FIDE Candidates Tournament R10: Nepomniachtchi Wins Quickly, Increases Lead
Ian Nepomniachtchi once again leads by a full point. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

FIDE Candidates Tournament R10: Nepomniachtchi Wins Quickly, Increases Lead

| 125 | Chess Event Coverage

For the second time during the FIDE Candidates Tournament, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi leads by a full point. Today the Russian GM scored a quick win vs. his compatriot GM Kirill Alekseenko and saw his rivals draw their games.

In his second Sveshnikov, GM Anish Giri was surprised in the opening by GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and under slight pressure before finding a path to equality. GM Fabiano Caruana drew with GM Ding Liren in a complicated Ruy Lopez.

The game of the day was GM Wang Hao vs. GM Alexander Grischuk which saw a pretty queen sacrifice from the Chinese player and his opponent defending in "vintage Grischuk" time-trouble.

How to watch?
You can follow the FIDE Candidates Tournament with commentary on during each round. The broadcast is sponsored by Grip6. Visit and use code CHESS20 for 20% off.

The 11th round is on Friday, April 23 at 16:00 local time which is 13:00 Central Europe, 7 a.m. Eastern, and 4 a.m. Pacific. You can follow the games live on our dedicated page on Find all the information about the Candidates Tournament in our info article.'s round 10 broadcast.

As he beat both Chinese participants Wang and Ding in rounds five and six, Nepomniachtchi also had a full-point lead last year before he lost to Vachier-Lagrave in round seven. Now, three days into the second half and going into the first rest day, the Russian number one enjoys that comfortable cushion of a full point again.

He was the first to put that into perspective, saying: "Everyone has seven finals in a row here, that's my take on it. It's better to have plus three than plus one but it's too early to make any conclusions."

Everyone has seven finals in a row here.
—Ian Nepomniachtchi

Needless to say, Nepomniachtchi is now the big favorite again. For starters, each winner of the 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2018 Candidates was also in the lead after 10 rounds. More importantly, Nepomniachtchi has already played his two games against Giri and against both Caruana (round 11) and Vachier-Lagrave (round 13) he will have the white pieces.

Ian Nepomniachtchi 2021 Candidates chess
Things are looking promising for Nepomniachtchi. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Nepomniachtchi's win, with which he became the world number-three player in the live ratings, was surprisingly smooth and quick. Alekseenko had shown good play in rounds seven and eight but this game was below his new standard, so to speak. On the other hand, it would have been tough for any super-grandmaster to come back after Black's early mistakes in the opening.

As GM Vishy Anand explained in the broadcast, it's important to start with 8...Qc7 before playing 8...Be7, and Black voluntarily taking on d4 was really inaccurate.

Nepomniachtchi - Alekseenko Candidates 2021
A tough day at the office for Alekseenko after early opening mistakes. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

"I guess in the opening I got lucky that Kirill quickly got into some position he is not familiar with," said Nepomniachtchi, who pointed out that White has a good version of known Catalan positions where all kinds of tactics are hanging in the air and the moves for White are pretty simple.

"The biggest problem was to choose what should I do," he added.

Alekseenko did manage to make the position somewhat tactical and it was clear that some behind-the-scenes calculation was in order for Nepomniachtchi, who remained alert, saying: "It was optically very easy but in fact, I think it was not."

Two of Nepo's closest rivals played each other and it was Vachier-Lagrave who had reason to be disappointed as he had Giri under pressure for a while.

The game immediately attracted all the attention because of the move 10.c5 in what was Giri's second Sveshnikov in this tournament. MVL's pawn push was an early deviation from the 2018 Caruana-Carlsen world championship games in this opening.

Interestingly, it was Giri's second, GM-elect Max Warmerdam, who had played it two years ago and on Twitter, he noticed that we noticed that.

Giri said he knew the idea but couldn't remember all the details: "As you can see from the game I wasn't having it very clear in my head."

For this one game, it worked for Vachier-Lagrave, who got a very pleasant position at some point. However, his decision to cash in and win a pawn actually made life easier for Giri. Around move 30, the Frenchman started to see that the draw was inevitable, saying: "I finished with grief and I was at the acceptance stage."

