There was finally a shake up in the standings today as Fabiano Caruana defeated Levon Aronian. The American joins Viswanathan Anand in the lead as the rest of the games were drawn. Caruana’s win is the second decisive result in the first four rounds. Anand was on track to extend his lead in the tournament but the calculations required for him to do so were very computer-like and not easy for a human to find. Tomorrow, both Anand and Caruana will have the black pieces against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Wesley So respectively.
Standings after round 4
Fabiano Caruana vs Levon Aronian 1-0
The main culprit of this result was Aronian’s time trouble. Caruana played a new idea in the anti Berlin, calling it a remnant from his World Championship preparation. The novelty he played did not lead to a big advantage as black had a wealth of choice leading to equality but as Caruana pointed out, that is not always a good thing. Aronian went into a deep think, spending over an hour in the first 20 moves. Caruana achieved an edge in the middlegame, as he had the perfect set up against his opponent’s isolated queen’s pawn. Aronian decided to give up the pawn, entering into a queen and rook endgame where he had a very practical chance of holding. After barely making a move and with only a second left on his clock several times, Aronian finally cracked under pressure blundering a simple tactic that allowed a rook exchange and a loss of another pawn. Caruana converted the winning position without any adventures.
Fabiano Caruana was all smiles after his win
Viswanathan Anand vs Wesley So ½ - ½
Wesley So essayed the Petroff Defense, the pet line of his fellow countryman, Fabiano Caruana but not one he himself had done well with thus far. So chose the trendy 6...Bf5 continuation of the 3.Nxe5 variation, a line that Anand has faced several times before. So found himself in a world of trouble after forgetting his preparation and facing a serious attack on his king. In the critical moment of the game, the former World Champion had to find an Alpha Zero-esque move, retreating his queen to f1, followed by a series of specific and difficult to calculate moves. The line he chose also gave him an advantage but wasn’t as crushing as the lines that the engines were showing. Anand had clearly calculated a vast number of lines as he showed in the postgame analysis, but wasn’t able to make any of them work, settling for a better queen endgame. So thought that there must have been a win somewhere and felt lucky to have escaped with a draw.
Wesley So was happy to draw his game
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs Magnus Carlsen ½ - ½
Carlsen faced the man who delivered his last defeat over a year ago in Biel Chess Festival. Since then, the World Champion has gone on an undefeated streak, extending to 83 games after today’s draw. Carlsen opted for the Semi Slav, an unusual opening choice for him. At the end of the theoretical discussion, Carlsen emerged with a slight edge, eventually entering a queen endgame where he had the bishop pair against his opponent’s bishop and knight. At this point, Anish Giri was being interviewed by Maurice Ashley and predicted a win for the World Champion, pointing out the similarities between the ongoing game and the one where Carlsen defeated Ding Liren in Croatia. The World Champion did not find a way to grow his advantage, allowing Mamedyarov enter a pawn down opposite colored bishops endgame, which he held easily.
Anish Giri vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave ½ - ½
Vachier-Lagrave chose his trusty Grunfeld Defense again, giving up a pawn via tactical means in order to liquidate the center and gain the bishop pair. Giri wasn’t sure how to keep building his position as Black could constantly attack his vulnerable extra pawn. He offered a trade of the knight for a bishop but missed that Vachier-Lagrave could force a trade of queens by taking advantage of his vulnerable bank rank. Giri was still up a pawn but was unpleasantly surprised to realize that his opponent could in fact activate his rook, as he was under the assumption that Black had to simply wait passively for White to find a way to breakthrough. After the Frenchman won the h pawn back and set up a fortress, the game ended in a draw with a repetition.
Hikaru Nakamura vs Ding Liren ½ - ½
Nakamura chose a less common continuation with 11.Nc3 followed by Nd5 in the Anti-Marshall variation of the Ruy Lopez. Optically, his position was always better due to his opponent’s isolated queen’s pawn. Unlike in the Caruana-Aronian game, Ding was ahead in development and had more piece activity, 2 key ingredients when playing with an isolated pawn. The double bishop endgame they entered was still visually better for White, as Ding’s light squared bishop was limited by his own pawns but there was no way for the white king to penetrate. The Chinese star gave up his pawn weakness in order to exchange his bad bishop, as the extra pawn was of no use for his opponent.
Sergey Karjakin vs Ian Nepomniachtchi ½ - ½
The all-Russian matchup was the first to end in a draw in 21 moves with a repetition. Karjakin chose the Fianchetto System against the Grunfeld, following the game Mamedyarov-Nepomniachtchi from Paris Grand Chess Tour. He deviated on move 12, giving up his central pawn the next move. Nepomniachtchi grabbed the pawn with his queen without fear as Karjakin had nothing better than to settle for a draw with repetition.
Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi