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Round four - first win for Black!
By WGM Alina l'Ami

15Playing with White has often been referred to as an equivalent of the turn to serve in tennis, but is the right of playing the first move that important really? Looking at the results of the first three rounds in Paris we notice that all the decisive games so far were indeed won by...White!

I believe our hopes for a hard fought tournament are fully justified, those fearing the worse must have relaxed by now, but another intriguing question is looming: will Black win at least one game before the first rest day?

Judging by how the games were looking, the answer would have been: NO! Unfortunately (or rather fortunately?!), humans are not machines and what seemed to be a won position for White turned into the first point for...Black.

Laurent Fressinet - Vassily Ivanchuk

Laurent Fressinet was conducting a model game and seemed to be cruising to a smooth victory this round. The Carlsbad-structure, as often seen in Ivanchuk's games this tournament, did not turn out succesfully today.

Fressinet - Ivanchuk

During the press conference, the players looked at the very strong 30.Qe2! (in order to meet 30...cxd4 with 31.Rh1) and found no defence for Black. Also after the game continuation 30.Qxh6, White kept a big advantage. However, Ivanchuk not only managed to get back in the game, he even took over and brought home the full point.

From a wider perspective, Grischuk-Caruana is the central game of the Paris GP, since they are the only two players who might qualify for the Candidates’ Tournament. Grischuk had White in all their previous encounters, which invariably ended in draws. The question is: will he break this tradition to his favour?...

11   8

Alexander Grischuk - Fabiano Caruana was close indeed: Alexander Grischuk repeated the rare line which brought him much succes in the ACP-rapid cup final against Nepomniachtchi just two weeks ago. Caruana deviated from those rapid games and a battle ensued where White was pushing on the queenside and Black was trying his luck on the kingside. With a pawn-sacrifice, White got a huge initiative which eventually resulted in a big endgame advantage.

In the press conference the players agreed that either 39.g4 or 39.g3 would have resulted in a technically winning position for White. In the game, Black miraculously managed to hold on after 39.gxh3 Bb6 40.Kf2 Nh6!


Grischuk remained faithful to his wooden chair...

Wang Hao - Hikaru Nakamura

The result of Wang Hao – Nakamura was hard to predict. The overall score of the previous encounters favours Wang Hao by just one point, but Nakamura seemed to be on a fantastic trend, having won the last three games in 2013!


Today's encounter was a short but interesting duel: Wang Hao employed the Reti-opening and an interesting structure soon appeared on the board.

Wang - Naka

In the diagrammed position, the players agreed that if White where to get f2-f4 and e4-e5 in he would surely gain the advantage. But this is easier said than done. In the post-mortem analysis, the players also had a look at 19.e5!? Qxe5 20.Bf4, after which Hikaru felt Black shouldn't have too many problems following 20...Qe7 21.b5 axb5 22.Bxd6 Qxd6 23.axb5 Rxa1 24.Rxa1 Bd8 (even more precise might be 24...d3!? with the idea 25.bxc6 Bxf2+! 26.Kxf2 Qf6+ and 27...Qxa1). Wang Hao decided to sacrifice the e-pawn with 19.Bf4 Nxe4 20.b5 but after 20...cxb5 21.axb5 a5! 22.Qd5 Nc3 Black was fine and the Chinese had to resign himself to forcing a draw.

In short: the game featured an intense struggle with a highly non symmetrical position, eventually leading to a perfectly... symmetrical and dead drawn rook ending.

Etienne Bacrot - Boris Gelfand

In the 3.Bb5-sicilian that appeared on the board, Gelfand has a lot of experience having recently played the same line against Svidler, Anand and Carlsen. With 14.Qb3 Bacrot deviated from the game Anand-Gelfand but Boris was ready for this move and equalized in a straightforward fashion. Since that moment on, little play was left in the position and the players decided to repeat the moves.


Gelfand undoubtedly goes into the first rest day with a good feeling, giving his first place (next to Ivanchuk) in the standings; it is indeed too early to speculate on who is leading, as Boris would most probably say, but a good and solid play will always stand out!
As for Etienne, he will surely want to improve his position on the scoreboard in the upcoming rounds. Since tomorrow is a free day, he will join us for the afternoon visit to Versailles, which he never saw before! 

Ruslan Ponomariov - Evgeny Tomashevsky

A game of metamorphosis! The game started out as a Queens Gambit, moved into Stonewall-territory but later it also reminded Ponomariov of the Queens-Indian. In any case, the Stonewall erected by Tomashevsky was incredibly solid and Ponomariov never came close to any advantage. Both players agreed a draw was a fair result.

Leinier Dominguez - Anish Giri

Anish Giri came well prepared and blitzed out his first 20 moves or so without thought. His second, Robin van Kampen, watching the game in the press room, also seemed to enjoy the course of the game.

Dom - Giri

In the diagrammed position, Black had not used any time and could have restored the material balance with 21...Rxe3, when a draw is the most likely result. But something went wrong as Anish 'mixed something up' and played 21...Rb6 to which Dominguez replied 22.Rf3! when it turns out that 22...Rxc6 runs into 23.Qd7 and the f7-pawn falls. The Cuban had little trouble converting the extra pawn into a win.


After such intense over the board disputes, we finally do not need a prognostic for tomorrow. The main expectations are connected with the... visit to Versailles, an event that most of the players must have been looking for from the begining, since everyone shared the enthusiasm and willingness to join the tour!
Happy free day!

Round3 052
Versailles from the outside - tomorrow we'll take a closer look!

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