexander Grischuk joins the lead

by Albert Silver
7/11/2017 – As the Grand Prix in Geneva hits the official midway point after five rounds, it is safe to say that things are going to become make-or-break for a number of players who still wish to vie for one of the two coveted spots in the next Candidates. One player who clearly set out to make a stand was Alexander Grischuk, who defeated Pavel Eljanov in an important theoretical game. Enjoy this study of the various situations, accompanied by analysis by GM Mekhitarian.

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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 five

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

Photos by World Chess

Superficially, one might be dismayed to see a third straight round fairly light on the action, with a number of listless draws, and only one win having a direct bearing on the events standings. However, for a lot of those players, at least those who have not given up on their ambitions, these quick draws are the least desirable outcome possible. Let’s take a look at the Grand Prix standings table below, pruned down to only the candidates who have realistic chances.

 
Player
Feb 2017 Elo
Sharjah
Moscow
Geneva
Palma
Total
1
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE) (P)
2766
140
140
 
 
280
2
Ding Liren (CHN) (P)
2760
70
170
 
 
240
3
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) (P)
2796
140
71
 
 
211
3
Alexander Grischuk (RUS) (P)
2742
140
71
 
 
211
5
Hikaru Nakamura (USA) (P)
2785
70
71
 
 
141
9
Anish Giri (NED) (P)
2769
 
71
 
 
71
9
Peter Svidler (RUS) (P)
2748
 
71
 
 
71
9
Teimour Radjabov (AZE) (P)
2710
 
71
 
 
71
12
Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS) (P)
2709
70
 
 
 
70
14
Pavel Eljanov (UKR) (P)
2759
25
 
 
 
25
21
Levon Aronian (ARM) (P)
2785
7
 
 
 
7

It was a quick draw between the two Azeri players, Mamedyarov and Radjabov, but an expected one

This is not to exclude any great underdog tales from taking place, and we’ll be the first to cheer should any happen, but until such a scenario unfolds, let’s stick with likely scenarios and their permutations.

The clearest candidates for the two top spots in the Grand Prix are of course Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Ding Liren. Mamedyarov has a total of 280 points, and should he get a piece of first or sole second as he did in Moscow, his place is guaranteed. The point is ‘if’ he does this. If he does not, and scores some 70-71 points, then a lot of things could happen, and he might find himself outside, even if unlikely. Ding Liren’s situation is a bit less secure, though he did wonders for his chances by winning the Moscow GP outright, and the only way he could guarantee his place would be with another win in his third event in Palma de Mallorca. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Alexander Grischuk are the ones who are sweating here. Not only do they need to hope one of those two players sips up a bit, but they absolutely need to win their own respective third events as well. MVL is not playing here, so it is really a matter for Grischuk.

Richard Rapport and his wife enjoy some time together before the game

Alexander Grischuk has 211 points, and 140 is unlikely to be enough, especially if that means sharing those 140 with Mamedyarov. By winning his game today, he moved into shared first with Teimour Radjabov, making his chances for a sole first much more real, and placing pressure on his other rivals to not underperform. As cruel as it might seem to say, it is not enough to run two thirds of a great race. It is still the finish line that counts.

Alexander Grischuk's win in the fifth round was more than simply sporting interest. He transformed an English into a reversed Accelerated Dragon with some fascinating play. First take a look at the standard Accelerated Dragon with which to compare it to:

 

Now see the English Opening that became of the game in Eljanov-Grischuk:

 

Pavel Eljanov - Alexander Grischuk (annotated by GM Krikor Mekhitarian)

