Caruana and Wang Hao Win FIDE Grand Swiss

After a thrilling final round, Fabiano Caruana and Wang Hao are the deserved victors of the 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss, ending the tournament with a strong 8/11 score. Wang officially finished first on tiebreaks.

Each player receives $60,000 for shared first place, but of equal (if not greater!) importance to Wang is the fact that he receives an invitation to the 2020 Candidates on the basis of this result.

Caruana entered the day alone in first place with 7.5/10. Trailing behind him at 7/10 were Kirill Alekseenko, Levon Aronian, Magnus Carlsen, David Howell, Hikaru Nakamura, Nikita Vitiugov, and Wang Hao. While all (save Carlsen and Caruana) harbored hopes of qualifying for the Candidates, the tiebreaks dramatically favored Wang.

Grand Swiss regulations stipulate that the first tiebreak is “AROC 1,” or the average rating of one’s opponents, excluding the lowest-rated one.

Player TB1
Wang Hao 2735
Kirill Alekseenko 2716
Levon Aronian 2708
Hikaru Nakamura 2674
Nikita Vitiugov 2663
David Howell 2657


Having the best tiebreaks, Wang could qualify with a win, while Aronian would need a win and Wang to draw, and with the pattern repeating as we move down the list. Only Wang had his fate completely in his hands, while the American hopeful, Hikaru Nakamura, needed a lot of help if he were to take the Candidates seat.

The Round 11 pairings also, at least on paper, favored Wang. Nakamura faced tournament leader Caruana on board one, taking the white pieces. Aronian had white against Carlsen, as did Alekseenko against Vitiugov. And Wang had the advantage of the first move against Howell, making him the only player ‘playing down’ with white on the top four boards.

The first game to finish was Nakamura-Caruana, drawn after 31 moves. Nakamura tried to find a way to play for a win against Caruana’s Petroff, but he ultimately could not breach the Black defenses.

Aronian-Carlsen was drawn soon thereafter.

Aronian-Carlsen (photo / Maria Emelianova)

Meanwhile Wang Hao was working to convert a material advantage against Howell, one that he gained after Howell’s oversight on his 18th move. Spoiler alert: he did it.

Alekseenko-Vitiugov (photo / Maria Emelianova)

Wang’s win meant that only the winner of the Alekseenko-Vitiugov game could catch he and Caruana for first place. That game resulted in a drawn knight ending in 56 moves.

Caruana and Wang finished the event at 8/11, while six players – Alekseenko, David Anton, Aronian, Carlsen, Nakamura, and Vitiugov – ended up half a point back at 7.5. Crucially, with the highest tiebreaks among the non-qualifiers, Alekseenko becomes eligible for the organizer’s wildcard at the 2020 Candidates, although there is no guarantee he will be chosen for the task.

Women’s Prizes

Looking to grow female participation, Isle of Man tournaments have historically provided special women’s prizes, and this year’s edition was no different. Top honors were shared by GM Harika Dronavalli and IM Dinara Saduakassova at 5.5/11, with the second player earning a GM norm in the process. Harika’s best win was perhaps her round 9 victory over Axel Bachmann, while the highlight of Saduakassova’s tournament was her final round win over Ahmed Adly.

Team America

For some of the Americans in Douglas, the Grand Swiss will be a tournament to quickly forget and move past. Others will bring home fonder memories.

Caruana and Nakamura both had performance ratings over 2800. Robert Hess outperformed his 2581 rating by 63 points, finishing at 5.5/11, although two of his wins came at the expense of fellow Americans Sam Shankland and Aleksandr Lenderman. And Ray Robson ended his tournament by drawing former World Champion Viswanathan Anand.

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  1. The final round was not very “thrilling” for the two Americans at the top — since it was a must-win one for Nakamura, perhaps he should not have allowed the drawish Petroff to be played. Open with 1 d4 or something else since it was predictable that Caruana, playing without a need to take any risks, would open the way he did. The game went barely 30 moves although for one player there was a lot at stake. I’m old enough to have played in a tournament with those two in New York when Nakamura was 500 points higher than Caruana and now one is in the next Candidates’ Tournament and one isn’t yet.
    Interesting that players already in the Candidates’ Tournament or even W C could affect who got into the next Candidates’ Tournament.

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