Apologies for the delay everyone; I was traveling yesterday. There were some exciting results yesterday. In one of the worst displays of sportsmanship I’ve seen in top-level chess in a long time, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi appealed his loss against Hikaru Nakamura after claiming that Nakamura castled with two hands. To his credit, Nakamura did use two hands to castle, but the time to make that claim is not after losing a game. I guarantee that if he would have won then this would have been a non-issue. But of course; because he lost, he tried to back-door his way into the next round by filing an appeal. I think the tactic is underhanded and I’m glad that the result wasn’t changed. The rulings committee made the correct decision in quickly turning his appeal down. For some strange reason the filing fee was refunded to him; which I don’t really understand. Enough about dirty plays, let’s talk upsets:
- Vladimir Kramnik (2777) was knocked out by Dmitry Andreikin (2720)
- Pavel Eljanov (2723) defeated Alexander Grischuk (2771) 2-0
Perfect Scores (ones in bold have remained perfect throughout the tournament (6-0))
- Pavel Eljanov (2723) defeated Alexander Grischuk (2771) 2-0
Most anticipated match ups of the second round:
1. (2) Hikaru Nakamura Vs. (15) Michael Adams
Hikaru Nakamura is currently the highest rated American GM. He’s been at the elite level for a long time and this has the potential to be one of his best tournaments. He’s already qualified for the candidates tournament so it will be interesting to see his motivation level going into these late rounds.
Michael Adams is currently the oldest competitor in the field, and one of the strongest GM’s that England has ever produced. He’s been the stalwart of British chess for a long time. No stranger to the knockout format he’s competed in almost every knockout cycle since it was invented. His greatest successes came in the 1990’s when he was a few blitz games away for playing against then world champion Anatoly Karpov.
Why this match matters: We’re coming down to the wire. I admit it, this match-up is perhaps not the most exciting one in the round. But it is one of the more intriguing match-ups of the round.
Likely outcome: I believe that Nakamura should get this done within the classic time control. After a nerve-wracking round against Nepomniatchtchi I believe he will settle down and play solidly enough to win this match. Adams doesn’t really get invitations to elite level events anymore. When you compound the age factor and experience of Nakamura, I don’t see Adams coming out of this round.
2. (8) Ding Liren Vs. (24) Yi Wei
Ding Liren has been quietly working his way through the circuit. He’s achieved the highest rating from a player from China ever. I find it interesting that he doesn’t get more coverage internationally. He’s a quiet force, a looming presence on the chess scene.
Yi Wei (Wei Yi) is the youngest competitor in the field at this point. He’s a phenomenal chess player and he’s an explosive competitor. In the last world cup he took us by surprise by defeating Shirov in one of the early rounds.
Why this match matters: As a testament to the success of Chinese chess we see two of their players competing in one of the late rounds. I’m under the impression that despite his lower initial seed that Yi Wei is still the favorite among many fans. It’s somewhat unfortunate for Liren as he seems to be living in the shadow of such an accomplished player.
Likely outcome: Oh man, this is one of those games that is a lot closer than what the standings or ratings indicate. I believe that Yi should be able to be victorious here. He won a recent game that they played in the 2015 Chinese championship. I really have high expectations for Yi, he’s pulled out a couple of miracles and I don’t see him stopping anytime soon.
3. (3) Fabiano Caruana Vs (19) Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
Fabiano Caruana is an elite American (former Italian) GM. He’s one of those guys that could potentially challenge Magnus for the championship. He’s proven that he can beat Magnus in top tournaments. I think his play has been a bit shaky since teaming up with British IM Lawrence Trent. Caruana seems to have strayed a bit and lost focus.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is an elite GM from Azerbaijan. He’s one of those guys that’s capable of defeating anybody at the top level. He’s a menacing attacker and seems to perform miracles and whip up dangerous attacks out of seemingly nothing.
Why this match matters: In full disclosure at the time of me writing this Shak has won the first game. I don’t count Caruana out though; Shak now has to wrestle with his nerves and if anyone can come back in critical situations it’s Caruana. This is the last player representing Azerbaijan in the tournament and I’m sure the home town fans would love to see a good result here.
Likely outcome: Should Shak manage his nerves, I believe that he should win this match (currently having a 1 point lead). It’s hard for me to count Caruana out; I anticipate that the second game is going to be a long grinding game where Caruana pushes in some sort of rook and pawn ending. Maybe if we’re lucky we’ll get to watch Mamedyarov defend the Rook and bishop vs Rook ending. One can only dream ;).
3. (10) Dmitry Jakovenko Vs (26) Pavel Eljanov
Pavel Eljanov is the only competitor right now to have a perfect score (6-0) in this tournament. He’s having the tournament of his life after blanking Grischuk, Ipatov, and Jumabayev. There seems to be no stopping him.
Dmitry Jakovenko is one of these elite guys that you never see in elite tournaments. Sure he played in the Grand Prix this year scoring 310 total points for third place. But it seems like he doesn’t get the invitations to the classic elite tournaments like Tata Steel or the London Chess Classic.
Why this match matters: Can Eljanov be stopped? That’s the question on my mind right now. Once someone’s able to stop his momentum I believe he’s going to have a tough time getting back on the horse. It’s a classic Russia Vs. Ukraine match-up with these two representing the current generations of each countries elite players.
Likely outcome: I believe that Eljanov should win this match but it’s not going to be easy. Jakovenko is hungry and seems to be back on track after a tough first round.
4. (5) Wesley So Vs (21) Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Wesley So is an American (formerly from the Philippines) elite GM. He had some controversy recently at the US Championship when he was forfeited during a game for writing notes on his score sheet. He got off to a great start in this tournament by going 4-0 in the first two rounds.
Why this match matters: This is going to be a true test for So. MVL has been on the elite scene a bit longer than him and has more experience in this format. This is going to be a nail biter that should go deep into the tiebreaks.
Likely outcome: I like MVL’s chances in this game; although not much. Either of these guys could win this match but I like the idea of MVL eventually squeaking out the win.
5. (1) Veselin Topalov Vs (16) Peter Svidler
Veselin Topalov was covered in my World Cup Preview.
Peter Svidler was covered in the last round.
Why this match matters: This is one of those exciting match-ups of the round. Neither of these guys have qualified for the candidates yet. You can be sure that they’re both going to be fighting tooth and nail for that extra point.
Likely outcome: This match is critical for Svidler if he wants to qualify for the 2016 candidates tournament. Topalov will likely get in thanks to his astonishing >2800 rating. It’s hard to pick someone over pre-tournament favorite Topalov. I think eventually Topalov should pull this out and move on to the next round.
Tune in Tuesday/Wednesday for the round 5 recap.