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Geneva Grand Prix Round 9: Radjabov takes home the winner’s trophy; Harikrishna finishes joint third

by Aditya Pai - 16/07/2017

Having led the tournament from the word go, Teimour Radjabov won the Geneva Grand Prix 2017, half a point ahead of his nearest rivals. The only Indian in the field, Pentala Harikrishna finished in a seven-way tie for 4th-10th. After chasing that title prize for 8 straight rounds, Hari was finally knocked out of contention after his defeat against Li Chao in the penultimate round. However, in a field that comprised of bigwigs such as Aronian, Giri and Mamedyarov, his performance was undoubtedly a plausible one. Final round report with game analysis by Tanmay Srinath.

GM Teimour Radjabov had dominated the Geneva leg of the FIDE Grand Prix from the word go. Kicking off with a dream start winning both of his first two rounds, the Azerbaijani GM did not let the lead go off his hands at any point in the tournament. Going into the final round of the Geneva Grand Prix, he drew against one of his closest rivals, Ian Nepomniachtchi and clinched the title.

Radjabov lifting the champion's trophy

Tournament leader, Teimour Radjabov and Grand Prix leader, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, on their way to the venue 
In a Carlsen-like manner, Radjabov had been fishing for small but stable advantages out of the opening in this tournament. Perhaps, the most prominent example of this was his game against Svidler in the ante-penultimate round. His final round game against Nepomniachtchi also featured this theme. The game started with a rock solid Italian in which the Azerbaijani GM had the blacks. Coming out of the opening phase, Radjabov felt he had a solid position after he was able to plant his knight on the f4 square and followed this up immediately with a draw offer which the Russian declined. Nepo was only half a point behind Radjabov and a win would have enabled him to jump past the Azerbaijani and clinch the title himself. It is therefore understandable that he declined the draw offer. What’s confusing, however, is that Nepo offered Radjabov a draw just a move after this! But this time Radjabov declined and later got a better position. However, he was unable to break through the Russian’s resourceful defence. The players, therefore, agreed to end matters peacefully on the 56th move. After the game, Radjabov said, “I was happy about the opening, that I got this solid position that you can play around for ages.”
[Event "FIDE Geneva Grand Prix 2017"]
[Site "Geneva"]
[Date "2017.07.15"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"]
[Black "Radjabov, Teimour"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C54"]
[WhiteElo "2742"]
[BlackElo "2724"]
[Annotator "TA"]
[PlyCount "111"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. O-O d6 6. c3 a6 7. a4 O-O 8. h3 {
5 C4: Giuoco Piano: 4 c3 Nf6, main lines with 5 d4 and 5 d3} h6 (8... Be6 9.
Bxe6 fxe6 10. b4 Ba7 11. Be3 Bxe3 12. fxe3 Ne7 13. Nbd2 Ng6 14. d4 Qe7 15. Qb3
Kh8 {1/2-1/2 (63) Carlsen,M (2832)-So,W (2812) Stavanger 2017}) 9. Re1 Ba7 10.
Nbd2 Ne7 11. d4 Ng6 12. Bf1 Re8 {LiveBook: 5 Games} 13. Qc2 Nh7 {[#]} 14. dxe5
$146 ({Predecessor:} 14. Nb3 Nh4 15. Nxh4 Qxh4 16. dxe5 dxe5 17. Be3 Ng5 18.
Bxa7 Rxa7 {0-1 (69) Dragnev,V (2515)-Zilka,S (2523) Stara Lubovna 2017}) 14...
dxe5 15. Nc4 Qf6 16. Ne3 Ne7 17. Ng4 Bxg4 $1 18. hxg4 Ng6 19. Bc4 Rad8 20. a5
Nf4 21. Nh2 (21. Rf1 $15) 21... Rd7 $17 22. Be3 Bxe3 23. fxe3 Ne6 24. Rf1 Qe7
25. b4 Nhg5 (25... Nf6 $19 26. Rf5 Qd6) 26. Nf3 Nxf3+ 27. gxf3 Qg5 28. Rae1
Red8 29. Qh2 Rd2 30. Re2 Rd1 31. Bd5 Rxf1+ 32. Kxf1 c6 33. Bxe6 $1 {[#] aiming
for Bb3.} Rd1+ 34. Kf2 {Hoping for Ba2.} fxe6 35. Qh5 Qxh5 36. gxh5 $15 {
Endgame KR-KR} Kf7 37. Rb2 Rc1 38. Rd2 Ke7 39. Rd3 Rh1 40. Kg2 Rxh5 41. c4 Rg5+
42. Kh2 Rh5+ (42... Rg6 $15) 43. Kg2 $11 Rg5+ (43... g6 $11) 44. Kh2 $1 $15 h5
{next ...h4 is good for Black.} 45. b5 $1 h4 46. Kh3 Rg3+ 47. Kxh4 {The
position is equal.} Rxf3 {White must now prevent ...Rf1.} 48. bxa6 bxa6 {
Threatens to win with ...Rf2.} 49. c5 $1 Rf1 {[#] And now ...Rc1 would win.}
50. Rd6 Ra1 51. Rxc6 Rxa5 52. Kg5 Kd7 53. Rd6+ Ke7 54. Rc6 Kd7 55. Rd6+ Ke7 56.
Rc6 {Precision: White = 74%, Black = 73%.} 1/2-1/2


