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Round nine - égalité, fraternité?!
By WGM Alina l'Ami

43How else could we define a round (the only one, so far) in which all games ended in draws? But in case you wonder if this affected the classification, we should resort to the language once spoken in another great European capital: status quo...

Meaning among others that Nakamura keeps his lead, while Caruana and Grischuk only have two more rounds to overtake him in the tournament and Mamedyarov in the overall Grand Prix classification. Caruana’s task seems to become more difficult, while Grischuk’s success looks very improbable despite all his efforts.

Hikaru Nakamura - Ruslan Ponomariov

The "winner’s luck" seems to be accompanying Nakamura all the way. His opening play could have been punished, had Ponomariov been prepared to take advantage of the favourable moment!

61    44

In a 4.Qc2-Nimzo, the players entered a line which Hikaru thought to be fine for Black. He expressed his regrets of not just taking a draw at that point, with 15.bxa7, and indeed, he found himself in a bit of trouble soon afterwards. We enter the game on move 17, when Hikaru just played 17.Bxc4:

Naka -Pono

Upon executing the move, he immideately spotted 17...Rac8 18.Ke2 Rxc4! one of the points being 19.Rxc4 Ba6 20.b3 Nxb3! winning. Another important point is that after 19.Nxc4 Ba6 20.b3 Nxb3 21.Rc3 Na5 22.Rhc1 Rc8 23.Kd3 e5! White is eternally pinned and is bound to lose. 

Ponomariov chose 17...Rhd8 and after the further 18.Bb5 Rac8, 19.Rxc8 Rxc8 20.Kd1 may have been an interesting way to fight for the advantage. In the game 19.Rc3 was played and Ponomariov had no trouble leading the game to a draw with 19...Rxc3 20.bxc3 Rc8 21.c4 Bxg2 22.Rg1 Bd5!

Anish Giri - Fabiano Caruana

Caruana tried for a long time to spoil the generous slogan from the title; his game against Giri was the last to finish!


The game had an original course from the very beginning, which can be explained if we think that the opponents are friends and have the same trainer, Vladimir Chuchelov. This implies that they know each other’s main repertoire rather well, so the only chance for a fair uncompromising battle could be searched in some rare or even weird opening.

42    36

In an attempt to outsmart each other in the opening, Anish said in the press conference he had the feeling that both were 'out of book on move 3'. And indeed, 1.d4 d6 2.e4 Nf6 3.f3 c5 is not often seen in top-level games! The game developed in very original and creative fashion, where it was hard to say who was better and why. The critical moment came after:

Giri - Caruana

33.Rbb1 when Caruana found the great defensive move 33...Qb8! (Anish had been hoping for 33...Ref8 34.f5! with a strong attack) Now White won the exchange with 34.g5 Qd8 35.Nf6+ Rxf6 36.gxf6 Qxf6 37.Rxe8 Nxe8 but it turned out Black has plenty of compensation here. Fabiano also managed to take a second pawn for the exchange but the players had doubts whether Black had any serious chances for more than a draw.
Giri proposed:

Giri - Caruana1

50...Qxg2+ 51.Kxg2 Nf4+ 52.Kf3 Nd3 but immediately provided the solution to this problem 53.Ke4 Nxb4 54.Kd4 (54.Rf5!?) and White's active king should secure the draw. Eventually Caruana even took a third pawn for the exchange but this was basically a peace offering as it allowed a perpetual check, which Giri executed.

Evgeny Tomashevsky - Alexander Grischuk

Tomashevsky - Grischuk was also marked by some psychologic opening nuances. Trying hard to get back in the race for the first place, Grischuk chose the sharpest opening from his repertoire, the King’s Indian Defence. Tomashevsky was hardly surprised, but over the board he decided to refrain from his usual systems, fearing ghosts and prefering to surprise back his opponent. The way it turned out, he was the only one to be caught on the wrong foot.

35    37

It is rare that we see novelties before move 10 nowadays, but Grischuk employed one today:

Toma - Grischuk

With 9...b5!? he set the board on fire and Tomashevsky was not eager to take the pawn with 10.Bxb5. Perhaps that would have been for the best though, because after 10.Nf3 b4 11.Ne2 Black found a very nice way to unpin with 11...Qe8!

But the really critical moment of the game was on move 15. Having already sized the initiative, Grischuk said in the press conference he was very unhappy with:

Toma - Grischuk1

15...Nd3 because it allowed 16.Bxd3 Bxd3 17.Nf4 Bb5 18.e5! ('only move' - Tomashevsky) 18...dxe5 19.Bxf6 Bxf6 20.Ne4 and here Grischuk has missed that 21.Nd3 comes after every move.

