Candidates Tournament 2018 – Rounds 8 and 9

Kramnik_failure

Kramnik’s downfall

I will admit, christening rounds 6 and 7 as Aronian’s downfall was slightly overstretched – after all, Levon never really got the tournament going in the first place. On the other hand, rounds 8 and 9 were definitely the final nail in Kramnik’s coffin in this tournament, which is slowly becoming a nightmare. In contrast to Aronian, Kramnik did start the tournament strongly and was even leading after mere three rounds – thus it is much more appropriate to use the term ‘downfall’.

Rounds 8 and 9 report and game analysis follow.

Round 8

ding, liren – aronian, levon

In the previous Candidates tournament, Anish Giri scored 14 draws. It seems like Liren Ding is very close to doing the same. Moreover, similarly like Anish, in a number of games, he managed to gain some chances.

The game against the struggling Levon was a good example. After very nice tactical escapades, Ding reached a very promising endgame position where he was a pawn up (although a doubled one). However, just like Anish, in critical moments he lacked ‘that little something’, that ‘killer instinct’ and allowed Aronian to reach the safe heaven of a draw without much difficulty.

Mamedyarov, ShakhRiyar – Karjakin, Sergey

The games between these two friends are somehow rarely entertaining and fighting. This one was no exception. The quiet Catalan quickly led to massive exchanged and a draw was agreed as early as move 31.

So, Wesley – Caruana, Fabiano

Just like Kramnik in round four, Wesley ventured to play Qe2 against Fabiano’s Petroff. Once again Fabiano had no problems whatsoever and once again he gained the initiative. Wesley’s knights seemed to be in serious trouble, but he found the accurate a4! move and followed it up with an exchange sacrifice. Black’s position looked threatening, but White managed to simplify the position just in time. The draw was a fair result!

Grischuk, Alexander – Kramnik, Vladimir

The only decisive game of the round that followed a similar pattern as earlier Kramnik’s games. In an objectively drawn position, he refused several direct continuations and continued playing. This risky strategy backfired, as he slowly created more and more problems for himself. In the end, he blundered in a difficult position and Grischuk gained an unexpected gift.

Game analysis:

Round 9

aronian, levon – mamedyarov, shakhriyar

For the second time in the two rounds, Mamedyarov was forced to play an endgame, a stage of the game which, by his own admission, is not his forte. Aronian gained some practical chances, but then blundered his e-pawn inexplicably and had to reconcile himself with a draw.

so, wesley – grischuk, alexander

Another non-game in the tournament. Berlin, Re1, symmetry, exchange – exchange – exchange, draw.

YAAAAAAAWN!

Karjakin, Sergey – Kramnik, Vladimir

For some reason, Karjakin with the White pieces has always been a difficult opponent for Kramnik. Considering the tournament situation and Kramnik’s emotional state, a decisive game could have been expected.

And indeed, in reply to Kramnik’s customary Semi-Tarrasch, Karjakin bravely pushed ‘Harry the h-pawn’ on move 8 and Kramnik responded with a nervous push of his own f-pawn. Very soon, he sacrificed a full rook and gained serious compensation. Karjakin, living up to his reputation, found some wonderful defensive moves (most notably a timely Be1) and in the end diffused Kramnik’s attack.

caruana, fabiano – ding, liren

Another ‘quiet’ Catalan very quickly led to an explosive continuation, after which Caruana obtained a very fabourable endgame. He meticulously accumulated small advantages, but when he was close to reaping the rewards of his instructive play, he couldn’t deliver the knock-out blow.

Nevertheless, we have decided to choose this game as the game of the round, as it was, according to our opinion, even more beautiful and much more instructive than the tactical Karjakin – Kramnik encounter.

And also, less likely to be analyzed over and over:

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