Round 7 after the rest day was much calmer than the previous one, resulting in only one decisive game which was enough to change the course of the tournament. Magnus Carlsen is now the sole leader after defeating Ian Nepomniachtchi with the black pieces. He is half a point ahead Wesley So, who escaped from the claws of defeat. Tomorrow, Carlsen will be facing Ding Liren with the black pieces, whom he considers one of his toughest opponents. The Chinese star is a full point behind the leader and will need to make the most of his chances.
Standings after round 7
Ian Nepomniachtchi vs Magnus Carlsen 0-1
The key matchup of the day did not disappoint. Nepomniachtchi chose the anti-Sveshnikov, steering clear from theoretical discussions. Carlsen played the same rare line he employed against Vachier-Lagrave during the 2018 Sinquefield Cup. The players were out of book quickly in a locked position which in Carlsen’s words “looks worse for black than what it is”. Nepomniachtchi, who is known for his quick pace, was seemingly uncomfortable as indicated by his time usage. On move 25, the World Champion went for a pawn break sacrificing a pawn on the queenside, followed by another break on the kingside on move 28. Nepomniachtchi collapsed immediately with a wrong pawn capture, allowing the enemy queen to penetrate his kingside. The Russian Grandmaster resigned on move 31.
The postgame handshake
Sergey Karjakin vs Wesley So ½ - ½
Karjakin chose a sideline in the Open Variation of the Berlin Defense, entering a new position in 10 moves. So overextended on the kingside, with the moved f5 and g5-g4, in order to chase away his opponent’s pieces and gain space. The game was unfolding quite normally until move 20, when So blundered. In a bizarre case of mutual blindness, both players missed a simple tactic which would have given Karjakin a winning position. After the critical moment passed, the game petered out to a draw in 10 moves.
Wesley So analyzing on the computer as Sergey Karjakin is being interviewed
Viswanathan Anand vs Ding Liren ½ - ½
The former World Champion came to the game well prepared in the Anti Marshall variation in the Ruy Lopez. He quickly played the first 18 moves of his preparation, reaching a position which he thought had more to offer than it did. After realizing that the tactics he was calculating were not working out in his favor, he decided to repeat the position. Ding Liren can’t be too unhappy with the comfortable draw with the black pieces, as he is set to face Carlsen tomorrow.
Hikaru Nakamura vs Levon Aronian ½ - ½
Aronian didn’t have to suffer to secure a draw with the black pieces; in fact, he only spent five minutes of his time. After his loss against Carlsen, Nakamura’s play felt jaded in this game. He chose the anti Berlin, playing down a line that led to a lot of piece exchanges. Both players had ugly pawn structures in the rook endgame with isolated pawns. One by one, the pawns were traded off, resulting in a completely drawn position with each side having a rook and two pawns.
Fabiano Caruana vs Anish Giri ½ - ½
Caruana had to do some work to draw with the white pieces as he found himself in an unfavorable middlegame. The symmetrical g3 Grunfeld did not work out well for the American; after trading off his light squared bishop he was left with a locked bishop on the dark squares. Giri did not give his opponent many difficulties as he immediately opened up the position, allowing the trade of said bishops and the queens. Caruana tried to create some chances in the four vs four rook endgame, but with some accurate play by black, the game ended in a draw.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave ½ - ½
Mamedyarov repeated the same quiet line he played against Nepomniachtchi against the King’s Indian Defense. Vachier-Lagrave deviated by choosing 5...c5 instead of 5...e5, trying to steer the game towards the Benoni structures which he prefers. Mamedyarov responded in the least challenging way by capturing the pawn. The Frenchman had no difficulties equalizing with the d5 pawn break, utilizing the pin on the a1-h8 diagonal. After the resulting simplification, the game ended in less than 30 moves with a threefold repetition.