Ding, Nepomniachtchi Strike In Sinquefield Cup Round 9
Anand, Ding and Nepomniachtchi during round 9. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Ding, Nepomniachtchi Strike In Sinquefield Cup Round 9

| 29 | Chess Event Coverage

Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi escaped from a group of five leaders as they won their games in round nine of the 2019 Sinquefield Cup. The two are tied for first place with two rounds to go.

It was Ding who scored the more impressive of the two victories on Monday as he outplayed Fabiano Caruana brilliantly. The Chinese player is starting to become known as one of the best calculators on the planet.

In a 5.Bf4 Queen's Gambit Declined, he managed to keep a slight edge after the players deviated from a game between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura from the 2018 world blitz.

Ding Caruana 2019 Sinquefield Cup
The start of Ding vs. Caruana. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Initially, Caruana defended strongly and if he had found an active alternative shortly before the time control, the game would have ended in a draw, and quickly been forgotten.

However, the American slipped, and allowed his opponent to keep the pressure even with just a queen and a knight for both left on the board (with pawns). Ding skilfully maneuvered in that endgame, adding a new threat on almost every move until Black's position collapsed.

Ding Caruana 2019 Sinquefield Cup
Ding used some great knight maneuvers. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Wesley So entered a line from the Panov Caro-Kann by transposition from a Symmetrical English, probably to avoid Nepomniachtchi's Gruenfeld. The American GM got a slight edge as his opponent put his queen on the wrong square: e8 instead of e7.

From there, So made some inaccuracies and even allowed his opponent to snatch a pawn, but the queen endgame looked drawish anyway.

On move 81, So claimed a draw based on a three-fold repetition. The same position had also occurred after 74.Qe7 and after 76...Qc4.

So draw claim 2019 Sinquefield Cup
So checking his claim with the arbiter. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

However, in the second position it was White to move. For a draw claim to be correct, the position has to be exactly the same, which includes castling rights, the possibility for en passant and the same player to move.

Therefore the claim was rejected by arbiter Chris Bird, who added two minutes to Nepo's clock.

The always fast-playing Russian didn't really need those; he had one hour and 12 minutes left versus five minutes for So, who eventually failed to hold the endgame as his seconds were ticking away. Nepomniachtchi won the longest game in Sinquefield Cup history, after 132 moves.

So draw claim 2019 Sinquefield Cup
Nepomniachtchi looks at So making what turned out to be a wrong claim. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

After winning his game, Nepomniachtchi expressed a state of mind that seems to be holding up among other players as well: “You may not believe me but seriously, I don’t really care because I’m very tired of all the chess events. OK, I’m playing, if the game goes on I play, if not, I’m happy with a draw," he said. 

Asked if he would be happy winning the Sinquefield Cup, Nepo replied: “I don't mind.”

Nepomniachtchi 2019 Sinquefield Cup
Nepomniachtchi wouldn't mind winning the 2019 Sinquefield Cup.

The game between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Hikaru Nakamura had a promising start, but at some point fizzled out. The opening phase (a Two Knights Caro-Kann) was especially interesting, with MVL taking back on g3 with his f-pawn to try and us the open f-file.

The frontman of the doubled g-pawn then ran up the board to open up the black kingside, but when the queens left, White's positional edge was not strong enough.  

Nakamura 2019 Sinquefield Cup
Nakamura had to think early in the game. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen were the first to finish their game, and it became Carlsen's ninth draw in as many rounds. The world champion has now lost 13.5 rating points, but at least his unbeaten streak (now 88 games!) is still intact.

Aronian admitted that his 20th move was a mistake, and he had seen a promising line for his opponent. When he pointed it out, Carlsen replied to him: "I was not even close to be seeing that!"

Carlsen: "I was not even close to be seeing that!" | Ph
Carlsen 2019 Sinquefield Cup
oto: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

As it turned out, Carlsen would have had "Benko-style" compensation on the queenside, on the day that the great Hungarian-American grandmaster died.

Aronian shared a memory: “I’ve seen him when I was 11, in Szeged. He approached me. I didn’t speak any English and he gave me a little book because I won the under-12. He gave me this book of his puzzles. He has brilliant puzzles.”

Viswanathan Anand vs. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was a great, strategical fight between material and activity. The Azerbaijani GM sacrificed two pawns for strong pressure and beautiful pieces, and the question was whether Anand could liquidate, and perhaps end up with an extra pawn. As it went, Black was just too active.

Mamedyarov 2019 Sinquefield Cup
Mamedyarov's activity was enough to hold the draw. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Anish Giri and Sergey Karjakin played an English Four Knights where White kept a slight edge until Black found a tactical line on the queenside that led to a drawn position by force:

Karjakin 2019 Sinquefield Cup
Karjakin found a nice way to save the game. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Nepomniachtchi will be playing with the white pieces against Vachier-Lagrave today and then he faces Giri as Black in the last round. Ding has Black against Aronian today, and White against Mamedyarov tomorrow.

2019 Sinquefield Cup round 9 standings
Round nine standings. | Image: Spectrum Studios.
2019 Sinquefield Cup Round 10
Tuesday's pairings. | Image: Spectrum Studios.

Round nine coverage:

You can find all games here as part of our live portal. More photos from the event can be found here. The official site is here.

Previous reports:

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