24 April 2021

Ian Nepomniachtchi Beats Wang Hao at FIDE Candidates Tournament

All Round 12 games ended decisively.

The 12th round of the FIDE Candidates Tournament was played in Yekaterinburg on April 24. For the first time in the tournament's history, all the games ended decisively. 

Wang Hao and Ian Nepomniachtchi played the Petrov's Defence, which is not very often seen in the latter's repertoire. Black solved his opening problems quite quickly, and the game was more or less equal for a long period of time. By the control move, Nepomniachtchi started to outplay his opponent in the endgame with rooks and knights: Black locked up White's king and knight in the corner and won a pawn thanks to the activity of his pieces. Perhaps, White's position was holdable, however, as Wang Hao confessed, he felt too tired, and it was very hard for him to defend this position. The Chinese grandmaster resigned after Black's 59th move.  

In the Caruana vs Giri game, the opponents tried to avoid well-known lines in the Sicilian Defence, and this approach resulted in quite an unusual position with a Scheveningen structure. A double-edged play around the whole board was going on in the middle game; however, Giri managed to find an optimal setup for his forces, while the white pieces had to stay on the defensive. 

"I felt Fabiano was quite enthusiastic about his position but after 20...Qf8, which is a good move. He probably realised that he was no longer playing for an advantage. I think it was a big let-down for him," said Giri after the game.

Soon White not only lost a pawn but was left with an open king. Giri skillfully surrounded the opponent's monarch with his pieces and finished the game with a beautiful blow. 

Having White against Alexander Grischuk, Ding Liren opted for the line in the Queen's Gambit, which his opponent had played rather often himself. The rivals were struggling in a closed position, where Black implemented a typical plan with a breakthrough on the queenside opening the a-file. According to Grischuk, he was defending well up to some point but missed a strong White's recourse, "after which one could have resigned". Black tried to "stir up trouble", but Ding Liren accurately neutralised Black's threats and won on the 47th move.  

Kirill Alekseenko misplayed something as Black in a relatively rare line of the Caro-Kann Defence against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The Russian found himself in dire straits already by the 8th move. Soon after the queens were exchanged, White won a pawn, and Alekseenko had to defend a pleasureless endgame with the same-colored bishops being a pawn down. The French grandmaster methodically increased his advantage and achieved a confident victory.  

Standings after Round 12:

1. Ian Nepomniachtchi - 8 points
2. Anish Giri - 7.5
3. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - 6.5
4. Fabiano Caruana - 6
5. Alexander Grischuk - 5.5
6-7. Wang Hao, Ding Liren - 5
8. Kirill Alekseenko - 4.5.

Round 13 pairings: 

Wang Hao - Fabiano Caruana
Ian Nepomniachtchi - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Kirill Alekseenko - Ding Liren
Alexander Grischuk - Anish Giri

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Information and photos by Eteri Kublashvili