Caruana, Mamedyarov pace Candidates
LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - March 18, 2018 - 12:00am

American Fabiano Caruana and Azeri Shakriyar Mamedyarov, shared the Candidates Tournament lead with four points apiece, after six  rounds in Berlin, Germany.

Both players were undefeated with an impressive-record two wins and four  draws,  a full point lead  ahead of the elite field.

The other scores read Ding Liren (China), Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Grischuk (Russia) at three each, Wesley So (USA) and Levon Aronian (Armenia), 2.5 apiece and Sergey Kariakin (Russia), 2.0.

Eight more rounds are still to be played  in the double round event which decides Magnus Carlsen’s challenger for the world championship to be held this November in London.

Last issue, we presented the eight  candidates’ backgrounds. This time, we wish to present sidelights and a selected  game. Of 24 games played, 15 were drawn and nine were won, with the draw percentage surprisingly low, considering the strength of the competition. The game shown below is not  necessarily the best game of the tournament (though it can easily merit such appelation), rather it has been selected for being the  representative of the styles of the players and for being representative of the tension and temperament of each game.

The bloodiest was the following game if only for the number of moves, that produced the shortest game, a 27-move victory by the Black player.

FIDE Candidates 2018 

W) L. Aronian (Armenia)

B) V. Kramnik (Russia)

Ruy Lopez

1. e4                        e5 

2. Nf3                         Nc6 

3. Bb5                        Nf6 

4. d3                           Bc5 

5. Bxc6                       ...

After 5. c3 0-0 6. 0-0 d5 7. exd5 Qxd5 8. Bc4 Qd8 9. b4 Be7 10. Nbd2 Bf5 the  game is about even. Anand-Adams, 2017 London Chess Classic. Or 5. Nbd2 d6 6. c3 0-0 7. 0-0 a6 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. d4 exd4 10. cxd4 Bb6 11. Qc2 c5 12. d5 and White stands better. Anand-Grischuk, World Rapid 2017.

5....                              dxc6 

6. O-O                        Qe7 

7. h3                           Rg8!?

A novelty. With the idea of an early Kingside pawn roller, Black lays his cards on the table right away. More  usual here is 7...Nd7.

8. Kh1                        ...

After 8. Nbd2 g5 9. d4 Bbxd4 10. Nxd4 exd4 11. e5 Nd5 12. Ne4 Bf5 13. Qxd4 Bxe4 14. Qxe4 0-0-0, chances are about equal, according to the engine.

8....                              Nh5 

9. c3                           g5

10. Nxe5                   ...

10. d4 exd4 11. cxd4 Bb6 12. Nh2 Nf6 13. e5 Nd5 14. Nc3 g4 15. Nxd5 cxd5 16. hxg4 Qh4 17. f3 h5 is unclear, according to the computer. 

10....                           g4 

11. d4                        Bd6 

12. g3                        Bxe5 

13. dxe5                    Qxe5 

14. Qd4                     Qe7 

14...Qxd4 15. cxd4 gxh3 16. Kh2 Be6 17. Nc3 0-0-0, leads to a slight edge for Black in the ensuing endgame.

15. h4                        c5 

16. Qc4                     Be6 

17. Qb5ch                 c6 

18. Qa4                     ...

18. Qd3 is the engine’s choice, though Black obtains a good game after  18...Rd8 19. Qe3 Bc4 20. Rg1 Rg6.

18....                            f5!

As the early chess writers wrote, the  opening up of the position almost always  favors the player with the better development. 

In this case, it is Black who will profit in the opening of the e-file.

19. Bg5                      ....

Perhaps not a good choice in the given position, but White’s game is already critical. 19. Na3 seems logical although Black obtains a tangible advantage after 19...f4 20. Kh2 Rff8 21. Qd1 Rd8 22. Qe2 Qc7.

19....                            Rxg5!

Black seizes the initiative with this beautiful exchange sacrifice.      

20. hxg5                    f4 

21. Qd1                     ....

Hardly commendable, but it is difficult to suggest a good plan for  White. E.g. 21. Kg1 fxg3 22. fxg3  Qxg5 23. Qc2 0-0-0 24. Qc1 Qe5  25. Qe3 Nxg3, Black has a clear advantage.

21...                            Rd8

22. Qc1                      fxg3 

23. Na3                     Rd3 

24. Rd1?                   ...

The losing move, but there’s nothing else. For instance 24. Kg1 Qd6 25. Qc2 Nf4 26. Rad1 gxf2ch 27. Kxf2 g3ch 28. Kg1 c4 and the threat of 29...Qc5ch is hard to meet.

24....                            Bd5! 

After this, Black’s win is facilitated, as he exploits his opponent’s light square weaknesses.

25. f3                          ...

Capturing the Bishop with 25. exd5 leads to a quick finish after 25...Qe4ch 26. Kg1 gxf2ch 27. Kxf2 Qf3ch.

25...                            gxf3

26. exd5                    Qe2!

27. Re1                     g2ch


If 28. Kg1 f2ch 29. Kh2 g1=Qch 30. Rxg1 f1=Qch 31. Kh1 Ng3 mate. Or 28. Kh2 g1=Qch 29. Kxg1 f2ch 30. Kh1 Rh3ch 31. Kg2 f1=Q mate.

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

Black to move and draw.

White=Kd3, Pg5, Ph4

Black=Ke6, Pb4, Pe5

1...                              Kf5!

2. Kc4                        e4

3. Kxb4                      e3

4. Kc3                        Kf4

5. g6                          Kf3!

6. g7                          e2

7. g9Q                       e1Qch

8. K-any                    Qxh4.

* * *      

Black to move and draw.

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