Round 5 Report
John Saunders reports: an eventful round saw the leader board expand to four players on the top score of 4½/5. They are Wang Hao (China) and Arkadij Naiditsch (Azerbaijan), who drew their individual game, plus Jeffery Xiong (USA) and Abhijeet Gupta (India) who both beat higher rated opposition in the shape of Richard Rapport (Hungary) and Santosh Gujrathi Vidit (India) respectively. A further seven players are now on 4 points: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Sergey Karjakin (Russia), Rinat Jumabayev (Kazakhstan), Mircea-Emilian Parligras (Romania), Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Poland), Rasmus Svane (Germany), Hikaru Nakamura (USA). The leading contenders for the top women’s prize are currently Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia) and Elisabeth Paehtz (Germany) who are both on 3/5.
Birthday boy Vidit Gujrathi being equipped with a heart rate monitor by Maria Emelianova, with Baskaran Adhiban,
Anish Giri and Alina L'Ami enjoying the spectacle (photo: John Saunders)
Top board opponents Wang Hao and Arkadij Naiditsch go head to head on 4/4 (photo: John Saunders)
The overnight leaders, Naiditsch and Wang Hao, put in a commendably conscientious shift, though without taking undue risks, before a draw was agreed on move 36. Naiditsch has decided to take a half-point bye at this point so his name doesn’t appear in the round six pairings.
Knight endgames was the theme of the day: MVL and Parligras were to start the trend (photo: John Saunders)
The game between MVL and Parligras started to get interesting despite the cagey Giuoco Piano opening. MVL imbalanced the position by throwing in a knight for pawns sacrifice. It boiled down to a knight plus four pawns versus two knights and one pawn endgame which was hard to evaluate even for chess engines. Eventually, though MVL had three connected passed pawns alarmingly near the queening squares, Parligras had his king and extra knight poised to negate any further advance and a draw ensued.
Richard Rapport started the complications but it was Jeffery Xiong who finished in style (photo: John Saunders)
Jeffery Xiong played what was probably the game of the day against Richard Rapport (photo: John Saunders)
Boards three and four provided most of the decisive action that affected the top of the leader board. Jeffery Xiong was rewarded for some bold play in the face of some typically creative attacking play on the part of his opponent, Richard Rapport. A nameless queen’s pawn opening led to a middlegame in which Rapport decided to give up a pawn and allow his opponent a supported, advanced passed pawn in order to get control of some dark squares around the enemy king. Xiong retorted with a piece sacrifice for a further two pawns. Then it got complicated. It’s probably best to look at the score to see what happened.
It's tough when you have to play superman: Abhijeet Gupta spoilt his pal's birthday by beating him (photo: John Saunders)
Abhijeet Gupta spoilt Santosh Gujrathi Vidit’s birthday by beating him in a long grind after Vidit had blundered a pawn in mistakenly exchanging queens in the early middlegame. It was by means easy to convert, and I’ve no doubt many a lesser player might have failed to do so, but Gupta is a tough competitor and he did so in a further 40 or so moves. So Gupta now joins the leaders. It is strange to reflect that, just three days ago, he struggled to beat the lowest rated player in the entire competition.
If that was a hard-fought game of chess, then I'm a Dutchman. So are they: Erwin L'Ami vs Anish Giri (photo: John Saunders)
Wesley So vs Hrant Melkumyan (photo: John Saunders)
Nigel Short lines up against Alexander Grischuk... (photo: John Saunders)
... while tomorrow he faces this guy - Wesley So. So unfair... (photo: John Saunders)
The next four boards all ended in draws. Two of them, the all-Dutch pairing of L’Ami and Giri, and Aronian-Kovalev were quiet affairs but Grischuk-Short and So-Melkumyan were harder fought. Short said later on Twitter: “I have faced Sergey Karyakin and Alexander Grischuk on successive days. I am just not used to playing world-class opponents any more. It is a big strain.” I’m sure the players and everyone close to them can empathise with this; great though the tournament is, the quality of the field means that the pressure is unrelenting and even the most experienced, battle-hardened players can be seen to wilt. Small wonder that so many of the big names have chosen to give themselves a day off at some stage. Since writing his tweet, Nigel will have seen his sixth-round pairing – White against Wesley So. It never gets any easier...
