Daniil Dubov, Vidit and David Navara all came back from two points behind to reach the semi-finals of the Mr Dodgy Invitational, with Baadur Jobava winning the final five games in a row as he danced to another victory, this time against David Navara. Only the defending champion Anish Giri never fell behind as he cruised to a 6.5:2.5 victory over Nils Grandelius to set up a semi-final against Dubov. He also joined the commentary team.
You can rewatch the commentary on Day 3 of the Mr Dodgy Invitational (check out all the games with computer analysis here) below, with Jan Gustafsson and Mr Dodgy joined first by Laurent Fressinet and then Anish Giri.
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Giri marches on
Anish Giri won the final two games of the 2020 Mr Dodgy Invitational, then all seven against Pepe Cuenca in Round 1 this year, so that his win in the first game of the quarterfinal against Nils Grandelius made it a 10-game winning streak.
The conversion there was a bit shaky – in the end Anish won on time – and it seemed we might get a real match when Nils ended the winning streak in the next game.
20.Nd5! was a winning move, though after 20…Qb7 the Swedish no. 1 should objectively have gone for 21.Nxf6+ and a direct kingside assault. Instead he picked up a central pawn with 21.Nxe7!? Qxe7 22.Qxe5, but the way the game went after that validated his choice.
In the very next game, however, it was Anish who landed a winning blow with a knight on d5, before opening up a 2-point lead with a hammer blow in Game 4. 25.Kh1? showed that Nils was aware of the danger, but the king move in fact walked into 25…Rxg2!
The attack ran like clockwork – 26.Kxg2 Qg4+ 27.Kh1 Bxf3+ 28.Rxf3 Qxf3+, and by the end of the game Anish had picked up four pawns for the bishop, while all the time threatening a mating attack on the white king.
It would get worse for Nils, with Giri’s wins in Games 6 and 7 opening up a 4-point lead and effectively ending the match as a contest. Nils delayed the finish with a win in Game 8, but when he missed his chance in Game 9 Anish took over.
After 41.Qxe8! Qxe8 42.d7 Black wouldn’t have been able to stop the d-pawn queening, but 41.Qd5 Qxd5 42.cxd5! (42.Rxd5? Bf4! and Nils would scent blood) got the job done. Both sides queened a pawn that cost their opponent a rook, before Anish won the game and match on time, with almost two minutes left on his clock.
Dubov hits back
Anish Giri’s opponent in the semi-finals will be Daniil Dubov, who overcame his fellow Magnus Carlsen second Laurent Fressinet. Dubov swapping a hookah bar for his hotel room suggested he was taking things seriously, but he still found himself two points down before he turned things around.
It could even have been worse, since Laurent would have been close to winning in the first game as well if he’d found 16…f5!, when 17.Qe3? would lose to 17…g5, while otherwise the d4-pawn drops. The watching Anish Giri felt it was a good sign for French hopes that Laurent didn’t consider the move!
Laurent won the next game, and then the fourth, which, as Anish noted, was the last time Dubov allowed himself the luxury of anything as extravagant as 1…a6!? (in reply to 1.Nf3).
From then on Dubov took over and could have won four games in a row if he’d spotted a trick after 19.Nb1?
Laurent’s move temporarily left the a1-bishop undefended, so that 19…Ng4!, hitting the queen and unleashing the g7-bishop, would simply win the piece – the kind of tactic we’re vastly more used to seeing with a rook on a1.
No great harm was done, as scoring 3.5/4 gave Dubov a 1-point lead, which he maintained until what became the final game. It was six games since Laurent had won, but he had a fleeting chance to win on the spot and level the scores at 5.5:5.5.
31…Nc4!, with a double attack from the knight on the e3-rook and the queen on the c5-knight, would have given Black a decisive advantage – 32.Qxf5 Rxf5 doesn’t help, as the two pieces are attacked again.
Instead 31…Qxc2? 32.Rxc2 Nc4 just allowed 33.Rxe6 and White was slightly better, though Dubov in any case won the game and match on time.
