Added on 11/27/2017

This week I’ll have the story from the World Junior Championships.  But first, let’s wrap up the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix.

In a tightly packed field, Levon Aronian made his move early and coasted to a share of first place with 5.5/9.  Dmitry Jakovenko made his move late and joined him on that score.  

But the tournament winners were really a secondary story to the overall points race in the Grand Prix, which would determine the final two spots in the Candidates Tournament, which will ultimately provide one player a match for the world title with Magnus Carlsen.   Mamedyarov and Grischuk watched from the metaphorical clubhouse while their closest pursuers, Maxime Vachier Lagrave and Teimour Radjabov, tried to climb high enough in the crosstable to overtake them.

MVL saw his hopes dashed in the last round when his desperate attempts to break down Jakovenko’s defenses rebounded against him.  It was the Frenchman’s first loss and dropped him not only to the middle of the pack in the tournament but to 6th place in the overall standings.  In fairness, he hadn’t done much in Palma, but after coming so close to qualifying form the World Cup it’s a bitter pill for MVL. Check out the article about the line-up of the Candidates' Tournament.

Radjabov, on the other hand, had a whirlwind tournament where he nearly pulled off a miracle.  After absorbing a loss to Tomashevsky in the sixth round, Radjabov needed to run off three straight wins to make the Candidates.  He nearly made it!  First, he took care of Li Chao in round seven; then he showed his resourcefulness in the eighth round against Boris Gelfand.

But in the ninth round, he could make no headway against a suddenly solid Richard Rapport and conceded a draw fairly early.  So Mamedyarov and Grischuk get the two Grand Prix seeds for the Candidates.  They will join World Championship loser Karjakin, World Cup winners Aronian and Ding, Rating seeds Caruana and So, and Vladimir Kramnik as the organizer’s choice. I want to show the game between Eljanov and Hammer, which had little to do with the top places but had a cute finish that our viewers might relate to.

Norway has another World Champion, with Aryan Tari taking the tile on tiebreaks over Armenian Manuel Petrosyan and Indian Grandmaster Aravind at 8.5/11.

Tari scored one of his biggest wins over second seed Grigori Oparin in round 8 in a sharp but short struggle. 

The World Junior is chock full of 2500+ players, with even a few over the 2600 mark.  It’s easy to take these guys, who are to various degrees established grandmasters, for granted.  But then you consider the Indian wunderkind Praggnananddhaa, who was trying to win this title at the tender age of twelve.

He got pretty close to doing it too, finishing with an impressive 8 points.  Most of his wins were pretty technical; he seems perhaps inspired by Magnus Carlsen’s brand of chess, which is often not all that exciting.  He knocked off the tournament’s top seed, Lucas van Foreest, and American representative Awonder Liang (who faded to 7 points after a being in the thick of things for most of the tournament) in that kind of style.  But I want to show a game where he was forced to mix it up, and came out on top.

Praggnanandhaa notched his second GM norm and has a few months left to break the all-time record for youngest GM.

There was some good news in the Girls section where American Jennifer Yu snagged a bronze medal with 8/11.  Jennifer had a chance for gold if she could have defeated the leader Zhansaya Abdumalik of Kazakhstan in the last round.  Jennifer rightly turned down a draw but lost the game in the end.  Abdumalik, who earlier in the year showed a very strong finish in the World Open, won with 9.5/11.

Jennifer’s favorite game and I think mine too, came in round six over Zhu Jiner of China.


Download HERE the PGN file with Joel's annotations.

GM Joel Benjamin