The second part of the FIDE Candidates Tournament has started in Yekaterinburg. The strongest of the eight participants will earn the right to challenge the current World Champion Magnus Carlsen.
The technical opening of the Candidates Tournament took place before the start of the 8th round at the Hyatt Regency hotel. The anthems of Russia and FIDE were played during the ceremony and the tournament was officially resumed by FIDE President.
The symbolic first moves in the games were made by the First Deputy Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region Alexander Vysokinsky, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, State Duma deputy, multiple world chess champion Anatoly Karpov and the owner of the Sima-Land company, President of the Chess Federation of the Sverdlovsk Region Andrey Simanovsky.
Caruana – Vachier-Lagrave
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.
American grandmaster was better prepared for this game – his second, former FIDE world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov, found a very dangerous idea of 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 replying instantly.
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 2-3 place.
Alekseenko – Grischuk
In the opening, Alexander Grischuk seems to have managed to surprise his opponent by choosing the French Defense, which is a rare guest in his long professional career. It is curious that 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 move 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 boring, as nothing too interesting actually happened.
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.
Anish Giri: “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 center 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 defense and a draw was agreed on the 28th move.
A disappointing result for Ding, who was the main favorite 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.