Moscow Grand Prix: Ding Liren wins it all

by Albert Silver
5/21/2017 – In an epic final round, the two leaders went in different directions. While Mamedyarov safely drew in just 16 moves with MVL, also ensuring a round 2800 on the next FIDE Ratings list, Ding Liren, playing black, faced down Boris Gelfand in a massive battle that ended in his victory and sole first place at the Moscow GP. Ex-Women's World Champion Hou Yifan defeated Super-GM Ernesto Inarkiev with black. Here is the illustrated report with analysis by GM Alex Lenderman.

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Photos by Max Avdeev

Round nine

Bo. No.   Name FED Rtg Pts. Result Pts.   Name FED Rtg No.
1 12 GM Gelfand Boris ISR 2724 0 - 1 5 GM Ding Liren CHN 2773 4
2 5 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar AZE 2772 5 ½ - ½ GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2795 1
3 2 GM Nakamura Hikaru USA 2786 ½ - ½ GM Svidler Peter RUS 2755 6
4 3 GM Giri Anish NED 2785 ½ - ½ GM Grischuk Alexander RUS 2750 8
5 9 GM Harikrishna P. IND 2750 4 ½ - ½ GM Radjabov Teimour AZE 2710 13
6 10 GM Adams Michael ENG 2747 3 ½ - ½ 4 GM Tomashevsky Evgeny RUS 2696 15
7 11 GM Inarkiev Ernesto RUS 2727 0 - 1 4 GM Hou Yifan CHN 2652 16
8 14 GM Vallejo Pons Francisco ESP 2710 ½ - ½ 3 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian RUS 2751 7
9 17 GM Salem A.R. Saleh UAE 2633 3 ½ - ½ GM Hammer Jon Ludvig NOR 2621 18

It was a very suitable ending to a tournament that had really gotten exciting before cooling down just as much. The question on everyone’s mind was whether the players would play it safe, or would the leaders try to finish in beauty. We soon found out.

Mamedyarov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave both played it safe, though this decision was far safer for the Azeri than the Frenchman. For the Azeri player, this meant a tie for first or second at worse, and having shared first in Sharjah, meant he would be one of the leaders, if not *the* leader to qualify for the Candidates. Remember only two will qualify from the cycle. In the previous one, Caruana and Topalov had been the best overall performers. Furthermore, and not to be spurned, it also meant he will appear in the next ratings list with a nice round 2800 rating. For the Frenchman, things are far more precarious as a result of his 16-move draw, though in all fairness, he must have thought the chances of Ding Liren not only getting chances to play for a win, but to actually win his last round with black were slim to say the least. However, never say never....

Boris Gelfand vs Ding Liren (annotated by GM Alex Lenderman)

