FIDE Candidates Tournament R11: Giri Approaches Nepomniachtchi, MVL Stumbles
Anish Giri is now half a point behind Nepomniachtchi. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

FIDE Candidates Tournament R11: Giri Approaches Nepomniachtchi, MVL Stumbles

| 51 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Anish Giri moved up to second place in the FIDE Candidates Tournament standings after beating GM Ding Liren on Friday. The Dutch GM is half a point behind GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, who drew a fairly unambitious game with GM Fabiano Caruana.

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave dropped in the standings after losing as Black to GM Alexander Grischuk while GM Kirill Alekseenko and GM Wang Hao shared the point today.

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 12th round is on Saturday, April 24 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 11 broadcast.

On paper, the biggest game was Nepomniachtchi vs. Caruana: the tournament leader against one of the three players in shared second place. Unfortunately, this game was very likely to end in a draw basically after White's third move. And it did.

Nepomniachtchi chose the Scotch Four Knights, a very solid option in the 1.e4 e5 department. Although Caruana went for the modern line with 9...Bg4, he couldn't prevent the position from becoming very dry. In fact, with only major pieces on the board, the American had to work a little for the draw due to an inaccuracy on move 23.

Nepomniachtchi Caruana Candidates 2021
Nepomniachtchi and Caruana at the press conference. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

"I thought Ian might have two approaches: one to get a complicated fight and another to play a more or less safe position with some very minor chances that I mess this position up but 99 percent of the time this line will turn into a draw," said Caruana. "I still managed to get into some difficulties, very minor, but some."

"Honestly it was never enough to hope for something serious," said Nepomniachtchi about the double rook endgame. As to his opening choice, he remarked: "One could call this tournament strategy but in general, I expected Fabiano to play some Sicilian or some sharp lines. (…) I had some minor idea here but I guess I mixed it up a little."

Caruana didn't regret playing 1...e5, saying: "If this was the last round then I would… I did of course consider playing something a bit more double-edged than 1.e4 e5, not that 1.e4 e5 can't lead to very double-edged positions anyway. But OK, it's still three rounds to go. I thought: why would I burn my bridges? I don't think that this was like a must-win or anything like that."

I thought: why would I burn my bridges?
—Fabiano Caruana

Nepomniachtchi Candidates 2021
Nepomniachtchi, still in the lead. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

With his win, Giri approached Nepomniachtchi by half a point but it's practically a point. It won't be enough for the Dutch grandmaster to finish shared first because then Nepomniachtchi will win on the first tiebreak: mutual result. In other words, Giri will need to score half a point more to win this tournament.

As a wise man once said, you first gotta score plus two before you can get to plus three and plus four, and Giri made that initial step. 

Especially in the second half of the game, the Dutch grandmaster showed some great chess but he was the first to point out that the first half was less convincing:

"A few people already told me that it was a great game but I don't think it was as great as it looked at the end. At some point he was the one who had all the play, he was sort of dictating the course of the game."

GM Ben Finegold's analysis of the game.

Giri went for a delayed Exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez known as the Steenwijker variation: first moving the bishop to a4 and then taking on c6 after all. The idea is that with Black having played his king's bishop to e7 already, it would be harder to defend the e5-pawn.

Giri combined his old opening line with a modern idea often seen in the Anti-Berlin: maneuvering the queen's knight to a5. He hadn't expected Black's blunt way of protecting b7 with the king, which castled queenside. "I should have, of course, it's a very reasonable way of playing," said Giri.

Anish Giri 2021 Candidates
Despite the win, Giri was critical of his play. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Play continued logically, but when Ding found the excellent 17...f5! it was clear that he was doing OK. In fact, after the next move, Giri felt he was "under huge pressure." But right after, the Chinese GM erred with 20...g4, missing his opponent's reply.

From that moment, Giri was in the driver's seat and steered his car toward the finish line in great style—the style of the new Giri? That's what his second, GM-elect Max Warmerdam, suggested when joining our live broadcast.

Giri called his knight sacrifice practical: "I've seen so many more dumb sacrifices performed by me that this was one of the better ones. It's so easy to play and my king is so much safer. He shouldn't have taken of course but when you suffer, you want to suffer for something sometimes."

I've seen so many more dumb sacrifices performed by me that this was one of the better ones.
—Anish Giri

Anish Giri 2021 Candidates
Anish Giri. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Vachier-Lagrave saw his chances diminish significantly as he suffered his second loss in the tournament. A sharp Sicilian was probably what he was happy with against Grischuk, but, as GM Vishy Anand pointed out in the broadcast, not only MVL but also Grischuk feels like a fish in water in these positions.

As Grischuk started his aggression on the kingside, Vachier-Lagrave didn't respond well and after 20.f5 the position looked very promising for White. However, MVL showed very tenacious defense, especially with the move 31...Rd4!, only to go wrong later on and lose after all.

Grischuk now shares fourth place with Vachier-Lagrave and is not completely without chances of winning, in fact. "Of course it's microscopic but as long as there are theoretical chances I will fight," he said.

MVL: "I'll come back tomorrow, play some chess, and whatever happens, happens." 

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave Candidates
A tough loss for the Frenchman. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.
Grischuk Vachier-Lagrave Candidates 2021
Grischuk vs. Vachier-Lagrave. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

The longest game of the day was played between Alekseenko and Wang Hao. Although the opening seemed promising, with the Chinese GM playing an early ...g5, things remained quiet for a long time.

At some point, Wang avoided an immediate move repetition but that only postponed the peaceful result a little. "Somehow I thought I had some slight changes but OK it was not serious at all," he said.

Wang Hao Candidates 2021
Wang Hao. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Round 11 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts
1 Ian Nepomniachtchi 2774 2869 ½½ ½½ 0 1 ½1 1 7.0/11
2 Anish Giri 2763 2839 ½ ½ ½½ ½1 1 ½1 6.5/11
3 Fabiano Caruana 2842 2795 ½½ ½ ½ ½1 ½ 6.0/11
4 Alexander Grischuk 2777 2765 ½½ ½ ½ ½1 ½½ ½0 ½ 5.5/11
5 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2767 2782 1 ½½ ½0 ½0 ½ ½ 5.5/11
6 Wang Hao 2762 2739 0 ½0 ½ ½½ ½ ½½ 5.0/11
7 Kirill Alekseenko 2698 2722 ½0 0 ½1 ½ ½½ ½ 4.5/11
8 Ding Liren 2805 2678 0 ½0 ½ ½ 4.0/11

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

Round 12 (Saturday): Caruana - Giri, Ding - Grischuk, Vachier-Lagrave - Alekseenko, Wang - Nepomniachtchi. 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.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

Company Contact and News Accreditation: 

Phone: 1 (800) 318-2827
Address: PO Box 60400 Palo Alto, CA 94306

More from PeterDoggers
BBC To Broadcast New Chess Show Decades After 'The Master Game'

BBC To Broadcast New Chess Show Decades After 'The Master Game'

Arjun Erigaisi Briefly World #5 As Menorca Open Winner

Arjun Erigaisi Briefly World #5 As Menorca Open Winner