Giri wins Candidates Round 9, Joins Caruana, MVL in second place knot

GM Anish Giri in Round 9 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament
Image Caption
GM Anish Giri was the sole winner in Round 9 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament. // credit Lennart Ootes, FIDE

Dutch Grandmaster Anish Giri regained his step in the 2020-21 Candidates Tournament on Tuesday, scoring the only decisive result in the ninth round to find World Champion Magnus Carlsen’s next challenger. 

With the full point floating him up to World No. 5 according to live rankings, Giri’s convincing win over Chinese GM Wang Hao also lifted him in the Candidates standings, bringing the Dutch GM back into second place with five games remaining. With the other three games in Round 9 settling peacefully, Giri rejoins American GM Fabiano Caruana and French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a pack at 5.0/9 that trails tournament leader GM Ian Nepomniatchtchi by a half point.  

Though no remaining round in the Candidates lacks impact, Wednesday’s Round 10 will bring a pivotal matchup between Giri and MVL, who gets his first shot with the white pieces since the eight players returned to the board. Equally as important is a revenge game for World No. 2 Caruana, taking white against Chinese World No. 3 GM Ding Liren, who in eighth place has suffered on both sides of the event – but tallied his only tournament win against the American in Round 3. 

2020-21 FIDE Candidates Tournament Standings After Round 9


GM Fabiano Caruana FIDE Candidates Tournament Yekaterinburg, Russia
Image Caption
GM Fabiano Caruana in Round 9 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg, Russia. // credit Lennart Ootes, FIDE

On Tuesday, Caruana’s peaceful draw as Black against Russian GM Kirill Alekseenko seemed like a missed opportunity, if only for the American finding himself up material two different times during battle. In a Giuocco Piano of the Italian Game, Caruana grabbed two pawns at 12. exd4 and 13. dxc3, which Alekseenko ignored in lieu of Black’s dark-squared bishop. But Caruana surprised the Russian with the follow-up 14. c2 instead of capturing again on b2, a “too dangerous” idea the American said he never considered. 

Caruana showed patience again through a sharp middlegame, attacking but not capturing White’s stranded a-pawn for nearly 10 moves while he consolidated his pieces. And when he did finally grab the free pawn at 29. … Nxa4, he followed with 30. … Nxb2, going up two pawns and creating a dangerous pair of connected passers. But Alekseenko, who has had a solid 1.5/2 restart to the Candidates including yesterday’s victory over countryman GM Alexander Grischuk, once again performed well under world-class pressure, using the time to reactivate his pieces and then reclaiming material balance just a few moves later. In a rook-and-pawn endgame, Caruana pushed his passer as far as a2 before the blockade, and the two kings cleaned up the mess. 

[pgn][Event "FIDE Candidates 2020"] [Site "Yekaterinburg RUS"] [Date "2021.04.20"] [Round "9.1"] [White "Alekseenko, Kirill"] [Black "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C50"] [WhiteElo "2698"] [BlackElo "2842"] [PlyCount "118"] [EventDate "2020.03.17"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 h6 6. O-O d6 7. Re1 O-O 8. h3 Bb6 9. Nbd2 Ne7 10. d4 Nc6 11. a4 a5 12. Ba2 exd4 13. Nc4 dxc3 14. Nxb6 c2 15. Qxc2 cxb6 16. Bd2 Be6 17. Bxe6 fxe6 18. Qb3 Qe8 19. Qxb6 Nd7 20. Qe3 e5 21. Qd3 Qe6 22. Nh4 Nc5 23. Qg3 Kh7 24. Rad1 g5 25. Nf3 Rf7 26. Bc1 Raf8 27. Qg4 Qxg4 28. hxg4 Rf6 29. Be3 Nxa4 30. Rd5 Nxb2 31. Rc1 R8f7 32. Rc2 Na4 33. Rc4 Nb2 34. Rc2 Na4 35. Rc4 Nc5 36. Bxc5 dxc5 37. Rcxc5 Re7 38. Nxe5 Nxe5 39. Rxe5 Rxe5 40. Rxe5 Ra6 41. Re7+ Kg6 42. Rxb7 a4 43. f3 a3 44. Rb1 a2 45. Ra1 Kf6 46. Kf2 Ke5 47. Ke3 Ra8 48. Kd3 Kf4 49. Kc4 Kg3 50. e5 Kxg2 51. e6 Kxf3 52. Kd5 Kxg4 53. e7 Kf3 54. Rxa2 Re8 55. Ke6 g4 56. Kf7 Rxe7+ 57. Kxe7 g3 58. Kf6 g2 59. Rxg2 Kxg2 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]


GM Anish Giri Wang Hao FIDE Candidates Tournament
Image Caption
GM Anish Giri defeated GM Wang Hao in the ninth round of the FIDE Candidates Tournament. // credit Lennart Ootes, FIDE

In the day’s only victory, Giri found solid positional footing through a Closed Catalan setup by Hao, then seemed content to slowly squeeze the Chinese GMs position. After the game, Giri described being careful through the game with minimal advantage, while Hao claimed he struggled to find continuations throughout – including a numbing 27. … g6 that weakened his castle, where he later admitted “I just couldn’t find a move.” 