[Event "Moscow Grand Prix"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.05.21"] [Round "9"] [White "Gelfand, Boris"] [Black "Ding, Liren"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E11"] [Annotator "Aleksandr Lenderman"] [PlyCount "70"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] {Hello everyone! This is GM Aleksandr Lenderman presenting you the final Game of the Day of Moscow Grand Prix! And the choice is easy here. The fight for first place ended with Ding Liren winning a decisive game against Boris Gelfand. So, without further ado, let's get to it.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 d5 4. Bg2 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 Be7 6. Nf3 O-O 7. O-O Nbd7 8. a4 a5 9. Qc2 c6 10. Na3 Ne4 $5 {A very rare move already. In an earlier game betwen Gelfand and Tomashevsky, 10...Bd6 was played and Black had to suffer a bit before eventually getting a draw.} (10... Bd6 11. Ne1 Qe7 12. Nd3 e5 13. cxd5 Nxd5 14. Bxd5 cxd5 15. Nb5 e4 16. Nf4 Nf6 17. Rfc1 {Gelfand-Tomashevsky Moscow Grand Prix round 4} (17. Qb3 $5 {Was maybe an improvement.})) 11. Bf4 $146 {The only other game I could find after 10...Ne4 in my database was with 11.Be3!? in a game between two very strong players.} (11. Be3 f5 12. Ne1 g5 13. f3 Nd6 14. Nd3 Qe8 15. c5 Nf7 {Was a very complex battle in Hertneck,G (2572)-Bareev,E (2719) Germany 2002}) 11... g5 {The typical logical follow up after the Ne4 idea is to play on the kingside.} 12. Be3 (12. Bc1 $5) 12... f5 13. Rad1 Bf6 14. Nb1 Qe7 {I think Black is already happy here. He got a very interesting unbalanced position with Black with play for 3 results. And Ding is extremely good in positions like this too.} 15. Nc3 b6 16. Ne5 $5 {A very interesting, ambitious move, and probably not the only one.} (16. b3 $5) 16... Nxe5 17. dxe5 Bxe5 18. Bxb6 Qb4 { Not the only move in the position but the most direct.} (18... Nxc3 19. bxc3 Ba6 20. cxd5 cxd5 21. Bxa5 Rfc8 $44 {was also a possible sample line.}) (18... Bxc3 19. bxc3 Ba6 20. Bxe4 $14) (18... Ra6 19. Bd4 Bxd4 20. Rxd4 {Is also roughly equal.}) 19. Nxe4 fxe4 20. cxd5 $2 {So far both sides have played good precise and principled chess. However, now, Gelfand seems to miscalculate or misevaluate something because he doesn't quite seem to have enough for the sacrifised material. Sometimes last rounds can be tricky even for the most experienced players. Gelfand was probably really hoping to win this game to tie for 1st since the difference between tying for first and tying for 3rd in a massive tie is huge in terms of Grand Prix points. So maybe he decided to take a gamble in this game he normally wouldn't have. It didn't work in his favor in this game though.} (20. Be3 Qxb2 21. Qxb2 Bxb2 22. Bxg5 Ba6 23. cxd5 ( 23. Rd2 {This first might be a bit more accurate though.} Bc3 24. Rc2 {And no more Rac8}) 23... cxd5 (23... Bxe2 $2 24. dxc6 $16) 24. Rd2 $15 {Seems more or less normal for White and very close to equal.}) 20... Qxb6 21. Qxe4 Qxb2 ( 21... Qc7 22. dxe6 Rb8 {Is also good for Black, but what Ding did was better.}) 22. dxc6 Bc7 $17 23. Rd7 Bxd7 24. cxd7 Qf6 $19 {Honestly speaking I'm not totally sure what exactly Gelfand missed since in each move Black seemed to have other alternatives to get a good position.} (24... Ra6 {Also wins.}) 25. Bh3 Rab8 26. Qxe6+ Qxe6 27. Bxe6+ {Trying to save in the endgame thanks to many pawns for the rook but White's problem is that Black's rooks are too active and the d7 pawn isn't going anywhere thanks to the bishop and rooks stopping it.} Kg7 28. Rc1 Kf6 29. Bg4 Bd8 30. Rc6+ Kg7 31. Bh5 Rb2 32. Rc8 Rd2 33. Be8 Bb6 34. Rb8 Rf6 35. e3 g4 {And with that, Ding wins the Moscow Grand Prix clear first. Congrulations to him! Congrulations also to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov for a very strong clear 2nd place with +2 and continuing his monsterous form and also now being in excellent position to get one of the top 2 spots in the overall Grandprix Standings.} 0-1

What made this result possible was that Boris Gelfand decided he could try and play for a share of first if he won, which would greatly promote his chances to be one of the qualifiers should he succeed. The massive share of 3rd place he faced otherwise, would probably leave him in the middle of No Man's Land, since all the GP points would be split evenly. This suited Ding Liren just fine needless to say, who has shown none of the reticence to make each and every game a fight to the death.

There is no question it was a disappointing tournament for Pentala Harikrishna, who had hoped to become the second Indian to qualify for the Candidates. However, the way things stand, he will need a not-so-small miracle for that to happen. At least via the FIDE Grand Prix. As to Moscow, he suffered quite a bit, saving some difficult games, and losing a couple, only to claw his way back to 50% by the end.

