Eljanov wins final FIDE GP, Radjabov qualifies for Candidates
Pavel Eljanov today won the sixth and final FIDE Grand Prix tournament in Astrakhan, Russia. The Ukrainian finished with a score of 8/13, a full point ahead of a group of five GMs. One of them was Teimour Radjabov, who finished second in the final GP standings and qualified for the FIDE Candidates matches.
The 6th FIDE Grand Prix took place May 10-24 in Astrakhan, Russia. Akopian (2694), Alekseev (2700), Gashimov (2734), Gelfand (2741), Eljanov (2751), Inarkiev (2669), Ivanchuk (2741), Jakovenko (2725), Leko (2735), Mamedyarov (2763), Ponomariov (2733), Rajabov (2740), Svidler (2735) and Wang Yue (2752) played. More details can be found in our first report.
Would Pavel Eljanov be able to finish the tournament as strongly as he had played so far? How would he fare after the second and last rest day? Well, on Friday the Ukrainian had a crystal clear answer to this question. He defeated Hungarian top GM Peter Leko in 43 moves, perhaps not in the most convincing way, but the result is what counts.
Leko was more than fine after the opening (Eljanov didn't like his 10.Ng3) and even rejected a draw offer on the 20th move. However, in the subsequent game the Hungarian made a few mistakes, and White obtained an advantage in the ending due to a strong passed pawn on the queenside. From that point Eljanov played very energetically. He did not allow Black to bring his king into the center, which would save the game for Leko. On the 43rd move White’s passed pawn became unstoppable, and Leko resigned.
Gashimov stayed half a point behind the leader after beating Inarkiev in a strong Ruy Lopez game. "I found an interesting plan with 15.Bd3 and 16.Re2," he said afterwards. "My pawn sacrifice led to a curious position: White is a pawn down, Black pieces seem to be active, but actually White can play for a win at no risk. Soon I regained the material, keeping all the advantages of my position, then won an exchange and converted the advantage without much trouble." Inarkiev: "I admit that Vugar played very energetically and deserved his win."
Radjabov slowly but surely outplayed Akopian with Black in a Sveshnikov. "Maybe trading the queens was wrong," said Akopian, "and I should have preferred 24.Qh6. I also don’t like my next moves – 26.Ndf4 and 28.f4. White’s position became very cramped, and Teimour showed good technique, not giving me any chances to survive." 26.Ndf4 was a "serious inaccuracy" according to Radjabov.
This round saw another Azeri derby: Radjabov versus Mamedyarov. It was an important game, since Radjabov's win regained his chances to qualify for the Candidates matches. In the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez White got a small advantage and then developed a strong initiative following Black’s unsuccessful queen maneuver on the 19th move. The game transposed to a queen ending with a remote passed pawn for White. Black was short on time and committed the decisive error on the 38th move. Mamedyarov resigned immediately due to inevitable loss of the kingside pawns.
Radjabov: "I think after 20.Qf4 White may already be winning. Not sure if 28.d6 was necessary, but I thought I needed to force the issues. In any case, after this move it becomes extremely difficult for Black to hold." Mamedyarov didn't agree with Radjabov's assessment of the opening: "In my opinion, White didn’t get any advantage. He started to take the upper hand only when I made a mistake by 19...Qd4 – this move is overambitious."
Also relevant for the Candidates spot was Gashimov's loss against Ponomariov. He couldn't adopt his Benoni as the Ukrainian went for other schemes. Ponomariov about Gashimov only playing the Benoni: "The disadvantage is that he knows other lines superficially. Thus I decided to transpose to the Nimzo-Indian Defense. In my opinion, I got a very comfortable position. Perhaps in the middlegame I could play better. For example, on the 17th move I could take on g3 with the queen, making Black’s defensive task tougher. Yet, defending was unpleasant enough for such an active player as Vugar. He started to make reckless moves such as 26...h5, which helped me to win the game."
Five-time Russian champion Peter Svidler finally won his first game in Astrakhan. He successfully avoided Gelfand's Petroff and used the Four Knights to beat the Israeli in 31 moves. Gelfand’s sharp f-pawn push on the 21st move proved to be a big mistake. Svidler delivered a nice tactical blow, and Black’s position collapsed.
Akopian defeated Ivanchuk in just 23 moves. The Ukrainian handled the Ragozin Variation of the Queen’s Gambit too passively. Akopian comfortably arranged his pieces and launched a kingside attack. On the 21st move the Armenian sacrificed an exchange, which turned out to be a very unpleasant surprise for Black. In two more moves Ivanchuk abandoned his resistance.