[Event "Geneva Grand Prix 2017"] [Site "Geneva SUI"] [Date "2017.07.10"] [Round "5.3"] [White "Eljanov, Pavel"] [Black "Grischuk, Alexander"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A29"] [WhiteElo "2739"] [BlackElo "2761"] [Annotator "Mekhitarian, Krikor"] [PlyCount "76"] [EventDate "2017.07.06"] [EventType "swiss"] 1. c4 (1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 {You will soon understand why I am showing this variation...} Nc6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Bc4 O-O 8. Bb3 d6 9. h3 Na5 10. O-O b6 11. Re1 Bb7 12. Bg5) 1... Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bg2 Bc5 $5 {It's amazing how Grischuk constantly comes up with new ideas. This move has been played many times already, but the strongest player who tried it was 2200, after which it mostly happened in beginner games. There were some recent correspondence games, which Grischuk probably used to find it. He is trying to play the usual Bc4 line that White plays against the Accelerated Dragon (with reversed colors)} 7. O-O (7. Nxe5 {would be something to consider, but it turns out to be harmless} Nxc3 8. bxc3 (8. Bxc6+ bxc6 {Black has decent compensation in both cases (dxc3 or bxc3)} 9. dxc3 (9. bxc3 Qd5 10. Nf3 Bh3 $44) 9... Qe7 $5 $44) (8. Nxc6 $4 Qf6 $1 {hitting the queen and mate in f2} 9. dxc3 Qxf2+ 10. Kd2 Qxg2 $19) 8... Nxe5 (8... Bxf2+ $2 {this kind of move is known to be a mistake, because the king is safely placed, while White in the meantime has a strong center and the bishop pair} 9. Kxf2 Nxe5 10. Rf1 $16 {followed by Kg1, and d4-e4}) 9. d4 Bd6 10. dxe5 Bxe5 $11 {and Black is very happy with the better structure. Soon c6 will be played, and the g2 bishop will be neutralized}) 7... O-O 8. d3 (8. Nxd5 {was played in correspondence chess, a couple of years ago} Qxd5 9. Ng5 Qc4 $5 {was the original move played} (9... Qd8 {is acceptable, but runs into} 10. Nxh7 $5 Re8 {threatening to move the c5-bishop} (10... Kxh7 $2 11. Qc2+ Kg8 12. Qxc5 $16) 11. Ng5 (11. h4 $5 f6 12. Qc2 $13 {followed by Qg6, the position remains very unclear (and weird!)}) 11... Qxg5 12. d4 (12. Bxc6 $5 bxc6 13. d4 Qh5 14. dxc5 Bg4 $44 {should be well compensated for Black}) 12... Qh5 13. dxc5 Rd8 14. Bd2 Nd4 $36) 10. b3 Qg4 11. Qc2 {White has to do this, otherwise Black is simply fine} Bxf2+ 12. Rxf2 Qxg5 13. Bxc6 bxc6 14. Qxc6 Bh3 15. d3 Qe7 16. Be3 Rfc8 17. Qe4 f6 $13 {again with original play, that should be balanced: 1/2-1/2 (30) Golubenko,A (2198)-Zakharov,Y (2229) ICCF 2015}) (8. Nxe5 {runs into the same theme} Nxc3 9. bxc3 (9. Nxc6 $2 Nxd1 10. Nxd8 Bxf2+ 11. Kh1 Bg4 $1 $17) 9... Nxe5 10. d4 Bd6 11. dxe5 Bxe5 $11 {and Black should be happy after c6}) 8... Bb6 9. Na4 {similar to the Accelerated Dragon, White gets the bishop pair (there are many lines where Black plays Na5). In the other hand, Black obtains very good central control} Re8 10. Bg5 (10. b3 {would be similar to how Black plays the Accelerated Dragon (Na5, followed by b6, Bb7). Good news for Black is that there was no need to lose a tempo with h6 (h3), since the bishop is still on c8 (please read the analysis before the 1st move!), and the bishop also went directly to g4, without 'stopping' at e6, as it happens in the dragon.