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25 May

Who’ll Take The Flag?

You only have to look at the F1 finish in Monaco at the weekend to see that Grands Prix can often lead to a dramatic ending - and likewise in Khanty-Mansisyk in Siberia, the final round, like the final lap in Monaco, could be just as dramatic with three players, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Dmitry Jakovenko all in the joint lead - and the latter two set to do battle for a winner-takes-all qualifying spot into the 2016 Candidates’ cycle.

FM7

With Caruana and Nakamura drawing in their penultimate round match-up, the Russian former World Junior Champion, Dmitry Jakovenko made hay by ending any outside chances Sergey Karjakin had of taking a FIDE Grand Prix qualifying spot, as he finally ground down his countryman to move dramatically himself into contention for the second GP spot with a late surge.

The current standings in the GP (with round 10 results factored in) sees Caruana all but certain of taking one of the spots, as he leads with 370-points. In second place is Nakamura (347) - but only 37 points behind, there now lurks the late-surging Jakovenko. While Caruana faces Anish Giri in Tuesday’s final round, all eyes will be on the Nakamura-Jakovenko clash, with the Russian needing to win to overtake the US champion. A draw will see Nakamura joining Caruana (who recently switched federations) for the US duo taking the two Candidates’ qualifying spots.

Round 10 Standings: 1-3. Hikaru Nakamura (USA), Fabiano Caruana (Italy/USA), Dmitry Jakovenko (Russia), 6/10; 4-5. Leinier Dominguez (Cuba), Boris Gelfand (Israel), 5.5; 6-8. Segey Karjakin (Russia), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Alexander Grischuk (Russia), 5; 9-10. Peter Svidler (Russia), Evgeny Tomashevsky (Russia), 4.5; 11. Baadur Jobava (Georgia), 4; 12. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), 3.

Dmitry Jakovenko - Sergey Karjakin
Khanty-Mansisyk FIDE Grand Prix, (10)
Semi-Slav Defence, Anti-Meran
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 The 6.Qc2 Anti-Meran - once a sideline, has exploded in popularity, in large part due to ex-world champion Anatoly Karpov's advocacy during the 1990s - has grown into a reliable weapon of choice against the rock-solid Semi-Slav Defence. 6...Bd6 7.Bd3 0-0 8.0-0 dxc4 9.Bxc4 a6 Another option is going for an ...e5 break - but Karjakin opts for the queenside break. 10.Rd1 b5 11.Bd3 Qc7 12.Bd2 c5 13.Ne4 c4 14.Nxd6 Qxd6 15.Be2 Bb7 16.b3 White has to start breaking down the queenside pawns. If he leaves it too late, Black's pieces could well overrun him. 16...Rfc8 17.Qb2 Rab8 18.Rac1 h6 19.Ne5! Nicely timed - now the forced liquidation favours White. 19...cxb3 20.axb3 Rxc1 21.Rxc1 Nxe5 The further exchange of rooks down the c-file leaves White with a strong bishop-pair: 21...Rc8 22.Rxc8+ Bxc8 23.Bf3 with a nice advantage; Black has difficulties here finding active squares for his pieces. 22.dxe5 Qd5 23.f3 Ng4 Though it looks speculative, retreating the knight allows Bb4! with much the same as what happens in the game. 24.Bb4! This blows Black apart and wins material. 24...Rd8 The alternatives, 24...Nxe5 25.e4 and 24...Qxe5?? 25.Qxe5 Nxe5 26.Bd6, would have lost quickly - at least with the text, Karjakin can attempt to fight on, although he has no realistic chances of salvaging a draw. 25.Bd6 Nxe3 26.Rc5 Rxd6 27.Rxd5 Rxd5 28.Qc3 Nf5 29.Kf2 The dust has settled, and although Black has material parity, the White queen is more powerful and takes full advantage of the lack of unity between the Black pieces. 29...Rd7 30.g4 Ne7 31.f4 g6 32.h4 Kg7 33.Bd3 Nc6 Seeking the d5 outpost for the knight has its drawbacks: 33...Nd5 34.Qd4! with f5 to come. 34.Be4 Ne7 35.Bd3 Nc6 36.f5! (See Diagram) 36…b4 37.f6+ Kg8 38.Qc1! Much stronger than 38.Qc2. 38...Nxe5 39.Be2 Nd3+ Not 39...Kh7? 40.Qc5! and Black can't stop Qf8 mating without a further loss of material. 40.Bxd3 Rxd3 41.Ke2 Rf3 42.g5 In reality, the game is all over bar the shouting - all White has to do is to find his way through to taking advantage of the entombed Black king. 42...Rc3 43.Qf4 Rc8 44.Qd6 More clinical was the further breakthrough with 44.h5!  44...Be4 45.gxh6 g5 46.Qxb4 Bf5 47.hxg5 Kh7 48.Qb7 Rc2+ 49.Kd1 Bg6 50.b4! Depriving Black of the c5-square for his rook to attack g5; and the queen also covers g2. Now it takes too long to try to capture the g5 pawn that locks in the Black king - if he could take on g5, h6 and f6 will follow, and Black can sacrifice the bishop for the b-pawn with good chances of setting up a fortress position with his rook, king and pawns. 50...Rc4 51.Qe7 Bh5+ 52.Ke1 Re4+ 53.Kf2 Rg4 54.Qc5 Rf4+ As stated previously, the g5-pawn is the key - if somehow Black can safely take it, he has drawing chances. However... 54...Kg6 55.Qc2+ Kxg5 56.h7 queens the pawn. 55.Kg3 Rf5 56.Qe3 Bg6 57.Kh4 Rd5 58.Qb6 Bf5 59.Kg3 Kg6 60.Qa7 Rd3+ Now, if 60...Kxg5 61.Qxf7 and the f-pawn passes. 61.Kf4 Rh3 62.Ke5 Rh4 63.Qe7 Rh5 64.Qf8 Rxg5 1-0 Black resigned, as 65.Kd6 Kxf6 66.Qd8+ Kg6 67.h7 Rh5 68.Qg8+ wins the rook.

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