Drama at its peak as Caruana loses and wins to take the lead
Dramatic final round is not something new for the modern Candidates tournament. In 2013, Carlsen lost with White pieces to Svidler and then won the first place only due to Kramnik's loss to Ivanchuk. In 2016, Karjakin won against Caruana in the decisive game of the last round with the help of a rook sacrifice. This time, everything remains open, as after rounds 12 and 13, Caruana leads with half a point ahead of Karjakin and Mamedyarov.
In the last round, Karjakin is White against Ding Liren, while Caruana and Mamedyarov are Black against Grischuk and Kramnik, respectively. Multiple scenarios are possible:
- If Caruana wins with Black against Grischuk he wins the tournament, no matter what Shak and Sergey do (this one is kinda obvious)
- If all three players draw, Caruana wins (I guess this also isn't quite surprising)
- If Caruana and Mamedyarov draw and Karjakin wins, Karjakin is the tournament winner due to the better H2H score against Caruana
- If Caruana draws and Karjakin and Mamedyarov win, Mamedyarov is the tournament winner due to the 3-way H2H score
- If Caruana and Karjakin draw and Mamedyarov wins, Mamedyarov is once again the winner due to the better Sonnen-Berger score (more wins) than Karjakin
I can't wait for the last round to start, but first, let us take a look at the games of the 12th and 13th round. Round report and game analysis follow.
Grischuk, Alexander - Aronian, Levon
Grischuk tried very hard to breach Aronian's Ruy Lopez in yet another Anti-Marshall game, but after one inaccuracy in the early stage, he never got the opportunity to claim some real advantage.
Kramnik, Vladimir - So, Wesley
Another fighting game by Kramnik and another encounter in which he came close to victory. In the 'Botvinnik's line of the Queen's Gambit with g4, he sacrificed a piece on move 17 for two pawns. However, the compensation consisted of three passed pawns on the kingside, which, supported by the pieces, proved to be very dangerous. However, So defended stubbornly and at the critical moment, Kramnik allowed him to liquidate into an equal endgame. Big Vlad was surely not happy about yet another slip, but in the end, he had to satisfy himself with a draw.
Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar - Ding, Liren
In this game, Ding took the Tarrasch Defence Deferred baton from Kramnik. However, his handling of the position was just as masterful and he equalized with ease. Mamedyarov kept playing for the win and advances his g-pawn, but he might have overestimated his position. Ding started advancing his a and b pawn duo and in the end, took over quite easily and scored a great win.
Karjakin, Sergey - Caruana, Fabiano
The replay of the last round of the afore-mentioned 2016 Candidates tournament and once again a fantastic victory by Karjakin:
So, Wesley - Karjakin, Sergey
So allowed the Nimzo - Indian and went for the Qc2 line. Karjakin surprised him with the rare 6 ... Ne4!? and followed it up with the unorthodox Qf5. In the ensuing endgame, he had zero problems and a draw was quickly agreed.
Ding, Liren - Kramnik, Vladimir
Another exciting encounter and another missed opportunity for Kramnik. In reply to Ding's English, he defended with the double fianchetto. After Ding advanced his d-pawn, some weird Hedgehog structure was reached. Ding kept advancing his pawns, but Kramnik did the same with his g and f pawn and gained the initiative. In the subsequent complications, he won two pieces for the rook and was definitely winning. Yet, once again, he failed to convert his advantage, and the end he allowed Ding to escape. Alas, due to the other results, this draw dashed Ding's hopes of winning the tournament.
Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar - Grischuk, alexander
After his loss yesterday, Mamedyarov found himself in even worse position than Caruana. Moreover, after the opening, it seemed everything is over since very quickly an equal and symmetrical endgame was reached. However, in the manner of Carlsen, Mamedyarov continued creating some difficulties for his opponent. In the end, he was rewarded when Grischuk blundered in his customary time trouble, allowing a fantastic finish in which White's light squared bishop on his own prevented two Black Queens from checking the White king.
Caruana, Fabiano - Aronian, Levon
After his loss in the previous round, Caruana found himself in unfavourable position, since his H2H score against Karjakin is not in his favour. Alas, he was kinda lucky because he immediately got to play out-of-form Aronian with the White pieces. Caruana repeated Grischuk's opening from the previous round and Aronian was the first to deviate. In the complicated battle, Aronian's bad form had its tell as he failed to find a tactical resource and lost inglumiously. With this fantastic win, Caruana once again took the lead and improved his chances.
Still, everything is possible in the last round.