Nakamura Joins Leaders At FIDE Grand Swiss
Hikaru Nakamura caught the leaders today. Photo: John Saunders.

Nakamura Joins Leaders At FIDE Grand Swiss

| 49 | Chess Event Coverage

Hikaru Nakamura had a slow start but after a convincing win against Vladislav Kovalev, the American grandmaster now finds himself tied for first place with David AntonLevon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana at the FIDE Grand Swiss in Isle of Man. There are just two rounds to go.

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

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2019 FIDE Grand Swiss commentary

Nakamura hasn't had a great year. In the past five months he lost almost 30 rating points and, as a result, has dropped out of the top 20.

If he earns the direct spot to the Candidates' in Isle of Man, he could probably forget about all those bad tournaments right away. Today he made a first step toward that goal.

It's a goal that's suddenly on the horizon now that Nakamura has won three of his last four games, but he doesn't want to focus on it too much just yet.

"I am not thinking about it at all," Nakamura said today after his win. "There's probably gonna be huge tiebreaks; there's gonna be a bunch of people finishing on the same score, so I am just focusing on playing good chess. If things work out, they do. More importantly, I am just trying to put myself in a spot where I have a chance, and that's what today's game was about."

Hikaru Nakamura 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Hikaru Nakamura, now tied for first place. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura said his opening choice (the Sicilian with 2...Nc6, which got his opponent thinking for eight minutes on move three!) was "a little bit risky" as his opponent had probably prepared for it for his game with Carlsen earlier in the tournament: "I figured it was the only way I could create a mess."

Kovalev was probably not very "well versed" (as Nakamura put it) in the opening as he spent a lot of time early on. It didn't help him as he slowly got outplayed anyway, and things rapidly deteriorated when he was playing just on increment.

All in all, the convincing win for Nakamura pushed him to the joint lead, as the top four boards all saw draws, with or without drama.

Nakamura was interviewed on the live broadcast.

After a crushing win against Alexander Grischuk in the previous round, David Anton deserves further praise for not cracking under pressure and for holding a slightly worse endgame against Levon Aronian today. The Spaniard is not someone you would expect to go to the Candidates', but it's definitely a possibility now.

Aronian and Anton met each other for the first time in a classical game. It might still have been in the back of his mind that Aronian lost their only encounter, which was at the 2015 World Blitz Championship.

Aronian Anton 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Aronian and Anton, about to start their board-one clash. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The two played a topical line in the Giuoco Pianissimo, where Black gives two pieces for a rook and a pawn. This complicated middlegame was first seen in Anand-Ding from this year's Norway Chess tournament and discussed later in the World Cup as well.

Soon an endgame was reached with the same material imbalance, where Aronian's edge was too small to bring home a full point and reach a clear first place in the tournament. 

Board two saw the big clash between the world numbers one and two. Carlsen and Caruana played their 50th classical game, and before today the score was 10 to 5 for Carlsen with 34 draws—12 of which were played in their title match last year.

The game was an English, which got quite sharp early on. Carlsen played quickly until slowly spending 46 minutes on his 17th move, where the main alternative was to grab a pawn on a7. To Caruana it was clear that his opponent was prepared to that point.

Carlsen Caruana 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Carlsen was well prepared, but Caruana held his own. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana's prep wasn't exactly on par.

"I couldn't remember anything," he said. "It's kind of silly since he's played this line with e4 recently and more than once. He played it against Anish [Giri]."

Caruana deviated from that game with 4…Bc5 that aims to gain a tempo if White continues with similar developing moves. Therefore, "White is sort of obligated to go for a very sharp line," Caruana explained. He was basically on his own after his seventh move.

Caruana 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Caruana deciding where to put his king's bishop. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

With natural moves, aimed at creating counterplay, Caruana held his own against Carlsen's preparation and then came that 17th move. On the live broadcast Caruana mentioned the alternative 17.Qxa7 Bb6 18.Qa3 (or 18.Qa4) Bc5 19.Qb3, but Black definitely has counterplay.

Carlsen also thought it is too vague and contains risks for White, and by avoiding this line he more or less allowed the forced draw that Caruana put on the board.

"It's a good result," Caruana said. "It's a tough pairing, black against Magnus."

Caruana was interviewed on the live broadcast.