Hou Yifan showed great grit from end to end as she fought all her games. The last round was no exception and she took the fight to Ernesto Inarkiev with black, who didn 't seem to give her enough credit and finally blundered and lost.

Ernesto Inarkiev vs Hou Yifan

[Event "FIDE Moscow Grand Prix 2017"] [Site "Moscow"] [Date "2017.05.21"] [Round "9"] [White "Inarkiev, Ernesto"] [Black "Hou, Yifan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C54"] [WhiteElo "2727"] [BlackElo "2652"] [Annotator "A. Silver"] [PlyCount "68"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 {(0s)} e5 {(5s)} 2. Nf3 {(0s)} Nc6 {(5s)} 3. Bc4 {(0s)} Bc5 {(8s)} 4. O-O {(0s)} Nf6 {(5s)} 5. d3 {(0s)} d6 {(22s)} 6. c3 {(27s)} a6 {(9s)} 7. Re1 { (116s)} O-O {(218s)} 8. Bb3 {(14s)} h6 {(99s)} 9. Nbd2 {(27s)} Ng4 {(873s) A surprise no doubt for Inarkiev. While the databases do have this as the third most played move, it bears mentioning: not by grandmasters! The most common here are Ba7, Be6, or Re8.} 10. Re2 {(26s)} Kh8 {(6s) Hou Yifan is hardly camouflaging her intent. Kh8 is to free the f-pawn from its pin. Which begs the question, why did White choose to force Black's hand with...} 11. h3 $6 { (0s) The engines can say this move is fine, but I don't like it on principle. Why not let Black show her hand first, and instead continue development with Nf1?} ({If after} 11. Nf1 {Black still plays} f5 {then} 12. exf5 Bxf5 13. d4 $1 {is fine for White.}) 11... f5 {(112s)} 12. exf5 {(321s)} Nxf2 {(63s)} 13. Rxf2 {(7s)} Bxf2+ {(28s)} 14. Kxf2 {(4s)} Bxf5 {(9s) Black definitely has compensation, and the question is now who will be able to make the most of this imbalanced position?} 15. Qe2 {(301s)} d5 {(287s)} 16. Kg1 {(0s)} Qd6 { (129s)} 17. Bc2 {(1146s)} Rf7 {(1605s)} 18. b4 {(972s)} a5 {(680s)} 19. Bb2 { ( 1680s)} axb4 {(0s)} 20. cxb4 {(150s)} Nxb4 {(284s)} 21. Nxe5 {(0s)} Re7 { (368s)} 22. Ndf3 {(13s)} Kg8 {(439s)} 23. Qd2 {(467s)} Nxc2 {(348s)} 24. Qxc2 { (5s)} c5 {(2s)} 25. Qb3 {(161s)} Kh7 {(96s)} 26. Kh1 $2 {(0s) A blunder! Now Black is winning.} d4 $1 {(88s)} 27. Bc1 {(511s)} ({The point is that after a move such as} 27. Nc4 {Black continues} Qg3 28. Ng1 Rae8 {and clearly the extra rook is far stronger than White's two pieces}) 27... Rxe5 {(61s)} 28. Bf4 {(15s)} Qd5 $1 {[#] (38s)} 29. Rb1 {(180s)} ({The idea is that after} 29. Bxe5 Qxb3 {wins since the pawn is pinned to protect the rook on a1}) 29... Qxb3 { (16s)} 30. Rxb3 {(3s)} Rd5 {(32s)} 31. Ne5 {(62s)} Rxa2 {(49s)} 32. Rxb7 {(10s) } Re2 {(0s)} 33. g4 {(86s)} Be6 {(46s)} 34. Nc4 {(56s)} Rd8 {(63s)} 0-1

This placed Hou Yifan at 5.0/9 and a plus one score in an elite male tournament, something not seen since Judit Polgar. In fact, this also put her at 6th in the overall FIDE GP standings at the moment.

