Moscow Grand Prix R01: Yifan sole winner

by Alejandro Ramirez
5/12/2017 – Round one of the Moscow Grand Prix left spectators with mixed feelings. While Jon Hammer and Harikrishna fought for 92 moves, Salem and Grischuk played an 11-move ‘miniature’. The day’s saving grace was Hou Yifan who scored the only win of the day over Ian Nepomniachtchi. All games with analysis...

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The time control in the GP tournaments is 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 Grand Prix returns to the Telegraph Building in central Moscow, which previously hosted the 2016 Candidates Tournament won by Sergey Karjakin of Russia.

The tournament, a nine round Swiss contest, is the second of four Grand Prix in 2017 and follow’s the Sharjah Grand Prix in February which was won by Alexander Grischuk, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in a three way tie.

The Moscow Grand Prix is sponsored by Kaspersky Lab, PhosAgro and EG Capital Partners.

Each round starts at 2PM (GMT +3).

Round 1 on 2017/05/12 at 14:00

Bo. Name FED Rtg Pts. Result Pts. Name FED Rtg
1 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2795 0
½ - ½
0 Adams Michael ENG 2747
2 Inarkiev Ernesto RUS 2727 0
½ - ½
0 Nakamura Hikaru USA 2786
3 Giri Anish NED 2785 0
½ - ½
0 Gelfand Boris ISR 2724
4 Radjabov Teimour AZE 2710 0
½ - ½
0 Ding Liren CHN 2773
5 Mamedyarov Shakhriyar AZE 2772 0
½ - ½
0 Vallejo Pons Francisco ESP 2710
6 Tomashevsky Evgeny RUS 2696 0
½ - ½
0 Svidler Peter RUS 2755
7 Nepomniachtchi Ian RUS 2751 0
0 - 1
0 Hou Yifan CHN 2652
8 Salem A.R. Saleh UAE 2633 0
½ - ½
0 Grischuk Alexander RUS 2750
9 Harikrishna P. IND 2750 0
½ - ½
0 Hammer Jon Ludvig NOR 2621

All photos by Max Avdeev

The first move on the top board by a, for now, inexperienced player

The Moscow Grand Prix starts with a serious cloud over its head, which, for the good of chess, it needs to get rid off somehow. The Sharjah Grand Prix, the first leg on the four-tournament tour, was without a doubt one of the least interesting super-tournaments in recent memory (or perhaps the history of chess). The incredible amount of draws, especially quick and uninteresting ones, was a serious issue.

The start in Moscow is, to be frank, not the most promising. The high number of draws continues, though granted, some where more interesting than others. As ACP President Emil Sutovsky commented:

As mentioned, some of today's games were indeed quite interesting, but Sutovsky presumably is talking about the game between Salem and Grischuk:

Not the most tiring day for Alexander Grischuk

[Event "Moscow Grand Prix 2017"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2017.05.12"] [Round "1.8"] [White "Salem, A.R. Saleh"] [Black "Grischuk, Alexander"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E60"] [WhiteElo "2633"] [BlackElo "2750"] [PlyCount "21"] [EventDate "2017.05.12"] [EventType "tourn"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 c6 4. Bg2 d5 5. cxd5 cxd5 6. Nf3 Bg7 7. Ne5 Ne4 8. Nd2 Nf6 9. Nb1 Ne4 10. Nd2 Nf6 11. Nb1 1/2-1/2

Even a 30-move rule, which is not in effect in Moscow, would not have prevented this from happenings.

Onto the more interesting games. The top seed of the event is again Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who today faced England's Mickey Adams. The Frenchman introduced the novelty 15.Be3 in a complicated Marshall Gambit of the Spanish, but it did not rattle his opponent. White's only chance of pushing for a win was the risky but complex 18.Qxc6, which was not played, after which Adams obtained an easy draw.

