FIDE Candidates Tournament: Giri Strikes, Moves Into Second-Place Tie
Anish Giri moved to half a point behind Ian Nepomniachtchi in the standings. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

FIDE Candidates Tournament: Giri Strikes, Moves Into Second-Place Tie

| 40 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Anish Giri defeated GM Wang Hao in round nine of the FIDE Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg. The Dutchman joined GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in second place.

The trio is half a point behind GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, who drew his game with GM Alexander Grischuk. Caruana was held to a draw by GM Kirill Alekseenko, while MVL was close to suffering a second loss in a row before eventually splitting the point with GM Ding Liren.

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 tenth round is on Wednesday, April 21 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 9 broadcast.

"It was very important for me to win this game to realistically stay in the race, otherwise it would have been really hard," said Giri. He reminded everyone that he drew all his games in the 2016 Candidates tournament, and added: "It's not enough that the tournament goes well and nobody is pulling ahead; you also need yourself to win games at some point."

You also need yourself to win games at some point.
—Anish Giri

Although Wang could have defended better, it was a good game by Giri, even though the Dutchman was critical of himself afterward. His remark "I was thinking about a lot of things but I don't think I produced good moves," was somewhat exaggerated perhaps but Giri noted that for a while in this game, he was struggling to put serious pressure on the queenside.

Wang had played a solid but slightly passive line against the Catalan, the 1.d4 opening where White fianchettoes his king's bishop and where Giri feels like a fish in water. At some point, the Chinese GM put his queen on a8 which actually wasn't such a bad square.

White was only slightly better, with no clear way to break through just yet when Wang weakened his kingside too much on move 27. "Very bad, but I couldn't find a move," he said.

Wang Hao 2021 FIDE Candidates
It was not easy to see why Wang's 27th move was so bad. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

The Chinese GM also got into time-trouble and when Giri found the nice maneuver 32.b4 axb4 33.Rc4! the game was soon decided, although our GM commentator found some hidden resources for the second player:

GM-elect Max Warmerdam, who is Giri's second in Yekaterinburg, tweeted:

A few hours into the round, things looked pretty grim for Vachier-Lagrave. A 3.h4 Grunfeld had gone wrong for him at some point and it seemed very likely that Ding would be converting the full point.

MVL thought so too: "I just got into lots of trouble and at some point, I was sure my position would just collapse in a matter of two moves. I found move after move trying to keep on the fight and in the end, I managed to save this game but it's not gonna go into my best-games collection for sure."

At some point, I was sure my position would just collapse in a matter of two moves.
—Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Ding had built up his advantage with the great move 15.Nd4 which must have been a deja vu for MVL, who got piece sacrifices fired at him for two days in a row. Afterward, the Frenchman felt that he should have kept the extra piece but in the game, he quickly gave it back. Ding was still better and that advantage grew when MVL allowed all the minor pieces to be traded.

Ding said that he played a good game but that he blundered with 37.d6, where he missed the excellent defense 37…Re6! after which Black was suddenly out of the woods. Around that time,'s French broadcast broke 30K views which is a fantastic number for non-English chess streams. 

Vachier-Lagrave's second GM Sebastien Maze (@Mazetovic on, who is in Yekaterinburg with him, tweeted:

Ding Liren Vachier-Lagrave 2021 FIDE Candidates
A narrow escape for Vachier-Lagrave. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Tournament leader Nepomniachtchi drew his black game with Grischuk as the first game of the day to finish. Grischuk, who happens to be leading 2-1 in classical games in the Grunfeld against Nepomniachtchi, played a novelty on move nine in that opening.

Things became rather interesting when Nepomniachtchi's reaction gave White the chance to sacrifice a pawn. "Black of course has many ways and this one, I thought, was a bit dangerous," said Grischuk and Nepo agreed: "I think I only created some problems for myself."

I think I only created some problems for myself.
—Ian Nepomniachtchi

Nepomniachtchi continued with a series of accurate moves and stayed very much in the game, especially when Grischuk played the surprising move 26.Rxf7. He said he "just tried to spin a roulette" there and it seems Nepomniachtchi could have been pressing a bit but instead he chose to liquidate to a drawn rook endgame.

Grischuk Nepomniachtchi 2021 Candidates
Grischuk (who recently broke a finger) and Nepomniachtchi checking lines on the computer with Giri and Wang watching while waiting for their press conference. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Caruana would have loved to win his game today—and he was definitely trying as Black—because if he had won, he would have caught Nepomniachtchi in first place. Instead, he missed his chance against Alekseenko.

The Russian grandmaster was the third player to sacrifice as White in the opening, in his case also a pawn, and afterward, he said he was happy with his preparation: "Finally I had some extra time in the opening." Caruana also noted that his opponent prepared well for this game.

However, one miscalculation by Alekseenko was enough for Caruana to take over the initiative and around move 25, the top seed felt he had a very large advantage. He missed his chance when he didn't take White's a-pawn on move 26, after which a drawn rook endgame occurred on the board.

Caruana Alekseenko Giri 2021 FIDE Candidates
Caruana vs. Alekseenko with Giri watching. Photo: Lennart Ootes/FIDE.

Round 9 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts
1 Ian Nepomniachtchi 2774 2851 ½ 0 ½ ½½ 1 1 5.5/9
2 Fabiano Caruana 2842 2796 ½ ½1 ½ ½ ½ 0 5.0/9
3 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2767 2824 1 ½0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 5.0/9
4 Anish Giri 2763 2812 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½1 ½ 5.0/9
5 Kirill Alekseenko 2698 2751 ½ ½ 0 ½1 ½ ½ 4.0/9
6 Alexander Grischuk 2777 2727 ½½ ½ ½ ½ ½0 ½ ½ 4.0/9
7 Wang Hao 2762 2739 0 ½ ½ ½0 ½ ½ 4.0/9
8 Ding Liren 2805 2690 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 3.5/9

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

Round 10 (Wednesday): Caruana-Ding, MVL-Giri, Wang-Grischuk, Nepomniachtchi-Alekseenko. See full pairings here.

The topic of the day at the press conferences was the chairs that are being used by the players. Already last year, both Ding and Grischuk at some point got rid of the official green chair which is pretty and expensive but also simply too big. At the technical meeting in the playing hall on Sunday, all the green chairs were back and some of the players started asking for other chairs.

By now, most players have traded the official chair for something else and the potpourri of seating furniture looks rather odd. "Everything about this tournament is absurd so we are adding another dimension of this absurdity: everyone has a different chair," said Grischuk.

Giri: "It's very unpleasant, you invite someone at home and for example, you baked a beautiful cake, your wife spent all day baking it in the oven. You also bought some cheap chocolate. You go for the tea and you say: 'Would you like the cake?' and he looks at the cake and he says: 'No, I'll just have the chocolate.' This is how the organizer probably feels because it's really a beautiful chair and it deserves more love."

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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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