Hikaru Nakamura relished being paired with a fighting player like Alexei Shirov (photo: John Saunders)
Hikaru Nakamura moved within half a point of the leaders by defeating Alexei Shirov. At 46, the great Latvian is not quite the power he once was, at least in ratings terms, but he is still one of the greatest players around on his day. Nakamura enjoys playing him because he carries the fight to the enemy rather than lumping the responsibility onto the opponent to make a game of it. This was certainly true today as Shirov obliged by trying an exchange for pawn sacrifice. It didn’t seem too convincing but, in a position where it might have been good enough to hold, Shirov squandered a second pawn and his position imploded.
Sergey Karjakin - Samuel Sevian: the king is snared and the pawn has to run - to no avail (photo: John Saunders)
Sergey Karjakin calmly awaits his opponent's surrender (photo: John Saunders)
Karjakin-Sevian was a long, mazy struggle with the denouement centring on an endgame which most of us have heard of but few will have experienced in real life, namely K+NN versus K+P. Most players learn at an early stage of their chess education that a player cannot mate a bare king having only two knights, but it can be done in some circumstances when the king is accompanied by a solitary pawn. The winning technique involves (1) blockading the pawn with one of the knights; (2) corralling the king into a corner with the other knight and the king; and (3) having trussed up the king, moving the other knight in its direction to deliver mate before the pawn can queen and spoil things. However, this cannot be achieved if the pawn is too near the queening square. In this particular case the pawn was well advanced and the position thus a theoretical draw. However, it is all very well for a position to be drawn – actually achieving the draw is quite another matter. Sevian made life difficult for himself by lurching in the wrong direction with his king and then sealed his fate with a blunder. Karjakin didn’t bat an eyelid but soon latched onto the winning plan and played it out with metronomic precision. He’s an impressive player to watch.
Only a couple of moves out of known opening territory Boris Gelfand made a horrid blunder which cost him material. he soldiered on for ten or so moves but to no avail. Credit to his opponent, young German GM Rasmus Svane, for spotting what the world championship runner-up had overlooked.
Rasmus Svane found a neat tactic to defeat Boris Gelfand (photo: John Saunders)
Bad day at the office for David Howell against Rinat Jumabayev (photo: John Saunders)
The fortunes of the host country’s other players were varied. David Howell was doing OK but, like Gelfand, played a terrible blunder which cost him a bishop for two pawns. He played on another 40 moves, with his Kazakh opponent, Rinat Jumabayev, converting the piece to a rook and three pawns vs rook and pawn advantage which won comfortably enough.
Having battled his way back from a lost game against Mikhail Antipov, Gawain Jones discovers there is no way to win (photo: John Saunders)
Gawain Jones’s game was similar to Howell’s in some respects but with a different outcome. He got into a fix around the time control and would surely have lost had his opponent, Mikhail Antipov, found the right plan, but the Russian went wildly astray, opting to exchange into an endgame like David Howell’s opponent – rook and three versus rook and one – with the significant difference that Gawain Jones’s one pawn was far further advanced than the other three. So much so that Antipov was objectively lost at this point. The best he could do was reach an endgame where he ended up with a rook and pawn for Jones’s new queen. However, that proved good enough to rescue a draw.
Business as usual for Mickey Adams, who soon got the better of Helgi Olafsson's Petroff Defence
Mickey Adams played the veteran Icelandic GM Helgi Olafsson and quickly built up pressure against his misplayed Petroff, securing the two bishops and an imposing kingside attack. That’s usually enough to secure an Adams win – and duly was.
Danny Gormally has been doing well in this year’s tournament but he got off to a poor start against Bogdan-Daniel Deac from Romania and never recovered.
In round six on Thursday, the top pairings are Xiong (4½) v Wang Hao (4½), Nakamura (4) v Gupta (4½), Jumabayev (4) v Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (4), Parligras (4) v Karjakin (4), Wojtaszek (4) v Svane (4). Another interesting pairing is Jones (3½) v Sarin (3½), while the other top Indian prodigy Praggnanandhaa (3) has Black against German IM Georg Seul. Join us again at 2.30pm UK time.