Vidit squeezes past Howell
The most fiercely fought match of the day was between Indian Olympiad captain Vidit and English Grandmaster and Meltwater Champions Chess Tour commentator David Howell. Once again, it was the (slight) underdog who took a 2-point lead, before things turned around.
It could have been a 3-point lead, but David lost his way in a wild position with only 13 seconds left on his clock.
35…Bd6! would have picked up the white queen with a winning advantage. Howell’s 35…Bxd7?! was still winning, but Vidit took over in complications and would have won on the clock if David hadn’t resigned first.
The Englishman restored a 2-point lead in Game 5, but Vidit levelled the scores with wins in the next two games. Game 7 was painful.
Both players were down to 5 seconds and the advantage Vidit had nurtured for most of the game had gone. 42…Qxf1+ and Black would be on top, but David managed to mouse-slip away his queen with 42…Qxf2+?? before going on to lose on time.
Vidit went on to win another two games and take a 6:4 lead, meaning he only needed a draw to clinch the match. David wasn’t done fighting, however, and pulled off a nice swindle in the penultimate blitz game.
Vidit understandably assumed 63…Kxf4 would follow here and premoved Rb8, but David instead played 63…Kf3! and after 64.Rb8?? Ra1+ Vidit resigned, as it was mate next move.
At 6:5 to Vidit, David now had to win on demand with the white pieces to force Armageddon. That looked a very possible outcome after the opening, but David couldn’t find a way to up the pressure and when he blundered an exchange it was all over.
Jobava keeps on rocking
David Navara began just like David Howell. After a draw in the first game he won the next two convincingly, and was a whisker away from taking a +3 lead in the next game after Baadur Jobava blundered in a winning position.
Here 30…Rxg3! 31.fxg3 Nxf1+ is completely winning, with Black able to pick up the undefended white bishops on a2 and a3, depending how White reacts. Instead David played what looked like an even more convincing move order: 30…Nxf1+? 31.Qxf1 Rxg3
Navara would be completely winning, if not for 32.Bc1! and suddenly White was right back in the game and, a few moves later, winning himself. Giri had also missed that trick.
Navara hit back again in the next game to lead 3.5:1.5, but then suddenly Jobava won the next five games in a row to clinch the match. It was a combination of factors, with one of them simply the fact that Baadur was playing very well. Anish Giri praised the classical, positional chess as the Georgian no. 1 won an impressive 6th game, while in the next Baadur spotted some nice geometry.
26.Ng6+! was winning for Navara, but 26.Qe3? was suddenly losing.
The point was 26…Bxf4! 27.Qxf4 Rxe7! 28.Rxe7 Qg6! and the double threat of mate on g2 and taking the rook on b1 wins the game.
That game levelled the scores, before Baadur took the lead in the next, but there was a huge chance for David to restore parity in Game 9.
David was down to 5 seconds, but 40.Qh5# here is actually mate-in-1. 40.Qhh7+ followed instead, and 8 moves later David lost on time with the black king having staggered all the way to a5. Once again, it was mate-in-1.
David shrugged off that disaster to gain a winning position in Game 10 as well, but he was spooked by 21.Rxh7.
David was smiling to himself here and probably felt he would be losing after 21…Kxh7! 22.Rh1+ Kg8 23.Qxg6, but in fact Black wins with a king hunt after the only move 23…Nd2+!
Instead, after 40 seconds, David decided to cover g6 with 21…Rf6? but after 22.Rh8+ Kxg7 23.Rxa8 Black’s advantage had gone. There was a tricky way for David to save the game and prolong the match, but he didn’t find it, and the Jobava celebrations began – though to be honest, they’d been going on all game!
It’s Vidit who faces Jobava next in Saturday’s semi-finals, while the other match-up is Giri-Dubov. The matches are staggered so we’ll be able to give them full focus.
Needless to say, we’ll have commentary with Jan Gustafsson and guests LIVE here on chess24 from 16:00 CEST onwards.