Radjabov's draw gave Grischuk a chance to catch him in the lead
But against the ultra-solid Anish Giri, it seemed quite difficult
Radjabov’s draw gave hopes to GM Alexander Grischuk, who was also half a point behind him. If Grischuk had managed to win his game, he would have joined Radjabov in the first place. But for that to happen, he would have had to get past the super solid Dutchman, Anish Giri, with the black pieces, which was no easy task. Their game, however, was far from being solid. Both players agreed that they were not sure what was going on in the position. Giri was able to imprison Grischuk’s bishop behind his pawn chain and felt he was “half-a-piece up” because of this. But Grischuk uncorked the resource 29. d4 which led to mass exchanges and equality in the end. By the 44th move, the position looked dead equal and both players thought it was a good time to call it a day. This meant that Radjabov was the sole winner of the Geneva Grand Prix.
It was perhaps that walk around lake Geneva that helped Peter Svidler and Levon Aronian finish their tournament with victories against Hou Yifan and Salem Saleh respectively 
Hari finished the tournament with a solid draw against Jakovenko

The only Indian in the field, Pentala Harikrishna, had a promising start to the event with a score of 1.5/2 after the first two rounds. In this run, he had not lost a single game until the penultimate round, when he lost to the Chinese Grandmaster, Li Chao. In fact, he was in contention for the title prize until the beginning of round 8. But his loss against Chao ruined all his chances of winning the title. Nevertheless, he was able to finish joint third. Although this means that he will not be able to qualify for the Candidates though the Grand Prix Series, it is by itself a very good result keeping in mind the fierce competition he was facing.


