MDI 2: It’s a Jobava-Giri dance-off!

Defending Champion Anish Giri came through his toughest test yet to beat Daniil Dubov 7:5 and reach the final of the 2nd edition of the Mr Dodgy Invitational. His opponent will be Baadur Jobava, who danced a little less as he was pushed all the way by Vidit in a match full off dramatic twists, including Vidit deciding to play for a win on time only to get mated on the very next move. Anish is planning to counter Baadur with some Russian rap when the final match starts at 18:00 CEST on Sunday.

You can replay all the games from the Mr Dodgy Invitational 2.0 using the selector below.

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Jan Gustafsson, Lawrence Trent, Mr Dodgy and Peter Svidler, who joined for the second match.

During the Mr Dodgy Invitational there’s 40% off chess24 Premium membership with the voucher code DODGY.

Giri powers on

We expected a heated battle in the semi-final between Anish Giri and Daniil Dubov and were in no way disappointed, with the blow and counter-blow starting from the very first game.

Our commentators had barely begun to interrogate Lawrence about his grandmaster dreams before 29.Bb2! was winning for Anish.

After the black queen’s only move 29…Qb4 Giri would likely have won with 30.Rxg8 Kxg8 31.Qg4+, but he found the even stronger 30.Qh5!, threatening Qf7+ and a quick mate. Only giving up the black queen would delay the inevitable, so Daniil resigned.

Daniil shrugged that off to get a great position against the Najdorf in Game 2. Giri’s 17…Bxh3? would have solved his problems, if he hadn’t missed one of those long backwards queen moves that are so easy to overlook. 18.Qh2! was simply winning the bishop and the game.

Dubov took the lead in the next game when Giri grabbed another pawn, this time on e6.

37…Re7! wasn’t as obviously winning as in the previous game, but after 38.Qh3 Rbe8 it turned out Black’s control of the e-file was the last piece of the attacking jigsaw. Combined with all the other black pieces targeting the white king, it left no defence.

Giri was behind for the first time ever in the Mr Dodgy Invitational – and that includes 2020! – but he was behind for just one game. Dubov lost his way in a tricky endgame and could have resigned long before he did on move 75, since the post-pandemic Giri is not someone you can easily flag. 

Anish should immediately have regained the lead in the next game, but he squandered an overwhelming advantage in the middlegame and even missed a chance to gain a clearly winning advantage in the endgame.

42.Ne7+! is the move, when 42…Rxe7 loses the b3-rook, 42…Kf8 runs into 43.Nxg6+ and 42…Kh7 loses the pawn on f7. Instead, after 42.Ne3, Dubov played fast and well to hold a draw in 85 moves.

Once again, however, Anish didn’t let that setback affect him as he outplayed Daniil in a rare 9.Rb1 line of the Grünfeld that the Russian had played a couple of times before. The next game was even more of an opening disaster for Dubov, whose 10…Be6? (10…Bf5!) missed a crucial detail and ran into 11.Nxg5!

Play continued 11…fxg5 12.Qxh5+ Bf7 13.Qxg5 Be7 14.Qg7! and White was winning. If Dubov had played 10…Bf5! and 12…Bg6 the queen would have had no access to g7 and Black is better (though 11.g4 is no walk in the park in that line).

Giri went on to pick up as many as six pawns for a piece, and though at some points in what followed the computer was declaring equality, it was no surprise when Anish broke through to take a 2-point lead. 

Had Dubov’s resistance been broken? No! He hit back to win a tricky rook ending in the next game and was the player pressing in a 92-move draw in Game 9. Perhaps the turning point of the match was Game 10, when Giri went for a risky exchange sacrifice. If Daniil had found the correct continuation later on he would have levelled the scores, but instead Anish was able to pose devilish problems with 37…Bf5!

The immediate threat is Ne4+, forking the rooks, and it turns out there’s no good way for White to untangle himself. Play continued 38.Rc7 Bh3+ 39.Kf2 Ne4+ and Giri won back the exchange before the black bishops proved too hard to handle in a blitz game. 