Akopian, after the game: "I'm surprised that the victory came so easily – I have a bad score against Vassily. The plan that I employed in this game is not new: White ignores the d4-pawn and concentrates on a kingside attack. Vassily played without confidence; his 14...g6 only provokes my attack. And on the next move he should have played 15...h5. After he missed this opportunity, my only problem was to choose correctly from several good continuations. The final position is so ugly for Black that Vassily just resigned. Well, this probably just wasn’t his day..."
Mamedyarov improved upon his first round game against Jakovenko, to which Leko couldn't find a good answer. Perhaps White didn't find all the best moves, but nevertheless Mamadyarov managed to transpose to an ending with a big advantage, which he effectively converted to the full point.
Leko: "This was a strange game. Losing to Eljanov killed my chances to qualify for the candidates matches, which obviously affected my motivation today. Of course, this is not a good excuse for my poor play against Shakhriyar..."
Alekseev-Inarkiev was the longest game of the 12th round. After interesting complications in the Slav Defense the players arrived at a very original position, in which White had three minor pieces against a rook and three pawns. White slowly but surely consolidated his pieces and launched the attack on the king. He then won a pawn and advanced to a winning ending. Despite Black’s stubborn resistance, Alekseev won the game on the 88th move.
Eljanov needed a draw to secure sole first, and he did so with the black pieces against Gelfand. The two have worked together in the past years, but with White Gelfand did press for while. In a Nimzo he sacrificed a pawn to open up the position, but Eljanov gave back the material and after the exchange of the minor pieces the position remained balanced.
After winning the Bosna tournament in 2009, Eljanov now has a new 'best tournament of his career'. Winning this Grand Prix, one of the strongest tournaments on average rating and of this scale ever held, is a fantastic result for the 27-year-old, who proved that his new status of Ukraine's number one player wasn't a coincidence.
Report based on the tournament website
Photo courtesy of FIDE, more here
Games rounds 10-13
Game viewer by ChessTempo
Astrakhan Grand Prix 2010 | Round 13 (Final) Standings
Astrakhan Grand Prix 2010 | Schedule & results
After the 12th round, Ivanchuk, Leko, Mamedyarov and Alekseev were eliminated from qualifying for the runner-up position. Grischuk was also eliminated, because Radjabov scored well enough to ensure that even if he'd lose his final round, he'd gain enough GP points to surpass Grischuk.
In the final round of Astrakhan, Jakovenko was eliminated with his draw and Gashimov has been eliminated with his loss. The winner of the Radjabov-Wang Yue game decided matters: a win for the Chinese would have meant qualification, but Radjabov with White held a Petroff ending a pawn down to a draw and this was enough to end second in the overall Grand Prix. Thanks to ebutaljib for providing this table:
FIDE Grand Prix Series 2008-2009 | Overall Final Standings
Source used: Wikipedia page on the GP
And so an end has come to a long series of six super tournaments which had its ups and downs. Positive were the tournament websites, with extensive reports (disclaimer: which were written by yours truly in Baku and Sochi), sometimes videos (by the Turkish Chess Federation in Baku, Europe-Echecs in Sochi and - another disclaimer - by me in Nalchik) and sometimes game analysis by GM Sergey Shipov.
More importantly, a big number of players had the opportunity to play in big, strong events and make good money.
But of course many more things went wrong. Three host cities (Doha, Karlovy Vary and Montreux) withdrew when it became clear that the money wasn't there. Their nominated players had to leave the series and Yannick Pelletier was hit the most, as he couldn't play a single event. The Czech organizers were very disappointed when Adams and Carlsen had good reason to leave the series: because of the sudden change of the World Championship cycle, during the cycle.
When it all started, the idea was that the winner of the GP would play against the
World Champ. (We would have had a Aronian-Anand match in 2012.) winner of the World Cup. (We would have a Gelfand-Aronian match and the winner would play Anand.) But during the Olympiad in Dresden, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov suddenly announced the Candidates 'tournament' (which would later be rephrased to 'matches'), for which the numbers one and two of the GP Series would qualify.
Another point of criticism FIDE received by many (e.g. more than once by Kasparov) was about the locations of the events. The whole series never managed to leave the greater Caucasus region, and so no single event was organized in a bigger, Western city, which didn't really help to attract corporate sponsorship either.
In general the idea wasn't so bad. But the execution could have been much better.
Update: according to Harish in the comments, the pairings for the Candidates matches are:
1. Topalovs vs Kamsky ( 1 vs 8 )
2. Carlsen vs Radjabov ( 2 vs 7 )
3. Kramnik vs Nominee ( 3 vs 6 )
4. Aronian vs Gelfand ( 4 vs 5 )
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