Giri’s patient improvement and slow restricting effect built into full territorial control of the queenside, using a queen-and-rook battery to both command and conquer the seventh rank. Hao resigned just before the time control at 39. Nxf7, with Black's defense successfully cracked. 

[pgn][Event "FIDE Candidates 2020"] [Site "Yekaterinburg RUS"] [Date "2021.04.20"] [Round "9.3"] [White "Giri, Anish"] [Black "Wang, Hao"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E06"] [WhiteElo "2763"] [BlackElo "2762"] [PlyCount "77"] [EventDate "2020.03.17"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Be7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O dxc4 7. Qc2 a6 8. a4 Bd7 9. Qxc4 Bc6 10. Bf4 Bd6 11. Nc3 Bxf4 12. gxf4 a5 13. e3 Na6 14. Ne5 Bxg2 15. Kxg2 c6 16. h3 Qb6 17. Qe2 c5 18. Rfd1 cxd4 19. Rxd4 Rad8 20. Rxd8 Qxd8 21. Rd1 Qa8 22. Kg1 Nb4 23. Qb5 Nbd5 24. Nxd5 Nxd5 25. Rc1 h6 26. Qd7 Nf6 27. Qd6 g6 28. b3 h5 29. Kh2 Kg7 30. Qd4 Rd8 31. Qb2 Qb8 32. b4 axb4 33. Rc4 b3 34. Rb4 Qa7 35. Rxb3 Qxa4 36. Rxb7 Qe8 37. Ra7 Rd5 38. Qb7 Ne4 39. Nxf7 1-0 [/pgn]


GM Ding Liren Maxime Vachier-Lagrave MVL FIDE Candidates Tournament
Image Caption
GMs Ding Liren and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played to a six-hour draw in round 9 of the FIDE Candidates Tournament. // credit Lennart Ootes, FIDE

There is no rest for the weary in the Candidates, as MVL was pushed into his second six-hour affair in as many days – though at least there was fruit at the end of Tuesday’s game against Liren. One day after suffering through a 74-move marathon loss by the hands of Caruana in Round 8, the Frenchman took Black for the second time in a row and found himself once again up against a year’s worth of preparation.  

His plans for the Grunfeld defense went askew with Liren’s 3. h4, a surprise attack on the wing which invaded further at 10. h5. Vachier-Lagrave chose to abandon his dark-colored bishop at 11. … Bxc3, then absorbed the h-pawn and focused his knights to a powerful e5 outpost. Still in prep, Liren answered with a sacrifice 15. Nd4!, which MVL accepted and returned on the very next move. The exchange left him bad, however, and the situation went from bad to worse after an exchange of the remaining minor pieces on c5 produced a connected passer for White. 

The passed pawn, however, was not to be pushed at 36. d6, a premature shove by Liren that allowed MVL to corral the threat and resolidify his position. A visibly dejected Liren continued to probe a dangerously open board with his queen and rook for more than 50 moves and several grueling hours, though MVL successfully defused the effort. A draw by repetition came at move 88. 

“I faced very big problems, my position was collapsing, and I was afraid that the game might end in two moves,” Vachier-Lagrave said. “But gradually I managed to get caught up in the struggle. I am glad that I managed to save half a point and stay in chances to win the tournament, but this game will definitely not end up in my best games collection.” 

