Levon Aronian gave everyone hope by predicting that in an effort to win, at one point, someone will play something complicated, blunder and lose their game. It could have very well been him today were it not for a well-timed draw offer during his opponent’s time trouble in a completely lost position. It was a disappointing result for Karjakin who could have been leading the tournament.
There is still a lot of chess to be played, especially tomorrow when Grand Chess Tour leader, Magnus Carlsen, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who is in second place, will square off.
Hikaru Nakamura – Wesley So ½ – ½
Nakamura repeated the game he played against Boris Gelfand at Tata Steel Tournament in 2014 until move 10. After giving up the bishop pair, So sacrificed a pawn to go into an opposite color bishop middlegame. He felt that decision would give him better drawing chances rather than leaving his opponent with the two bishops aiming at his king.
After some precise moves, So won his pawn back and a draw was agreed after most pieces were exchanged.
Ian Nepomniachtchi – Fabiano Caruana ½ – ½
Nepomniachtchi played reverse Pirc with the white and was able to gain the bishop pair in the middle game. Caruana had a very active position and a strong knight in the center of the board, minimizing the potential of his opponent’s bishops.
Nepomniachtchi wasn’t able to find a way to improve the position and the players agreed to a draw right before trading into an opposite color bishop endgame.
Michael Adams – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave ½ – ½
Vachier-Lagrave played his beloved Najdorf, but Adams chose the less challenging 3.Bb5 instead of entering the theoretical lines of the open Sicilian. The players entered a double rook endgame, where the Frenchman had an extra pawn but had to trade off one of his opponent’s active rooks.
The resulting rook endgame with four pawns against 3 pawns on one side of the board offered Vachier-Lagrave some practical chances but the pawn structure made the Englishman’s defense easy. A draw was agreed when Vachier-Lagrave accepted the rook sacrifice, which ended the game in a stalemate.
Magnus Carlsen – Viswanathan Anand ½ – ½
It was the first time Carlsen had the white pieces in a classical game against Anand since their World Championship Match in 2014!
The World Champion played the Catalan, sacrificing a pawn for activity since Black has problems finishing his development in that line. Carlsen played a rarer line, but Anand knew “the recipe.”
At some point, Anand felt like he had consolidated his position enough to even start playing for the advantage, but beating Carlsen is no easy task. After finding some precise moves, the game started drifting toward the draw territory, which was agreed on move 31.
Levon Aronian – Sergey Karjakin ½ – ½
This was definitely the most exciting game of the round, which should have ended with a decisive result. Aronian sacrificed a pawn in the middle game in an attempt punish his opponent’s risky play on the kingside. However, he did not have a direct attack while his opponent’s plan was easier.
Aronian took too many risks and found himself in a lost position. He only managed to salvage the half a point when he offered a draw after making a decisive mistake on move 31. Karjakin had less than two minutes on his clock and agreed to a draw after he failed to find the winning idea.