Moscow Grand Prix R07: From sizzling to fizzling

by Alex Yermolinsky
5/19/2017 – After a period of genuinely exciting chess, the leaders are all playing extremely cagey now, unwilling to take risks, and many times demonstrably so with quick draws. The result is that while Ding and Mamedyarov lead still, they are followed just a half point behind by seven others. Completing the Fellowship's nine is Anish Giri, winning a fine game against Saleh Salem. Hou Yifan also played a gritty win, breaking down Jon Hammer's fortress. Report and analysis by Alex Yermolinsky.

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Photos by Max Avdeev

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed with the cautious way the leaders approached today's games. Vachier Lagrave-Radjabov and Mamedyarov-Grischuk were not the kind of games we wanted to see. One can blame the system that puts players on the brink of elimination from by a single loss.

Standings after seven rounds

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

Isn't it remarkable that the top 10 players in this list haven't lost a single game in seven rounds of play? Apparently, being cautious pays off. As for risk-takers, ask Nepo how it's working out for him in Moscow.

Not wishing to take chances, this was the most common result: a draw with still most of the pieces on the board

Nakamura and Svidler gave a bit more effort today against, respectively, Ding Liren and Gelfand, only to be turned away by accurate defense. I particularly liked Ding's exchange sac to seal the draw.

Svidler's face of approval says it all

All this did nothing but preserve the status quo, and let the door open for some players yet stuck at 50%. One of them took advantage of the opportunity afforded him.

