05 May 2020-21 Candidates Tournament Round Up
- Round 8 – Fabiano is back in the game
- Round 9 – Giri wins and joins the battle
- Round 10 – Nepo wins and increases the lead
- Round 11 – Nepo holds Caruana and Giri is back in the game.
- Round 12 – Giri stuns Caruana
- Round 13 – Agony for Giri and Nepo wins the tournament
- Round 14 – MVL fights back and takes the second place
Round # 1
Wang Stuns Ding at the Start of the Candidates
Compatriots Wang Hao and Ding Liren battled it out and Wang emerged as the winner. For the initial phase, he was the only leader in the tournament. Indeed a surprise for many as Ding was the favorite in the event, having not lost a single game during the previous candidates.
Ding opened very well, but then decided to trade the queens, giving black an advantage.
“It’s just the first round. Winning is good, but it’s nothing special” he said.
As Wang pointed out afterward, things started to go downhill on move 30 for his fellow country man, although the issue of time also played a role as Ding missed a final chance for a draw on move 40.
Wang said about the issue: “Once you like your position and suddenly you miss something in your calculation, in this kind of situation one can very easily spend a lot of time. And also, some players just like to think!”
He should know better, for in chess, time and winning moves, wait for none!
Round # 2
Caruana Shows Incredible Home Preparation, Crushes a Young Russian
Fabiano Caruana’s opponents have all the reason to be worried facing the ace player. With his preparedness, he stunned World Champion Kirill Alekseenko in his first ever encounter with the Grandmaster. Caruana chose the 4.f3 variation of the Nimzo-Indian, an unusual move that the master had never played before in his career.
“It’s also very risky for White” Alekseenko said afterward.
Caruana proved that there is more to his game than meets the eye, and definitely even more sharper lines in the openings. He is set to give the world champion Alekseenko a run for his money, should they have a faceoff in the next title match.
To the Master’s credit, Alekseenko chose a decent line, but “he was probably a bit hazy in his memory,” as Caruana put it. Things remained very sharp and concrete, and hardly out of the opening Alekseenko had to go for a continuation that led to a material imbalance.
“I think by force he had to sac a piece,” said Caruana about 19…Bxg4.
This led to a position with three pawns for a piece, something that is often hard to evaluate. Caruana crushed through with some sacrifices that were not too hard to calculate with 58 minutes on the clock against the 30 seconds (plus increment) that were left on Alekseenko’s clock at that point.
Round # 3
Ding Strikes Back
Two straight defeats and Ding Liren had to face in-form Fabiano Caruana in a must-win game. The American decided to play a rare and sharp line straight from the opening.
Caruana bludgeoned ahead with his quick moves, pushing the Chinese GM to burn a lot of precious time in making many difficult decisions in the advancement of the game. Caruana’s play involved the sacrifice of two pawns. Ding found himself fighting the world number-two player, his painstakingly detailed preparation and the clock. By move 14 he was an hour down, and he had 16 minutes left after his 16th move.
“He played so quickly. I was down more than one hour after the opening. I don’t know where he went wrong but it seems his compensation is very big,” said Ding about the opening phase.
But soon he got a chance to prove how he is known to be one of the best chess players from China. When Ding played his queen to g3, he realized that he was in a much better position. His composure restored, soon he was in control of the time and had sailed through to reach move 40 comfortably.
Caruana meanwhile, played on his usual attacking game, aiming to pull off some final tricks while getting the sinking feeling that his astounding preparedness didn’t do him any favor this time, the result was certain and definitely in Ding’s favor.
Round # 4
Giri Holds Ding in Exciting Battle
Ding Liren Vs Anish Giri was sure a real battle and a treat for chess lovers, and they sure didn;t disappoint their fans.
Giri, who had played the Bogo -Indian only once before decided to take his opponent by surprise. He had hanging pawns in the center but after he went h5, white had to be careful.
“His idea 15…h5 is very strong,” said Ding. “It’s hard to meet during the game.”
The Chinese grandmaster decided to maneuver his knight to f4, to control h3 and prevent the black pawn from getting there.
“If I go 18.Nd4 the pawn on h3 is a very big threat for me and my position may become very dangerous so I played the safer move 18.Nf4 but after this, my advantage is just little, so the draw is a very natural outcome.”
”I was hoping to push the pawn to h3, you know, throw something forward, then give the d-pawn with …d4 and mate on g2 or like Alphazero with just the pawn on h3 but I just played basically in a way that the endgame was slightly worse but basically a draw.”