} Bg4 11. Bb2 Qd7 {followed by Rad8, and Black is totally fine} (11... Nd4 $5 12. Nxb6 axb6 13. Nxd4 exd4 14. Re1 c5 15. Qd2 Qd7 $11 {and there is nothing to complain about in Black's position})) 10... Qd6 11. Nd2 Qg6 $1 { the queen finds and excellen square here} 12. Ne4 (12. Bxd5 $5 {was possibly better than the game} Qxg5 13. Rc1 Bh3 (13... Ne7 {more solid} 14. Bg2 c6 { threatening Bc7 at some point} 15. Nxb6 axb6 16. a4 {to stop b5} Nd5 17. Nc4 Qd8 $11 {with balanced play}) 14. Re1 Rad8 (14... Ba5 $5) 15. Bxc6 bxc6 { with interesting play}) 12... Bg4 $1 (12... f5 {there is no need to play this} 13. Nec5 Qxg5 14. Bxd5+ Kh8 15. Rc1 $13 {I like Grischuk's decision better, to bring Be6 and Rad8 quickly (he played Bg4 first to provoke h3)}) (12... Be6 $5 {also perfectly fine, but Bg4 should be an improved version, h3 may be a weakness in some variations}) 13. h3 Be6 14. Bd2 Rad8 $15 {now Black is already to be preferred - everything is harmonious, f5 is coming and he has Bc8 whenever a knight arrives on c5} 15. Kh2 Kh8 16. a3 f5 $1 17. Nec5 Bc8 { all of Grischuk's forces are heading towards the center - e4 is unstoppable, unless White himself plays it, which was a way that Eljanov could try and complicate matters.} 18. b4 (18. e4 Nf6 $1 (18... fxe4 {is the solid way to deal with this} 19. Bxe4 Qf7 $15 {and moves like Nd4 are coming, Black is doing fine}) 19. exf5 Bxf5 $1 (19... Qxf5 $5 $15) 20. Nxb7 (20. Nxb6 axb6 21. Nxb7 Rd5 $3 {defending the c6 knight very creatively} 22. Bxd5 Nxd5 {Black wants to pick up the knight with Bc8} 23. Qf3 {forced} Nd4 $3 24. Qxd5 Qh5 25. h4 Be6 $1 26. Qg2 Nf3+ 27. Kh1 Nxd2 28. Rfe1 Nf3 29. Re3 Bd5 $19) 20... Rxd3 21. Nxb6 Bxh3 $3 {an amazing move, instantly spotted by the computer. The idea is to distract the bishop and maintain a strong initiative, with two pawns for the piece. I think it is almost impossible for a human to find all these moves, specially considering White remains with the pure bishop pair} 22. Bxh3 axb6 $17 {threatening Nd4} 23. Rc1 Nd4 24. Rc3 Nf3+ 25. Qxf3 Rxf3 26. Rxf3 Qh5 27. Kg2 Qf7 $1 $19 {followed by Qd5}) 18... e4 $1 19. e3 $2 (19. dxe4 $1 fxe4 20. Qb1 (20. Qc2 {a very ugly move to make (allowing Nd4), but that is the computer's suggestion} Nd4 (20... Qh5 $5 21. Nxb6 Nd4 $36 {looks ugly for White }) 21. Qc4 e3 22. Bc1 $13 {and miraculously White is ok, according to the computer}) 20... Nd4 21. Bxe4 $2 (21. Nxe4 Bf5 $17) 21... Qh5 $19) 19... Bxc5 $1 {Eljanov's position simply collapses now, b6 and Ba6 are coming} (19... exd3 $2 20. Nxb6 axb6 21. Nxd3 $14 {and White is even slightly better}) 20. Nxc5 b6 21. Nb3 Ba6 $19 22. Nc1 Ne5 {now it's all over, Black starts picking up material and has a dominant position} 23. Qa4 Bxd3 24. Nxd3 Nxd3 25. b5 (25. Qxa7 $2 Ra8 26. Qb7 Qe6 27. b5 Ne5 $1 $19 {and White should resign}) 25... h5 26. Qc2 Qd6 (26... h4 $1 27. gxh4 Qf6 {with a devastating attack, but Grischuk wanted to keep it simple}) 27. h4 Qe5 28. Kg1 Re6 29. a4 Kh7 30. Ra3 Rdd6 31. a5 c5 {starting serious action on the queen-side, where Black keeps all the advantages as well} 32. bxc6 Rxc6 33. Qd1 Nf6 $1 {a good moment to remove the knight, not only to defend h5, but also because Bc3 is not possible anymore} 34. axb6 axb6 35. Qb1 Red6 {the problem is that White can never activate his bishops, not to mention the material disadvantage} 36. Rb3 Ng4 37. Bb4 Rd5 38. Be1 Rc1 {And White resigned. A very convincing game from Alexander Grischuk, who joins Radjabov in the lead with 3.5/5! On the 12th of July, they both have White - against Aronian and Harikrishna, respectively. A lot of action yet to come in the final four rounds, stay tuned!} 0-1