Anish Giri vs Saleh Salem (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "FIDE Moscow Grand Prix 2017"] [Site "Moscow"] [Date "2017.05.19"] [Round "7"] [White "Giri, Anish"] [Black "Salem, A R Saleh"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B12"] [WhiteElo "2785"] [BlackElo "2633"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "131"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nd2 e6 5. Nb3 {In this line White goes after the f8-bishop.} c5 {Question is, can Black find a different plan?} ({The answer is, yes.} 5... Nd7 6. Nf3 Qc7 7. Be2 f6 $5 (7... c5 8. dxc5 Bxc5 9. Nxc5 Qxc5 {Rublevsky-Bologan, 2012, is essentually the same thing as in the game.}) 8. O-O fxe5 9. dxe5 O-O-O {has been tried by two American GMs, Lenderman and his coach, Kacheishvili.}) 6. dxc5 Bxc5 7. Nxc5 Qa5+ 8. c3 Qxc5 9. Be3 Qc7 10. f4 Ne7 11. Be2 O-O 12. Nf3 Nbc6 13. O-O $14 Na5 $6 {This isn't going to accomplish anything.} ({Black must seeks exchanges, so} 13... Be4 14. Nd2 Bg6 15. Nb3 Na5 {Rublevsky-Dreev, 2012, appears more logical.}) 14. Bf2 a6 15. Rc1 Rac8 16. b3 $1 Nac6 17. Qd2 Rfd8 18. b4 $1 Be4 19. a4 {Black is devoid of a meaningful plan, and clearly stands worse.} Nf5 20. g4 Nfe7 21. Ng5 Bg6 22. Bc5 Rd7 23. Nf3 ({More accurate is} 23. Qe3 h6 24. Nf3 $16 Be4 25. Nd2 Bh7 26. Nb3) 23... Na5 $6 (23... Be4 24. Ng5 Bg6 25. Qe3) {Salem is seeking counterplay, but Giri has a direct response.} 24. Nd4 $1 Nc4 25. Bxc4 dxc4 26. Bxe7 Rxe7 27. f5 exf5 28. gxf5 Bh5 29. Qg5 g6 {[#]} 30. e6 $2 (30. f6 Qxe5 31. Nf5 $1 Re6 32. Rce1 Be2 33. Rf2 {is just curtains.}) 30... f6 $1 {Salem fights like a lion.} 31. Qxf6 Rg7 32. Rc2 Bg4 $1 33. Qh4 $6 ({Giri was a bit low on time, and couldn't quite see the end of the following line,} 33. Re1 Bxf5 34. e7 Qd7 $1 ( 34... Re8 35. Nxf5 gxf5+ 36. Rg2 Rxg2+ 37. Kxg2 Qc6+ 38. Qxc6 bxc6 39. Kf3 Kf7 40. Kf4 {is easy.}) 35. Nxf5 gxf5+ 36. Rg2 Rxg2+ 37. Kxg2 Qd2+ 38. Kf1 Qf4+ 39. Ke2 Qxh2+ 40. Kd1 Re8 41. Qd4 {The white king has escaped, but his black counterpart won't.}) 33... Bxf5 34. Rg2 Re8 35. Re1 a5 $1 {A remarkable move.} 36. bxa5 (36. b5 Qc5 {and how does White make progress.}) 36... Qxa5 37. Nxf5 $6 Qxf5 38. Qxc4 Rge7 39. Rf2 {[#]} Qa5 $6 {Just before the time control Salem spoils his great defensive effort.} ({The correct} 39... Qg5+ 40. Kh1 Rd8 { would ensure Black gets to trade queens on d5, with a draw in sight.}) 40. Rf7 $1 Qb6+ 41. Kg2 Qc6+ {A tough choice. The queens come off, but now White has a passed a-pawn.} 42. Qxc6 bxc6 43. Rxe7 Rxe7 {It's not the first time in this tournament a winning position transformed into a borderline drawn rook endgame. Anish Giri makes sure it's not the case here.} 44. Kf3 Kf8 45. a5 Ra7 46. Re5 Ke7 47. Ke4 {[#]} Rb7 {Played by the book: rook activity above everything else. } ({Truth to tell, a passive defense wouldn't cut it. After} 47... Ra8 48. Kd4 Ra6 (48... h6 49. Kc4 g5 50. Kb4 Ra7 51. Re3 h5 52. c4 Ra8 53. Re1 $1 (53. Re5 Kf6) 53... Ra7 54. Re5 $18) 49. Kc4 Ra8 50. Kb4 Ra6 51. Re3 Ra7 52. c4 { Black finds himself in Zugzwang, and must weaken his K-side defenses.} Ra8 ( 52... h6 53. Rg3 Kf6 54. e7 $1) 53. Rh3 Kxe6 54. Rxh7 Kd6 55. c5+ Ke6 56. Rg7 Rb8+ 57. Kc4 Kf5 58. Rc7 Ra8 59. Kb4 Ra6 60. Rb7 {etc.}) 48. Kd3 $1 (48. a6 $2 {blows the win:} Ra7 49. Ra5 Kxe6 50. Kd4 Kd6 51. Kc4 Kc7 $1 (51... g5 52. Kb4 g4 53. Ra4 h5 54. Ka5 Kc5 55. Rf4 $18) 52. Kc5 g5 {and the advancing K-side pawns will deflect the white rook from protection of the a6-pawn.}) ({It's unnecessary to allow} 48. Kd4 Rb2) 48... Rb1 (48... Rb2 49. Re2) 49. Kc2 Ra1 50. Kb2 Ra4 51. Kb3 Ra1 52. Kb2 Ra4 53. Kb3 Ra1 54. c4 h6 55. Kb4 g5 56. Re3 $1 {Anish demonstrates the winning plan.} c5+ (56... g4 57. Ra3 c5+ 58. Ka4 Rb1 59. a6) 57. Kb5 g4 58. h3 (58. a6 h5 59. Kb6 h4 60. a7 Ra2 61. Re4 g3 62. hxg3 hxg3 63. Rg4 g2 64. Rxg2) 58... gxh3 59. Rxh3 Kxe6 60. Rxh6+ Kd7 61. a6 $1 { Anish prepares an elegant finish, but it's not the only way.} ({The notoriouis f+h pawns ending with the defender's king cut off on the back rank,} 61. Kb6 Rb1+ 62. Kxc5 Kc7 63. Rh7+ Kb8 64. Kc6 Ra1 65. c5 {is theoretically winning.}) 61... Kc7 62. Rh8 $1 Kd6 (62... Ra2 63. a7 Rxa7 64. Rh7+ Kb8 65. Rxa7 Kxa7 66. Kxc5 Kb7 67. Kd6 {is the point.}) 63. a7 Rxa7 64. Rh6+ Ke5 65. Kxc5 Ra8 66. Kb6 1-0

A great second effort by Anish Giri, who once again showed he can be a completely different player when facing somewhat lower-rated opposition. Anish's recent performance at the Reykjavik Open is a case in point. When he knows he's the better player, he has the confidence to go all the way.