Round # 5
Nepo Breaks the Chinese Wall, Takes the Lead in the Tournament
Ian Nepomniachtchi faced Wang Hao hoping to get another win and he successfully achieved the feat.
Nepo had managed to keep a slight edge in a Petroff thanks to good preparation,but later black managed to trade many pieces and was keeping everything under control. and yet again it was the h-pawn running up to h6 that played an important role. It gave White tactical possibilities such as 28.c4! and 34.f4!, which built a mating net, and then the killer 38.Qd8!.
It was that last move which Wang had missed, as probably he thought that the endgame should be an easy draw.
” The whole play of the Russian in the endgame was very impressive” Said Wang.
“It’s not leading after the last round, so it’s just nothing. Of course, it’s very good to win a game with white because I didn’t get anything promising against Alexander [Grischuk] in my previous white game and OK, today my preparation was more successful. But basically the tournament is only at its beginning.” Nepo said about his victory.
Round # 6
Nepo Keeps the Winning Streak, Crushes Ding
Nepo against Ding was an important game for both of them but for a different reason. Ding , an accomplished Grandmaster and a favorite to win the tournament from the very beginning, was in for a shock with his third straight loss. To Nepomniachtchi’s credit, he played himself into the role of the absolute favorite to win.
Nepo playing white went for the anti-Marshal line in Ruy Lopez, nothing that Ding didn’t have experience for in the past. In the middle game, Ding’s black decided to change the pawn structure after which white got a passed b pawn. Even around move 25 the Russian was playing very fast clearly with the immense preparation. He was increasing his advantage but at some moment black could have found a brilliant idea with a rook sacrifice which could save the game. When Ding missed that, it was obvious that the game would be over soon, and the result would be in Nepo’s favor.
Nepo has more or less eliminated the pre-tournament favorite from the fight to finish- Ding. No one expected Nepomniachtchi to have three straight wins, but neither did they thought the top Chinese player would face three losses in succession- a shocking turn of events indeed for Ding supporters.
Round # 7
MVL Takes the Leader Down and is Now Sharing #1 Place with Nepo
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had defeated GM Ian Nepomniachtchi in round seven of the FIDE Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg.
“Of course, it was a crucial game, I thought. A win was not vital but very appreciated,” said Vachier-Lagrave after his big win.
In hindsight, Nepomniachtchi’s choice to play the French against the Frenchman might have been risky. For starters, it didn’t come as a surprise anymore since he had played it earlier in the tournament, MVL himself was only a little surprised. He had prepared for it, saying:
“I had to be ready for it. 1…e6 was definitely an option because very often in the Candidates, when someone plays an opening, he plays it for the whole tournament.”
Secondly, there’s a reason why the Winawer isn’t the most popular of variations among the world elite. It involves strategic risks, which was beautifully demonstrated by MVL.
His approach, which included the push of the h-pawn to h5, was more consistent than Alekseenko’s and gave White the potential to play on both sides of the board.
“I thought I was always better,” he said.
A key moment was move 18, when Nepomniachtchi decided to close the position more with the pawn push …c5-c4—always an important decision in the Winawer.
Here, according to Vachier-Lagrave, it was bad timing: “I don’t think this was the right plan. Closing the center makes sense, but I do not think he is in time.”
The French player castled, moved his queen’s rook to b4 and didn’t leave it when it was attacked by a knight—a brilliant concept that helped him to win the game.
Nepomniachtchi had to place his knight back on e7 (a sad move to play), but now White had time to maneuver his “bad” bishop to the great a3-f8 diagonal, and he was clearly better.
With time running out, Nepo eventually failed to cope with incessant blows from the Frenchman and conceded.
Round # 8
Fabiano is Back in the Game with the Novelty of the Year.
Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played the so-called “Poisoned Pawn Variation” in the Najdorf variation in Sicilian Defense. Black bravely takes the b2-pawn with his queen but white has better development and dangerous initiative.
The American Grandmaster was better prepared for this game – his second, former FIDE world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov, found a very dangerous idea in the 15th move, White has played Bc4, offering a bishop.
Karpov said that it could be the novelty of the year. Maxim began to think for a long time, while Fabiano was responding instantly to all his tricks. After numerous exchanges the game was transferred into the ending with pawn and rook vs pawn and knight and an unbreakable fortress appeared on the board. However, the World Champion Magnus Carlsen admitted that he was not sure of his ability to keep this position for Black – so difficult are the tasks before them.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave also failed to cope with this task, although he was holding his position for a long time. But then he didn’t find the precise setup and allowed the white king to break into his camp. On move 74 Black had to resign. This was the first defeat for the Frenchman in the event and Caruana now has equal points with him, both sharing third place.