[pgn][Event "FIDE Candidates 2020"] [Site "Yekaterinburg RUS"] [Date "2021.04.20"] [Round "9.4"] [White "Ding, Liren"] [Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E60"] [WhiteElo "2805"] [BlackElo "2767"] [PlyCount "175"] [EventDate "2020.03.17"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. h4 Bg7 4. Nc3 c5 5. d5 d6 6. e4 e6 7. Be2 exd5 8. exd5 Nbd7 9. Nf3 Ng4 10. h5 Qe7 11. Bg5 Bxc3+ 12. bxc3 f6 13. Bd2 g5 14. O-O Nge5 15. Nd4 cxd4 16. cxd4 O-O 17. dxe5 fxe5 18. Be3 b6 19. a4 Nc5 20. a5 Rb8 21. Ra3 h6 22. Qd2 Bf5 23. axb6 axb6 24. Rfa1 Rb7 25. Qd1 Kg7 26. R1a2 Ne4 27. Bd3 Qf7 28. Rb2 Nc5 29. Bxf5 Qxf5 30. Bxc5 dxc5 31. Qe2 e4 32. Re3 Re8 33. Rb5 Qe5 34. g3 Qd4 35. Rb1 Rf7 36. Rd1 Qf6 37. d6 Re6 38. d7 Rd6 39. Rxd6 Qxd6 40. Rxe4 Rxd7 41. Kg2 Qc6 42. Kh2 Qf6 43. Kh3 Qf5+ 44. g4 Qf6 45. Re5 Qd6 46. Kg2 Qc6+ 47. f3 Qd6 48. Qe4 Ra7 49. Qe2 Rd7 50. Qe4 Ra7 51. Kh3 Rf7 52. Re8 Qf6 53. Kg2 Qb2+ 54. Kh3 Qf6 55. Kg2 Qb2+ 56. Kg3 Qf6 57. Qd3 Qf4+ 58. Kg2 Qf6 59. Kg3 Qf4+ 60. Kg2 Qf6 61. Qe2 Rd7 62. Qe4 Rd2+ 63. Kh3 Qd6 64. Re5 Kf6 65. Rf5+ Kg7 66. Re5 Kf6 67. Rf5+ Kg7 68. Qb7+ Kh8 69. Qa8+ Kg7 70. Qa7+ Kh8 71. Qa1+ Kg8 72. Qa8+ Kg7 73. Qa1+ Kg8 74. Re5 Qf8 75. Qa3 Rf2 76. Kg3 Qf4+ 77. Kxf2 Qxe5 78. Qa8+ Kf7 79. Qb7+ Kf8 80. Qc8+ Ke7 81. Qb7+ Kf8 82. Qxb6 Qh2+ 83. Kf1 Qh1+ 84. Ke2 Qg2+ 85. Ke3 Qg1+ 86. Ke2 Qg2+ 87. Ke3 Qg1+ 88. Ke2 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
GM Alexander Grischuk Ian Nepomniatchitchi Anish Giri Wang Hao FIDE Candidates Tournament
Image Caption
GMs Alexander Grischuk and Ian Nepomniatchtchi analyze their Round 9 game in the FIDE Candidates Tournament, as Anish Giri and Wang Hao look on. // credit Lennart Ootes, FIDE

After suffering his first tournament loss yesterday, Grischuk looked to spice things up in an important match against tournament leader Nepomniatchtchi on Tuesday. Against a Grunfeld, Grischuk as White sacrificed a pawn to flex his central dominance with 10. d5!, which Nepomniatchtchi accepted with Bxc3+. He attempted to give the piece back on the next move, though Grischuk patiently waited to collect with the developing 14. Bc4 and prepared to exploit his connected central passer. 

Nepo found his way through, however, to an endgame of scattered pawns collected by hungry rooks. Clearly drawn after 36 moves, the Russians fiddled for five more before agreeing to peace at the 41st move – the minimum per FIDE’s draw rules in the Candidates. 

[pgn][Event "FIDE Candidates 2020"] [Site "Yekaterinburg RUS"] [Date "2021.04.20"] [Round "9.2"] [White "Grischuk, Alexander"] [Black "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D85"] [WhiteElo "2777"] [BlackElo "2774"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "2020.03.17"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Nf3 c5 8. Rb1 O-O 9. h3 Nc6 10. d5 Bxc3+ 11. Bd2 Bxd2+ 12. Qxd2 Nd4 13. Nxd4 cxd4 14. Bc4 e5 15. O-O Qd6 16. f4 Rb8 17. fxe5 Qxe5 18. Qf4 Qxf4 19. Rxf4 Re8 20. Bb5 Rd8 21. Rbf1 Bd7 22. Bc4 Rbc8 23. Bb3 Bb5 24. R1f2 a5 25. d6 Bc4 26. Rxf7 Bxb3 27. axb3 Rxd6 28. e5 Rb6 29. Rd7 Rf8 30. Ra2 Rxb3 31. Rxa5 Re3 32. Rb5 Re1+ 33. Kh2 Rf7 34. Rbxb7 Rxd7 35. Rxd7 Rxe5 36. Rxd4 Re7 37. Kg1 Kg7 38. Kh2 Rf7 39. Kg1 Re7 40. Kh2 Rf7 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

The Candidates Tournament continues with Round 10 on Wednesday, with first moves played at 7:00 a.m. eastern. The matchups are Caruana-Liren, Nepomniatchtchi-Alekseenko, MVL-Giri and Hao-Grischuk. More information can be found on the FIDE Candidates Tournament official website

For a deeper dive into the games, watch the Round 9 Breakdown with GM Jacob Aagaard, or check back on CLO later Tuesday for Aagaard’s annotated Game of the Day. 

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Plain Text Comments