Nakamura seemed confident in his opening idea and obtained a razor-sharp draw

The Inarkiev-Nakamura game had a cool finish:

[Event "Moscow Grand Prix 2017"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2017.05.12"] [Round "1.2"] [White "Inarkiev, Ernesto"] [Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2727"] [BlackElo "2786"] [PlyCount "51"] [EventDate "2017.05.12"] [EventType "tourn"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Nxd5 exd5 10. a3 Nc6 11. Bd3 Bb6 12. O-O Bg4 13. h3 Bh5 14. b4 a6 15. Rb1 d4 16. b5 axb5 17. Rxb5 Bxf3 {This had actually all been played before by two 2300s, but it is unclear if the player's knew about it.} 18. Qb1 $5 { How often do you see someone completely ignore a piece capturing on f3?} (18. Qxf3 dxe3 19. Bxe3 $11 {Matic-Perez 2005}) 18... Bc7 $1 19. Bxh7+ Kh8 20. gxf3 Bxf4 21. exf4 Ne7 $1 22. Rh5 Ra5 $1 {The only mvoe to survive, but sufficient.} 23. Bf5+ Kg8 24. Bh7+ Kh8 25. Bf5+ Kg8 {White simply has no good discovery check, and continuing the game runs the risk of being much worse for him.} 26. Bh7+ 1/2-1/2

Giri's preparation against Gelfand's accelerated Dragon gave him a slight edge, but when it was time to push with a slight edge the Dutch player was unable to put any real pressure. Gelfand equalized in a rook endgame and secured the draw.

Fresh off a win at the Reykjavik Open, Anish Giri was unable to convert a slight edge against Boris Gelfand in a Dragon endgame

Radjabov's game against Ding Liren can be summarized by many trades leading into an almost insignificant advantage for White against an isolated queen's pawn. The game was drawn in a major piece endgame that had no life left in it.

Even though Radjabov was close to 2800 at some point, there is now an
80 point rating gap between the two Azerbaijanis (Mamedyarov on the left)

Vallejo Pons' essay of 3...a6!? in the Queen's Gambit Declined led to a fun and interesting opening, but almost all of the sudden all the pieces got traded and a drawn rook endgame emerged. The GP Virus?!

Tomashevsky-Svidler was another one of those games that was a draw but could have been more interesting. The position reached maximum craziness here:

Tomashevsky walks around the playing hall while Giri attempts to remember his preparation

[Event "Moscow Grand Prix 2017"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2017.05.12"] [Round "1.6"] [White "Tomashevsky, Evgeny"] [Black "Svidler, Peter"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D90"] [WhiteElo "2696"] [BlackElo "2755"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r4rk1/pp1b1p2/1np3pp/3p4/5PPP/2NBq3/PPQ5/1K1R2R1 w - - 0 19"] [PlyCount "13"] [EventDate "2017.05.12"] [EventType "tourn"] {[#]} {White has sacrificed a pawn, but he has serious threats on the kingside. The Black king is not thrilled about this bishop sacrificing on g6.} 19. Bxg6 Qxf4 (19... fxg6 20. Qxg6+ Kh8 21. Qxh6+ Kg8 22. Rge1 $1 Qxf4 23. Qg6+ Kh8 24. Re7 {is very dangerous for Black. He must go for an uncomfortable endgame.} Qf5+ 25. gxf5 Bxf5+ 26. Qxf5 Rxf5 27. Rxb7 $14) 20. g5 $6 (20. Rdf1 {is the computer choice, but computers aren't playing in this tournament.}) 20... fxg6 {Svidler takes the sensible decision to force the draw.} (20... Nc4 $3 { is some kind of computer move that seems so unreal (what is the point even? Is Ne3 really that big of a threat? How can you just ignore White's kingside threats?) that it surely came to Svidler's mind, but it's almost impossible to play.}) 21. Qxg6+ Kh8 22. Qxh6+ Kg8 23. Qg6+ Kh8 24. Qh6+ Kg8 25. Qg6+ 1/2-1/2

The only decisive game came at the hands of Hou Yifan, who soundly defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi:

