The Ugra nominee in the FIDE Grand Prix, Dmitry Jakovenko, bounced back to 50% score after defeating Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the 5th round.
The French player suffered second consecutive loss after a terrible oversight that cost him a pawn.
Sergey Karjakin grinded Evgeny Tomashevsky in a marathon game that lasted seven hours and 99 moves. White eventually found the way to take advantage of the pair of bishops.
The remaining four games were drawn.
Standings after 5 rounds: 1. Caruana – 3.5, 2-4. Dominguez, Karjakin, and Svidler – all 3, 5-8. Gelfand, Grischuk, Nakamura, and Jakovenko – all 2.5, 9-11. Giri, Jobava, Tomashevsky – all 2, 12. Vachier-Lagrave – 1.5.
The 5th round games of the FIDE Grand Prix in Khanty-Mansiysk were played today in the Ugra Chess Academy. Apparently, yesterday the players had a good time on the first rest day, as all six games of the 5th round were very exciting and hard-fought. Two of them ended decisively, and one of those games continued for 7 hours and 99 moves!
Alexander Grischuk started the press-conference with the following confession: “My idiotism is growing”, making his opponent and the journalists laugh. Boris Gelfand’s initial moves showed that he was ready to defend Black’s position in a sharp line of the Najdorf, however, Grischuk went for a less ambitious continuation, recapturing on d4 with the queen. Three more moves were played fast, and then White started to think.
“After Boris played 7…Ng4, I realized I have no idea what I am supposed to do”, confessed Alexander. “I remembered the queen was going to g3 in some lines, so I retreated it to b3, not to e2.”
After the exchanges of bishops and knights the resulting position looked completely safe for Black. The players agreed that if White continued developing normally, Black would get a very comfortable game. Gelfand added: “Perhaps playing it as Black is easier, but White should not have any problems either.” Grischuk said: “I wanted to at least have some ideas. I wanted to attack the d6-pawn.”
However, White was unable to develop even the slightest pressure. Gelfand reacted very precisely – 16…Rad8!, then carried out d6-d5, getting rid of a weak pawn. The position simplified even further, and on the 28th move the players agreed to a draw by repetition.
“So I think it’s actually more or less a forced draw after 8.h3, as ridiculous as it sounds”, said Grischuk. Gelfand smiled and replied that White has other natural moves like 8.0-0 or 8.Nc3, so future games will show the evaluation of this line.
Baadur Jobava once again employed his pet idea in the Caro-Kann: f7-f6 followed by taking on е5, which he already tested in the second round against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The idea looks very risky, if not provocative, but White’s second attempt to refute it also did not bring any fruit.
The tournament leader said in a somewhat sad voice: “I prepared it very briefly, because I didn’t expect Baadur to repeat it. I guess I played too straightforward today.”
On the 18th move White made an inaccuracy, which Jobava utilized immediately. Black sacrificed a pawn, in return ruining White’s pawn structure near the king. Then Baadur transposed to a rook ending with good drawing chances, although he could well continue with the queens on the board, which provided sufficient compensation for a pawn.
On the 26th move Caruana could transfer his rook via e4 to b4, which could significantly complicate Black’s task of making a draw. However, the Italian grandmaster played a more modest move, allowing Jobava to activate his rook and centralize the king, which effectively prevented all White’s active ideas. On the 49th move the players agreed to a draw on an almost empty board.
The American grandmaster used a very aggressive line against the Gruenfeld, pushing the h-pawn already on the 5th move. “I have not repeated this variation before the game, expecting something more solid”, said Svidler. Because of that he did not risk playing the most principled response, which is capturing on c4, and ended up in a rather passive position.
In order to escape the bind, Black started to complicate things, but on the 14th move he missed a very strong and spectacular knight leap: 14.Ne4! “I was very happy when I found this move”, said Nakamura with pride is his voice. “When I saw this move, I was worried about ending up in the Matsukevich game collection”, sighed Svidler, referring to the famous column in the 64-Chess Review that features ultra-short decisive games. Peter also said that if he saw this move in advance, he would probably play something else, because the position looked very dangerous for Black.
The White knight landed on d6, and Nakamura seemed overwhelmed by tempting opportunities. He said he realized White has a big advantage, but could not make up his mind on how to continue. “I was very surprised to see that I am not losing”, admitted Svidler.
