The Candidates suspense continues. Wei Yi meets Ian Nepomniachtchi in the final of the Jerusalem Grand Prix. The 20-year-old Chinese GM defeated David Navara in tiebreaks while Nepo beat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the other semi-final. Earlier, Wei beat Sergei Karjakin while Nepo beat Wesley So.
The two best performers in the four-event Grand Prix get entries to the Candidates. One slot has been booked by Alexander Grischuk. If Wei wins, Vachier-Lagrave gets the other slot. If Nepo wins, he gets it. But he also gets a second chance by right of birth. If he loses to Wei, Nepo would play a match with Kirill Alekseenko for a wild card entry from the host Russian Federation.
Wei is a prodigy who hasn’t quite lived up to his promise as the youngest player to cross 2700. This could be his breakthrough tournament. China already has two Candidates in Wang Hao and Ding Liren. Unfortunately Wei’s surge came too late for a decent GP placement.
In Majitar, Sikkim, another 20-year-old, Aravindh Chithambaram defended his title as national champion. He won with 9.5 from 11 rounds while G Akash and S Ravi Teja (both 8.5) finished second-third. Akash made a GM norm in the 11-round Swiss (186 players including 18 GMs).
The Women’s Grand Prix in Monaco ended in a three-way tie. Alexandra Kosteniuk, Koneru Humpy and Alexandra Goryachkina (all 7/11) were just ahead of Kateryna Lagno (6.5) while Dronavalli Harika (5.5) faded after a good start. Goryachkina led until Humpy beat her in the last round. Humpy had suffered defeat against Elisabeth Paehtz and Kosteniuk beat Paehtz in the last round.
Humpy (293 P points) leads in overall standings after two GP events while Goryachkina (253) is running second. The overall winner has a Candidates slot. As challenger, Goryachkina is guaranteed this, if she loses her upcoming title match.
The Diagram, White to Play (White: Wei Yi Vs Black: Sergey Karjakin Jerusalem GP, 2019) features superb efforts by both players. Wei took 35 minutes here to play 13. Nh6+! gxh6 14. Qg4+ Kh8 15. Qf5 Nf6! Forced so far for both sides.
Now white played 16. Nxd5! Nxd4! Great move from “The Minister of Defence”. White is forced to take his material back with 17. Qxf6+ Qxf6 18. Nxf6. Black’s knight hangs and 18.—Ne6 19. Bc3 is plain horrible.
But Karjakin found 18 — Nf3+! 19. gxf3 Rg8+! [ If 20. Nxg8? Rxg8+ 21. Kh1 Bxf3#] 20. Ng4 [Now black can get his material back any time, after he prevents Bc3] Be5 21. Be2 Bxb2 22. Rxc5! bxc5 23. Rb1 Bg7 24. Rxb7 h5 [The knight is still trapped but white has the strong 25.Bc4] He played 25. Rxf7?! hxg4 26. fg4 Rgf8 and (1/2-1/2, 40 moves).