Alekseenko – Grischuk
Alexander Grischuk seemed to have managed to surprise his opponent by choosing the French Defense in the opening. Curiously enough, in this game, as in the previous one, the black queen set out to hunt for the b2-pawn.But then Kirill Alekseenko chose not to go for the most principled line and decided to trade the queens leading to an equal endgame. Even though Black won an exchange for a pawn, White got enough compensation due to the activity of the pieces and a strong passed pawn.
Both grandmasters were quite optimistic about their positions; as a result, Kirill Alekseenko managed to activate his king. Grischuk could have given his material back and moved into an equal rook endgame but avoided drawing variations, and the Candidates Tournament debutant Kirill Alekseenko won his first game, also on move 74.
Nepomniachtchi – Giri
The game was a bit dull, because nothing too interesting unfolded on the chessboard. During the game Carlsen said that there is nothing new and black has an easy game and no problem, as they were playing the line, which is the main weapon in the last years of the world champion and he played it in the match against Caruana.
After the game, Ian said that he had prepared for many openings which Anish often uses, but yet the choice of his opponent turned out to catch him by surprise. “Sometimes a whole year is not enough to prepare for seven games,” Ian smiled.
Said Anish: “I chose the Sveshnikov system which gives my opponent a choice: whether he wants to go for a double-edged fight with mutual chances or play solidly, but then Black, in my opinion, has no problems.”
The Russian grandmaster chose the first path but admitted that he played inaccurately. As a result, Anish Giri quickly equalized and on move 25 White began to repeat moves so a draw was soon agreed due to the threefold repetition of the position.
Ian is still leading with 5 points after 8 rounds.
Wang Hao – Ding Liren
The Chinese grandmasters were the first to finish the fight in a little less than two hours. They played a sharp variation of the Scotch, where White gets more space in the centre and on the queenside but delays the development of his pieces.Black got a dangerous counterplay against the white king. Already on move 21, Black could have forced a draw with a perpetual check.This actually already has been played a few times, so both players were familiar.
Ding was trying to find a way to keep playing since he didn’t risk anything, he decided to continue the fight. However, Wang Hao found a clear defence and a draw was agreed on the 28th move. Disappointing result for Ding, who was the main favourite before the event started last year, but now is sitting on minus 2 at the bottom of the table without big chances to challenge for the win in the tournament.
Round # 9
Giri Wins and Joins the Battle at the Top.
Anish Giri managed to win against Wang Hao in round nine . He is now only half points behind the leading player. The remaining games have finished as draws, but not without considerably tough fights.
“It was very important for me to win this game to realistically stay in the race, otherwise it would have been really hard,” said Giri. He reminded everyone that he drew all his games in the 2016 Candidates tournament, and added: “It’s not enough that the tournament goes well and nobody is pulling ahead; you also need yourself to win games at some point.”
The game opened with Catalan Opening, in which black has a passive position. At some moment he decided to go c5, which has resulted in trading a few pieces, but white managed to activate his major pieces.It turned out that the Chinese player was at that point too concerned about his position. White was only slightly better, with no clear way to break through just yet when Wang weakened his kingside too much on move 27.
“Very bad, but I couldn’t find a move,” he said.
Without counterplay and in serious time trouble he soon lost the game.
Ding Liren – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
In the game between Ding Liren and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave black was in for an early surprise after just 3 moves when white played h4 in Gruenfeld. Black couldn’t find the best plan and he soon was in trouble.
MVL thought so too: “I just got into lots of trouble and at some point, I was sure my position would just collapse in a matter of two moves”.
It’s uncanny because only a day before he was offered a piece with 15.Nd4 and again his opponent was playing very fast until this point and he gave it back. Ding had a huge advantage, as Nigel Short once said – “this is a position where men think it is only advantage but the engines think it is game over.”
As time was running out for the Chinese he made a blunder with d6 and lost the pawn ,after which with a very smart move black managed to hold.
Grischuk – Nepomniachtchi
Another Gruenfeld was played in the game between Grischuk and Nepomniachtchi.
White has played h3, which is a new idea at the top level, then we offered a pawn which led to big complications. After black wanted to simplify the position and white was looking to make it sharper. At some moment in the endgame Alexander took a gamble with Rf7. He said he “just tried to spin a roulette” there and it seems Nepomniachtchi could have been pressing a bit but instead he chose to liquidate to a drawn rook endgame.