Early leader in Moscow: Hou Yifan was the only full point of the day

[Event "Moscow Grand Prix 2017"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2017.05.12"] [Round "1.7"] [White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Black "Hou, Yifan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D35"] [WhiteElo "2751"] [BlackElo "2652"] [Annotator "Ramirez Alvarez,Alejandro"] [PlyCount "120"] [EventDate "2017.05.12"] [EventType "tourn"] 1. c4 e6 2. Nc3 d5 3. d4 Nf6 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 c5 7. Rb1 { Not only does this develop the rook, but it prevents, after cxd4 cxd4, a check on b4.} (7. Nf3 {is definitely the main line, which transposes to many Kramnik games. The Russian has employed this very successfully in the recent past.}) 7... Be7 8. Bb5+ Bd7 9. Bxd7+ Nxd7 $5 (9... Qxd7 {had been seen earlier this year} 10. d5 exd5 11. exd5 O-O {was one of the many draws in the Sharjah Grand Prix, Aronian-Vallejo Pons.}) 10. Rxb7 {It's the only way to 'punish' black's set-up, but of course it has a drawback} cxd4 (10... Nb6 11. Nf3 Qc8 12. Rxe7+ Kxe7 13. Ba3 {simply does not work for Black, as the two pawns provided more than enough compensation for the exchange.}) 11. cxd4 Nb6 {Black's threat is simple: Qc8 traps the rook. White doesnt really have much in the way of doing something with the extra tempo to thwart Black's threat.} 12. Qd2 (12. Qc2 Bb4+ 13. Kf1 Rc8 {leads to another problem: Black is better developed and White's center is close to falling apart.} 14. Qb2 O-O {And Black's compensation for the pawn is enough for a winning advantage.}) (12. Bd2 {100% computer move} Qc8 13. Rxe7+ Kxe7 14. Bb4+ Ke8 15. Ne2 Qc4 $1 {but even here the silicon brains give the edge to Black.}) 12... Qc8 (12... Bf6 $1 {but Black's move in the game is also good.}) 13. Rxe7+ Kxe7 14. Nf3 (14. Ba3+ Ke8 {has the unfortunate side effect of running into Nc4 next move, so White doesn't have time to develop.}) (14. Qg5+ Kf8 {leads nowhere for White.}) 14... f6 15. O-O Kf7 16. e5 f5 {The question here is if White has enough time to organize an attack against Black's king. Without the initiative, Black's extra exchange (even though it is for a pawn) would easily steamroll over the opponent's pieces.} 17. g4 {only move, White must attack.} Rd8 (17... fxg4 $2 18. Ng5+ Kg8 19. Qf4 {gives White a sizeable initiative}) 18. Qg5 {it is natural to put the queen on the kingside, but it's hard to come up with concrete threats.} (18. gxf5 exf5 19. e6+ Kxe6 (19... Kg8 20. Re1 {and White's passed pawn might give chances, but Black is still much better after} Re8 $1 21. d5 (21. e7 Nd5 22. Ba3 Qd7 $17) 21... Qc4 {is an important double attack.}) 20. Ng5+ Kf6 $13 { might be too much for Black, the king is easily attacked.}) 18... Kg8 19. Qh5 Rf8 20. Ba3 Qc6 $1 {A beautiful idea!} (20... Rf7 21. Ng5 g6 22. Qh6 Rg7 $17 { is awkward but also a good way to continue for Yifan.}) 21. Ng5 (21. Bxf8 Rxf8 $1 {This is more or less Black's point. White doesn't have a good way of defending the knight on f3.} 22. Ng5 (22. g5 g6 23. Qh3 Qc3 {is horrible for White.}) (22. Nh4 f4 $1 {and again the knight looks ridiculous on h4.}) 22... h6 {an the knight is already trapped:} 23. Nh3 Qf3 $19) 21... h6 22. Rc1 Qd7 23. Bxf8 Rxf8 24. Nh3 Qxd4 {Material is even, but now White's king, a-pawn, e-pawn and knight are all in bad shape. The position is already a technical win and the Chinese super star converts without problems.} 25. gxf5 Qxe5 26. Qg6 Rf6 27. Qg4 Rxf5 28. Qg3 Qd4 29. Re1 Rf6 30. Qg2 Nd5 31. Kh1 Qd3 32. Rg1 Qf3 33. Rb1 Qf5 34. Rg1 Rf7 35. Re1 Rf6 36. Rg1 Qf3 37. Rb1 Qh5 38. Rg1 Rf7 39. Re1 Qf5 40. Qg3 Rc7 {With time control reached Black stops shuffling around.} 41. Ng1 Nf4 42. Rd1 Kh7 43. Qf3 Rc2 44. a3 e5 45. Re1 Qg6 46. h3 Nd3 47. Rf1 Rc3 48. Qg4 Qxg4 49. hxg4 Rxa3 50. Nf3 Ra4 51. g5 h5 52. Kg2 Rg4+ 53. Kh2 a5 54. Ra1 a4 55. Ra2 e4 56. Nd4 Rxg5 57. Rxa4 Nxf2 58. Ra7 Ng4+ 59. Kh3 Re5 60. Nc6 Rd5 0-1

Last, but certainly not least, was the game between Pentala Harikrishna and Jon Ludvig Hammer. The Norwegian player came in a fighting mood, after a timely sacrifice of his queen for a rook, bishop and two pawns, he was definitely playing for a win in a two-result game. Unfortunately for him, it was never quite enough, and the Indian player held on.