Black avoided a couple of traps, completed development and stabilized the position, which started to look more promising for him, not only from the computer’s prospective, but also for a human eye.
“And then Nakamura remembered that his opponent is a legend when it comes to accepting draw offers”, smiled Svidler and added: “To be honest, I did not see how to make progress, and I could not convince myself that I can mate here.” Then Peter recalled how bad was his position after the opening and figured that a draw is a decent result.
As Giri mentioned half-jokingly, the players continued a theoretical dispute in a virtual Cuba vs. World match: Lenier Dominguez selected the variation of the Bogo-Indian that is often employed by other Cuban players as well.
The Dutch grandmaster reminded the journalists that recently he won a nice against against Naiditsch, starting with 9.h4. However, about 20 new games were played in that variation, so he decided to deviate. White gained space in the center, Black arranged his pieces harmoniously and prepared to parry the opponent’s attack.
White’s play during the next few moves was energetic, but rather straightforward, and Black managed to seize the initiative. However, it seems like Dominguez did not use all the benefits of his position. His continuation in the game led to great simplifications, and Black’s bishop pair gave him only a slight advantage.
On the 37th move Dominguez overlooked a tactical shot, which allowed Giri to trade Black’s powerful light-squared bishop and equalize the game completely.
In this game White also sent his h-pawn forward as a battering ram, in the English Opening this time. Jakovenko explained his choice as follows: “This is a typical idea, recently Maxim Matlakov used it against me, so I decided it would be interesting to give it a shot”. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave replied that White cannot give mate for sure if Black defends correctly.
Indeed, soon Black parried the opponent’s threats, and White had to accept trading the queens. A quiet position arose, but suddenly Black committed a one-move blunder, overlooking a simple interposition by White, and lost a pawn. “Taking on h6 was something unbelievable”, commented Vachier-Lagrave, “the position after 16…f6 would still be equal.” Jakovenko agreed with that assessment, adding only that if White had an advantage, it would be very small.
Black tried to complicate things and sacrificed an exchange. White carefully neutralized the opponent’s initiative, however, the position got simplified, which gave Black some drawing chances. However, on the 39th move Vachier-Lagrave made another serious mistake, and his position immediately became hopeless.
“I was lucky today, as a single inaccurate move of my opponent decided the game”, said Jakovenko.
This was an important game for the Candidates Tournament spots. Evgeny Tomashevsky was leading the Grand Prix series after three stages, while Sergey Karjakin’s position was much worse and he needed a sole win in Khanty-Mansiysk to qualify. Meanwhile, after four rounds another possible candidate Fabiano Caruana was already at +2, while Karjakin remained at 50%.
The game was extremely slow-paced, and the players spent more than seven hours at the board. In the Reti Opening White traded his knight for Black’s bishop. In 15 more moves Black decided to get rid of another bishop trading it for another knight. In 10 more moves the queens left the board. The pawn structure remained unchanged – pawn chains crossed the board from side to side, so black knights did not seem inferior to white bishops. In order to claim an advantage White needed to open the position.
The players kept maneuvering for a while without taking any commitments, just getting more and more tired. White transferred his king to the queenside first, then returned it to the kingside, and his monarch eventually settled in the center. Finally, on the 70th move (!) White carried out е4, and Black’s defense began to crack. In a difficult position Tomashevsky made a couple of errors, and White’s bishop pair started to rampage. Black resigned on the 99th move.
Evgeny Tomashevsky admitted that his opponent withstood the pressure better. “The game was very complicated and tense, and I miscalculated first. If Sergey was able to see many complicated variations on the 7th hour of play, then he deserved this victory. Unfortunately, I cannot recover my game after the unfortunately missed win the second round.”
Sergey Karjakin: “It was a complicated game with many critical moments. If Black took on d3 on the 33rd move, that position would be equal.”
Evgeny Tomashevsky: “After h5 I played for a win. I forgot to take on d3, somehow missing that White does not have to part with the bishop, exchanging on g4. I could not see a plan in the endgame. I had a very good position, but a single lapse of concentration made me struggle. Objectively the endgame was drawish, but playing White was easier: simply gain time and wait for Black to go crazy.”
Karjakin: “After 70.е4 and 72. Bd4 I do not claim much, but it maintains the intrigue. 75.а4 was a very important move.”
Tomashevsky: “Indeed, an excellent move! If Black managed to regroup, he could even play for a win. However, there was not enough time for that.”