Alekseenko – Caruana
In the game between Alekseenko and Caruana it was black who was pushing for a win. The Russian had offered a pawn in the Italian game and was the third player to sacrifice as White in the opening, in his case also a pawn. Afterwards, he said he was happy with his preparation: “Finally I had some extra time in the opening.” Caruana also noted that his opponent prepared well for this game.
However Fabiano managed to find some good moves and soon took the initiative.
At some moment as Magnus Carlsen suggested he could have simply taken one free pawn with Na4, instead he played for initiative but white managed to get an equal rook endgame and to hold.
Round # 10
Nepo Wins and Increases the Lead.
The Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi defeated his compatriot Kiril Alekseenko and increased his lead by a full point.
Nepomniachtchi’s win, with which he became the world number-three player in the live ratings, was surprisingly smooth and quick. He managed to surprise his opponent in the opening when he went for English, but when black was trying to develop his kingside he suddenly had played d4 and switched to very good Catalan.
Kiril was not so familiar with that position and quickly went under big pressure. From here Ian managed to convert it quite easily.
“I guess in the opening I got lucky that Kirill quickly got into some position he is not familiar with,” said Nepomniachtchi, who pointed out that White has a good version of known Catalan positions where all kinds of tactics are hanging in the air and the moves for White are pretty simple.
“The biggest problem was to choose what I should do,” he added.
Vachier-Lagrave – Giri
Two of Nepo’s closest rivals played each other and it was Vachier-Lagrave who had reason to be disappointed even after he had Giri under pressure for a brief while.
The game immediately attracted all the attention because of the move 10.c5 in what was Giri’s second Sveshnikov in this tournament. The line is not so popular and black did not play the best options as he went under pressure.
Giri said he had an inkling but couldn’t remember all the details: “As you can see from the game I wasn’t having it very clear in my head.”
For this one game, it worked for Vachier-Lagrave, who got a very favorable position at some point. However, his decision to win a pawn allowed black to find counterplay and with opposite colored bishops it was heading for a draw. Around move 30, the Frenchman started to see that the draw was inevitable, saying: “I finished with grief and I was at the acceptance stage.”
“In many Candidates, there is a lot of pressure at some point so a lot is also up to Ian for example,” said Giri. “He has to play against himself in the last couple of rounds and it’s not going to be easy. I don’t recall a single Candidates that anyone won easily.”
Fabiano Caruana – Ding Liren
Fabiano Caruana against Ding Liren was a battle between the two biggest top spot favourites even before the tournament started. Fabi was definitely hoping to win the game after Ding had a terrible start. He chose a rare line in Ruy Lopez in which Ding had immense experience. This time there were no surprises in his preparation. He gave one pawn looking to develop pressure in the centre.
However, the Chinese managed to defend the pawn and was not in danger. Later, white decided to attack on the kingside and started to push the pawns but black managed to block with h5.
In the endgame, black had some small but significant chances to play for a win but Ding quickly settled for a draw.
Wang Hao – Alexander Grischuk
Wang Hao and Alexander Grischuk both didn’t have big chances in the tournament but managed to produce a spectacular game. It was French defence where white had mixed the lines for some time.
“I forgot the theory somehow. I prepared something else and then I mixed up,” said Wang.
In an attempt to find the most energetic continuation, Grischuk, famous for getting into time trouble in many games, spent no less than 72 minutes on his 11th move. After his 18th move, he had two minutes and 27 seconds left, plus the 30-second increment, for his next 22 moves.
White managed to get a favorable position but then probably because of the time pressure which black had, decided to give the queen only for a few pieces because there were many traps. White had a dangerous initiative and managed to find later another trick Ng7.
“I saw 30.Nxg7 but I thought something will work for Black,” said Grischuk.
In the end black had to give some material back and it ended with a fortress and a draw.
Round # 11
Nepo Holds Caruana and Giri is Back in the Game
The key game of the day was between the leading man Ian Nepomniachtchi and Fabiano Caruana.
The Russian had 1- point advantage and white pieces. He decided to play Scotch .The game went into well-known variation where the game looks deceptively simple . Black was trying to make it a bit sharper but with simple moves white started to exchange piece after piece. At some moment even Ian managed to get a slightly better endgame.
In the end, it was a rook endgame with a pawn for white and two against 3 at the other end. Caruana was careful and managed to hold, but in the remaining rounds he has to win many games in order to win the tournament.
