With just one round left in the FIDE Grand Prix series, we have the same favorites we’ve had for a while. However things are not yet entirely final! While Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura each have roughly a 90% chance of emerging from this final round in the top two of the overall Grand Prix standings, which would earn them berths in the 2016 Candidates Tournament, they both still face some danger. Jakovenko picked up a critical win in round 10, setting up a huge showdown with Nakamura in the final round, and keeping his chances alive. There are also a few crazy scenarios where Tomashevsky remains alive as well… and believe it or not it’s even possibility where Jakovenko and Tomashevsky both qualify, ahead of Caruana or Nakamura.
Confused yet? Let’s look at some tables of projected standings, and then we’ll dive into the scenarios. Here are what the Grand Prix standings would look like based on the current Khanty-Mansisyk standings (so this would match the final result if all six games tomorrow are drawn), along with each of the four remaining contenders’ odds of finishing in the top two:
|Player||Live Rating||Baku||Tashkent||Tbilisi||Khanty-Mansiysk||CURRENT TOTAL||ODDS (PRE K-M)||ODDS (CURRENT)|
|Fabiano Caruana (ITA)||2805.3||155||75||140||370||71%||92.6%|
|Hikaru Nakamura (USA)||2802.9||82||125||140||347||49%||87.6%|
|Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS)||2758.4||30||140||140||310||9%||19.5%|
|Evgeny Tomashevsky (RUS)||2745.0||82||170||35||287||52%||0.3%|
|Boris Gelfand (ISR)||2750.8||155||15||85||255||7%||0%|
|Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE)||2735.0||35||125||75||235||0%||0%|
|Sergey Karjakin (RUS)||2753.3||82||75||60||217||8%||0%|
|Teimour Radjabov (AZE)||2738.0||50||50||110||210||0%||0%|
|Dmitry Andreikin (RUS)||2717.9||20||170||10||200||0%||0%|
|Alexander Grischuk (RUS)||2781.1||82||40||60||182||3%||0%|
|Anish Giri (NED)||2772.2||40||75||60||175||1%||0%|
|Leinier Dominguez (CUB)||2745.0||10||75||85||170||0%||0%|
|Peter Svidler (RUS)||2735.3||82||20||35||137||0.1%||0%|
|Baadur Jobava (GEO)||2697.8||75||40||20||135||0.2%||0%|
|Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA)||2723.0||75||40||10||125||1%||0%|
|Rustam Kasimdzhanov (UZB)||2703.8||35||15||75||125||0%||0%|
At this point it seems likely that we will see two or more players tie for first place in the Khanty-Mansiysk leg, but if someone does win outright, here are each player’s odds of being that someone, along with each player’s expected average Grand Prix points earned from the leg:
|Player||K-M Expected Score||Score Today||Odds of Clear 1st||(Pre-Event Odds)|
|Hikaru Nakamura (USA)||142||140||29%||14%|
|Fabiano Caruana (ITA)||131||140||10%||17%|
|Leinier Dominguez (CUB)||90||85||0%||2%|
|Sergey Karjakin (RUS)||63||60||0%||5%|
|Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS)||123||140||10%||3%|
|Boris Gelfand (ISR)||85||85||0%||3%|
|Peter Svidler (RUS)||41||35||0%||2%|
|Alexander Grischuk (RUS)||60||60||0%||11%|
|Anish Giri (NED)||61||60||0%||7%|
|Baadur Jobava (GEO)||22||20||0%||1%|
|Evgeny Tomashevsky (RUS)||41||35||0%||3%|
|Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA)||10||10||0%||3%|
So then, let’s talk scenarios. First we’ll look at the most critical game, Nakamura-Jakovenko. If this game ends decisively, things are (mostly) clear. Should Nakamura win (which we expect to happen 36% of the time), then Nakamura and Caruana will be the top two. Order will depend on Caruana’s result, but they will be the two Candidates. On the other hand, if Jakovenko pulls the upset with the black pieces (which we expect to happen 12% of the time), then Jakovenko and Caruana will be the two qualifiers, except in one crazy absurd scenario we’ll discuss later.
So Caruana should be rooting for a decisive result – he wants to see fireworks on the board between his two rivals. If either of them wins, then Fabiano is almost guaranteed a top-two finish and Candidates berth (even if he loses his own game). On the other hand, if Nakamura and Tomashevsky draw (which, sadly for Caruana, is the most likely possibility at 52%) then things are murkier.
The draw would be good for Nakamura, who would qualify 99.8% of the time. His only danger is if Caruana, Tomashevsky, Gelfand, and Dominguez all win their games. Credit to Colin McGourty at chess24.com for identifying that scenario. With a draw between Naka and Jakovenko, though, Caruana would drop to an 86.3% chance of a top two finish, Jakovenko would be at 13.4%, and Tomashevsky would be alive at 0.5%.