What about players such as Anish Giri, Peter Svidler, Teimour Radjabov and Dmitry Jakovenko? Having only played one event so far out of three, they are under the most pressure to win the event outright, and tie with Ding Liren. Radjabov’s great start with 2/2 seems to have cooled off some, but there are still four rounds to go, and the Azeri has unquestionably put added his name to the hat.

So what about Levon Aronian for example? Needless to say, even two clear wins might not be enough, and he would still need for favorable conditions with one of the others to score worse. However, being the great competitor he is, he will no doubt just do what he can to ensure his part, and then cross his fingers.

Levon Aronian and Peter Svidler enjoying the beauty of Geneva

Hikaru Nakamura’s situation relative to the Grand Prix standings is no longer in his hands right now, and he will know by the end of this tournament whether he can still fight for a spot or not in Palma, or whether he will be fighting just for that tournament’s laurels.

Be sure to follow the action in the latter half of the event after the rest day on Tuesday, as the stakes are at their highest and players will show their mettle.

Standings after five rounds

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

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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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Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 7/12/2017 04:08
@ Masquer : It happens sometime, but it isn't a problem : if you click on the white dot at the bottom right of the board, it will also turn it.
Masquer Masquer 7/12/2017 02:12
What happened to the Flip Board button? It is gone.
Thomas Richter Thomas Richter 7/11/2017 01:38
"Grand Prix live standings" at the moment: Mamedyarov 367.5, Grischuk 366 3/7 both from three events, then Ding Liren 240, Radjabov 226 3/7, MVL 211 3/7 all from two events - last one in Palma de Mallorca pending. From the three latter players, one and only one could score 170 points (clear first), two max could score 155 points (shared first to second), three max could score 140 points (shared first to third or clear second). Of course others who can no longer qualify for the candidates via the GP series could act as spoilers in Palma de Mallorca - most likely seems Svidler, Nakamura, Aronian and/or Giri. There are scenarios where Mamedyarov and Grischuk will both be overtaken. There are scenarios where Mamedyarov but not Grischuk qualifies for the candidates - small difference becoming relevant. There are scenarios where Radjabov or MVL are exactly tied with Grischuk, and additional tiebreakers would apply. If Grischuk should finish clear first in Geneva, he could also be exactly tied with Radjabov or MVL - but in this case it seems that both would finish shared first in the final standings. It could all change drastically if one, two or three of the top games in round 6 are decisive: Grischuk-Radjabov, short draw or not? Aronian-Harikrishna, white will certainly try to win. Svidler-Mamedyarov - will Shak mess up as he did in Sharjah against Grischuk (then beating Hou Yifan to return to shared first), and as could have happened in Geneva against Harikrishna? Another "complication": Some (one or two) of the players named could reach the World Cup final and thus qualify for the candidates, and third or even fourth place in the GP series would do the job for others. To be continued - World Cup results will be known before the last GP event.
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