Candidates Race Wide Open After Tumultuous Round 12

Sergey Karjakin in post game interview, Photo Brian C. Glover

The FIDE Candidates tournament was blasted wide open in round 12 in Berlin. Both leaders, Fabiano Caruana and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov were defeated, leaving five players in the hunt with two rounds to go.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov lost early in the day to Ding Liren, who spotted a nice and unusual defensive sequence- Shak was able to invade with queen, bishop and rook, but to no avail.

[pgn][Event "FIDE Berlin Candidates"]
[Date "2018.03.24"]
[White "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"]
[Black "Ding, Liren"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D41"]
[WhiteElo "2809"]
[BlackElo "2769"]
[PlyCount "86"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "Azerbaijan"]
[BlackTeam "China"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "AZE"]
[BlackTeamCountry "CHN"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 cxd4 8.
cxd4 Bb4+ 9. Bd2 Bxd2+ 10. Qxd2 O-O 11. Bc4 Nd7 12. O-O b6 13. Rad1 Bb7 14.
Rfe1 Rc8 15. Bb3 Re8 16. h3 Nf6 17. Qf4 Nh5 18. Qh2 h6 19. Ne5 Nf6 20. Qf4 b5
21. Re3 Rc7 22. Nd3 Rc3 23. Nc5 Rxe3 24. Qxe3 Bc6 25. Rc1 Qb6 26. f3 Rd8 27.
Kf2 a5 28. g4 a4 29. Bc2 Nd7 30. Bd3 Nxc5 31. Rxc5 b4 32. Bc4 Bd7 33. g5 hxg5
34. Qxg5 Be8 35. Qe7 b3 36. axb3 a3 37. b4 Ra8 38. d5 a2 39. dxe6 a1=Q 40.
exf7+ Bxf7 41. Bxf7+ Kh7 42. Qh4+ Qh6 43. Rh5 Qa7+ 0-1 [/pgn]
Meanwhile, it looked as if Fabiano would have a chance to keep the lead with a draw. But, Sergey Karjakin’s exchange sacrifice was too much for Caruana to defend.
[pgn][Event "FIDE Berlin Candidates"]
[Date "2018.03.24"]
[Round "12.2"]
[White "Karjakin, Sergey"]
[Black "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C42"]
[WhiteElo "2763"]
[BlackElo "2784"]
[PlyCount "95"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "Russia"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "RUS"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nc3 Nxc3 6. dxc3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7
8. Qd2 Be6 9. O-O-O Qd7 10. a3 h6 11. Nd4 Nxd4 12. Bxd4 Rg8 13. Be2 c5 14. Be3
d5 15. f4 O-O-O 16. Bf3 Bg4 17. Bxd5 Bxd1 18. Rxd1 Qc7 19. c4 Rge8 20. Qf2 b6
21. g4 Bf6 22. Kb1 Rd7 23. Rd3 g5 24. Ka2 Ree7 25. Qf3 Kd8 26. Bd2 Kc8 27. Qf1
Rd6 28. fxg5 Bxg5 29. Bxg5 hxg5 30. Qf5+ Rdd7 31. Qxg5 Qe5 32. Qh6 Kd8 33. g5
Qd6 34. Qh8+ Re8 35. Qh4 Qg6 36. Qg4 Re5 37. h4 Ke7 38. Rd2 b5 39. Bxf7 Qf5 40.
Rxd7+ Kxd7 41. Qxf5+ Rxf5 42. g6 Ke7 43. cxb5 Rh5 44. c4 Rxh4 45. a4 Rg4 46. a5
Kd6 47. a6 Kc7 48. Kb3 1-0[/pgn]
Caruana was beaten by what Karjakin called, “Top Secret” preparation against the Petrov. It was a must win game for Karjakin, allowing him to get to +2 tied for first place with Caruana. This feat is quite incredible as Karjakin started with an abysmal 1 out of 4. He has battled back strong scoring 3 wins in the past 5 rounds. Caruana said that he did not realize how good the exchange sac was for Sergey until two or three moves later when he “saw the position from the White side.”

Today was definitely bad for Caruana but it could have been worse as his closest rival, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, also lost to Ding Liren.  In round 11, Ding missed an easy win against Grischuk and when asked if he could have dreamed to beat Shak with Black he said, “No, I have not beaten Shak before.” Well, today was the best day for this win as he pulls even with Shak and Grischuk (6.5) with all three trailing Caruana and Karjakin (7) by only ½ a point.

My main purpose in Berlin is for our documentary, Berlin 2018, and we are getting incredible footage of all the action. My favorite part is being able to get up close and personal post game interviews after ever round. I had a great moment after round 10 with Caruana where he gave great advice for young players. He said, "If they really love chess then I say they should work on it. Play a lot and maybe one day they will make it to the top."

We've also been treated to some excellent side events. Chess Boxing Global was gracious enough to invite us to their Intellectual Fight Club event. I had a great conversation with the founder, Iepe Rubingh (pronounced Eepa), about the combination of these two great sports. He said, “In a way it is very natural to have this mental and physical aspects.”

More photos on the official FB page

It definitely was a combination of both with the boxers duking it out and then plopping a table and board right in the middle of the ring. The main event was incredibly exciting as we were able to see the local German hero, Sven Rooch, win the match with a nice checkmate.

Tomorrow is a rest day but no rest for the Berlin 2018 team as we are going to the Wine Chess Battle put on by a collaboration between Art Russe and the Chateau La Grace Dieu Des Prieurs from Bordeaux. Art Russe lent their name and quite a few famous Russian paintings to use as labels for the vintages. They were gracious enough to allow our team to join in a wine tasting today after which I was soundly beaten in a complex endgame by one of the sommeliers that will be competing tomorrow.

US Chess readers will join me in wishing Fabiano Caruana plenty of rest to get ready for the final two rounds. 17 out of the 48 games have been decisive so there is no doubt it will be an exciting climax!

Watch the Candidates last two rounds on Monday, on a variety of channels covered by GM Rogers, as well as Today In Chess, hosted by the Saint Louis Chess Club. 

Follow the twitter handle of Berlin 2018 at

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