Pairings for round eight

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

Anish is facing Ding tomorrow with the black pieces. Will he try to take advantage of his chances should the game turn in his favor?

Evgeny Tomashevsky must be fuming now. Somehow, he failed to win today, in the kind of game he usually succeeds.

Pentala Harikrishna vs Evgeny Tomashevsky (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "FIDE Moscow Grand Prix 2017"] [Site "Moscow"] [Date "2017.05.19"] [Round "7"] [White "Harikrishna, Pentala"] [Black "Tomashevsky, Evgeny"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C45"] [WhiteElo "2750"] [BlackElo "2696"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "119"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. e5 Qe7 7. Qe2 Nd5 8. c4 {A fascinating line, introduced to modern chess by Garry Kasparov. Both sides are struggling with awkward positions of their queens that causes some development issues.} Ba6 9. Nd2 g6 10. b3 {Theory doesn't look kindly to this move. I suppose Pentala wanted to surprise his opponent.} ({On} 10. Nf3 { Black has a choice of acceptable continuations.} Qb4+ (10... Nb6 11. b3 Bg7 12. Bg5 Qa3 {Wei Yi-Ganguly, 2017}) (10... Bg7 11. Bg5 f6 12. exf6 Qxe2+ 13. Bxe2 Nxf6 14. O-O-O O-O-O {Caruana-Kramnik, 2012 and Giri-Dominguez, 2016}) 11. Kd1 Rb8 12. Qc2 Ne7 13. b3 (13. Qb3 c5 $1) 13... Bg7 14. Bb2 O-O 15. Bd3 d5 { Duda-Baramidze, 2014}) 10... Bg7 11. Nf3 (11. Bb2 Nb4 $1 12. Nf3 c5 {solves the problem with the knight that plagues Black in this opening.}) 11... O-O 12. Qb2 {This isn't a novelty, but it had never been tried on GM level.} ({The careless} 12. Bg5 {would land White in trouble:} f6 13. exf6 Qc5 $1 14. O-O-O Rxf6 $3 {with raging attack on the dark squares near the white king.}) ({while } 12. Bb2 {proves totally ineffective after} f6 $1) 12... Nb6 13. Qa3 {A new idea.} Qxa3 14. Bxa3 Rfe8 15. O-O-O Bxe5 16. Nxe5 Rxe5 17. Bb2 {This is White has been playing for. At the cost of a pawn he obtained the bishop pair, while leaving Black's minor pieces stuck on the Q-side. Kasparov used similar ideas, but he would keep his king out of action rather safely tucked in on the K-side. } Re7 18. h4 d5 $1 {Evgeny's timely counterattack in the center exposes the weakness of White's position. Essentually White is fighting for equality here.} 19. h5 dxc4 20. Rh4 Rae8 21. hxg6 fxg6 22. bxc4 {I bet Pentala didn't want to play this move, but he hardly had any choice.} ({On} 22. a4 {Black begins to make threats with} Re1 $1 {forcing} 23. Bc3 (23. a5 c3 $1) 23... Rxd1+ 24. Kxd1 Re6 $15) 22... c5 23. Bd3 Rd7 24. Kc2 ({A more practical solution would be to trade down into an opposite-color bishop ending,} 24. Ba3 Rd4 25. Rxd4 cxd4 26. Bc5 Bxc4 27. Bxb6 Bxd3 28. Bxa7 Be4 29. f3 Bd5 30. Rxd4 Bxa2 31. Rd7 {White cannot possibly lose.