Sometimes the job just means to suffer for 92 moves and hold the draw

Corporate Sponsorship

AGON has signed in more corporate sponsorship for chess

Vimpelkom and PhosAgro to sponsor 2017 FIDE Moscow Grand Prix

World Chess and FIDE today announced that PhosAgro and Vimpelkom, two of Russia’s largest and best-known companies, have become official partners to the Moscow Grand Prix.

The commercial partnerships were announced at a press conference this morning at the Telegraph Building in Moscow, the venue for the Grand Prix.

Ilya Merenzon, Chief Executive of World Chess, said: “I am delighted to unveil Vimpelkom and PhosAgro as partners to the Grand Prix. Their involvement further underlines the fact that the commercial potential for chess as a sport continues to grow.”

PhosAgro sponsored the 2016 World Chess Championship Match in New York in November, while Vimpelkom has not sponsored chess before.  

Artashes Sivkov, executive VP for corporate business development, PJSC VimpelCom, said: "Sport plays an important role in solving problems of social and economic development, as it is a special socio-cultural sphere that positively influences the most important indicators of the well-being our country. Participation of the country in international competitions and sports achievements contribute to the development of international economic relations and useful cooperation, and chess is most closely connected with the long-term strategy that is so close to business". 
"PhosAgro has been the general partner of the Russian Chess Federation for seven straight years. The philosophy of chess and the development of PhosAgro are similar in key ways. Both are based on strategic thinking and the desire to calculate every move in advance in order remain one step ahead of the competition. These skills help us to maintain leading positions in the commodity markets of 100 countries worldwide, including our priority Russian market. We care about the future of the Russian school of chess. We have put great effort into making chess popular in the regions where we operate, we open chess classes in the schools and pre-schools that we support, and we fund the training of teachers in the field of chess. We already have established a tradition of supporting World Chess Championship matches that take place in Russia, for example, in Sochi in 2014. We also support matches with Russian grandmasters, as we did in New York in 2016, where Sergei Karjakin, who is here today, played a truly exciting game.
Therefore, we are pleased to be an official partner of the Grand Prix stage here in the heart of Russia, and we hope to see our grandmaster participate in the match for the title of World Champion next year!" said Andrey Guryev, Russian Chess Federation Board of Trustees Member, CEO PJSC PhosAgro. 

Round one games

Standings after one round

Rk. Name FED Rtg Pts.
1 Hou Yifan CHN 2652 1,0
2 Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2795 0,5
  Nakamura Hikaru USA 2786 0,5
  Giri Anish NED 2785 0,5
  Ding Liren CHN 2773 0,5
  Mamedyarov Shakhriyar AZE 2772 0,5
  Svidler Peter RUS 2755 0,5
  Grischuk Alexander RUS 2750 0,5
  Harikrishna P. IND 2750 0,5
  Adams Michael ENG 2747 0,5
  Inarkiev Ernesto RUS 2727 0,5
  Gelfand Boris ISR 2724 0,5
  Radjabov Teimour AZE 2710 0,5
  Vallejo Pons Francisco ESP 2710 0,5
  Tomashevsky Evgeny RUS 2696 0,5
  Salem A.R. Saleh UAE 2633 0,5
  Hammer Jon Ludvig NOR 2621 0,5
18 Nepomniachtchi Ian RUS 2751 0,0

Round Two Pairings

Bo. Name FED Rtg Pts. Result Pts. Name FED Rtg
1 Hou Yifan CHN 2652 1   ½ Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2795
2 Nakamura Hikaru USA 2786 ½   ½ Radjabov Teimour AZE 2710
3 Adams Michael ENG 2747 ½   ½ Giri Anish NED 2785
4 Ding Liren CHN 2773 ½   ½ Inarkiev Ernesto RUS 2727
5 Gelfand Boris ISR 2724 ½   ½ Mamedyarov Shakhriyar AZE 2772
6 Svidler Peter RUS 2755 ½   ½ Salem A.R. Saleh UAE 2633
7 Grischuk Alexander RUS 2750 ½   ½ Tomashevsky Evgeny RUS 2696
8 Vallejo Pons Francisco ESP 2710 ½   ½ Harikrishna P. IND 2750
9 Hammer Jon Ludvig NOR 2621 ½   0 Nepomniachtchi Ian RUS 2751


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Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.


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