Situation at the top unchanged, Karjakin approaches the leaders
"Nothing new under the sun" would be the best description of the events that happened in rounds 10 and 11 of the Candidates Tournament 2018. Aronian's nightmare tournament continues with the two losses, plenty of exciting games that ended in draws (including an incredible miss by Mr. Ding in round 11) the clash of the leaders in round 10 that had zero effect on the standings whatsoever and Sergey Karjakin once again having a strong 2nd half of the tournament.
Rounds 10 and 11 report follows.
Ding, Liren - So, Wesley
For the first time in the tournament, we have seen the Queen's Gambit Declined with 5 Bf4. So went for a sharp variation with the sacrifice of the c7 pawn. This was compensated with the white kin on f1 which blocked the rook on h1 from entering the game. So managed to mobilize his forces and to strike in the centre with the timely e5 advance. Ding opted for safety, decided to give up his h-pawn and very soon a draw was agreed.
Grischuk, Alexander - Karjakin, Sergey
Another Catalan in this tournament, another symmetrical position, another boring game.
Kramnik, Vladimir - Levon, Aronian
The battle between two pre-tournament favourites and the players at the bottom of the standings was arguably the most interesting game of the round. Kramnik opted for something 'positional' and played the four knights with Bc4. However, Aronian avoided the 'drawish' Be6 continuation and preferred to sharpen the struggle and to advance his queenside pawns instead.
Around move 25 chaos reigned on the board. The players were exchanging direct blows, but according to the engine, the game remained in the waters of dynamic equilibrium. Alas, on move 36, Aronian overlooked a mating threat and made a fatal blunder which allowed Kramnik to score a memorable win.
Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar - Caruana, Fabiano
Although the afore-mentioned Kramnik - Aronian encounter was arguably more entertaining, the game between Shakh and Caruana was definitely more significant from the competitive point of view. We have therefore chosen the clash of the leaders as the game of the round.
So, Wesley - Mamedydarov, Shakhriyar
Yet another Catalan in this tournament (is it a Candidates Tournament or a Catalan Tournament heh heh... heh.... heh?). Once again we saw a new line - Shark decided to expand on the queenside with 7... c6 and 8... b5. The game had the potential to become very interesting, but on move 13, So choose the timid Be3, which inevitably led to the familiar symmetrical pawn structure.
Exchanges followed, opposite coloured bishops remained, a draw was agreed.
Caruana, Fabiano - Kramnik, Vladimir
After being confronted with the deadly advance of the h-pawn in his previous Black game, Kramnik was the first to surprise Caruana this time by playing 3... c6 instead of 3... Nd5. Then, he sprung a further surprise in the gambit variation, instead of the topical Bb4+, he played the immediate c5. Caruana was unable to find the sneaky Ne2 after taking on c5 and had to admit the endgame is equal.
However, in contrast to their previous 'equal endgame' in round four, which led to fireworks and Kramnik's defeat, this time the equality was maintained throughout the game and the draw was a fair result.
Aronian, Levon - Karjakin, Sergey
It seems like Aronian is simply waiting for the tournament to finish. He is definitely unable to play normal chess any more.
In the very same line of the Catalan featured in So-Mamedyarov game, he chose a different continuation and the game was much more imbalanced with the doubled e-pawns for White. Karjakin diffused White's activity rather effectively and an equal middlegame position was reached. Aronian kept on playing and then suddenly blundered his a-pawn for no good reason, which gave Karjakin a decisive advantage. Once he grabbed it, he didn't relinquish it for the rest of the game and in the end came home sailing with the full point, which makes him a real contender now, since he faces Caruana as White in the next round.
Ding, Liren - Grischuk, Alexander
In the previous Candidates Tournament, Anish Giri drew all 14 games, despite having a number of promising/won positions. So far, Ding Liren is very close to repeating that feat. Today he almost ruined the streak by winning in beautiful style against Grischuk. However, in his customary time trouble, Grischuk found some extraordinary defensive resources and managed to confuse his Chinese opponent.