Tashkent GP 2014 – Rounds 10-11

The final two rounds in Tashkent saw Andreikin emerge as the sole winner of the tournament by making two draws. An incredible result and I doubt it somebody considered Andreikin a probable winner after his dismal result in Baku.

These tournaments are extremely solid affairs and perhaps Andreikin’s -2 in Baku tempted his opponents to come aggressively at him – in the first round he was lucky to win a rook endgame a pawn down against Mamedyarov, then he won in his trademark attacking/messy style against Karjakin and then collected a point thanks to Jobava’s unreasonable musketeering. Otherwise being tough to beat, he used his chances to the maximum and emerged victorious. Undoubtedly a surprise, at least for me, but a result fully deserved and one that introduces him as one of the favourites in this Grand Prix series.

Andreikin did show some nerves in his last round game against Giri. After playing solidly in the opening he suddenly found himself staring at an IQP and facing worse position. Then his defensive instincts kicked in and he confidently saved the draw he needed.

From the 10th round events probably the most interesting was the press conference after the game Giri-Jobava. For the first time we saw direct insults and mocking between the players. I’m not sure we need more of this, but it certainly makes the press conferences more lively! One thing is obvious though – the tournament clearly benefited from the inclusion of Jobava!

And speaking of Jobava, he played another exciting game in the last round against Mamedyarov. In a line in the Benoni, considered to be refuted, Mamedyarov introduced a novelty and both players continued to play the first choices of the engine. To do so in such a complicated position is unbelievable, but not unattainable – just take a look at the game Mamedyarov-Karjakin from round 8. After a sub-optimal choice on move 22, the game conveniently ends in a perpetual practically by force on move 37.

Speaking of convenience, it is certainly so when you get to play your second in the last round when he has no ambition left, lingering at the bottom, while with a win you get among the players with +1, keeping your chances alive in the Grand Prix series. By the strangest coincidence the pair Karjakin-Kasimdzhanov fits my description perfectly. The player busted the second in a most convincing fashion. Here’s the game with short notes.

As I predicted, Jakovenko didn’t pull a Tomashevsky in this tournament, finishing on -2.His play in today’s game against Caruana was simply atrocious. I’m sure he would have tortured someone with 100 Elo points less than him in the position he got after the opening, but when he played Caruana, 100 Elo points more than him, he was unrecongnizable. The following one-move blunder speaks volumes of his psychological condition:

This tournament, more than Baku, convinced me that Caruana is by far the most serious contender in this World Championship cycle. Having great (winning in Baku) and decent (+1, shared 4th, in Tashkent) results while playing very far from your best is an ability only Carlsen has managed to display. And that rarest ability is the mark of world-beaters.

Of the rest of the players, the inconspicuous Nakamura, the exciting Mamedyarov and my favourite Karjakin are the players who kept their chances alive in the Grand Prix after the second tournament in the series. Together with Gelfand (in spite of his horrible result here) and Andreikin they are the probable candidates to qualify for the next Candidates. Anything is possible, especially if you take into consideration that some players may qualify based on rating (like Caruana for example) while others may get a wild-card (Karjakin, who else!)

Top level chess continues without a break with the long-awaited World Championship match and the Petrosian Memorial (Aronian, Grischuk, Kramnik) starting in a few days. No rest for the weary!

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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