Ding and Nepomniachtchi Step Forward

Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi took big steps forward in Round 9 with key wins, moving into the lead of the 2019 Sinquefield Cup with two rounds to play. Both players are at 5.5 points heading into today’s action.

courtesy STLCC

courtesy STLCC

Ding defeated Fabiano Caruana, who started the round tied for first place, in a lovely positional effort. In a post on Facebook, used here with his permission, Jacob Aagaard writes:

I have long thought that Ding Liren is a plausible winner of the Candidates 2020. Yesterday he won a great game against Fabiano Caruana in St Louis. After a mistake in the opening, Caruana was under permanent pressure.

In this position, Black should play 16…Nxf4 or 16…Qa8, but it is not obvious that 16…Rc6 creates such problems for Black, but after 17.Be5 it was really not easy.
Later on Black had a few chances to equalize, but they all required great accuracy, which is difficult to deliver when the time runs out.

Ding’s pressure did indeed induce small errors from Caruana, and eventually Caruana lost the thread in a difficult position with 45…Qc2. After that, Ding converted his advantage without difficulty.

Ian Nepomniachtchi ground down Wesley So in a long queen and pawn ending, taking a full 132 moves to claim the full point. With the time control at the Sinquefield Cup lacking increment – players get 130 minutes for the game, with a 30 second delay for each move – So had under five minutes on the clock for nearly fifty moves!

Viswanathan Anand and Sergey Karjakin are tied for second place, a half-point behind leaders Ding and Nepomniachtchi with 5 points. Anand had another disappointing day at the office, drawing Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in a complex game where “Shak’s” activity always seemed compensation enough for his sacrificed pawns.

photo Lennart Ootes

photo Lennart Ootes

Karjakin drew with Black against Anish Giri in a game that started with a bang (7.b4!?) but eventually fizzled into a bishop of opposite colors ending.

In the remaining games, Hikaru Nakamura saved a tricky position against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, holding the draw, while Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen also drew. This was Carlsen’s ninth consecutive draw in the event.

Today’s Pairings:

courtesy STLCC

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