Instead, the players discussed 15...Nfd7 16.Nc1 c4! with initative for Black and if 16.a3 Nd3 17.Bxd3 Bxd3 18.axb4 cxb4 19.Nb3 but then concluded Black can safely take on e4.
Later, the game simplified to a complicated rook ending, in which the usual drawish tendency eventually prevailed.

Boris Gelfand - Vassily Ivanchuk

Gelfand – Ivanchuk was the game with the longest history behind: the opponents had played more than 100 games before (including blitz and rapid), the first one dating back in 1985, the year of my birth...


Today's encounter, between the two most experienced players of the tournament, finished first in this round. But the peacefull outcome did not mean there was nothing to look at! Gelfand said that the particular line of the a6-slav is one that computers have absolutely no understanding of. He especially praised the decision of Ivanchuk to go:

Gelfand - Chuky

14...Ke7! Normally Black tends to castle short in this variation but then White could try to launch a kingside attack with h2-h3 and g2-g4. Here Ivanchuk was planning to meet 15.h3 with 15...Bh6 16.g4 hxg4 17.hxg4 g5! when White may win a piece on f5, but he will not be able to enjoy it much, since Black is opening both the g- and h- file in order to attack the king. In the game we have witnessed a quick series of exchanges and the completely closed pawn structure decided the outcome of the game: draw.

Etienne Bacrot - Wang Hao

Wang Hao seems to enjoy himself in the Catalan structures, as his last 3 games featured this opening. True, this time it was more of a hybrid with the Bogoindian. This apparent monotony and his unceasing tiredness did not prevent Wang from calculating some fascinating lines, which he generously revealed during the conference. As for Bacrot, he did not expect the line played and showed himself very unhappy with his premature 10.b4.

12    55

The game was still heading for a draw but, on move 29, Bacrot missed something important:

Bacrot- Wang

With 29...e5! Wang Hao grabbed the initiative! Of course taking is out of the question and after 30.Kg1 e4 31.Be2 g6 White suddenly had to be a bit carefull. Etienne fully realised this and defended with the necessary precision to secure a draw.

Leinier Dominguez - Laurent Fressinet


And once again the Berlin Wall survived! But this time, not without a scratch. In the press conference, both players agreed White had a very pleasant position after the opening and Dominguez expressed his regret over:

Dom - Fressinet

21.Ra4; instead, Fressinet called 21.Rad1 c5 22.R4d2 Bc8 23.Rxd8+ Rxd8 24.Rxd8 Kxd8 25.Ke3 'somewhere in between a draw and a win, but definitely not what you are looking for with Black'. In the game, after 21...Ra8 22.e6 fxe6! Black was OK because 23.Bxc7 can be met with 23...c5! 24.Ra3 Bc6 25.Re1 e5! as Fressinet showed. The players repeated moves shortly after.

As if for compensating the lack of decisive games, there was a special event today in Paris: the FIDE Anti-Cheating Committee reunion. The special guests were: IA/FST/IO Israel Gelfer (ISR), the IM and Associate Professor on Computer Science and Engineering of the Buffalo University, Kenneth W. Regan (USA), the ACP Board Director, Yuri Garrett (ITA), GM Konstantin Landa (RUS) and last but not least, the IA Laurent Freyd (FRA).

With only two rounds to go, things seem to be running Mamedyarov’s way... But let us not anticipate, since the drawish day may be nothing else than the peace before the final storm...

More photos
Press conferences

Extras from the rest day:

The usual walking path of the Grandmasters - right in front of the official hotel and next to Versailles

Hôtel de ville de Versailles - it is not the city hotel but the city hall of Versailles!

City hall by night

Art can be seen at literally every corner! Felice Varini is a Swiss artist who was nominated for the 2000/2001 Marcel Duchamp Prize, known for his geometric perspective-localized paintings in rooms and other spaces, using projector-stencil techniques. According to mathematics professor and art critic Joël Koskas, "A work of Varini is an anti-Mona Lisa." 

Felice paints on architectural and urban spaces, such as buildings, walls and streets. The paintings are characterized by one vantage point from which the viewer can see the complete painting (usually a simple geometric shape such as circle, square, line), while from other view points the viewer will see ‘broken’ fragmented shapes. (ed: text about Varini - wikipedia)

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