Giri now needed just a draw with the white pieces to clinch the match, but he blundered a pawn in a tricky position and went on to lose. Dubov could force the first Armageddon game of the Mr Dodgy Invitational (again, including 2020) if he won with White, and his position was promising… until it fell apart in the space of a couple of moves. After 25.Qxh5, Giri was able to take over.

25…Bf2+! 26.Kf1 Nh6! and the bishop can’t be touched as 27.Kxf2 runs into 27…fxg6+, winning the queen. After 27.Be4 Bxe1 it was essentially game over, with Daniil using the remaining time to come to terms with a painful defeat.

The second semi-final had a lot to live up to, but it was just as enthralling, with a much higher blunder count adding to the fun.

Jobava 6.5:4.5 Vidit

It was clear from the very first game that this match was going to be intense. Vidit blundered the exchange and looked set to go down without a fight, but after Dubov made two blunders in a row, 37…e5? 38.Be3 Bd6? Vidit was winning with 39.Qxd5!

If fortune was on Vidit’s side, the tables would be turned in the next game, when, after an intense battle, the Indian star decided not to repeat moves with 85…Ne5+ with a draw but to try to win on time with 85…a4?? It was arguably still a +ev move, but with a fraction of a second remaining Jobava was alert enough to give checkmate with 86.Ne7# The reaction of the players said it all!

The next game was perhaps even more painful for Vidit, since he won a queen and had an overwhelming position. Baadur fought on, however, and things were already getting tricky before 50.Qd4? ran into the killer move 50…Be3!

The bishop gives its life to ensure the d-pawn queens, and Jobava went on to take the lead in the match.

After the brief respite of a draw in Game 5, Vidit levelled the scores again with what would turn out to be the first of a sequence of six wins in a row for the white pieces. Both players scored some fine attacking and technical victories, with our commentary team on hand to provide deep analysis on every twist and turn.

The sequence of wins for White might have been broken in Game 9, when Jobava missed an open goal.

51…Rf1+! wins the rook on f6, but Baadur was already focused on his opponent’s clock as he played 51…Nd1+? Later the Georgian could have taken a draw at any point, but he kept trying to flag until he blundered a rook and the game!

Game 10 was largely dictated by Baadur as he regained the lead, but 28.Qd6+? Ka8 was a potentially match-losing blunder. He presumably spotted only now that his intended 29.Qxd5 loses the queen to 29…Ng4+, but 29.g4 was even worse.

29…Qh4+! 30.Kg1 Nxg4 31.Bxg4 Qxg4 is game over, since the rook on d1 is attacked and the d5-bishop survives. Instead after 29…Nxg4+? Baadur not only survived but ultimately managed to give checkmate in another wild time scramble.

Jobava was a win away from the final, and he snatched the chance when Vidit played 60.Bf4?

60…Kf5! attacked both the knight and bishop and simply won a piece, with Jobava this time giving checkmate on move 122. The dancing began.

So the highly prestigious Mr Dodgy Invitational comes down to a final between Anish Giri and Baadur Jobava, who will battle it out for a photo of Mr Dodgy on a horse.

It’s fair to say this will be their most intense clash since a draw in the 2014 Tashkent FIDE Grand Prix which went down in chess history for the post-game interview. Baadur Jobava at one point cracks:

If you continue rude I will say a few words with you and it’ll be over this press conference, so speak normally, ok… Not smile like an idiot! I’m not the guy who you can ironic, yeah. Speak normal. Show some respect to your opponent.

For more of the background, check out our article from back then: Jobava – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

That was a long time ago in a country far, far away, however, and this time round all the focus is going to be on Baadur Jobava’s dancing… or ideally, the dancing of both of the players!

Anish is clearly taking things very seriously!

It’s going to be fun, with Jan and MrDodgy back again to commentate! Who will join them? Find out from 18:00 CEST right here on chess24.

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