Round seven – bad day for Caruana & Grischuk
By WGM Alina l’Ami
Apart from spectacular moves and well played games, what really makes the spectators’ delight is the permanent change in the classification at the top. Fortunately (for some), the sixth FIDE Grand Prix tournament offered plenty of that so far!
Having reached a joint lead after the pleasant win from yesterday, Caruana suffered a very painful loss against Nakamura, caused by an opening blunder. The American grandmaster displayed the same kind of modesty as after his other win, against Bacrot. He was ‘helped by just one bad move of the opponent’, that was all.
Hikaru Nakamura – Fabiano Caruana
The earliest game to finish was never really a game. Mixing something up in a sharp Grunfeld, Caruana was lost before the game had really started.
The critical line is 14…fxg6 15.g4!? which Nakamura described as ‘certainly playable’, where he undoubtely had some ideas in mind. Caruana chose 14…hxg6 and after 15.Bxd4! Qxd4 16.Qe1 saw himself forced to give his queen and resigned shortly after. Also 15…Bxd4 16.Qh6 Qd6 17.Rxd4! Qxd4 18.Qh7+ Kf8 19.Qh8+ would have left Black a piece down and a lost position.
A day soon to forget for Fabiano
With this win, Nakamura switched places (from +2 to +1 and vice-versa) with Caruana, but is still trailing the leader by half a point. Indeed, Gelfand stepped forward to become a sole leader by defeating Grischuk in a game that looked balanced for a long time.
Boris Gelfand – Alexander Grischuk
After a rather unorthodox opening play by Grischuk (1.d4 e6 2.c4 Bb4+ 3.Nd2 b6 4.a3 Bxd2+ 5.Qxd2 Bb7 6.Nf3 f5!?), Gelfand confessed he had some trouble figuring out the correct plan over the board. The players discussed various set-ups but the one chosen in the game didn’t pose Black many problems. On move 18, Grischuk chose to avoid a repetition (which Gelfand would have accepted, as he said during the press conference) and played the aggressive:
18…f4!? which worked out wonderfully following 19.gxf4 Bxf3! 20.Bxf3 Ng4 21.Bxg4 Qxg4+ 22.Kh1 Qxf4 with somewhat better chances for Black. However, time trouble (remember, there is no 30 second increment before the second time control!) would decide the game in Gelfand’s favour, as Grischuk miscalculated something and had no time to repair the damage. Gelfand said ‘it was surely not my best game, but the result is still important’.
It is remarkable though, the heroic attempt of the Russian GM to move closer to his main goal, the victory of the tournament: the opening choice, the refusal to repeat the moves, the agreesive approach with f4 – Grischuk tried it all but today was not to be…
Despite intense rehearse of the Catalan Opening over the past years, there still seems to remain plenty of unexplored territory. In the two games where this opening was played, the grandmasters soon found themselves on their own. The Catalan has a marked tendency to liquidate in a spectacular draw, but also offers rich possibilities for post-mortem analysis.
The players were analysing very generously during the press conferences of Tomashevsky-Wang Hao and Ivanchuk-Ponomariov, making one feel that chess is really unlimited! True, in an admirable access of modesty, both Tomashevsky and Wang Hao claimed that nothing interesting had actually happened in their game, but during the conference we could see pieces hanging all the way!
Evgeny Tomashevsky – Wang Hao
Tomashevsky seemed to be having a nice advantage but appearances can be deceiving. True, Evgeny won a pawn with:
18.Rd4, but then the players went down a long and forced variation which removed most of the pieces from the board: 18…f5 19.Rxc4 Bb7! (threatening 20…Bc5 21.Rf1 Ba6! and if the rook moves – 22…Bxf2+!) 20.Ne5 Bf6 21.Nd7 Bxc3 22.Nxb6 Rxc4 23.Nxc4 Ba6! 24.Rc1 Bxc4 25.Rxc3 Bxe2 and Wang Hao had little trouble holding this slightly worse ending. An impressive piece of calculation!
Vassily Ivanchuk – Ruslan Ponomariov
In the second Catalan game of this round, Ivanchuk seemed to be slightly better throughout the entire game. The press conference saw a general consensus that 14…Ba6 was perhaps not the most accurate and 15.Nc3 would have given White an advantage. It seems indeed difficult to show clear compensation for Black in that case.
Despite allowing Black to restore the material balance, Ivanchuk kept some pressure on the position and with:
20.Rxe4 could have still posed his opponent some problems. The players looked at 20…Rfd8 21.Rae1 Qf5 and here 22.Rg4+ Kh8 23.Qh3! sets up a nice trick (Rg8+ followed by Qxf5) and keeps the initiative going for White. The game was finaly agreed drawn when both sides had just king and rook left.
Leinier Dominguez – Etienne Bacrot
Dominguez-Bacrot started as a high level duel of preparations: just one week before this tournament, the same players played a game in the Spanish league. Bacrot, not unhappy with the result of the opening in that game, decided to repeat it and played the Berlin Wall again. In Linares, Dominguez opted for 4.d3 but this time he was ready for the main line. Dominguez confessed that he had analyzed the line rather carefully, but Bacrot had done his homework too!
True, he admitted that he had problems remembering his analysis, which caused him to think quite a lot in the opening. Even so, the French GM had no problems whatsoever and when Dominguez made a small inaccuracy, White seemed to be in a bit of trouble, given the weaknesses on the queenside. Leinier was happy to find:
28.Rd1! with the idea that after 28…Rc4 29.Bd2 Nd5 30.Rh1! Nxc3 31.Rh8+ Kd7 32.f5 gxf5 33.gxf5 White has plenty of counterplay for the pawn. That was something which Etienne did not feel like allowing, so he decided to repeat moves with 29…Ra4 30.Bc1 Rc4 31.Bd2 Ra4 and a draw was agreed.
Anish Giri – Laurent Fressinet
…was a controversial game, in which both players claimed they had an advantage! And probably are still debating…
Already early on in this game, which had started with the Queens Indian, Fressinet had little to complain about. When the moment had come for Giri to ‘look for draw’, he decided against it and aimed at complicating the game to the maximum. That strategy succeeded very well and on move 32 he had a nice tactical shot at his disposal:
It was Robin van Kampen, Anish’s second, who proposed 32.Nh4! Bxh4 32.Qg4! in the press conference, when White suddenly has a very strong initiative. Instead, Anish chose the logical 32.Qb1, won the b-pawn and later on the a-pawn as well, but it didn’t prove enough to win the game. Fressinet summed it up: ‘A very sharp and fighting game, and a draw was a fair result’.
White is gaining more and more advantage again… But blunders start popping in, possibly as a consequence of the general tiredness we had signalled yesterday already. And players do not mind speaking about this phenomena, although their opinions differ…we shall see what tomorrow’s round has reserved for us.