Anish Giri – Ding Liren
Anish Giri was facing the underachiever Ding Liren.
He had chosen a very solid but a bit passive line in Ruy Lopez. The game was very calm until Ding castled queenside. After this, white managed to create something with b4. But later black has found a very nice idea f5 and took the initiative. He could have got some advantage but decided to push g5 and g4 and this allowed white to close the kingside. After that Ding exposed his king with b6 and Giri offered a piece in order to open files. Although there was nothing concrete the attack was very strong. The Chinese could not find a good defence and lost soon after this. Now Giri is only half point from the leader.
Alexander Grishchuk – Maxime Vachier Lagrave
Alexander Grishchuk against Maxime Vachier Lagrave turned out to be an interesting game.
White had tried a very rare line in Sicilian Defense where he had to take on d4 with his queen. They were following a recent MVL game of MVL but now he played Bh6 instead of Bg7. That actually is more popular so Alex was prepared for this. White castled queenside and offered a pawn for attack. After that black was under some pressure and then in one move he just collapsed allowing f5. After this, white was winning but in the race against time, white made a few mistakes and black could escape. In the end MVL missed his last chance Ba3 instead of Rc2 and lost.
Kiril Alekssenko – Wang hao
Kiril Alekssenko against Wang Hao was a battle between the players without chances. But it was fun because after a few moves black went h6 and g5, clearly showing his intentions. White managed to develop nicely and after e4 it seemed that he would become better.
Black had some holes in his position but managed to defend well and then white was a bit under pressure. Kiril gace a pawn and lost his strong knight but black had a couple of weak pawns. Wang was trying to win but in the end there was not much material and it was a draw.
Round # 12
Giri Stuns Caruana but Nepo Still Leads
This round proved to be the most entertaining since the beginning of the tournament. All four games had a clear winner, and there were no draws. The much awaited game that the fans were waiting for was between Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri.
The American was a taken by surprise by the move order which Giri played . Now, it was not possible to switch into Sveshnikov with Nd5, so he decided to go a3 and then he made a new move Qd3.
It was a kind of normal Scheveningen system where later white went for unusual ideas with b4 and b5. He managed to get the outpost d5 but destroyed his pawn structure.
Anish managed to defend well and then took the initiative. He found clever ideas h6 and Bg5 and then white had bad bishop and weak pawns. Soon black took a pawn and after white opened the h file his king was in big trouble. Another impressive win for Giri.
But it was not enough for him to take the lead as Ian Nepomniachtchi somehow managed to defeat with black Wang Hao. The opening was very odd and it looked like the game would finish with a draw in 15 moves.
The queens were off and there was only one open file. White managed to get a pair of bishops but then he played very passive. After black went c5 he took the initiative. Still there was no real danger for Wang as he managed to trade many pieces and pawns.
“I was only thinking how not to get into trouble because, of course, the position is equal, but it can be sometimes unpleasant,” said Nepomniachtchi. Then on move 39 Wang played a very strange Re7.
“I was very tired and I couldn’t calculate anything. I somehow blundered somewhere and just lost, like it happens every time,” Wang explained with a wry smile as he added: “I feel that after the 40th move I started to play like a 2200 player.”
After that he lost a pawn and resigned although there was plenty of play left. Meanwhile, Maxime Vachier Lagrave managed to surprise Kiril Alekseenko in Caro-Cann with 3 f3.
Soon the Russian decided to move his queen out early. White got a pair of bishops and better development. Then MVL had a better endgame and black decided to give a pawn in order to get counterplay. After white managed to trade the rooks the bishop’s endgame was winning as he advanced with his king and black resigned.
Vachier-Lagrave said he was “mostly relieved” as he set his mind to the final two rounds after the rest day: “This will mean that I can move on with my tournament and try to play a good game, I mean, two good games!”
Ding Liren finally managed to win. His game against Alexander Grischuk was for a long time on par. It was queen’s gambit where after c5 white had closed the center .Black managed to trade both white bishops and took control of the a file.
Around move 40 the Russian has made a mistake and Ding suddenly got a very strong knight and domination. Black tried to complicate with f6 but quickly lost soon after.
Round # 13
Agony for Giri and Nepo Wins the Tournament
Ian Nepomniachtchi is the winner of the FIDE Candidates Tournament with a round to spare and a new Challenger for the world championship against Magnus Carlsen.