}) 24... Bb7 25. Rg4 {Hari must have had dreams of mating Black. White just a bit short of firepower to do that.} ({Once again,} 25. Ba3 Bxg2 26. Bxc5 Bf3 27. Rd2 Red8 28. Be3 {and White shouldn't lose.}) 25... Bc6 { Tomashevsky just being Tomashevsky: a solid positional play backed up by accurate calculation of all possible tactics White might initiate.} 26. Rh1 Red8 27. Rh3 ({Both players must have looked at} 27. Bf5 Rd2+ 28. Kc1 Bd7 $1 { and concluded Black comes out on top after} 29. Rxg6+ hxg6 30. Rh8+ Kf7 31. Rxd8 Rxb2 $1) 27... Ba4+ 28. Kd2 Rd6 29. Rf4 (29. Be5 Bd7 30. Bxd6 cxd6 { and Black will stay a pawn ahead.}) 29... Bd7 30. g4 {[#]} h5 $6 {This just isn't good enough.} ({Black had} 30... g5 $1 {and no, Bxh7 isn't mate! In fact, it leaves White with} 31. Re4 Bc6 32. Re1 Bg2 $1 ({White might survive} 32... Nxc4+ 33. Kc3 Rxd3+ 34. Rxd3 Rxd3+ 35. Kxc4 Rd2 36. Bc3 Rxf2 37. Re5 h6 38. Re6 ) 33. Rg3 Nxc4+ 34. Kc3 Nxb2 35. Kxb2 Rxd3 36. Rxg2 Rd2+ 37. Kb3 R8d3+ 38. Kc4 Rf3 39. Re5 h6 {with a technical win for Black.}) 31. Bf6 Bxg4 $2 {Total bailout. Pieces will quickly dissappear from the board leaving Black only with marginal winning chances.} ({Black would keep his advantage in} 31... Re8 32. Re3 Rxe3 33. Kxe3 Bxg4 34. Be7 Re6+ 35. Re4 {but with the bishop pair still there White is alive and kicking.}) ({Best was} 31... Rf8 32. Rhf3 Bxg4 33. Be7 Rxf4 34. Rxf4 Rd7 35. Bxc5 Bf5 36. Rd4 Rxd4 37. Bxd4 Bxd3 38. Kxd3 Kf7 39. Ke4 Ke6 {with real winning chances.}) 32. Rxg4 Rxd3+ 33. Rxd3 Rxd3+ 34. Kxd3 hxg4 35. Be5 c6 36. Bb8 a6 37. Bc7 Nd7 38. Ke4 Kf7 39. Kf4 Kf6 40. a4 Ke6 41. Kxg4 Ne5+ 42. Kg5 {[#]} Nd3 $6 {Strange choice.} ({Like it or not, Tomashevsky had to try} 42... Nxc4 43. Kxg6 Ne5+ 44. Kg5 Kd5 $1 {although Black most likely won't succeed after} 45. f4 (45. Kf4 Nd7 $1 46. Ke3 Kc4 47. f4 Kb3 $19) 45... Nf3+ 46. Kg4 Ke4 47. f5 Ne5+ 48. Kg5 c4 49. Ba5 {etc.}) 43. f4 Kf7 44. Bb6 Ke6 45. Ba7 Kf7 46. f5 gxf5 47. Kxf5 {Now it's drawn.} Nb2 48. Bxc5 Nxc4 49. Ke4 Ke6 50. Kd4 Nd6 51. Bb4 Nb7 52. Ba3 Kd7 53. Kc4 Kc7 54. Bb4 Kb6 55. Be7 Kc7 56. Bb4 Kb6 57. Be7 Ka5 58. Kb3 c5 59. Kc4 Kxa4 60. Bxc5 1/2-1/2

While Tomashevsky's chances to compete for qualification in this year's cycle are pretty much gone (he only scored 3 GP points in Sharjah), he can still play for pride. Tomorrow, Evgeny has White against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who appears to be a bit vulnerable in this tournament. Maxime had a tough time defending with black against Grischuk and Ding, can he do it again?

Another intriguing match-up tomorrow is Grischuk-Nakamura. It is not only making their own way forward, it's also sinking of the opposition is what at stake. There's a great history of uncompromising battles between the two, so they'd better not disappoint!

