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Round five - Black's day!
By WGM Alina l'Ami

31Experienced players know that a day off can radically change one’s tournament fate, for better or for worse, depending on the way he spends it.
It is less common though, that a free day may change statistics to such an extent as noticed in the fifth round in Paris. Before yesterday, Black had managed to win only one game, in the fourth round, while White had won six times. Today, both decisive games ended to Black’s favour; quite a diametral change of tendency, is it not?

Anish Giri - Etienne Bacrot


Starting from a symetrical English, the queens were soon exchanged and the players entered an endgame where White had slightly better chances. With a series of accurate moves and in nice positional style, Anish managed to gain a serious plus and Bacrot expressed his concern in the press conference as he felt he was under "serious pressure". On move 24 however, the tables turned:

Giri - Bacrot1

The most obvious move was 24.c5 and after 24...d5 25.b4 when the players agreed White should enjoy a pleasant advantage. Of course Giri saw this line during the game but at this point he already "wanted more from the position". Unfortunately for the Dutchman, the opposite is what he got. After 24.Nb2 d5! 25.fxg5 hxg5 26.Rf1 Bacrot temporarily sacrificed a piece with 26...bxc4! only to win it back with interest: 27.Bxf6 Bxf6 28.Rxf6 Nb4 29.Rd2 c3! and Black soon won.
The second point for Black was won in the game between:

Vassily Ivanchuk - Alexander Grischuk

In a Grunfeld with 4.Bf4, Ivanchuk employed the rare move 7.c5 since, as Grischuk mentioned during the press conference: "otherwise it's basically a forced draw". Vassily was very unhappy with his opening choice and indeed, the advantage quickly went to Black, who confidently increased it with each move.


The position doesn't look that bad for White, were it not for 30...Bc4! 31.Nc3 Bf1! winning the g2-pawn and with it - the game. Ivanchuk resigned.

A bigger step forward, with today's win, for The Russian GM...

Fabiano Caruana - Ruslan Ponomariov

Ever since the famous match between Kasparov and Kramnik, chess players have been trying to break the Berlin Wall. In today's game the Wall stood firm and Ponomariov "even felt that at some point he got some chances".


In an access of modesty and, quite possibly, self-irony, Ruslan Ponomariov corrected my evaluation of his style as solid. His play might be seen as "boring", he said. Today's game with Black against Caruana did not match either description, though. True, the opening is rock solid and to many it looks rather boring, but Ruslan found resources to put some light pressure on his opponent and even won a pawn. Eventually, Black’s advantage proved rather symbolic and a draw seemed like a fair result.

Boris Gelfand - Wang Hao


In the first game to finish this round, Wang Hao employed the Semi-Tarrasch defence. The critical position appeared on:

Gelfand - Wang

...move 21, when White had a choice of where to place his rook. In hindsight, Gelfand thought that instead of 21.Ra3, which he chose in the game, 21.Raa1 may have been preferable because after 21...Ne4 22.Qe3 Qxe3 White can now take back with the rook, which was not possible in the game. Nevertheless, also in this position it would require substantial help from Black to turn the small advantage into a win. As it went, the advantage proved too small to capitalize on and a draw was soon agreed.

Hikaru Nakamura - Laurent Fressinet

Nakamura declined the invitation by Fressinet of going into the Berlin Wall and played 4.d3 instead. A quiet maneuvering game ensued but on move 22:

Naka - Fressinet

Fressinet freed himself with the strong 22...d5! the point being that after 23.exd5 Qa3+ 24.Kb1 Nc4! 25.bxc4 Qb4+ 26.Kc1 Qxc3 White has no good way of avoiding the perpetual. That is exactly what happened following 27.Qxg7 Qa1+ 28.Kd2 Qd4+ 29.Kc1. A very correct game.


There had been some speculations about a video published on Twitter, showing the French GM playing blitz against Carlsen. Would Fressinet make part of the World title challenger team? During the press conference, Fressinet denied that.

Evgeny Tomashevsky - Leinier Dominguez

Tomashevsky and Dominguez had never crossed swords before. During the press conference, the Russian GM complained that he didn't manage to pose serious problems to his opponents, but would do his best to improve!


Today he was rather disappointed with the position he got after the opening - a Nimzo-Indian with 4.e3. He explained that during the preparation, his attention was mainly drawn to 12...Qe7. However, Dominguez played 12...Qd5 and Tomashevsky commented that after 13.Qc2 Rd8 14.Rd1 Qxc5 15.a4 e5 16.Ba3 Qa5 "I have no threats and Black is probably OK". The game surely confirmed this verdict and in the end Tomashevsky even had to take some care. By giving up a pawn he could easily hold the draw due to the presence of opposite-coloured bishops.

The intensity of the games doesn't seem to have been lowered any single bit after the free day. But given the new „Black wins” tendency, would the players having White tommorrow think about safety in the first line?!...

Fifth round games in pgn
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