Vachier-Lagrave Giri 2021 Candidates
Vachier-Lagrave and Giri before their game. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

This draw didn't help either player in terms of the standings. "It's a bit disappointing because I had a very good position but at the same time there was nothing obvious that I missed," said Vachier-Lagrave when a friendly back-and-forth followed:

Giri: "But you faced a great defense."
MVL: "The draw-master is back at it!"

Giri: "Look who's talking!"

Still, both players felt that the tournament isn't over yet. "We still have chances to win in some games," said Vachier-Lagrave. "In many Candidates, there is a lot of pressure at some point so a lot is also up to Ian for example," said Giri. "He has to play against himself in the last couple of rounds and it's not going to be easy. I don't recall a single Candidates that anyone won easily."

He has to play against himself in the last couple of rounds and it's not going to be easy.
—Anish Giri

Nepomniachtchi admitted today that there is some tension: "Of course I'm a bit stressed. This tournament is a little bit important and you cannot play it from home."

Vachier-Lagrave Giri Candidates press conference
Vachier-Lagrave and Giri, in good spirits at the press conference. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Caruana, the other player in shared second place, didn't get any serious chances for an advantage against Ding, who is playing much better chess than last year. It was the sixth classical game where Caruana faced Ding as White and the sixth draw.

Caruana tried the 8.a4 Anti-Marshall, which was popularized by GM Garry Kasparov in his PCA World Championship against GM Nigel Short. Ding followed some earlier games of his for a while but then deviated on move 16 in order to avoid his opponent's preparation.

Soon, the Chinese GM snatched a pawn but his three pawn islands were White's compensation. When asked to explain what was going on, Caruana said: "I would explain it if I could but I don't understand the line at all!"

I would explain it if I could but I don't understand the line at all!
—Fabiano Caruana

The whole game was quite tactical and the players gave a lot of lines at the press conference which you can find in the annotations below. Caruana felt he was lucky that he had the 31.Qg6 move which was missed by Ding.

"Last but not least" definitely applies to the game between Wang and Grischuk. It was a draw, but what a draw!

Grischuk started the press conference by saying: "Yesterday I was watching some stream with Kramnik and Bareev commenting and speaking about today's round they said that Wang Hao-Grischuk is the least interesting game of the round. I wonder if they still think the same way!"

The opening was a Classical French, where the players felt that 11.Qd2 isn't White's best move.

"I forgot the theory somehow. I prepared something else and then I mixed up," said Wang.

In an attempt to find the most energetic continuation, Grischuk, famous for getting into time trouble in many games, spent no less than 72 minutes on his 11th move. After his 18th move, he had two minutes and 27 seconds left, plus the 30-second increment, for his next 22 moves.

Grischuk chess Candidates
Grischuk didn't think it was his longest think ever and noted: "It's not really a record to be proud of!" Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

The key moment was move 21 when Wang went for a highly interesting queen sacrifice which was in fact predicted by co-commentator IM Daniel Rensch, who couldn't hide his joy when it came on the board.

It wasn't the only spectacular move. What to think of 30.Nxg7! which was a great attempt to create a mating attack with just minor pieces.

"I saw 30.Nxg7 but I thought something will work for Black," said Grischuk.

Grischuk Wang Hao 2021 Candidates
Grischuk and Wang enjoyed looking at this game afterward. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Round 10 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts
1 Ian Nepomniachtchi 2789 2870 ½ 0 1 ½½ 1 ½1 6.5/10
2 Fabiano Caruana 2820 2795 ½ ½1 ½ ½ ½ 5.5/10
3 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2758 2814 1 ½0 ½½ ½ ½ ½ 5.5/10
4 Anish Giri 2776 2805 ½ ½½ ½1 ½ ½ 1 5.5/10
5 Wang Hao 2763 2741 0 ½ ½ ½0 ½½ ½ 4.5/10
6 Alexander Grischuk 2777 2730 ½½ ½ ½ ½ ½½ ½ ½0 4.5/10
7 Ding Liren 2791 2702 0 ½ ½ ½ 4.0/10
8 Kirill Alekseenko 2696 2715 ½0 ½ 0 ½ ½1 ½ 4.0/10

(Tiebreaks: 1. Mutual score, 2. Number of wins, 3. Sonneborn-Berger.)

Round 11 (Friday):Nepomniachtchi-Caruana, Alekseenko-Wang, Grischuk-MVL, Giri-Ding. See full pairings here.

Previous reports:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

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