After a period of sizzling games, most are now fizzling. Will the audience be treated to some bold moves tomorrow?

Svidler-Mamedyarov and Radjabov-Gelfand. In these two games I can see the veterans giving it a ride, but I think the players from Azerbaijan are going to be very solid tomorrow.

This report wouldn't be complete if I failed to mention Hou Yifan's gritty win today against John-Ludwig Hammer. How was it possible to break through that fortress? See for yourself.

Hou Yifan vs Jon Hammer (annotated by Alex Yermolinsky)

[Event "FIDE Moscow Grand Prix 2017"] [Site "Moscow"] [Date "2017.05.19"] [Round "7"] [White "Hou, Yifan"] [Black "Hammer, Jon Ludvig"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E05"] [WhiteElo "2652"] [BlackElo "2621"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "159"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qa4 a6 8. Qxc4 b5 9. Qc2 Bb7 10. Bd2 Be4 11. Qc1 c6 12. Rd1 Nbd7 13. Nc3 Bg6 14. a3 c5 15. Be3 Qc7 16. Ne5 cxd4 17. Nxg6 hxg6 18. Bxa8 dxe3 19. Nd5 exf2+ 20. Kf1 Qc5 21. b4 Qxc1 22. Nxe7+ Kh7 23. Raxc1 Rxa8 24. Kxf2 a5 25. Rd4 g5 26. h4 g4 27. Rc8 Ra6 28. Rc7 axb4 29. axb4 Ne5 30. Rc5 Nc4 31. Rxb5 Nd6 32. Ra5 Rb6 33. Kg2 g6 34. Rc5 Nb5 35. Rdc4 Kg7 36. Nc8 Rb8 37. Rc6 Na3 38. Rc3 Nb5 39. R3c4 Na3 40. Rc3 Nb5 41. Rc1 Nd5 42. Kf2 Na3 43. Ra1 Nb5 44. Rc5 f5 45. Kf1 Kf6 46. Ra6 Nbc7 47. Rac6 Rxc8 48. Rxd5 Nxd5 49. Rxc8 Nxb4 50. Kf2 Nd5 51. Ke1 Ne3 52. Rb8 Ke5 53. Rb5+ Kf6 54. Rb3 Nc4 $1 (54... Nd5 {isn't that reliable, as White can prepare e2-e4!} 55. Kd2 Ke5 56. Kd3 Nf6 57. Rb5+ Nd5 58. Ra5 Kf6 59. e4 Ne7 60. e5+ Kf7 61. Ra7 Kf8 62. Rc7 Nd5 63. Rb7 Ne7 64. Kd4 Nc6+ 65. Kc5 Nxe5 66. Kd6 Nf7+ 67. Kd7 {and winning.}) 55. Rb4 Nd6 56. Kd2 Ke5 57. Kd3 Kd5 58. Ra4 Ke5 59. Ra5+ Kf6 60. Kd4 Ne4 61. Ra3 Nf2 62. Rb3 Ne4 63. Re3 Nd2 64. Rd3 Nf1 $5 {[#] A fancy attempt.} (64... Ne4 {was rock solid.}) 65. Ra3 ({ Pull out, it's a TRAP!!!} 65. e4 $2 f4 $1 {and BLACK WINS!}) 65... f4 $4 {Fool's errand!} (65... Nd2) 66. gxf4 Kf5 (66... g3 67. Ra5 $1 { heading to g5 is what Hammer must have missed.}) 67. Ra1 $1 Nd2 (67... Ng3 68. e3 Nh5 69. Ra5+ Kf6 70. Rg5 g3 71. Ke4 Kf7 72. Ke5 {is a deadly Zugzwang.}) 68. Kd3 Nb3 69. Rb1 Nc5+ 70. Ke3 e5 71. Rb5 Nd7 72. fxe5 Nf8 73. e6+ Kf6 74. Kf4 Nxe6+ 75. Kxg4 Nd4 76. Rb6+ Kf7 77. e4 Kg7 78. e5 Kf7 79. Rf6+ Kg7 80. Kg5 1-0

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Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.