FIDE Grand Swiss: Caruana Sole Leader; Candidates Spot Up For Grabs
Caruana defeated Anton on board one. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

FIDE Grand Swiss: Caruana Sole Leader; Candidates Spot Up For Grabs

| 70 | Chess Event Coverage

With one round to go Fabiano Caruana is the sole leader at the FIDE Grand Swiss in Isle of Man. The American GM defeated David Anton in a bloody penultimate round with seven decisive games on the top eight boards.

Seven players are trailing Caruana by half a point. In order of first tiebreak—which is likely to decide the fight for the spot in the Candidates' tournament—they are Wang Hao, Kirill Alekseenko, Magnus Carlsen, Levon  AronianNikita Vitiugov, Hikaru Nakamura and David Howell.

You can follow the games here as part of our live portal, There's daily coverage by GM Daniel King and IM Anna Rudolf, joined by WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni for interviews, on

The show of the last round starts an hour and a half earlier on Monday: 13:20 local time, which is 14:20 CEST, 8:20 a.m. Eastern and 5:20 a.m. Pacific.

2019 FIDE Grand Swiss commentary

The FIDE Grand Swiss, the first Swiss tournament in the world championship cycle since Biel 1993, will definitely see some nervous moments among the top boards in the final round. Not counting Carlsen and Caruana, theoretically eight players could end in a big tie for the Candidates' spot tomorrow.

If that would happen, it's Wang who will be joining his compatriot Ding Liren in Yekaterinburg next March. Because the pairings are already known, the first tiebreak (average rating of the opponents minus the lowest) for the final standings is already known as well, and Wang has the highest of all.

Here are the top pairings for the final round, including points and first tiebreaks:

Nakamura (7.0; 2674) - Caruana (7.5; 2720)
Aronian (7.0; 2708) - Carlsen (7.0; 2698)
Alekseenko (7.0; 2716) - Vitiugov (7.0; 2663)
Wang Hao (7.0; 2735) - Howell (7.0; 2657)
Paravyan (6.5; 2675) - Le (6.5; 2631)
Anton (6.5; 2702) - Hovhannisyan (6.5; 2633)

Wang would deserve it, as he has played a great tournament. He held both Carlsen and Caruana to a draw, and in the penultimate round as Black he beat Vishy Anand on demand.

The 30-year-old Chinese grandmaster said he wasn't really playing for a win yesterday or today. His mindset going into the round: "A draw will be good enough, and then tomorrow will be a good fight for prizes."

Anand Wang Hao 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Anand vs. Wang Hao. Photo: John Saunders.

He got the full point, partly because he was clearly better prepared than Anand in the suddenly topical 3.d4 line in the Petroff. Wang had checked it before playing against Vitiugov the other day and improved upon both Vitiugov-So from the World Cup and Carlsen-Shirov from earlier in Isle of Man, in addition to being helped by some correspondence games.

The position looks dangerous for Black, but if he knows what he's doing and plays accurately, "there are enough resources to solve the problems," said Wang.

Wang Hao appeared on the live broadcast.

In an endgame with rooks and opposite-colored bishops, Anand was perhaps pushing too much in a last attempt to move up in the standings. He had to resign when a rook was trapped and a bishop was going to be dropped.

Wang: "I always play well in this Isle of Man. I consider this my lucky place!"

Wang Hao 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Tomorrow we'll see if Isle of Man is really Wang Hao's lucky place. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

It had been raining draws on one day and grandmasters the next, but today it was raining decisive games—at least among the top boards. Two players soon joined Wang in the group of players on seven points: Howell and Vitiugov.

Howell played his first 2700 opponent in the tournament, Alexander Grischuk. Insiders knew that this was going to be a game between two time-trouble addicts.

The English GM revealed that he had checked the pairings at only 1:30 p.m. His explanation did make sense:

"It's not the most professional thing, but I actually find it better if I don't think about it. If I prepare too much, I feel tired during the game. I am trying to save my energy for later parts in the game, and it seems to be going OK so far."

Howell-Grischuk 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Howell and Grischuk chatting after the game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Howell was the first to become short on time, but he had the luxury of a very solid position. He got the upper hand when Grischuk lost two tempi with 21...Rd1?, and soon White won a pawn. The win came after Grischuk got low on time as well, while Howell stayed really calm.

It was a special win for Howell in his first game against his famous opponent: "He's one of my heroes in chess. I copied some of his openings, and I love going through his games."

David Howell 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
David Howell showing his win vs. Grischuk. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Howell appeared on the live broadcast.

