Giri and Nepomniachtchi Win in All-Action Round 12

Who said classical chess was dead?

With four decisive results in four games, the 12th round of the FIDE Candidates Tournament was as entertaining as it was consequential. With both GM Ian Nepomniachtchi and GM Anish Giri winning their games, the gap between the top two players and the rest of the field grew to a full point, making this effectively a two-man race.

 

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Xtable after 12 Rounds at Candidates

 

Nepomniachtchi leads the tournament with 8/12, a half-point ahead of Giri at 7½ points. But Nepomniachtchi has an ace in the hole — his Round 1 win over Giri, way back on March 17, 2020, gives him the edge in the first tournament tiebreak. What this means is that Giri will have to overcome Nepomniachtchi in the standings, scoring a full point more than the leader, if he is to advance to the World Championship. Shared first place will see Nepo move forward.

 

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Nepomniachtchi and Wang Hao
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courtesy FIDE / Lennart Ootes

 

Nepomniachtchi’s win over GM Wang Hao was deserved, if perhaps — at least according to more than one commentary team — a bit premature. Wang slipped up with 39. Re7, after which the Russian GM began to press and pressure a tired opponent who felt his playing strength slipping away.

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This may help explain Wang’s surprising resignation after Nepomniachtchi’s 59th move. The Saint Louis Chess Club commentary team of GMs Maurice Ashley, Alejandro Ramirez, and Yasser Seirawan was aghast at this turn of events, thinking that Wang needed to make his opponent “prove” the win after perhaps 60. Re8. The always quotable GM Nigel Short was more blunt in his assessment of the situation:

 

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[pgn][Event "FIDE Candidates 2020"] [Site "Yekaterinburg RUS"] [Date "2021.04.24"] [Round "12.4"] [White "Wang, Hao"] [Black "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2762"] [BlackElo "2774"] [PlyCount "118"] [EventDate "2020.03.17"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d3 Nf6 6. d4 d5 7. Bd3 Bd6 8. Qe2+ Qe7 9. Qxe7+ Kxe7 10. O-O Nc6 11. c3 h6 12. Nh4 Re8 13. Nf5+ Bxf5 14. Bxf5 Kf8 15. g3 Ne7 16. Bh3 Nc8 17. Nd2 a5 18. a4 c6 19. Rd1 h5 20. Nf1 g6 21. f3 Nb6 22. b3 Kg7 23. Kf2 Nbd7 24. Bg5 Nf8 25. Re1 Ne6 26. Be3 Rac8 27. Bd2 c5 28. dxc5 Bxc5+ 29. Kg2 Bb6 30. Rab1 Rc6 31. b4 Nc7 32. Rxe8 Ncxe8 33. bxa5 Bxa5 34. Rxb7 Nd6 35. Ra7 Bxc3 36. Bd7 Nxd7 37. Bxc3+ Rxc3 38. Rxd7 Rc6 39. Re7 Rc2+ 40. Kg1 d4 41. Rd7 Nf5 42. a5 Ra2 43. Ra7 Kf6 44. a6 h4 45. Ra8 h3 46. a7 Ke7 47. g4 Nd6 48. Rb8 Rxa7 49. Rb4 d3 50. Rb3 Ra2 51. Rxd3 Nc4 52. Ng3 Rg2+ 53. Kh1 Kf8 54. Rc3 Nb2 55. Rc8+ Kg7 56. Rd8 Rf2 57. Kg1 Rxf3 58. Ne4 Re3 59. Ng3 Ra3 0-1 [/pgn]

With the win, Nepomniachtchi kept pace with Giri, who had earlier defeated GM Fabiano Caruana in what was effectively a must-win situation for both players. Giri’s victory was analyzed by GM Jacob Aagaard in our Game of the Day for Round 12.

 

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Caruana versus Giri
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courtesy FIDE / Lennart Ootes

 

After 6. a3, perhaps designed to avoid heavy theory in the Sveshnikov or Four Knight Sicilians, Caruana never really got a comfortable position, and was already on his heels a bit after 20. ... Qf8.

Giri enjoyed a good knight against Caruana’s bad bishop after 30. ... Nf4, and soon the tactics were on his side as well. Caruana resigned after the pretty sham-sac 45. ... Nxg2, giving the Dutch GM a lifeline in his attempt to overtake the leader Nepomniachtchi.

[pgn][Event "FIDE Candidates 2020"] [Site "Yekaterinburg RUS"] [Date "2021.04.24"] [Round "12.1"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Giri, Anish"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B40"] [WhiteElo "2842"] [BlackElo "2763"] [PlyCount "90"] [EventDate "2020.03.17"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. a3 Be7 7. Be3 O-O 8. Be2 d6 9. Qd3 Bd7 10. f4 e5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. O-O exf4 13. Bxf4 Be6 14. Qg3 Nd7 15. Rad1 Re8 16. Kh1 Qb8 17. b4 Ne5 18. b5 Rc8 19. bxc6 Rxc6 20. Nd5 Qf8 21. c3 Rac8 22. Rc1 Ng6 23. Bd2 Bh4 24. Qe3 Rc5 25. c4 h6 26. Qb3 Bg5 27. Bxg5 hxg5 28. Qg3 Qd8 29. Rcd1 Bxd5 30. exd5 Nf4 31. Qf2 R8c7 32. Rd4 Qe8 33. Bf3 Rxc4 34. Rxc4 Rxc4 35. Qxa7 Ra4 36. Qf2 Rxa3 37. h4 Qe5 38. hxg5 Qxg5 39. Re1 Ra8 40. Be4 Ra2 41. Rb1 Ra8 42. Re1 f5 43. Bb1 Kf7 44. Re3 Rh8+ 45. Kg1 Nxg2 0-1 [/pgn]

 

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MVL versus Alekseenko
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courtesy FIDE / Lennart Ootes

 

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave moved up to third place after his win over GM Kirill Alekseenko. The Russian suffered another opening catastrophe after his 7. ... Qc7?, and was effectively lost out of the opening.

[pgn][Event "FIDE Candidates 2020"] [Site "Yekaterinburg RUS"] [Date "2021.04.24"] [Round "12.3"] [White "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Alekseenko, Kirill"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B12"] [WhiteElo "2767"] [BlackElo "2698"] [PlyCount "89"] [EventDate "2020.03.17"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3 dxe4 4. fxe4 e5 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. c3 Nf6 7. Bc4 Qc7 8. dxe5 Bxf3 9. Qxf3 Qxe5 10. Bf4 Qh5 11. Nd2 Nbd7 12. O-O-O Nb6 13. Bb3 Be7 14. Rhg1 Qxf3 15. gxf3 g6 16. Nc4 Nxc4 17. Bxc4 b5 18. Bb3 Nd7 19. Bxf7+ Kxf7 20. Rxd7 Ke6 21. Rc7 Rhc8 22. Rxc8 Rxc8 23. Be3 a5 24. Kd2 a4 25. f4 Rd8+ 26. Ke2 Rf8 27. Kf3 Rd8 28. Rc1 c5 29. c4 b4 30. Ke2 Rd7 31. Rd1 Rxd1 32. Kxd1 Bf8 33. Kc2 Be7 34. b3 a3 35. Kd3 Bf8 36. Bf2 Be7 37. Ke3 Bd8 38. Kf3 Be7 39. Kg4 h5+ 40. Kf3 Bf8 41. Bh4 Bd6 42. e5 Bc7 43. Ke4 Ba5 44. Bg5 Bb6 45. Bh6 1-0 [/pgn]

 

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Ding Liren versus Alexander Grischuk
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courtesy FIDE / Lennart Ootes

 

GM Ding Liren continued his resurgence with a surprising victory over GM Alexander Grischuk. A series of errors after the time control doomed Grischuk, who now drops to the bottom half of the crosstable.

[pgn][Event "FIDE Candidates 2020"] [Site "Yekaterinburg RUS"] [Date "2021.04.24"] [Round "12.2"] [White "Ding, Liren"] [Black "Grischuk, Alexander"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2805"] [BlackElo "2777"] [PlyCount "93"] [EventDate "2020.03.17"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "14"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 7. c5 Nh5 8. Bd3 Nxf4 9. exf4 b6 10. b4 a5 11. a3 c6 12. O-O Ba6 13. Ne2 Qc7 14. h4 h6 15. g3 Bc4 16. Qc2 b5 17. Rfe1 Ra7 18. Nc3 Rfa8 19. Rab1 axb4 20. axb4 Bxd3 21. Qxd3 Bf6 22. h5 Ra3 23. Qc2 Be7 24. Kg2 Bf6 25. Rec1 Bd8 26. Qe2 Bf6 27. Rc2 Qb8 28. Rbb2 Bd8 29. Nb1 R3a6 30. Ne5 Nf6 31. Nd2 Bc7 32. Nb3 Qe8 33. Nc1 Ra4 34. Ncd3 Ne4 35. g4 R8a6 36. f3 Nf6 37. Kf2 Ra1 38. Ra2 Qa8 39. Nc1 R1xa2 40. Rxa2 Ra3 41. Rxa3 Qxa3 42. Qd2 Bxe5 43. dxe5 Nd7 44. Ne2 f6 45. exf6 e5 46. fxg7 e4 47. Qc3 1-0 [/pgn]


Sunday is a rest day in Yekaterinburg, with Round 13 resuming on Monday. The key pairing is Nepomniachtchi versus Vachier-Lagrave, with the leader taking the White pieces. Wang Hao has White against Caruana, while Alekseenko is paired with Ding Liren and Grischuk plays White against Giri.

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