The round before the day off had the highest number of decisive results and a shake up in the leaderboard. There is now a three way tie for first place as Ding Liren joins Viswanathan Anand and Fabiano Caruana with a win over Anish Giri. Anand had an easy day in the office while Caruana had to put in quite a lot of work to earn his half a point. With a win over Hikaru Nakamura, Ian Nepomniachtchi joins the big tie for fourth place. The games will resume Friday with a lot of exciting matchups ahead!
Ding Liren vs Anish Giri 1-0
With this beautiful high quality win, Ding Liren deservingly joins the leaders. Giri essayed the Ragozin Defense, the same line he played against Ding during Gashimov Memorial in April of this year. The Chiense player deviated from their earlier game on move 7, choosing a less common variation. In the resulting middlegame, White had control over the open d file, while Black was controlling the semi-open c file, attacking the isolated c3 pawn. The main mistake for Black was 25...g6, when Giri weakened his king and put another pawn on a light square, hindering his own light squared bishop. On move 33, Ding found a tactical way of creating a passed pawn and penetrating along the d file. Giri resigned after losing all of his kingside pawns.
Ding Liren vs Anish Giri
Ian Nepomniachtchi vs Hikaru Nakamura 1-0
The Russian player finally bounced back from his first round loss and after missing winning chances in earlier rounds. Nakamura blundered a pawn on move 15 and had to suffer for the rest of the game. He forced the game into a dark colored bishops endgame where he had very decent chances of holding. Nepomniachtchi felt that he had to win the game three times, as he kept letting the advantage go. The fatal mistake happened on move 57, when Nakamura decided to push his pawn to b4, where it could be attacked by his opponent’s bishop. Nepomniachtchi explained that at that time trouble played a role and that Nakamura probably felt that White can make progress, winning another pawn. However, this decision also forced Nakamura to misplace his bishop on a3 and made losing another pawn inevitable.
The final handshake
Magnus Carlsen vs Sergey Karjakin ½ - ½
"Finally I showed some of my preparation to New York 3 years later", Karjakin told Maurice Ashley after the game, referring to his World Championship match against Carlsen. He played a novelty on move 14, stopping White’s e pawn push. Carlsen got stuck at that point, thought for a long time but couldn’t make up his mind. Ultimately, he went for an endgame that he thought was better but in fact wasn’t it wasn’t hard for Karjakin to neutralize the pressure. The players set up a stalemate in the king and pawn endgame, a cute way to end the game. The World Champion didn’t seem too bothered by the fact that he’s behind the leaders, pointing out that he started playing well after the rest day in Zagreb and hopes to do the same here.
The players were pleased about their clever stalemate
Wesley So vs Fabiano Caruana ½ - ½
The all-American matchup was a wild battle where Caruana had to play a brilliant defense to survive. Yesterday, his opening preparation paid off as Aronian went into a deep think and eventually blundered in time trouble. Today, So was seemingly ready for his opponent’s novelty and in fact, Caruana was the one who couldn’t remember his preparation and got low on time in the opening. So sacrificed two pieces on the f6 square: first a knight then an exchange in order to make the enemy king vulnerable. Caruana had to do an enormous amount of calculation to find the most precise way to hold his position, which ultimately ended with a perpetual after he gave up his bishop.
Magnus Carlsen watches the game between So and Caruana
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Viswanathan Anand ½ - ½
A well prepared line in the Giuoco Piano gave Anand a comfortable draw with the black pieces. Vachier-Lagrave was surprised by 8...a5. He went for a forcing line opening the center, trading queens and grabbing the f7 pawn. However, Anand had quick counterplay on the kingside due to being ahead in development. The former World Champion joked that in the final position where he forced a perpetual check, he was in the perfect position to attack were it not for his king and bishop on the back rank.
Levon Aronian vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov ½ - ½
In Levon Aronian’s own words, there wasn’t much to say about this game. Aronian essayed the 5.Bd3 variation against the Petroff Defense. By move 12, the players reached a symmetrical position in an exchanged French structure, an opening that is known for being very drawish. Neither player showed any ambition in the game, reaching a knight endgame with a locked pawn structure, ending the game with a repetition.
Info provided by GCT