Vitiugov won a nice game against his compatriot Aleksandr Rakhmanov. The latter's Queen's Gambit Declined was answered by 4.c5!? that looks like a patzer move but has been played by a few grandmasters, including Alexander Alekhine against Akiba Rubinstein in 1921!

Black almost equalized but couldn't keep White from gaining some initiative. Vitiugov got the more active piece play and then found a nice combination.

Vitiugov appeared on the live broadcast.

"It's very nice, especially after yesterday's game when I got really lucky," he said. "I played very poor chess but somehow survived. It happens."

Nikita Vitiugov 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
A very nice win by Nikita Vitiugov. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Meanwhile, the much anticipated game between Nakamura and Aronian ended in a disappointing draw, for the fans and for the players. Now the chance to qualify for the Candidates' for both players depends on two players with higher tiebreaks, Alekseenko and Wang. 

Nakamura had come up with the new idea 16.Bb3. "Levon thought for a bit, but he found a pretty precise continuation," Nakamura said. "He thought for 10 minutes, and I think he remembered his prep."

The American player gave 29.Ra1 as an alternative for him with a little advantage (as engines say), but he didn't think it was much.

As for this missed chance, Nakamura made a comparison with baseball: "Whoever hits a home run tends to win the game. In chess it's kind of the same concept in that you come with some idea, and you basically hope it's the one idea your opponent hasn't looked at or they aren't able to remember it behind the board."

Hikaru Nakamura 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Nakamura: "It's a Swiss. For the most part it's all gonna be luck, so you just have to be lucky." Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Alekseenko is perhaps the most surprising name in the group behind Caruana. The 22-year-old grandmaster from St. Petersburg has had some amazing weeks, when he earned no less than 40 Elo points in the live ratings from his games in the World Cup and this event.

Now virtually on a 2714 rating, Alekseenko won with the black pieces against a giant of Russian chess: Sergey Karjakin.

Karjakin-Alekseenko 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Karjakin-Alekseenko. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

This result means that Karjakin is definitely out of contention for the Candidates' and a possible return match with Carlsen because he is not eligible for a wild card.

It was Alekseenko's first game ever against Karjakin, and he called his win "amazing." He will go in tomorrow's round with the knowledge that if Wang doesn't win and he does, he will qualify for the Candidates'.

Kirill Alekseenko 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
After Wang Hao it's Kirill Alekseenko who has the best chances to qualify. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Alekseenko appeared on the live broadcast.

Spanish GM Anton was in the lead for two rounds but is now out of contention after losing to Caruana. We'd almost forget that there's also a first prize of $70,000 to be won at this tournament, and Caruana is the clear favorite obviously as the sole leader.

It was another long game in which Caruana eventually ground down Anton deep in the endgame. It was helpful that Caruana was feeling less exhausted than in earlier games in the tournament, such as against Carlsen: "Before today I suddenly felt I had more energy."

Caruana appeared on the live broadcast.

Alongside all the tournament intrigue is the story of Carlsen reaching his 100th undefeated game in a row, with which he equalled Ding's streak from last year. The world champ did so by beating Maxim Matlakov, but afterward the only reason for satisfaction was the result.

Carlsen was not happy because he had seen a brilliant move during the game, but somehow forgot to play it. Online kibitzers had dubbed 27.e5!! as too computeresque, but as it turned out the player behind the white pieces had seen it.

Carlsen-Matlakov 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Carlsen-Matlakov. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen explained:

"I had calculated this 26.f4 that after 26...exf4 I had 27.e5, and everything collapses. At this point I come back from the bathroom, I see that he has played 26...exf4 and I go 27.Bxf4 in one second, which was not my plan at all. After this I couldn't really calm down, and I just made mistake after mistake."

Carlsen appeared on the live broadcast.

Eventually Carlsen got a position with a queen against a rook and a c-pawn for Matlakov, and it was not even a case of not believing in fortresses this time—here Carlsen was sure it was winning:

"This one I knew from school. I knew this was not a fortress, and I knew how to break it."

Magnus Carlsen 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Magnus Carlsen forgot to play a pretty, winning move. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

An early comment by @Fontanellean summed up nicely what's in store tomorrow:

So Carlsen needs not to lose in order to beat Ding's record, but Aronian needs to win to have a chance at the Candidates' berth. Meanwhile, Nakamura needs to beat Caruana, and the board 3 players both need to win, too. Wang potentially only needs a draw, but he can't play it too safe with both players on board 3 playing for a decisive result. It's looking good for spectators, but we'll see.

