Jerusalem GP: Mamedyarov out of contention

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
12/14/2019 – The pairings for the quarter-finals of the Jerusalem Grand Prix are now set, after seven round-one match-ups were decided in Friday's tiebreaks. Out of those with serious chances to get the remaining spot in the Candidates, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was the one leaving the race early on. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is still ahead in the overall standings, but Ian Nepomniachtchi or even Wesley So could overtake him in the coming rounds. | Photo: Niki Riga

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Nepomniachtchi and So in the hunt

The fourth leg of the FIDE Grand Prix is being played in Jerusalem, Israel. The 16-player knockout has a €130,000 prize fund, with the series as a whole having an additional prize fund of €280,000 plus two qualifying spots for the 2020 Candidates Tournament. The tournament takes place in the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Centre from December 11th to 23rd.

The Grand Prix is all about the race to get one of the two Candidates spots up for grabs in the series. Now that Alexander Grischuk is officially qualified and eight players have been eliminated in Jerusalem, the amount of possible outcomes has been considerably reduced. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov lost against Dmitry Jakovenko and is out of contention, while those waiting for a miracle (i.e. all the favourites being knocked out in round one) will be playing exclusively for prize money.

At this point, only Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Wesley So are fighting for the remaining available ticket. Vachier-Lagrave is four points above Nepomniachtchi in the overall standings, and if both win their coming matches they will meet in a deciding semi-final face-off. It is worth mentioning, however, that the Russian's opponent in round two is Wesley So, who still has chances to overtake both in the standings. The American is having a run of good form and for him to take first place in Israel is certainly a viable outcome.  

Coincidentally, all three contenders are on the same side of the bracket:

M Vachier-Lagrave v Dmitry Andreikin
Wesley So v Ian Nepomniachtchi
Wei Yi v Sergey Karjakin
David Navara v Dmitry Jakovenko

FIDE Grand Prix Jerusalem 2019

Not worried by the Candidates... | Photo: Niki Riga

The tiebreaks

Let us take a look at each of the round-one matches that were decided in tiebreakers. Four of seven were decided after the first two 25'+10" rapid games, while Sergey Karjakin and Pentala Harikrishna drew all nine of their encounters — Karjakin advanced, as he had Black in the Armageddon stage.  

  Score C1 C2 R1 R2
Veselin Topalov 1 ½ ½ 0 0
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 3 ½ ½ 1 1

Back in 2010, Veselin Topalov did all he could to avoid going to the rapid playoffs in the World Championship match against Viswanathan Anand. His all-or-nothing approach in game 12 backfired, as the Indian took advantage of the unwarranted risks taken and won the game. Topalov did the same against 'MVL' in Israel, except that the Frenchman was as pragmatic as his rival, offering a draw from a superior position in the second classical game and showing his superiority in the rapid.


Click or tap a game from the list to switch 

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Veselin Topalov

First-row seats to Vachier-Lagrave v Topalov | Photo: Niki Riga

  Score C1 C2 R1 R2
Ian Nepomniachtchi 3 ½ ½ 1 1
Boris Gelfand 1 ½ ½ 0 0

Although Ian Nepomniachtchi won his match by the same score as Vachier-Lagrave, things could have easily gone bad for the Russian. As Evgeny Miroshnichenko pointed out during the commentary webcast, Boris Gelfand had a considerable advantage in three of the four games played. The complex struggles ended up favouring the younger contender, however, who will now have a tough opponent in Wesley So. 


Ian Nepomniachtchi

Ian Nepomniachtchi might play his first Candidates next year | Photo: Niki Riga

  Score C1 C2 R1 R2
Wei Yi ½ ½ ½ 1
Anish Giri ½ ½ ½ 0

Games two and three of this match-up — both times Anish Giri had the white pieces — ended peacefully rather quickly. In the rematch rapid encounter, however, Wei Yi decided to mix it up with a sideline of the Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.e2 c6 3.f4), a strategy that served him well, as he outplayed his famed opponent in a highly tactical strife. The Chinese prodigy also advanced to the quarter-finals in Moscow, but was then knocked out by Nepomniachtchi.


Wei Yi

Wei Yi knocked out third seed Anish Giri | Photo: Niki Riga

  Score C1 C2 R1 R2
Radoslaw Wojtaszek ½ ½ ½ 0
Dmitry Andreikin ½ ½ ½ 1

After Teimour Radjabov and Levon Aronian announced they would not participate in Jerusalem due to medical reasons, Dmitry Andreikin and Wang Hao were called up as replacements. In round one, the former eliminated Radoslaw Wojtaszek, a player that had reached the semi-finals in the first stage of the series. Andreikin now has an influential role in the whole race to the Candidates, as he will be facing Vachier-Lagrave in the quarter-finals.


Dmitry Andreikin

Dmitry Andreikin has a tough task ahead | Photo: Niki Riga

  Score C1 C2 R1 R2 R3 R4
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov ½ ½ 1 0 ½ 0
Dmitry Jakovenko ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 1

This was the only match that saw one of the players winning on demand to even the score. Dmitry Jakovenko had some problems in the past — even during this series — finishing off his opponents after getting advantageous positions. The same happened in the second classical game against 'Shakh' Mamedyarov, but when the Azerbaijani chose an unnecessarily risky approach in the second rapid encounter, the Russian used his chances to keep the battle going:


White had a clear edge from a while ago, but Mamedyarov is not one to go down easy. Jakovenko showed strong nerves throughout and rounded off the game with 39.e5+ f6 40.b8+ g7 41.f2.

Mamedyarov had White in the first 10-minute encounter and stopped fighting after 22 moves. Jakovenko got match victory in the next game, when he out-calculated te world number seven while marshalling the white pieces.


Dmitry Jakovenko

On the way to the venue — Dmitry Jakovenko | Photo: Niki Riga

  Score C1 C2 R1 R2 R3 R4 B1 B2
David Navara ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1
Wang Hao ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0

Navara and Wang Hao belong to the group of strong grandmasters that never quite managed to maintain a spot among the elite. Notwithstanding, they hardly ever disappoint the spectators, as they often go for a fight, exploring critical continuations whenever they get the chance.

Their direct match-up was not the exception. More than once, they missed chances to get ahead on the score board, which led to a string of seven draws. In the second 5'+3" encounter, however, Czech Republic's number one David Navara prevailed and secured match victory.  


David Navara

A gentleman on and off the board — David Navara | Photo: Niki Riga

  Score C1 C2 R1 R2 R3 R4 B1 B2 Arm
Pentala Harikrishna ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½
Sergey Karjakin ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½

The strange occurrence of a match finishing without any decisive results was seen in the face-off between Pentala Harikrishna and Sergey Karjakin. A combination of a safety-first approach in the openings and good defensive skills led to the string of split points. When the Armageddon stage was reached it was Karjakin who got to play with the black pieces, thus getting draw odds. The Indian incessantly looked for chances to create imbalances, but to no avail — the succession of draws could not be stopped.  


Pentala Harikrishna

It was a long day at the office for Pentala Harikrishna | Photo: Niki Riga

Commentary webcast

Official broadcast with GM Evgeny Miroshnichenko via


Previous reports:

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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