FIDE Grand Prix standings

 
Player
Feb 2017 Elo
Sharjah
Moscow
Geneva
Palma
Total
1
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE)
2766
140
140
 
 
280
2
Ding Liren (CHN)
2760
70
170
 
 
240
3
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA)
2796
140
71
 
 
211
3
Alexander Grischuk (RUS)
2742
140
71
 
 
211
5
Hikaru Nakamura (USA)
2785
70
71
 
 
141
6
Hou Yifan (CHN)
2651
7
71
 
 
78
7
Michael Adams (ENG)
2751
70
3
 
 
73
7
Ian Nepomniachtchi (RUS)
2749
70
3
 
 
73
9
Anish Giri (NED)
2769
 
71
 
 
71
9
Peter Svidler (RUS)
2748
 
71
 
 
71
9
Teimour Radjabov (AZE)
2710
 
71
 
 
71
12
Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS)
2709
70
 
 
 
70
13
Francisco Vallejo Pons (ESP)
2709
25
7
 
 
32
14
Pavel Eljanov (UKR)
2759
25
 
 
 
25
14
Li Chao (CHN)
2720
25
 
 
 
25
14
Richard Rapport (HUN)
2692
25
 
 
 
25
17
Evgeny Tomashevsky (RUS)
2711
3
20
 
 
23
18
Pentala Harikrishna (IND)
2758
 
20
 
 
20
18
Boris Gelfand (ISR)
2720
 
20
 
 
20
20
Jon Ludvig Hammer (NOR)
2628
3
7
 
 
10
21
Levon Aronian (ARM)
2785
7
 
 
 
7
22
Salem Saleh (UAE)
2656
3
3
 
 
6
23
Ernesto Inarkiev (RUS)
2723
 
1
 
 
1
23
Alexander Riazantsev (RUS)
2671
1
 
 
 
1

If things are very unclear for players such as MVL and Grischuk, who trail the leaders, Hikaru Nakamura is quite probably already out of the race in the Grand Prix. Even if he were to win the final Grand Prix outright and earn the maximum 170 points, it will barely place him above the two current leaders, and then both of them would need to also bomb in a big way. He can still make it via the World Cup, or via some wild card. One thing is certain: the Candidates will be much the poorer if he is not in it.

Anish Giri is in miuch the same situation as...

... Peter Svidler, who need big results in both of the final two Grand Prix events to have a chance of knocking off one of the others from their perch.

Leader of the FIDE Grand Prix and 2800, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has plenty to smile about

As to Ding Liren, his epic last-round win was the stuff of champions

The post-event cocktail

Final standings

Rk SNo Ti. Name FED Rtg Pts rtg+/-
1 4 GM Ding Liren CHN 2773 6,0 11,6
2 5 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar AZE 2772 5,5 5,1
3 1 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2795 5,0 -4,5
  2 GM Nakamura Hikaru USA 2786 5,0 -1,4
  3 GM Giri Anish NED 2785 5,0 -3,4
  6 GM Svidler Peter RUS 2755 5,0 2,2
  8 GM Grischuk Alexander RUS 2750 5,0 2,7
  13 GM Radjabov Teimour AZE 2710 5,0 11,0
  16 GM Hou Yifan CHN 2652 5,0 14,1
10 9 GM Harikrishna P. IND 2750 4,5 -4,3
  12 GM Gelfand Boris ISR 2724 4,5 3,8
  15 GM Tomashevsky Evgeny RUS 2696 4,5 6,3
13 14 GM Vallejo Pons Francisco ESP 2710 4,0 -3,2
  18 GM Hammer Jon Ludvig NOR 2621 4,0 6,6
15 7 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian RUS 2751 3,5 -15,7
  10 GM Adams Michael ENG 2747 3,5 -11,6
  17 GM Salem A.R. Saleh UAE 2633 3,5 2,3
18 11 GM Inarkiev Ernesto RUS 2727 2,5 -21,6

Links

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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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