Moscow Grand Prix R04: Mamedyarov wins and is 2801

by Albert Silver
5/16/2017 – It was another great round with tons of fighting chess. No sarcasm or irony in that statement either. All the players came ready to fight, and though the day ended with three decisive games, it could easily have been more since Ding Liren and Grischuk were both winning but drew in the end. Radjabov had not shown much fight for a while beat Vallejo but the game of the day was Mamedyarov's big win over Salem. Illustrated report with analysis by GM TIger Hillarp Persson.

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Photos by Max Avdeev

Autograph hound

Hikaru Nakamura and Hou Yifan played an interesting game, which panned out to become a fairly standard King’s Indian Attack, with a tied up center, and both players trying to neuter each other on opposite wings.

Nakamura unleashed the King's Indian.... Attack!

Though the databases declare the novelty as of move 13, this is an opening that is more dictated by ideas than exact move orders. Hou showed excellent understanding, and managed to break through first on the queenside with black, and soon equalized in the center. The pieces came off and a draw was agreed on move 50.

Ding Liren came oh-so-close to winning a third game as he missed a win against Peter Svidler. The Chinese player has been in great form.

Ding Liren and Peter Svidler played a Symmetrical English that somehow did not work out for Black and he found himself down a pawn, always with not quite enough compensation. White then missed a chance to put the game away on move 22, which would have secured his lead, but alas, he missed his chance and they drew after 33 moves.

Ding Liren vs Peter Svidler



White had the chance to confirm his lead here, and would have after 22. Nb7! Qe5 23.Bxd4 Qxd4 24. Qc7! and now the threat of Qxe7 and Nd6 is deadly. (Note: you can move the pieces on the diagram)

It is always instructive to see how off the engines can be at times in an endgame, and few are as notorious as rook endgames. You may have heard the adage 'all rook endgames are drawn' an allusion to the number of times a saving maneuver has been found to save what seemed a lost position. Such was the case in the game betwwen Alexander Grischuk and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Of course, to be fair, Grischuk actually was dead won  for a good chunk of the game. Consider this position after 32 moves:

Alexander Grischuk vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave


Black just played 32…Qh3 with the ‘threat’ of Ng4 and mate on h2. That said, it isn’t actually a threat yet since if Black played it now, White has the slightly inconvenient Re8 checkmate! Therefore White can just play 33. Re3 here with the idea of Nf5 and take home the bacon. This is hardly the only winning position or move, and is merely to point out that yes, if after the game, over a glass of beer, White complains bitterly he ‘was winning’, it will be a statement of fact and not some comment mired in sour grapes.  

Alexander Grischuk tried his best to win today, and came very close as he was completely winning

All that said, White did not play best, and Black managed to stay alive in the game in a long and tough battle. The curiosity took place in the final position where the players shook hands:



Am I about to tell a tale of mistaken draw? Not quite. On Skype, Alex Yermolinsky sent a concerned message:

Needless to say, he is dead right, as were the players. The engines do indeed claim absurd values ranging from +2.13 for Komodo 10 to +6.01 for Stockfish 8 (even with 72 plies) … without tablebases that is. A quick consult of the Lomonosov 7-piece tablebases instantly disabuses this idea and declares it a flat out draw.

Ian Nepomniachtchi (above), playing black, challenged Michael Adams to a duel in a Sicilian Najdorf with 6.g3 that the Englishman is known to specialize in. White failed to find a consistent plan, offering to repeat moves, but Nepomniachtchi showed he had more ambitious ideas and soon outplayed Adams and won the game.

Pentala Harikrishna played a brave game as he spun out a Benoni lline that is sharp and not the most reputable

Ernesto Inarkiev vs Pentala Harikrishna (annotated by Tiger Hillarp-Persson)

One of the news bits that stood out in round four was the win by Teimour Radjabov over Francisco Vallejo Pons. At the recent Gashimov Memorial, Radjabov had shown very little (i.e. none) desire to actually make a fight of the game, but round four at the Moscow Grand Prix didn‘t leave him with a lot of choice. The opening went badly for the Spaniard and he soon found himself facing a slow painful death at the board. Rather than face this fate, he chose to try to confuse matters with a piece sacrifice and energetic measures, but the Azeri had seen the one line of defense and converted his advantage.

Francisco Vallejo Pons vs Teimour Radjabov


Here Black played the only winning move 29...Bxc4! and if 30. dxc4 then Rd7! is decisive.

Jon Hammer had a good game against Anish Giri, managing to reach a rook endgame up a pawn, but there was no light at the end of the tunnel, and a draw was the correct result.

Finally, we reach the game of the day, the epic win by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov over Saleh Salem. Mamedyarov, playing black, had played a strong, albeit complicated Fianchetto Grunfeld but could not quite seem to shake off his opponent who alternated between lost and equal.

An excellent murderous look by Saleh Salem, except that it needs to be pointed out it is pretty much impossible to intimidate a player such as Mamedyarov, famed for his fearless play, who furthermore is having the run of his life

In the end, White correctly went for a line that should have yielded a perpetual check, but he was led astray and lost in the queen endgame.

This netted more than a share of first place for Shakhriyar Mamedyarov with Ding Liren, it also took him to a historic 2801 on the Live Ratings list. Fantastic.

Standings after four rounds

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

Pairings for round five

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


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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, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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