Ian Nepomniachtchi vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave ended in a draw. The Frenchman chose an interesting double fianchetto system where he avoided moving his central pawns. This allowed white to take control in the center and to finish his development without problem. Later Ian managed to trade the dark squared bishops and prepared b4 after which he had a slight advantage. MVL decided to offer a pawn as he got two good blockading knights. But later he traded all the major pieces and in the end the Russian was happy to draw the game.
Said Ian Nepomniachtchi: “I am extremely happy to qualify for the match and I am extremely thankful to all and everyone who supported me, especially to my team. It’s a huge milestone in my career and perhaps in my life. I am extremely tired. It was one year of thinking about this tournament, one year of preparation.”
“I was playing with a fighting set of mind [today], tried in every possible way that I saw to complicate the position, to be tricky. But of course, winning with Black on demand is not an easy task and it can very easily backfire.” said Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
At around the same time, Anish Giri had to win with black against Alexander Grischuk.
He decided to play BogoIndian. White simply followed the main line and turned out he had the edge after the opening. From there Giri was not sure how to try to activate his pieces and missed the chance for h4. After that Alex simply went to Nf1 with the idea to go to d5. Giri went f5 which was a blunder and soon he was 2 pawns down in a hopeless endgame.
“It was a very poor game. I think it was the combination of a mindset that does not suit the position and a heavy lack of understanding. I made a lot of terrible mistakes.” “Ian put me under a lot of pressure.” Giri concluded.
Ding Liren scored his second consecutive victory in the second half of FIDE Candidates 2020. Ding beat Alekseenko to avoid finishing at the bottom of the table with 6.0/13. The Russian was better all the time as Ding gave a pawn in order to get a pair of bishops. White managed to improve and at some moment Ding gambled with Be4. Kiril has missed probably Bc3 c5 Nf3 with a big advantage. When Ding found Rb8 it was not possible for white to defend.
Fabiano Caruana defeated Wang Hao with Black and moved to the shared third place with Vachier-Lagrave. Wang was trying from the opening to get an equal position without risk. He got it in Sicilian Alapin but towards the endgame he played too passive and Caruana took the initiative with Bc2. Soon after that white lost a pawn and resigned.
Round # 14
MVL Fights Back and Takes the Second Place as Ding Defeats Nepo, Wins 3rd in a Row but Too Late
The last round might have been not so important after the winner was decided but still had produced some nice games.
The winner in the event Ian Nepomniachtchi as often happens in such a situation was not very motivated when he had to face Ding Liren with black. On the contrary the Chinese, after winning two games in a row, was starting to find his form.
With some interesting move order the game went to Modern Benoni where only after 9 moves we had a novelty as Ding decided not to develop his queenside. Nepo was tempted to make a quick attack with Qh4 but he had to trade his bishop. Then instead of cd4 he went for some complications in which Ding has found a very nice idea Nc2. Black missed his best chance g5 and after this he lost the knight and allowed white to develop with tempo Bf4 and Nd2. Soon after the queens were off and the endgame was very tough for the Russian. He lost two pawns and Ding won third in a row.
Too late and too bad for him the tournament is over.
“Yesterday I was very motivated but today when I woke up I felt like my motivation significantly went down,” said Ian Nepomniachtchi after the last-round game with Ding Liren – “I wasn’t very happy that I have one more game to play.”
Anish Giri could catch the leader and he needed all his luck with white to defeat struggling Kiril Alekseenko. It was a Catalan and black went into the systems with b6 and soon deviated from the main lines after Re8.
Giri played somewhat passive and black had got a comfortable position and even took the initiative with his strong knight. Shortly after that white already was happy with the draw but Kiril decided to play on. White was slightly worse and decided to play g4 and later f4.Black took a pawn and after some complications emerged with a big advantage. In the end, Anish lost almost all the pawns and had to resign.
MVL against Wang Hao was a quiet game. The Chinese went into the Berlin system and in this endgame white was a bit better initially. Then the pieces started to disappear from the board and it was an equal endgame with two rooks and knight each. Yet Wang managed to blunder and lost quickly like he had been in the last few games. After the game he announced his retirement from the professional game due to the stress and some health issues.
In the last game, Fabiano Caruana made an early novelty in Sicilian against Alexander Grischuk. It was a very unusual position for this opening and the queens were off early. Despite the doubled c-pawns white had some initiative on the queenside. But the Russian decided to trade Bb5 and managed to defend the pawns there. After a few moves black has got a very strong knight and is out of danger.
However soon Caruana managed to put slight pressure with g4 and f5 and got a slight edge. Black managed to exchange a lot of material and in the end the rook endgame was drawn.