In his final round game, he played the Russian Grandmaster Dmitry Jakovenko. With white pieces in hand, the Indian ace essayed the Italian opening for the umpteenth time in the event. As has been characteristic for him in this tournament, Hari came out of the opening with a small advantage. Breezing through the opening and middlegame with a pleasant position, the Indian number two was able to win a pawn in the endgame and pressurize his opponent. But Jakovenko defended accurately and in the end sacrificed his bishop for Hari’s last pawn. The game now was a theoretical draw but in practice, things might be different. So Hari tried his luck for 38 more moves and agreed to concede a draw on the 115th move.
[Event "FIDE Geneva Grand Prix 2017"]
[Site "Geneva"]
[Date "2017.07.15"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Harikrishna, P."]
[Black "Jakovenko, Dmitry"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C54"]
[WhiteElo "2737"]
[BlackElo "2703"]
[Annotator "Tanmay Srinath"]
[PlyCount "230"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]
{This 9th Round Game was a battle of pride. For Harikrishna, this might be a
retribution, after a painful loss ruined his chances for 1st place. For
Jakovenko, the former 3rd Place Finisher, a win here might serve as a
confidence booster. [#]} 1. e4 {0} e5 {4} 2. Nf3 {0} Nc6 {4} 3. Bc4 {0 No
surprises here, as the players arrive at the current tabiya of modern chess,
the quiet Italian.} Bc5 {4} 4. c3 {0} Nf6 {5} 5. d3 {0} a6 {3} 6. O-O {202} d6
{10} 7. a4 {14 One of the main moves in this position. White prevents b4 and
creates a retreat square for his bishop.} Ba7 {32 The point of this curious
retreat is to prevent a tempo loss after an eventual d4.} 8. Re1 {19} O-O {48}
9. h3 {5} Ne7 {7 One of the two best moves in this position. The point is to
reroute the knight to g6, where it keeps an eye on f4 and h4. Black can
additionally play c6-d5, but I am not sure if he equalises after that.} (9...
h6 {is another logical move, preventing the pin Bg5. After} 10. Nbd2 Re8 11. b4
Be6 12. Bxe6 Rxe6 13. Qc2 $13 {an unclear situation arises. White is surely
better on the queenside, where he plans an eventual b5, but Black's forces are
a compact bunch, and moves such as d5 are in the air. Also, d4 will be a
problematic move to execute. The assesment of the position will depend on
white's ability to carry out a successful queenside assault, or Black's speed
in creating counterplay.}) 10. Nbd2 {22} Ng6 {9} 11. d4 $14 {34 So white again
carries out the typical idea in these Italian positions- a timely d4 advance.
White is now slightly better.} c6 {4} 12. b4 $5 {65 I am not sure if this move
is the best in this positon. Sure, white grabs space, but his pawn center is
rendered unstable.} (12. Bb3 $1 {Would be more in the spirit of the position,
as white prevents his bishop being hit with tempo after d5. He can also
conserve this piece with Bc2. After} exd4 13. cxd4 d5 14. e5 ({It is possible
here to play} 14. exd5 {and after} cxd5 15. Bc2 Re8 16. Nb3 $14 {I prefer
white here, as his LS Bishop is a great piece, his b3 knight can hop to c5,
and he has the better co-ordination.}) 14... Nh5 15. Nf1 f6 16. Bc2 Nhf4 17.
Ra3 $13 {Another unclear position arises, with chances for both sides.}) 12...
exd4 {744} 13. cxd4 {6} d5 $5 {3 Jakovenko plays principled chess, though
there were other moves available to him.} ({One of them is} 13... Re8 {and
after} 14. Bb3 h6 15. Bc2 Nh5 16. Nc4 Nhf4 17. Bxf4 Nxf4 18. Qd2 g5 19. e5 $16
{White is better, though black is not without his chances.}) 14. Bd3 $146 {
10 A novelty by Hari. He is clearly well prepared.} ({He could of course try}
14. exd5 {and after} Nxd5 15. Ne4 h6 16. Bd2 $14 {white is better here, but it
is an unbalanced position, and black sure has chances here.}) 14... dxe4 {447}
15. Nxe4 {6} Nxe4 {126} 16. Bxe4 {9} Be6 {53} 17. b5 $1 {31 Hari strikes when
the iron is hot. White now steadily improves his position. It is hard to
pinpoint where Jakovenko went wrong, but it is clear he has not equalised.}
axb5 $6 {1230 A clear inaccuracy. Black had a better option here.} (17... Bd5 {
is the right move, inviting white to resolve the tension. After} 18. bxc6 bxc6
19. Qc2 Bxe4 20. Rxe4 Qd5 21. Ba3 $14 {White has the better chances, as he has
free development.}) 18. axb5 {19} Bd5 {7} 19. Bxd5 {6} Qxd5 {361} 20. bxc6 {9}
bxc6 {1060 Now is the time to take a real good look at the position. White has
an IQP, and black has an open d-file to take aim at it. He has 2 pieces
staring at it already, and can add more fire. But, his trumps stop there.
White has control over 2 open files, freer development, and of course, he is