Wang is the only player who can draw and still reach the Candidates' if all other games on the top boards end in a draw as well. A win guarantees him the spot.

Alekseenko, Aronian, Vitiugov, Nakamura and Howell all need to win and hope for the best results on other boards. 

FIDE Grand Swiss | Round 10 Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 2 Caruana Fabiano 2812 7,5 2717 56,0 61,0
2 15 Wang Hao 2726 7,0 2739 56,5 61,5
3 38 Alekseenko Kirill 2674 7,0 2714 52,5 57,0
4 1 Carlsen Magnus 2876 7,0 2691 54,5 59,5
5 8 Aronian Levon 2758 7,0 2689 57,0 62,0
6 13 Vitiugov Nikita 2732 7,0 2661 52,0 56,5
7 12 Nakamura Hikaru 2745 7,0 2659 49,0 53,5
8 24 Howell David W L 2694 7,0 2649 47,5 52,0
9 39 Anton Guijarro David 2674 6,5 2708 55,0 59,0
10 110 Paravyan David 2602 6,5 2671 48,0 51,5
11 19 Le Quang Liem 2708 6,5 2635 49,0 53,5
12 74 Hovhannisyan Robert 2639 6,5 2628 46,0 48,5
13 83 Abasov Nijat 2632 6,0 2702 52,0 55,0
14 48 Maghsoodloo Parham 2664 6,0 2698 53,0 57,0
15 53 Kovalev Vladislav 2661 6,0 2692 51,5 55,0
16 95 Rakhmanov Aleksandr 2621 6,0 2689 50,5 53,5
17 102 Deac Bogdan-Daniel 2613 6,0 2683 49,0 53,0
18 7 Grischuk Alexander 2759 6,0 2682 55,0 60,0
19 18 Matlakov Maxim 2716 6,0 2671 50,5 55,5
20 44 Kryvoruchko Yuriy 2669 6,0 2670 51,0 54,5
(Full standings here.)

FIDE Grand Swiss | Top pairings final round

Bo. No. Fed Name Rtg Pts. Result Pts. Fed Name Rtg No.
1 12 Nakamura Hikaru 2745 7 Caruana Fabiano 2812 2
2 8 Aronian Levon 2758 7 7 Carlsen Magnus 2876 1
3 38 Alekseenko Kirill 2674 7 7 Vitiugov Nikita 2732 13
4 15 Wang Hao 2726 7 7 Howell David W L 2694 24
5 110 Paravyan David 2602 Le Quang Liem 2708 19
6 39 Anton Guijarro David 2674 Hovhannisyan Robert 2639 74
(Full standings here.)

In the fight for the first women's prize, the situation hasn't changed. It's still Harika Dronavalli and Alina Kashlinskaya who are tied for first place:

FIDE Grand Swiss | Round 10 Women Standings

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
84 122 GM Harika Dronavalli 2495 5,0 2655 47,0 51,5
101 126 IM Kashlinskaya Alina 2481 5,0 2569 41,5 43,0
104 127 IM Saduakassova Dinara 2481 4,5 2652 45,5 50,0
107 146 IM Munguntuul Batkhuyag 2421 4,5 2638 43,5 46,5
123 131 GM Lei Tingjie 2469 4,0 2641 44,0 48,0
127 128 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2479 4,0 2604 43,5 46,5
128 149 WGM Soumya Swaminathan 2365 4,0 2603 44,5 48,5
131 147 GM Danielian Elina 2385 4,0 2580 44,0 47,0
134 134 GM Cramling Pia 2462 4,0 2498 36,5 39,0
135 141 GM Ushenina Anna 2431 3,5 2637 42,0 44,5
138 142 IM Houska Jovanka 2430 3,5 2569 39,5 42,0
140 132 IM Atalik Ekaterina 2464 3,5 2552 38,5 40,5
141 140 IM Bulmaga Irina 2442 3,5 2543 37,5 39,0
142 144 GM Batsiashvili Nino 2422 3,5 2523 35,0 37,0
143 145 IM Zatonskih Anna 2422 3,0 2600 41,0 44,5
144 138 GM Sebag Marie 2445 3,0 2599 44,5 46,0

Find the top games of round 10 for replay here:

David Howell with Fiona Steil-Antoni 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
David Howell with commentator and good friend Fiona Steil-Antoni. Photo: Maria Emelianova/
IM Rakesh Kulkarni contributed to this report.

Previous reports:

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