Once again, a round of all draws left the standings unchanged. It was another frustrating day at the office for Viswanathan Anand, who missed a golden opportunity to defeat one of his co-leaders and take the sole lead in the tournament. Tomorrow, he will be facing Fabiano Caruana with the black pieces. As the tournament is entering its final stages, tomorrow’s game is almost a must-win situation for Caruana if he wants to take the title home. It remains to be seen if Anand will be affected by the disappointment of the last few games. Ding Liren will have the difficult task of facing Magnus Carlsen with the black pieces.
Standings after round 7
Ding Liren vs Viswanathan Anand ½ - ½
Trouble began for Ding in the middlegame around move 17 when he allowed Anand’s rook to enter the game with a rook lift, and continued two moves later when he grabbed a dubious pawn. The former World Champion was at a crossroads: he could either grab material or choose the more unclear way of continuing the attack, the option which the engines preferred. He chose the former but missed another opportunity to finish his opponent off in a tactical manner, instead entering an exchange up endgame. As the game progressed, the evaluation of the position kept changing until Anand’s advantage completely slipped away from him. On move 44, Anand had his final chance with a study-like win, but it was impossible for a human to find over the board. Ding certainly earned his half a point through tenacious defense.
Ding Liren and Viswanathan Anand
Magnus Carlsen vs Ian Nepomniachtchi ½ - ½
The tactically rich theoretical battle in the Grunfeld was the most exciting game of the round.
The players blitzed out the opening, with Carlsen playing a novelty on move 14. Nepomniachtchi played quickly and calmly while accepting a pawn sacrifice. He later explained that he had this specific line prepared for Croatia GCT, but hadn’t reviewed since then and needed some time during the game to remember his preparation. Carlsen praised his opponent for his perfect defense, as both players found the best moves while avoiding the mistakes that were waiting to be made in the extremely sharp position. In the final position, Carlsen had a queen for his opponent’s two rooks and the game ended with a threefold repetition.
Magnus Carlsen making the first move against Ian Nepomniachtchi
Anish Giri vs Fabiano Caruana ½ - ½
Caruana maintained his tie for first by drawing comfortably with the black pieces. He essayed the topical variation of 6...b6 against the 5.Bf4 line of the Queen’s Gambit declined, achieving equality out of the opening. The players reached a double rook endgame where Black had a bishop against a knight. Caruana tried to press for some time but was unable to create any realistic winning chances. The game ended in 50 moves with the bare kings left on the board.
Levon Aronian vs Hikaru Nakamura ½ - ½
In the postgame interview, Nakamura gave some insight about his game. In the Dragondorf, Nakamura felt that his play was logical and was able to successfully make the d5 idea work, which is the dream of every Sicilian player. There was an interesting imbalance in the resulting endgame, as White had a 3 vs 2 pawn majority on the queenside with Black having a 4 vs 3 majority on the kingside. In these type of pawn structures it is usually easier for White to create a passed pawn, and Aronian’s passed a pawn looked dangerous at first sight. Nakamura was able to consolidate, exchanging a pair of bishops tactically and blockading the pawn. The game ended shortly after the players entered an opposite colored bishops endgame.
Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov ½ - ½
Yesterday after his game, Vachier-Lagrave mentioned that he has some opening ideas that he would like to showcase on the board. The two players have faced off in the Giuoco Piano many times before, and this game was no different. Mamedyarov deviated from their game played at the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz on move 10, allowing his opponent to grab the bishop pair. Vachier-Lagrave’s play looked logical as he traded the queens, grabbed the center, and developed his dark squared bishop on the long diagonal. After trying to expand on the kingside, he relieved the pressure too quickly by exchanging the pawns on g5, thus allowing his opponent’s knight to land on e5 and the pawn on f6, forever blockading White’s dark squared bishop. Due to the no draw offer rule, the players resorted to a strange repetition to end the game in a draw.
Wesley So vs Sergey Karjakin ½ - ½
In the 5.Bf4 line of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, Karjakin played the same topical line of 6...b6 that Caruana was playing, following the game between Grischuk and So from the Moscow Grand Prix from May of this year until move 17. In the position they reached, So had the bishop pair against a bishop and knight, but Karjakin didn’t have any difficulties neutralizing the bishops. The game ended in a draw in an opposite colored bishop endgame.
Sergey Karjakin and Wesley So after the game