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The Week in Chess

Chess News from throughout the World
  1. New In Chess Classic 2021 - Games and Results

    The New In Chess Classic is the fifth event of the Champions Chess Tour the online rapid series hosted by Chess24. The event takes place 24th April to May 2nd. The rounds start later than any event so far to try and avoid a clash with the Candidates, they start at 6pm BST. Players: Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Leinier Dominguez Perez, Levon Aronian, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Teimour Radjabov, Quang Liem Le, Wesley So, Sergey Karjakin, Alireza Firouzja, Santosh Gujrathi Vidit, Gawain C B Jones, Aryan Tari, Johan-Sebastian Christiansen and R Praggnanandhaa.
  2. MVL takes second place in the Candidates on the final day - 14

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's Candidates campaign finished with a win against Wang Hao and secured second place on his own half a point behind the winner Ian Nepomniachtchi. MVL played a theoretical Ruy Lopez Berlin against Wang Hao which both players knew. At some stage Wang forgot the precise moves he should play and his position collapsed fairly quickly.

    Winner Ian Nepomniachtchi lost a razor sharp King's Indian to Ding Liren, he explained that the losing move 14...Nxd3 was misremembered from a "slightly different line". Ding was just winning after this mistake and got back to 50%.

    Anish Giri could still have caught Nepomniachtchi on point but he suffered a disappointing loss to Kirill Alekseenko in what looked like the Russian's best game of the entire event. Giri didn't get much from the opening and was gradually outplayed until he miscalculated something and lost.

    The final game to finish was a sharp struggle between Fabiano Caruana and Alexander Grischuk, this was drawn in 65 moves. Grischuk thought he was doing fine until he noticed that there might be chances to finish in 3rd place and starting with 22...Kf6 he started to get into trouble. After this he did defend well and the game was a roughly balanced.

    Final Round 14 Standings: 1st Nepomniachtchi 8.5pts, 2nd MVL 8pts, 3rd Giri 7.5pts, 4th Caruana 7.5pts, 5th Ding Liren 7pts, 6th Grischuk 7pts, 7th Alekseenko 5.5pts, 8th Wang Hao 5pts.

  3. Ian Nepomniachtchi wins the 2021 Candidates tournament with a round to spare - 13

    Ian Nepomniachtchi's conservative approach to the second half of the FIDE Candidates tournament in Yekaterinburg paid off with qualification secured with a round to spare. Nepomniachtchi played a good first half in 2020 but had become sick and had just lost a game to MVL - he has been very candid about how much the break due to Covid-19 favoured him. On the resumption Nepomniachtchi has played in a rather restrained way, he's beaten tale-enders Kirill Alekseenko and Wang Hao and drawn the rest and it's been more than enough. Today Maxime Vachier-Lagrave tried to create something against 1.Nf3 with black and got a much worse position - he gave it his best shot. Nepomniachtchi continued with a reasonable safety first policy and when he saw Anish Giri had a busted position he offered a draw which was accepted. Nepomniachtchi will face Magnus Carlsen in a match in Dubai November 24th to December 16th.

    Anish Giri had similar problems to MVL, he had to create winning chances with black against a very strong opponent. At first Giri seemed to be doing fine against Alexander Grischuk but he perhaps missed the strength of the regrouping 22.f3, 23.Nf1 and 28.Ne3 once this was completed Giri was in desperate trouble. Giri played long past where he would in an ordinary game and resigned on move 51. After the game he said he was very disappointed with how poorly he had played today, but it was not an easy situation. In retrospect Giri's first round loss to Nepomniachtchi after getting in a favourable opening surprise was a huge moment, it was always a long shot trying to catch the leader, even with a fantastic run of wins in the second half - especially as this loss has essentially been worth not a point but a point and a half to the winner.

    Fabiano Caruana beat Wang Hao with the Chinese player decisively blundering on move 40. Ding Liren beat Alekseenko in the final game to finish.

    Round 13 Standings: 1 Nepomniachtchi 8.5 (having won his mini-match with Giri he cannot be overtaken as this is the first tie-break), 2 Giri 7.5, 3 Caruana 7, 4 MVL 7, 5 Grischuk 6.5, 6 Ding Liren 6, 7 Wang Hao 5 and 8 Alekseenko 4.5.

    Final Round 14 Pairings: Caruana-Grischuk, Giri-Alekseenko, Ding-Nepomniachtchi and MVL-Wang Hao

  4. Giri beats Caruana and leader Nepomniachtchi beats Wang Hao in Candidates Round 12 - 12

    All four games in the FIDE Candidates tournament in Yekaterinburg finished decisively with the leader Ian Nepomniachtchi's win over Wang Hao keeping his fate very much in his own hands. Anish Giri moved within half a point with a victory over Fabiano Caruana but his losing head to head score in this event against Nepomniachtchi is the first tie-break effectively making the lead a point. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave kept his small chances alive with a win over Kirill Alekseenko and he will have to go all out with the black pieces against Nepomniachtchi on Monday. Finally Ding Liren beat Alexander Grischuk, Ding is playing for pride and may want to show something in the final round against Nepomniachtchi.

    Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri knew a draw in their clash would probably be no good to either of them, for Caruana in particular it was definitely a must win and he was happy with the opening but then it went wrong he said "After Qf8 I lost the thread. I thought I was pressing and that his position was very dangerous and then I couldn't quite see how to play it... I think I played very badly after Qf8."

    Giri too identified 20...Qf8 as the turning point - he believed he was equal after this move and this was difficult for Caruana to handle as he really needed to win. Giri identified 23.Bd2?! as the moment he first stood better and Caruana's position really went downhill fast. On the run up to first time control Giri was a pawn up with a winning position - there was just one interesting moment when following 40... Ra2 41. Rb1! Giri found he was forced to go back as taking the Queen lost immediately but this only delayed the win by a few moves. Giri still needs some help to win the tournament but he's hanging in there.

    Ian Nepomniachtchi played the solid Petroff Defence and playing quickly and confidently to get equality. Wang Hao said at some stage he started to tire and play very weakly, not being able to calculate accurately, 39.Re7? was the start of white's troubles but Nepomniachtchi too wasn't playing so accurately and as late as move 54 he had equality with best play (54.Rd8+) and 59.Ng3? was the losing error (59.Nd6 or 59.Rd4 and the game continues).

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was surprised by the Caro-Kann from Kirill Alekseenko but in return played 3.f3 - the Fantasy Variation - which he wasn't known to play. A sharp battle followed where MVL had reason to be very pleased with his play and he brought the full point home after first time control. MVL is a point and a half behind Nepomniachtchi but plays him on Monday.

    Ding Liren won a tense manoeuvring game against Alexander Grischuk.

    Round 12 Standings: 1 Nepomniachtchi 8pts 2 Giri 7.5pts 3 MVL 6.5pts 4 Caruana 6pts 5 Grischuk 5.5pts 6 Wang Hao 5pts 7 Ding Liren 5pts 8 Alekseenko 4.5pts.

    Rest Day Sunday 25th April 2021.

    Round 13 Monday 26th April 12pm BST 2021 Wang Hao-Caruana, Nepomniachtchi-MVL, Alekseenko-Ding, Grischuk-Giri.

  5. Nepomniachtchi draws against Caruana and Giri wins in Round 11 of the Candidates - 11

    And Then There Were Three... The eleventh round of the FIDE Candidates in Yekaterinburg really clarified the situation at the top of the standings. Ian Nepomniachtchi played the very solid Four Knights as white against his key rival Fabiano Caruana. Nepomniachtchi had the better side of the draw but the margin of error for Caruana was very high and the game was drawn in 40 moves. As things stand three draws will very likely be enough for Nepomniachtchi to become Magnus Carlsen's challenger. Anish Giri moved within half a point of the lead with a win over Ding Liren but he has already lost the mini-match against the leader 1.5-0.5 and that's the first tie-break. Caruana didn't seem ready to go all in today but he probably was disappointed at the zero chances he was granted to make things interesting. Caruana and Giri still have chances to win the event but they're running out of rounds to make things happen - really I think they're relying on Nepomniachtchi to become nervous, they also meet tomorrow, a draw will suit neither. Although theoretically Alexander Grischuk and his opponent Maxime Vachier-Lagrave whom he defeated could still win the event their chances seem vanishingly small with just three rounds to go.

    Anish Giri beat Ding Liren to move within half a point of Ian Nepomniachtchi. Giri chose the very rare Ruy Lopez Exchange variation doubly deferred (DERLD). The main point of the opening was surprise, white really can't hope for an advantage. Ding played very forcefully getting a quite decent edge himself in a position with opposite sides castling. Ding must have felt he was moving in for the kill with 19....g5 but he had 19...fxe4 to guarantee him a very easy edge, the real mistake was the follow up 20...g4? (20...Qxf5 maintained the advantage) when 21.Ng4! Qxf5 22.h4 gave Giri a very large advantage. Giri described his 23.Ne4 sacrificing a piece as a pretty easy move to make as Ding's King was obviously in severe danger, Ding should have refused the offer with 23...g3, instead after 23...bxc5 his position collapsed in just five more moves.

    Alexander Grischuk and MVL played a wild Sicilian with opposite sides castling. This was a game that could have gone either way and I'm sure MVL was pleased with that but after 19.g5 Nh5 Grischuk had a winning advantage but it was not at all easy. Grischuk missed 31...Rd4 after which the game was about equal but in time trouble there were further swings in fortune the key one was 36...Rxg5?! missing 37.Qxb7 was possible and MVL said that in retrospect he didn't recover from this blow. After first time control Grischuk said that he normally goes for a cigarette but he deliberately stayed at the board to hustle MVL into a mistake, 41...Rxc2 42.Qxc2 Rxc2? was just that error, 42...Ba3+ wins a vital tempo in the endgame allowing black to hold it, instead there was nothing for MVL to do after that and he resigned on move 48. A sad end to MVL's challenge but if he qualifies again I've no doubt he'll learn from this experience.

    Kirill Alekseenko and Wang Hao were already out of contention for first place but it didn't stop them playing a very lively draw.

    Round 11 (of 14) Standings: 1st Nepomniachtchi 7pts 2nd Giri 6.5pts 3rd Caruana 6pts 4th Grischuk 5.5pts 5th MVL 5.5pts 6th Wang Hao 5pts 7th Alekseenko 4.5pts 8th Ding 4pts

    Round 12 Saturday 24th April 2021 12pm BST Caruana-Giri, Ding Liren-Grischuk, MVL-Alekseenko, Wang Hao-Nepomniachtchi

  6. Nepomniachtchi strengthens his lead in the FIDE Candidates after Round 10 - 10

    Ian Nepomniachtchi opened up a one point lead going into the first rest day of the resumed Candidates tournament in Yekaterinburg. In the tenth round Nepomniachtchi had a relatively easy victory against Kirill Alekseenko who looked thoroughly dejected afterwards. The remaining games were drawn. Not only does Nepomniachtchi lead but he has white against his main rivals Fabiano Caruana (in Round 11) and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (in Round 13). He will however have to negotiate a potentially very tricky final round game against Ding Liren with black if it comes to that.

    Nepomniachtchi played the English and caught Alekseenko unprepared and he quickly was completely lost. Alekseenko said afterwards "It was an awful game, I didn't remember the opening, probably I didn't have to play 8...Be7 and then I also started to play bad moves and my position became worse and worse." Nepomniachtchi still had an hour left on his clock when Alekseenko resigned.

    Fabiano Caruana has arrived at this event well prepared but today things went a little wrong. It's clear that while Ding Liren isn't quite back to his very best he's playing much better than he did in the first half, something he himself has referred to a couple of times - he seems very motivated to finish as well as possible. Today the players discussed an Ruy Lopez Anti-Marshall where Caruana gave up a pawn for dynamic chances and these in the end were good enough to hold the draw, Caruana never generated the winning chances he was seeking.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave chose the fairly topical 10.c5 vs Anish Giri's Sveshnikov Sicilian and pretty soon the players were on their own in a complicated middle game where Giri was clearly on the back foot. 31.Rc4 seems to have been a wrong step which allowed black to achieve equality although the computer thinks 35...Rg4?! 36.Qc2 is advantageous for white.

    Alexander Grischuk had 1 hour 31 minutes left after move 10 but only 19 minutes after move 11 following a marathon 1 hour 12 minute think in his game against Wang Hao. Grischuk was struggling to find a line that was even satisfactory for him although he surely could have played 11...cxd4 much earlier than he did as it was the only move that gave him the prospect of play. Grischuk did indeed get decent play but he was obviously severely short of time and Wang Hao chose to give up his Queen for wild complications. The computer thinks Grischuk was winning after 24.Nxd4? but that was hardly the point and there was dynamic equality after 30...Bxd5 and a draw that was not much use to either player at move 41.

    Round 10 Standings: 1st Nepomniachtchi 6.5pts 2nd Caruana 5.5pts 3rd MVL 5.5pts 4th Giri 5.5pts 5th Wang Hao 4.5pts 6th Grischuk 4.5pts 7th Ding Liren 4pts 8th Alekseenko 4pts

    Rest Day Thursday 22nd April

    Round 11 Friday 23rd April 2021 12:00 BST: Nepomniachtchi-Caruana, Alekseenko-Wang Hao, Grischuk-MVL, Giri-Ding Liren.

  7. Giri moves into contention in the Candidates after nine rounds - 9

    The ninth round of the resumed FIDE Candidates Chess tournament in Yekaterinburg saw just one decisive game with Anish Giri defeating Wang Hao and this win moved him up into a share of second place half a point behind the leader Ian Nepomniachtchi. This total number of wins could and probably should have been higher today with MVL having a lucky escape against Ding Liren. Nepomniachtchi drew with black against Alexander Grischuk.

    Giri produced a small surprise in choosing the Catalan against Wang Hao and he obtained a nice position where he could gradually improve. 27...g6 was a mistake that gave Giri good winning chances although 33.Rc4 allowed 33...Rd1 which the computers think is equal and 34...Qa7? (34...Qd6) was the decisive error after which Giri broke through to the seventh rank.

    Grischuk chose an interesting variation of the Gruenfeld against Nepomniachtchi with 9.h3 and was pushing a little for a while but after 21.Rfb1 he was in time trouble in an equal position, 26.Bxf7 seems in retrospect a bit risky, the computers think Nepomniachtchi should take the exchange but instead he took the bishop and the game quickly burned out to a draw.

    Kirill Alekseenko was pleased with his opening against Fabiano Caruana offering a pawn for a lot of compensation in a Giuoco Piano, Caruana found a solution that meant he had at least equality after 20...e5. 22.Nh4 seemed to be wrong and put Alekseenko under pressure. Computers like 26...Nxa4 a lot and although 26...Raf8 wasn't bad Caruana didn't get anything clear cut after that and the game burned out to a drawn Rook and Pawn endgame.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave started this resumed Candidates with two games with the black pieces and after yesterday's loss his whole campaign was hanging by a thread as he again had a lost position. Ding Liren played the super-sharp 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. h4!? and while MVL seemed fine for a while and probably knew some theory his 14.Neg5?! Nd4! brought about complications that were very favourable to white. after the sequence 28. Rb2 Nc5 29. Bxf5 Qxf5 30. Bxc5 dxc5 white was completely winning but Ding didn't make the best of these chances - in particular his mistimed 37.d6? just before time control threw away almost all of his advantage (Ding suggested 37.Rd2 after the game and said he missed 37...Re6), Ding should have kept such a committal move until after move 40, just as the Soviet school always taught. MVL's position remained not very nice but very much playable and he held on to draw.

    Round 9 standings: 1 Nepomniachtchi 5.5pts 2 Caruana 5pts 3 MVL 5pts 4 Giri 5pts 5 Alekseenko 4pts 6 Wang Hao 4pts 7 Grischuk 4pts 8 Ding Liren 3.5pts

    Round 10 pairings Wednesday 21st April 12pm BST: Caruana-Ding, MVL-Giri, Wang Hao-Grischuk Nepomniachtchi-Alekseenko.

  8. Caruana beats MVL in Round 8 as the FIDE Candidates resumes after a break of over a year - 8

    The World Chess Championship Candidates resumed in Yekaterinburg 390 days (1 year and 25 days) after being halted following round 7 on 25th March 2020. At that point Ian Nepomniachtchi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave were a point clear of much of the rest of the field - Nepomniachtchi was sick and had just lost a game - he candidly admitted today he was very much aided by a break. The second half of the event started with round 8 today and after looking for a long time that there would be four draws in fact two games were decisive - the most important of which was Fabiano Caruana's victory over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave which puts him right in contention half a point behind Nepomniachtchi and ahead of MVL on tie-break (their head to head score). Kirill Alekseenko won his first game of the event beating Alexander Grischuk after the latter probably tried a bit too hard to create winning chances for himself.

    There is no more alarming thing in modern chess then your opponent rattling out moves in an ultra sharp position, this is what happened to joint leader Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. MVL's Najdorf was at least fairly predictable and Caruana played at least 26 moves of preparation. Caruana gave up three pawns and then on top of that a piece. MVL did extremely well to avoid losing on the spot but did finish up in a very unpleasant endgame the exchange down which was still probably draw able. Later MVL seemed very much to be on course for a draw with a simplification down to just one pawn each on the kingside and his knight well place around the key g7 and f5 squares - making progress was impossible for white with best play. After defending stoutly for such a long time MVL made the losing move 55...Nh6 after only a few seconds thought and following 56.Rg3+ Caruana was finally winning and he converted a few moves later.

    Kirill Alekseenko was almost certainly surprised by Alexander Grischuk's choice of the French Defence. When the Queen's came off and Alekseenko played 18.Nd1 there seemed the possibility of him getting into trouble, but his 24.Bd6 followed by the provocative centralisation of his King seems to have been quite a profound concept and after giving up the exchange on move 36 his well coordinated position was at least equal. Grischuk had no real winning chances but in the lead up to move 60 - with both players in time trouble - Grischuk sharpened the struggle allowing white's e-pawn to the seventh rank. 57...Ra8 (57...Kf5 seems to hold) was the final mistake and at move 60 Alekseenko was winning and he accurately converted.

    Ian Nepomniachtchi repeated against Anish Giri for a draw in 28 moves. Magnus Carlsen was somewhat surprised and thought he had the option to continue with very little risk with 28.b4. It doesn't seem there was very much in the final position and in the Candidates the draw percentage is pretty high most of the time, Nepomniachtchi could conceivably qualify by drawing all his games, bravery has not by any means always been rewarded in this format. Wang Hao played a sharp Scotch against Ding Liren but very quickly they reached a well known drawing line and the game indeed was drawn by repetition.

    Round 8 Standings: 1st Nepomniachtchi 5pts 2nd Caruana 4.5pts 3rd MVL 4.5pts 4th Giri 4pts 5th Wang Hao 4pts 6th Alekseenko 3.5pts 7th Grischuk 3.5pts 8th Ding Liren 3pts

    Round 9 Tuesday 20th April 2021 Alekseenko-Caruana, Grischuk-Nepomniachtchi, Giri-Wang Hao and Ding-MVL.

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