Khanty-Mansiysk Round 6 Update

With such a closely contested battle underway for the top two spots in the final Grand Prix standings – the #2 spot in particular – every decisive result can have drastic consequences on the overall field’s position. Earlier this morning (I will remind my European and Asian readers that due to time zones, games in this event begin at 3 AM my time. All results therefore occur “in the morning” to me) the first two games to finish were the quick draw between Tomashevsky and Nakamura, and Karjakin’s victory over the struggling MVL. At that point I tweeted that “ignoring the unfinished games” Karjakin was now up to a 31% chance to finish in one of those two spots and qualify for the 2016 Candidates Tournament.

A significant portion of Karjakin’s 31% at that moment was due to the fact that he had temporarily tied Caruana for first place in the standings, providing increased chances that he might win the event outright. Now he doesn’t HAVE to win outright, or finish ahead of Caruana, in order to reach second place… but doing so would help, and the more likely he is to do so the higher his odds of a top two finish will be. And so it was that when Caruana wrapped up his own victory later in the morning, reclaiming sole possession of first place, Karjakin’s odds dropped severely. We now have his chances of earning a Candidates Tournament berth at only 21%.

Of course for chess fans, these drastic swings are wonderful news! It may be nerve wracking for the players: a possible opportunity to play for the world title is riding on every move. For us observers, though, free from the pressure, it certainly will make the final rounds at Khanty-Mansiysk extraordinarily fun to watch.

Here are the latest Grand Prix standings, with the Khanty-Mansiysk and CURRENT TOTAL scores static based on current standings, but with the “ODDS (CURRENT)” being their likelihood of finishing in the top two based on 25,000 simulations of the remaining rounds. Note that with just 5 rounds left in this final leg, we are for the first time sorting this table by current scores (as they would look if all remaining games were drawn), not by odds of a top two finish:

Player Live Rating Baku Tashkent Tbilisi Khanty-Mansiysk CURRENT TOTAL ODDS (PRE K-M) ODDS (CURRENT)
 Fabiano Caruana (ITA) 2812.8 155 75 170 400 71% 97.7%
 Evgeny Tomashevsky (RUS) 2745.1 82 170 40 292 52% 44.3%
 Sergey Karjakin (RUS) 2763.2 82 75 125 282 8% 21.0%
 Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 2795.1 82 125 70 277 49% 31.1%
 Boris Gelfand (ISR) 2745.1 155 15 70 240 7% 3.2%
 Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS) 2746.6 30 140 70 240 9% 2.5%
 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE) 2735.0 35 125 75 235 0% 0%
 Peter Svidler (RUS) 2749.7 82 20 125 227 0.1% 0.2%
 Teimour Radjabov (AZE) 2738.0 50 50 110 210 0% 0%
 Dmitry Andreikin (RUS) 2717.9 20 170 10 200 0% 0%
 Leinier Dominguez (CUB) 2745.0 10 75 90 175 0% 0%
 Alexander Grischuk (RUS) 2776.9 82 40 40 162 3% 0.02%
 Baadur Jobava (GEO) 2699.0 75 40 40 155 0.2% 0%
 Anish Giri (NED) 2763.9 40 75 20 135 1% 0%
 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) 2727.7 75 40 10 125 1% 0%
 Rustam Kasimdzhanov (UZB) 2703.8 35 15 75 125 0% 0%

With yet another win today, you’ll see that Caruana has nearly (but not quite 100% definitively) clinched one of the two available Candidates spots. The other slot remains wide open, though, with Tomashevsky in position to win it based on the current standings, but an underdog to the “field” (Nakamura and Karjakin, mostly) to ultimately hold on. In other words, there will be no shortage of crucial and relevant games played over the final rounds.

As for this event specifically (rather than the “big picture” view of the four-event Grand Prix as a whole), here are each player’s odds of winning first place outright, and their expected average scores in terms of Grand Prix points earned:

Player K-M EV Odds of Clear 1st (Pre-Event Odds)
 Fabiano Caruana (ITA) 150 51% 17%
 Sergey Karjakin (RUS) 115 11% 5%
 Peter Svidler (RUS) 113 8% 2%
 Leinier Dominguez (CUB) 92 2% 2%
 Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 82 1% 14%
 Boris Gelfand (ISR) 62 0.4% 3%
 Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS) 63 0.3% 3%
 Alexander Grischuk (RUS) 52 0.06% 11%
 Evgeny Tomashevsky (RUS) 48 0.02% 3%
 Baadur Jobava (GEO) 36 0.02% 1%
 Anish Giri (NED) 39 0% 7%
 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) 19 0% 3%

Additionally, inspired by the projections from @ChessForecaster on Twitter, I added in a new presentation to my spreadsheet. Here is each player’s percentage chance of achieving each possible final score, with their most likely result highlighted in yellow. Note that there is a lot of variance in the results! Caruana for example could very realistically score anywhere from 6.5/11 to 8.5/11, and even more extreme results are possible, if unlikely:


So what are the biggest games to keep an eye on tomorrow? Well at this point just about every game matters, but most interesting are those games involving the trio who are battling for second place in the overall standings. Nakamura and Karjakin both have great opportunities, playing white against the last place player in the standings and the lowest rated player in the field, respectively. It’s not technically a “must win” game for Nakamura, there are certainly scenarios where he draws this game and still cracks the top two in the end, but we’ve been emphasizing for a while how he needs to eventually win a game and this seems like the best opportunity he’ll get. His opponent, Vachiere-Lagrave, has had a dreadful month of May so far, losing four games (including three in a row at Khanty-Mansiysk) and dropping 26.3 rating points so far. It seems like Nakamura needs to capitalize on this chance to win his first game of the event. Our model gives Nakamura a 40% chance of winning the game, and only accounts for “form” insomuch as it uses current live ratings, so may be underrating Hikaru’s chances if MVL’s recent struggles have an actual cause, beyond just random variance (chance does provide everyone with the occasional downswing after all…)

Karjakin’s opponent, on the other hand, Jobava, has been solid of late with five consecutive draws. However he is the only player in the field rated below 2700 (by a single point, mind you), and is known for his aggressive approach to chess that tends to create winning chances for both players. Our model gives him a 40% chance of victory as well!

Tomashevsky would be second place in the final Grand Prix standings if Khanty-Mansiysk ended today, but his projected results over the remaining rounds are a little weaker and his form seems uneven. He’s definitely in a defensive position, trying to hold onto his lead. Tomorrow he faces another tough test: black against Anish Giri. As the ratings underdog who also holds the black pieces, our model gives Tomashevsky a 31% chance of losing (which could be crippling to his overall Grand Prix hopes), a 54% chance of holding the draw, and just a 15% chance of winning. The one upside in that equation is that if he did manage to win, defying the model’s expectations, it would significantly improve his overall standing in the projections, due to the unexpectedness of the result.

Finally, our leader Caruana has white against Gelfand. For Caruana, the model offers (yet again) a 40% chance of victory, which would almost completely guarantee him first place in the overall Grand Prix standings, and bring him closer to locking up a clear first place finish here at Khanty-Mansiysk as well. On the flip side, while Gelfand is a underdog in this game, expected to win just 10% of the time, it’s worth remembering that he is not entirely eliminated from contention yet himself. He still has a 3.2% chance of qualifying for the Candidates Tournament if he manages to close out the event with a dominating run. An upset over the leader would be a nice beginning to such a run.

What will happen? We’ll find out soon. Games begin in just 8 1/2 hours!


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