Another thrilling round ended in Geneva on Sunday evening. Although seven out of the nine games in Round 3 were drawn, the players fought hard and even took gambles in their quest for victory. The most tumultuous game of the round was the one between the Indian number two, P Harikrishna and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
It was a complicated game and Harikrishna wasn’t too disappointed about missed opportunities.
The Indian grandmaster had the white pieces for the second time in a row, in round three. Across him sat the man who has recently surpassed the 2800-Elo mark recently — a feat only eleven players have been able to achieve in the history of the game.
Harikrishna opened with the king’s pawn, and steered the game into the placid waters of the Italian Opening yet again (he made a similar starting move against Michael Adams in the last round). After a slow build-up, he was able to establish a strong influence in the center. Mamedyarov tried to neutralise it by offering the trade of the light squared bishops. But the Indian ace dictated the terms, and tried to maintain his central influence by exchanging the bishops on the c4 square, rather than on e6 which Mamedyarov was hoping for.
As the game progressed, Mamedyarov, in his attempt to put pressure on Harikrishna’s centre, ended up with his knights in two corners of the board, giving Harikrishna the advantage. Mamedyarov knew that if he didn’t act, his opponent would show no mercy in steamrolling him. The Azeri, therefore, tried complicating matters by sacrificing a pawn. But this too backfired as Harikrishna obliged to his invitation into the dense woods of variations, and generated a strong attack on his king. The Azeri grandmaster was in the dire straits by now, and took desperate measures to save the game. On the 27th move, he offered a rook sacrifice, which was nothing but a bluff to confuse Harikrishna. Unfortunately, the Indian grandmaster fell for it, and failed to find the winning continuation. It seemed he was unaware of this until the very end of the game when his opponent told him about it.
Even after Harikrishna failed to find the right continuation, he had a slight edge in the position. But Mamedyarov had been able to exchange a pair of rooks and stabilised his king position. More importantly, there was the worry of the ticking clock to deal with. With Harikrishna having only a couple of minutes in hand for six moves, the Azeri number one sought the opportunity to offer a draw, which the former accepted.
The two games that ended decisively were Pavel Eljanov vs Ian Nepomniachtchi and Richard Rapport vs Dmitry Jakovenko. In the first one, Eljanov went for the Opocensky variation to counter his opponent’s Sicilian Najdorf. The game soon got intense as players castled on opposite wings. At one point, it looked like Nepomiachtchi would be the first to break through to his opponent’s king. But the Ukrainian slyly deluded his opponent into going for a seemingly promising pawn break, and stationed his bishop on the longest diagonal of the board. From its post, the bishop performed both offensive and defensive duties. He then sacrificed an exchange to maintain this bishop and later advanced his queen’s pawn with decisive effect.
Jakovenko essayed the Nimzo-Indian Defence to counter Rapport’s queen-pawn advance on the first move. In the middle-game, Rapport seemed to have attacking prospects on the king side, but the Russian grandmaster shut it down by exchanging his light-squared bishop for Rapport’s knight, which could have been instrumental in orchestrating the attack. The Hungarian youngster kept attacking, but Jakovenko was able to defend successfully, and exchange into an endgame with an extra pawn. The game was still within the realms of a draw, but Jakovenko coordinated his knight and rook brilliantly to catch Rapport’s king in a mating net.
“Yesterday, I played the longest game and today I played the shortest. I think that is fair”, said Grischuk after his 13-move draw against Adams.
In the other games, tournament leader Teimur Radjabov played enterprisingly against Levon Aronian throwing his kingside pawns forward in a Catalan Defence game. The game took a sharp turn in its initial stages, but eventually fizzled into a draw. Adams drew against Alexander Grishchuk in just 13 moves. The highest-rated woman player in the world, Hou Yifan, tried hard, but had to settle for a draw in the end against Ernesto Inarkiev. Salem Saleh scored his first points with a draw against Alexander Riazantsev. Do refer to the table below for the full results of round three.
After three rounds, Teimur Radjabov has been able to maintain his half-point lead over the rest of the field with 2.5/3. Harikrishna along with Aronian, Eljanov, Adams, Mamedyarov and Grischuk is on the second spot with 2.0/3. Giri, Svidler, Jakovenko, Gelfand and Li Chao share the third place having scored 1.5/3. With one loss each, Hou Yifan, Nepomniachtchi, Riazantsev, and Inarkiev share fourth place with a score of 1.0/3. After his second lost in a row, Richard Rapport joined Salem Saleh at the bottom of the leaderboard with 0.5/3.
Aditya Pai is an Editor for ChessBase India
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Updated Date: Jul 10, 2017 20:17:20 IST