The second critical game is Giri-Caruana. We give Giri a 21% chance of winning, which is all that really matters. If Caruana wins or draws, he guarantees himself one of the two Candidates berths; all his danger comes in scenarios where he loses. Also in the case of a Nakamura draw, a win or draw by Caruana completely clarifies matters: Nakamura and Caruana would get the two spots. The crazy possibilities come into play in roughly 11% of all cases: when Nakamura and Jakovenko draw and then Caruana also loses!
Those various scenarios are rare enough, and varied enough, that it seems most convenient at this point to start looking at it from each individual player’s perspective. If your mind has melted at all the “if” and “unless” nonsense above, take a moment to refresh and we’ll start over from a new angle.
Fabiano Caruana: 92.6% chance of qualifying.
Caruana has the black pieces against Anish Giri. If he wins or draws his game, he guarantees himself a top-two finish. If he loses, then he should root for a decisive result in Nakamura-Jakovenko, in which case he’ll still qualify 99.8% of the time. His worst case scenario is to lose, and for Nakamura and Jakovenko to draw. Then the other four games would all start to matter, and Caruana would have roughly a 32% chance to qualify, depending on how those games worked out for him.
Hikaru Nakamura: 87.6% chance of qualifying.
Nakamura faces Jakovenko in the most critical game of the day. Any decisive result is clear, as we explained before. If Nakmura wins, he’s in (and Caruana is too). If Nakamura loses he’s out. With a draw, he’s also basically safe, except for one weird (and very unlikely) scenario we talked about earlier. Basically, he controls his own destiny and will have no real need to worry about other games. Just don’t lose, and he qualifies for the Candidates.
Dmitry Jakovenko: 19.5% chance of qualifying.
Jakovenko is on the flip side of the key game. He also has a simple “win and in” spot, but beating the 4th highest rated player in the world is always a tough task – especially with the black pieces. The good news is that even if he doesn’t manage to win, a draw still leaves him alive (his chances only drop to around 13.5% if he fails to win). He would need Caruana to lose, and then would also need some additional help in the other games. Ultimately if Jakovenko draws but then Caruana loses, Dmitry will qualify about 67% of the time.
Evgeny “I’m Not Dead Yet” Tomashevsky: 0.3% chance of qualifying.
And then we have the dark horse. First of all, to have any hope of earning a Candidates berth, Tomashevsky must of course win his game (with white, against last place Vachiere-Lagrave). Even with a win, Tomashevsky needs a ton of help. Interestingly the results of Caruana’s game and the huge Nakamura-Jakovenko game make little difference to him. If Tomashevsky wins his own game, his rooting interest lies with Gelfand and Dominguez. In fact both of those players must win their games to keep Tomashevsky alive at all! The reason it matters is that by moving up in the standings, those two players would be able to limit the points earned by the other contenders near the top of the field. A loss, or even a draw, from any of Tomashevsky, Gelfand, or Dominguez is enough to eliminate Tomashevsky’s slim hopes. If all three of them win, though, his chances jump up to the 29% range!
There is one particularly crazy scenario we need to look closely at, now. We’ve hinted at it a few times already. It requires specific results in all 6 games of the round, but there is a way for Jakovenko and Tomashevsky both to qualify, while leaving Caruana and Nakamura both outside of the top two. What is this madness?
To begin with, Tomashevsky must win and Jakovenko must defeat Nakamura (clinching one of the two Candidates spots for Jakovenko). Of course Caruana would have to lose in order to keep that second spot open. Then Dominguez and Gelfand would each have to win their games, as with any pro Tomashevsky scenario, which would be enough to move those two into a tie for second place, behind Jakovenko but (critically) ahead of Nakamura and Caruana. Nakamura and Caruana would finish tied for 4th-6th place with Giri, and each earn 80 Grand Prix points, putting Caruana’s score at 310. Finally, Jobava would have to win or draw his game against Svidler, so that Tomashevsky manages to finish alone in 7th place (instead of tying with Svidler for 7th-8th), which would get Tomashevsky 60 Grand Prix points bringing his overall total to 312, and sliding him into second place by the slimmest of margins! By our calculations, this result should happen about 1/5500 times (which is to say there is a 0.02% chance).
Wouldn’t that be something? Remember that this final round starts an hour earlier than the previous rounds did: at 14:00 local time, otherwise known as 2 AM for me. Yes, sorry, I’m whining. Time zones are inconvenient when trying to follow events happening on the other side of the world. If you live elsewhere, though, and want to watch all the chaos live, I encourage you to do so! Don’t miss the openings by not knowing the slight change to the schedule, and enjoy!