It would be amazing if 49-year-old Vishy Anand qualifies for yet another Candidates' tournament, and he is not out of contention yet. He didn't get chances for more than a draw against Kirill Alekseenko in what was their first encounter and a rather balanced game from start to finish:

Alekseenko-Anand 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Alekseenko impressed once again vs. a world-champion opponent. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

One board lower Parham Maghsoodloo once again showed how strong he has become in a short time. The reigning World Junior Champion had the upper hand the whole game against the youngest grandmaster in history, Sergey Karjakin. The latter needed to be accurate until the end to avoid serious trouble in the rook endgame.

Maghsoodloo-Karjakin 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Maghsoodloo held Karjakin under pressure. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

After a long day it seemed that Wang Hao was going to be joining the leaders as well. The Chinese grandmaster had skillfully outplayed Nikita Vitiugov in a middlegame with only heavy pieces and eventually reached a winning rook endgame but failed to convert. It was another tough one for Wang after his earlier, unnecessary loss to Aronian.

Vitiugov-Wang Hao 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Another dramatic rook endgame for Wang Hao. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Russia's Maxim Matlakov had eliminated Boris Gelfand from last month's FIDE World Cup and again defeated his 51-year-old opponent. Gelfand was the last player in the group with 5.5 points; Matlakov was on 5/8 before the round.

Maxim Matlakov 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Gelfand's nemesis, Maxim Matlakov. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Against Wesley So, Luke McShane played another Four Knights like he had done against Caruana earlier. So's treatment was a very forced variation leading to a draw.

In fact, several games have followed this path to a draw before, including Short-McShane(!) in the 2017 British Knockout Championship. The final position in McShane-So was also seen in Kravtsiv-Wang Hao, Abu Dhabi Masters 2018.

With this draw—So's seventh in the tournament with two wins—the American GM is out of contention for the Candidates' qualification spot.

"It's probably close to impossible at this point," So said. "It was difficult to start with. I felt I had better chances in the World Cup but lost to Nikita [Vitiugov]."

McShane-So 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
A quick draw in McShane-So. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Classical chess hasn't been going great for So in recent months. "Basically I am not happy with the way I am playing in this tournament. I think I could do better. At the same time it has been a very long year," he said, but he is also looking forward to his next event: the Fischer Random World Championship next week in Norway.

So: "I am very excited to have qualified. I think it's going to be a fantastic and exciting event. I like playing Chess960; it's my favorite game right now."

On board 10 Grischuk beat Alexei Shirov in a theoretical French. A nice game by the Russian GM:

Grischuk Robson FIDE Grand Swiss
Alexander Grischuk (right) alongside Ray Robson. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

It was a special day for the players active in the second playing hall, which has boards 35 to 76. Three teenagers managed their third win and final GM norm. Because all had passed the Elo requirement, the tournament suddenly produced three teen grandmasters on one day!

Vincent Keymer of Germany, who will turn 15 next month, was perhaps the least surprising. Coached by Peter Leko, the winner of the 2018 Grenke Open had been incredibly close twice before. Today he needed a draw against the Russian GM Vadim Zvjaginsev and did.

Keymer was interviewed on the live broadcast.

Then there was Jonas Buhl Bjerre of Denmark, who turned 15 in June. He had secured the norm after eight rounds and only needed his opponent, Evgeny Alekseev, to show up at the board. Bjerre held the game to a draw as well.

Bjerre was interviewed on the live broadcast.

The third is the youngest of the three. Also only needing his opponent, Alexander Motylev, to show up today, Raunak Sadhwani of India became a grandmaster at the age of 13 years, 9 months and 27 days, which makes him the ninth youngest ever to do so. He celebrated with a win:

Sadhwani was interviewed on the live broadcast.

This report cannot omit the beautiful game Vidit Gujrathi played against Aryan Tari. The night before they two joined a nice dinner at the most popular local Italian restaurant (where Carlsen and Leko were also present at the same table), not knowing they would be facing each other.

The round also saw the clash between former U.S. Champion Sam Shankland and popular Twitch commentator GM Robert Hess, won by the latter: 

In a strange twist of fate, Hess not only plays another compatriot tomorrow (Aleksandr Lenderman), but the round will also see Jeffery Xiong vs. Sam Sevian and Wesley So vs. Ray Robson!

Hess was interviewed on the live broadcast.

