After the bloodbath in the first round, in the round 2 of the FIDE Chess Candidates Tournament 2018, the players have slightly slowed down.
At least result wise.
Out of the four games, only one ended with the decisive result. However, that is not to say that the games weren't interesting - on the contrary. In the three games, the player displayed fighting spirit and battled it out until the very end. Only Mamedyarov and Aronian slightly disappointed, especially since they are both known for their attacking and uncompromising style.
Round report follows.
Liren, Ding - Caruana, Fabiano
In the first round, Caruana scored a nice win with the Catalan. This time, he had to face it with the Black pieces. In contrast to So, who chose the closed variation, Caruana went for the rare 7...b6 in the main variation of the Catalan. Very soon, he went on to sacrifice the exchange, for which he had sufficient compensation.
In the dynamically balanced position, both players kept finding the strongest moves. In the end, Ding got a position where he is an exchange up, but in which he is unable to breach Black's defences. Thus draw was the most logical and fair result.
Kramnik, Vladimir - Karjakin, Sergey
After opening with his customary Reti in the first round, in his second White game in a row, Kramnik decided to switch to 1 e4. Although recently he has been playing a number of Giuco Pianos, this time he chose to enter the topical Berlin defence and fight against his own creation (you might remember he frustrated none other than Garry Kasparov with the help of the Berlin in their 2000 match).
In any case, Kramnik seemed to be excellently prepared. On the move 18, he played the first novelty of the game and seemed to set Karjakin some problems. Alas, in contrast to round one, Karjakin lived up to his nickname and managed to hold slightly inferior position without major issues.
Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar - Aronian, Levon
The most disappointing game of the round. Shakh chose to handle Lev's Nimzo Indian in a quiet fashion and surprised him with the interesting Bh3 idea early in the opening. His queen penetrated the enemy queenside, but Lev had it under control, and already on move 21 the players went for the three-fold repetition.
Grischuk, Alexander - So, Wesley
The game of the round - a fantastic display of attacking chess by Grischuk. Without further ado - here is the analysis:
Round three continued where the round two stopped - three draws and one win.
But what a win. Vladimir Kramnik stole the show by creating a masterpiece. His sacrificial win that practical refutes the 7 h3!? line of the Berlin is already admired not only by chess fans, but by other participants of the Candidates as well.
Check, for instance, what Alexander Grischuk had to say after the round:
So, let's quickly go over other "unimportant" games and focus on this "Berlin immortal", as my friend agadmator christened this beautiful game.
Karjakin, Sergey - Grischuk, Alexander
As already mentioned by Grischuk, nothing spectacular happened in this game. In a quiet Italian, Karjakin got the bishop pair, but Black was extremely solid. Once Grischuk carried out the d5 advance unhindered, the game quickly fizzled out to a draw.
So, Wesley - Liren, Ding
Quite similarly as in Karjakin - Grischuk, nothing spectacular happened in this game. In the above analysis of the Grischuk - So game we have mentioned White players often play 6 d3 in the Spanish to avoid all the Marshall lines and this game is the best demonstration why that might be a wise choice.
So entered a theoretical discussion, but failed to create anything substantial, so the draw was a logical result.
Caruana, Fabiano -Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar
The 'only' other very exciting game (if anything can be called exciting compared to Vladimir Kramnik game). Against Mamedyarov's Najdorf, Caruana chose the topical English attack. In a complicated middlegame position, Mamedyarov grabbed the flank pawn on h2 and it proved to be an ill-fated decision. Caruana gained a massive advantage but was unable to find the most clear-cut way of converting it.
With the help of some creative defence, Mamedyarov reached a position where he is an exchange down, but where Caruana doesn't have any realistic winning chances. Just before entering a forced drawn queen endgame, the players agreed to the draw.
Aronian, Levon - Kramnik, Vladimir
Not the game of the tournament, not the game of the month, but the game of the year, the decade, and arguably, of Kramnik's career. In a quiet line of the Berlin, Kramnik played the unexpected Rg8 move, which virtually refutes the whole line. By his own admission, he has had this novelty in store for quite some time. He said he didn't expect to employ it against Aronian, since he is not usually in e4 player. But Caissa follows the brave.
You can watch the post-mortem of the game below:
The analysis of the game: