Anish Giri defeats Ding Liren and pursues Nepomniachtchi
Anish Giri wins the second game in the second part of the FIDE Candidates Tournament and narrows the gap to half a point.
The ending in the game of Anish Giri and Ding Liren turned out to be very spectacular. The Chinese grandmaster played very strongly in the middlegame and seized the initiative, but missed couple of strong moves and fell under a crushing attack.
The leader of the tournament, Ian Nepomniachtchi, chose "the safe mode" in the game against one of the rivals Fabiano Caruana. After passing the first time control players signed an expected peace.
In the brightest game of the round, Alexander Grischuk sacrificed to his opponent a pawn and later on even a whole rook in order to create an attack along the open h-file. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave missed his chances to save the game several times, the last time right after passing time control, when he had an unexpected chance to make a draw.
In the Alekseenko - Wang Hao game, Black's position was also very promising at one point, but Kirill managed to hold for a draw.
After the 11th round Ian Nepomniachtchi is leading with 7 points out of 11 (=3), while Anish Giri is on the second place with 6,5 points (+2). Fabiano Caruana has 6 points (+1) and the third place in the table. Alexander Grischuk and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave tie for the fourth place with 5,5 points (0).
Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia) - Fabiano Caruana (USA)
The leader of the competition, Ian Nepomniachtchi, had white against one of his closest pursuers Fabiano Caruana. The four knights opening with the line 4.d4 appeared on the board. This opening considered pretty drawish and the tournament commentator Daniil Dubov predicted such a scenario: "Mathematically speaking, it's a very simple decision for both. Ian has to play something drawish and that's what he does. But I think also for Fabi it is not yet time to go into the kamikaze mood."
In a calm, approximately equal position, the American Grandmaster rushed to exchange queens, after which he faced some difficulties. However, he managed to keep the balance with an accurate play, and immediately after passing the first time control the opponents agreed to a draw.
Fabiano Caruana: "I thought Ian might have two approaches - one to get a complicated fight and another to play a more or less safe position with some minor chances that I mess this position up, but like 99% of the time this line will turn into a draw."
"It's still three rounds to go, I thought why would I burn my bridges," said Fabiano Caruana, answering the question of whether he could go for something more double-edged in the opening.
Anish Giri (Netherlands) - Ding Liren (China)
The grandmasters played one of the lines of the exchange variation in Ruy Lopez, where White does not immediately trade his light-squared bishop for the knight, but waits for Black to develop the knight to f6. It is believed that with this sort of pawn structure the knight is not very well positioned, but the course of the game did prove this theory. In a position with opposite castles (the white king went to the kingside, the black one to the queenside), White placed his knight on a5, trying to create pressure on the queen's side of the board.
According to Giri, he did not expect the idea of Black with c7-c6 and the transfer of the bishop to c7 , but, apparently, it turned out to be very strong. White's attack was temporarily stopped, he had to retreat the knight from the front line. Black was tempted to start a pawn storm on the king's side and missed strong moves Ng5 and h4.
Having regained an elusive initiative, the Dutch grandmaster began to play with the inspiration. He sacrificed his bishop and created dangerous threats against the enemy king. Black's position collapsed unexpectedly quickly and on move 29 Ding Liren resigned.
Anish Giri: "Few people have already told me it was a great game but I don't think it was that great as it looked in the end. At some point, he was the one who had all the play, he was dictating the course of the game."
Alexander Grischuk (Russia) - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France)
In response to the Sicilian defense, Alexander played an original system which was introduced by the world champion Magnus Carlsen. Already on the 4th move white queen jumps out to the center and then immediately returns to d2, blocking the way for its own bishop. However, pretty soon White's pieces found harmony as the dark-squared bishop moved to b2 and the king hid on the queenside. Black castled to the opposite direction and the sharp fight for all three results has started.
On move 9, Grischuk used the new line and soon sacrificed a pawn in order to open the h-file next to the enemy king. "9.Nge2 is a novelty. The computer is laughing, there are ten good ways but also he has twenty bad ways. So I thought I will give it a try," Alexander Grischuk explains his preparation. "I spent the whole morning and yesterday trying to remember all the lines and still filed."
In response Black created a pressure on the queen's side, but his counterplay was a little late. On move 19, the French grandmaster faced a difficult choice - where to move his knight. He chose a seemingly reliable continuation which helped him to block the dangerous file, but as a result he got a passive position with a "frozen" bishop.
Later Grischuk sacrificed a whole rook to create dangerous threats to the opponent's king, however, by his own admission, he overlooked two strong defensive ideas for his opponent. In the mutual time trouble, Vachier-Lagrave fought off all direct threats and began even to play for a win. After passing the time control Black had a chance to make a draw but Maxime immediately made a losing move.
According to Aleksander Grischuk, he didn't go to smoke at move 40 as usual in order to try and induce MVL to play fast 42…Rc2 and not play 42…Ba3! "It was my trick!", added Sasha at the press-conference.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: "I just completely collapsed, missed everything and missed my last chance, 42. Ba3."
Kirill Alekseenko (Russia) - Wang Hao (China)
In response to the ancient Two Knights Defense, Alekseenko chose the calm d2-d3 move, which usually leads to a solid positional play. Wang Hao was not happy with this scenario as he clearly wanted something "more fun". Already on the 6th move he pushed the g7 pawn, weakening his kingside. However, Black gained an advantage of two bishops and an active piece play for the weak f5-square. In addition, White had his own weakness - the d3-pawn, which constantly needed protection.
In a dynamic fight Wang Hao outplayed his opponent, but then rushed to take a pawn on d5. Alekseenko immediately took advantage of Black's inaccuracies, activated his queen and created a counterplay sufficient for a draw.