FIDE Grand Swiss | Round 9 Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 2 Caruana Fabiano 2812 6,5 2723 45,5 50,5
2 39 Anton David 2674 6,5 2696 44,5 48,0
3 8 Aronian Levon 2758 6,5 2682 45,5 50,0
4 12 Nakamura Hikaru 2745 6,5 2646 38,0 41,5
5 15 Wang Hao 2726 6,0 2736 46,5 51,0
6 38 Alekseenko Kirill 2674 6,0 2708 42,5 46,0
7 48 Maghsoodloo Parham 2664 6,0 2696 43,5 47,0
8 1 Carlsen Magnus 2876 6,0 2688 43,5 48,0
9 95 Rakhmanov Aleksandr 2621 6,0 2683 39,0 42,0
10 7 Grischuk Alexander 2759 6,0 2680 45,0 49,5
11 13 Vitiugov Nikita 2732 6,0 2666 41,5 45,5
12 6 Karjakin Sergey 2760 6,0 2656 43,5 47,0
13 18 Matlakov Maxim 2716 6,0 2645 40,0 44,5
14 4 Anand Viswanathan 2765 6,0 2643 41,0 44,5
15 24 Howell David 2694 6,0 2635 38,5 43,0
16 73 Adhiban Baskaran 2639 5,5 2712 45,0 46,0
17 83 Abasov Nijat 2632 5,5 2705 42,5 45,5
18 53 Kovalev Vladislav 2661 5,5 2688 40,0 43,0
19 34 McShane Luke 2682 5,5 2686 44,5 48,5
20 110 Paravyan David 2602 5,5 2670 38,0 40,5
(Full standings here.)

FIDE Grand Swiss | Top pairings round 10

Bo. No. Fed Name Rtg Pts. Result Pts. Fed Name Rtg No.
1 2 Caruana Fabiano 2812 Anton David 2674 39
2 12 Nakamura Hikaru 2745 Aronian Levon 2758 8
3 1 Carlsen Magnus 2876 6 6 Matlakov Maxim 2716 18
4 4 Anand Viswanathan 2765 6 6 Wang Hao 2726 15
5 6 Karjakin Sergey 2760 6 6 Alekseenko Kirill 2674 38
6 24 Howell David W L 2694 6 6 Grischuk Alexander 2759 7
7 13 Vitiugov Nikita 2732 6 6 Rakhmanov Aleksandr 2621 95
(Full pairings here.)

In the fight for the first women's prize—a hefty $10,000—the top seed among the women, GM Harika Dronavalli, currently leads. Alina Kashalinskaya, who won the top women's prize last year, is on the same number of points but has a lower tiebreak.

FIDE Grand Swiss | Round 9 Women Standings

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
81 122 GM Harika Dronavalli 2495 4,5 2656 37,5 41,0
101 126 IM Kashlinskaya Alina 2481 4,5 2561 33,0 34,0
107 127 IM Saduakassova Dinara 2481 4,0 2653 37,0 40,5
114 149 WGM Soumya Swaminathan 2365 4,0 2602 33,5 36,5
121 146 IM Munguntuul Batkhuyag 2421 3,5 2648 35,5 39,0
122 141 GM Ushenina Anna 2431 3,5 2638 33,5 36,0
123 131 GM Lei Tingjie 2469 3,5 2633 36,0 39,5
124 128 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2479 3,5 2624 35,5 38,5
130 147 GM Danielian Elina 2385 3,5 2592 33,0 36,0
132 142 IM Houska Jovanka 2430 3,5 2565 32,5 35,0
133 132 IM Atalik Ekaterina 2464 3,5 2539 30,5 32,0
136 140 IM Bulmaga Irina 2442 3,5 2531 28,0 29,0
138 138 GM Sebag Marie 2445 3,0 2617 36,0 37,0
140 145 IM Zatonskih Anna 2422 3,0 2590 33,5 36,5
144 134 GM Cramling Pia 2462 3,0 2504 30,5 33,0
148 144 GM Batsiashvili Nino 2422 2,5 2541 29,0 30,5

Find the top games of round nine for replay here:

Playing hall 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
The playing hall of the highest boards. Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Nebolsina Baard 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
A first board and a last board: WGM Vera Nebolsina vs. local player Dahl Baard (a draw). Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Alekseev-Bjerre 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Alekseev-Bjerre next to Shankland-Hess. Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Dubov 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Daniil Dubov (sitting beside Elina Danielian) is not having a great tournament. He is currently losing 23 rating points. Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Eric Hansen 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Chessbrah Eric Hansen, Dubov's next opponent, has only a minor Elo loss at this point. Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Dinara Saduakassova 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss
Dinara Saduakassova also scored a GM norm today. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

IM Rakesh Kulkarni contributed to this report.

Previous reports:

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