to move in this position. One can argue all he wants about c6 being as weak as
d4, but now Hari shows otherwise, as the c6 weakness is easier to target.} 21.
Ra6 {6} Qb5 {94} 22. Qe2 {6} Rfb8 {221} 23. Qxb5 {2009} cxb5 $16 {15 Again,
lets take stock. After the queen exchange, it is made clear that black is
suffering here. His b-pawn can easily be blockaded, his rook on a8 is
temporarily dead, and he doesn't own an open file. All these factors are
exploited by white, as he now claims a tangible advantage.} 24. Bd2 {7} Bb6 {77
} 25. Rxa8 {5} Rxa8 {2} 26. Rb1 {7 Now it is made clear. Black has to lose a
pawn.} Bc7 {876 There was another move I'm sure Jakovenko considered.} (26...
f6 {with the idea to bring the king to the center, in order to blockade the
d-pawn, is a slightly better plan. After} 27. Rxb5 Ra1+ 28. Kh2 Ra6 29. g3 Ne7
30. Be3 Kf7 $16 {Black is not dead yet.}) 27. Rxb5 {5} Ra1+ {8} 28. Ne1 {84}
Rd1 {213} 29. Rb2 {84} Nf4 {501} 30. Kf1 {387} Kf8 {181} 31. Rc2 {292} Bd6 {7}
32. g3 {50} Nd5 {24} 33. Ke2 {107 White has slowly unravelled his position,
and now Black must suffer.} Ra1 {2} 34. Rb2 {306} Ke7 {34} 35. Nc2 {41} Ra4 {22
} 36. Kd3 {56} Ke6 {104} 37. Rb5 {118} g6 {396} 38. Ne3 {215} Ra3+ {6} 39. Ke2
{24} Nxe3 {38} 40. Bxe3 {0} Ra2+ {205} 41. Kf3 {232} h5 {831} 42. Ke4 $6 {
182 An inaccuracy. There was a better move here.} (42. d5+ Kd7 43. Rb7+ Ke8 44.
Ra7 Rb2 45. Ra4 h4 46. Rxh4 $18 {And white can start thinking about different
ways in which he can win in this position.}) 42... Ra4 {431 Jakovenko plays a
good move, but it is not the best move in this position.} (42... f5+ {was more
accurate, and after} 43. Kf3 Ra3 44. h4 Ke7 45. Kg2 Rd3 46. Rb2 Ke6 $16 {
White is still better, but Black has reasonable chances to draw this position.}
) 43. g4 {77} hxg4 {4} 44. hxg4 {4} Bc7 {476} 45. f4 {134} Ra1 {177} 46. Bd2 {
607} (46. f5+ gxf5+ 47. gxf5+ Ke7 48. Rc5 Bd6 49. Rc1 Rxc1 50. Bxc1 $16 {
and white can keep trying to win here. This was another option.}) 46... Ra2 {
131} 47. Be3 {532} Ra1 {12} 48. g5 {54 Hari is playing a waiting game here. He
is forcing black into a cocoon, and hopes he will blunder soon.} Kd7 {281} 49.
Rb7 {338} Kc6 50. Rb2 {17} Ra4 {290} 51. Rb1 {469} Kd7 {21} 52. f5 {267} gxf5+
{9} 53. Kxf5 {6} Ra5+ {78} 54. Ke4 {26} Ra4 {231} 55. Rf1 {166} Ke7 {12} 56.
Bd2 {62} Ra2 {118} 57. Kd3 {134} Bd6 {64} 58. Bc3 {129} Rg2 {75} 59. d5 $6 {
380 The past few moves have good, but Hari messes up here. He had a much
better option.} (59. Bd2 Rg3+ 60. Be3 Rg2 61. Ke4 Ra2 62. Rf2 Ra1 63. Rb2 $16 {
and white keeps trying. Black has to suffer for a long time here.}) 59... Rg4 {
27} 60. Bf6+ {0} Kd7 {3} 61. Ra1 {464} Bc5 {40} 62. Ra6 Rg1 {123 Now all Hari
has to show here is a small plus due to an extra pawn. Jakovenko defends well
here, and prolongs the fight.} 63. Rc6 {240} Ba3 {376} 64. Rb6 {390} Bc1 {97}
65. Rb1 {236} Rg3+ {62} 66. Ke4 {4} Bxg5 {66} 67. Be5 {5} Re3+ {89} 68. Kd4 {8}
Rf3 {73} 69. Ke4 {87} Re3+ {70} 70. Kf5 {8} Be7 {20} 71. Rb7+ {33} Ke8 {7} 72.
d6 {14} Bxd6 $1 {6 An excellent move by Jakovenko. By liquidating to a R+B vs
R endgame, where white has no pawns remaining, he correctly assesses that he
can draw by showing some good endgame technique.} 73. Bxd6 {5} Re1 {116} 74.
Bf4 {85} Re7 {36} 75. Rb8+ {29} Kd7 {4} 76. Kf6 {18} Re1 {6} 77. Kxf7 {104} Kc6
{3 Hari can try all he wants here, but this is a theoretically drawn endgame,
and it is just a matter of the 50 move rule now.} 78. Kf6 {11} Kd5 {54} 79. Kf5
{32} Re7 {59} 80. Rd8+ {6} Kc6 {8} 81. Rd6+ {19} Kc5 {4} 82. Be5 {8} Rh7 {14}
83. Rd1 {17} Rh6 {44} 84. Ke4 {11} Rh4+ {34} 85. Bf4 {12} Kc4 {8} 86. Rc1+ {6}
Kb4 {3} 87. Ke5 {15} Kb3 {8} 88. Rc8 {40} Rg4 {5} 89. Be3 {46} Rc4 {3} 90. Rd8
{27} Kc3 {17} 91. Bd4+ {15} Kd3 {57} 92. Ra8 {7} Rc6 {51} 93. Kd5 {19} Rg6 {17}
94. Ra3+ {6} Ke2 {3} 95. Kc4 {75} Rc6+ {13} 96. Bc5 Re6 97. Kd4 {18} Re8 {14}
98. Ra2+ {67} Kf3 {5} 99. Kd3 {12} Re5 {18} 100. Bd4 {25} Rf5 {6} 101. Ra1 {30}
Kf4 {21} 102. Re1 {5} Kf3 {46} 103. Be5 {38} Kf2 {10} 104. Re2+ $1 {13} Kf3 {11
} 105. Re3+ {3} Kf2 {24} 106. Bg3+ {16} Kg2 {16} 107. Ke4 {219} Rf8 {23} 108.
Be5 {10} Kf2 {5} 109. Ra3 {46} Re8 {8} 110. Ra2+ {19} Ke1 {4} 111. Rb2 {41} Re7
{8} 112. Kd4 {30} Kf1 {5} 113. Bf4 {9} Re2 {3} 114. Rb3 {8} Kf2 {9} 115. Be3+ {
54} Kf3 {5 and the players call it a draw. A very good defensive effort by
Jakovenko, who never let the evaluation change much, and took his chances. As
for Hari, he tried his best, but could not break the Russian's defense. He
ends the tournament on +1, and I am sure his performances will improve in
coming tournaments.} 1/2-1/2

With this draw Harikrishna has finished in joint third place. But since this was a seven way tie, he could only gain 60 Grand Prix points. This means the he is out of the run for the first two places in the overall Grand Prix. Hari had scored 20 points in the Moscow leg, and in Geneva, he added 60, bringing his total to 80 points. The current top two, Mamedyarov and Grischuk, have scored 340 and 336 points respectively. Although they have finished their share of three tournaments in the Grand Prix while Harikrishna has another event to play, it is not mathematically possible for Hari to surpass this score. Even if he lifts the champion’s trophy in Palma De Mallorca (the next venue of the Grand Prix), he will only gain 170 points, bringing his total GP score to 250. The only three players who have a chance to surpass the scores of the leaders are Radjabov, Vachier-Lagrave and Ding Liren.

While this might not have been the best result in terms of qualification for the Candidates tournament for Hari, his overall performance was applaudable.  As for the qualification for the Candidates tournament, he will have another go at it at the Chess World Cup which is to be held in Tbilisi, Georgia in September this year.

Special thanks to our contributor Tanmay Srinath for sending in an insightful analysis of Harikrishna's game.

Also on ChessBase India

Geneva Grand Prix Round 1 & 2: Hari off to a great start!

Geneva Grand Prix Round 3: Hari misses a big chance against Mamedyarov

Geneva Grand Prix Round 4: Hari maintains his second spot; holds Radjabov to a draw

Geneva Grand Prix Round 5: Grischuk joins Radjabov in the lead; Hari draws Nepomniachtchi

Geneva Grand Prix Round 6: Harikrishna stuns Levon Aronian! 

Geneva Grand Prix Round 7: Radjabov overtakes Hari and Grischuk to take sole lead

Geneva Grand Prix Round 8: Harikrishna’s chances to win the Geneva GP evanesce

Coverage on Firstpost

Firstpost and ChessBase India have collaborated to bring you extensive and detailed coverage of the chess scene in India and internationally.


The Geneva Grand Prix 2017 has been covered extensively by Aditya Pai for both ChessBase India and Firstpost.



Geneva FIDE Grand Prix: P Harikrishna beats Alexander Riazantsev after 84-move grind in round one 

Geneva Grand Prix Round 2: Mamedyarov wins in just 20 moves; Michael Adams holds Harikrishna to a draw

Geneva Grand Prix, Round 3: P Harikrishna fails to capitalise on Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s errors in drawn game

Geneva Grand Prix, Round 4: P Harikrishna stays second after 20-move draw against Teimur Radjabov

Geneva Grand Prix, Round 5: P Harikrishna draws vs Ian Nepomniachtchi; Alexander Grischuk joint top

Geneva FIDE Grand Prix: P Harikrishna cutting Levon Aronian to size the highlight of round six

Geneva Grand Prix: P Harikrishna knocked off top perch after modest show against Alexander Grischuk

Geneva Grand Prix: P Harikrishna faltered at key moments against Li Chao to get knocked out of title race

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