Aronian Joins Karjakin As Nakamura Touches King

Aronian Joins Karjakin As Nakamura Touches King

| 240 | Chess Event Coverage

On the longest and most dramatic day so far Levon Aronian joined Sergey Karjakin in the lead at the Candidates' Tournament. Aronian beat Hikaru Nakamura who was forced to make a fatal 74th move with his king after he had touched it. In the same round Vishy Anand nicely beat Peter Svidler.

The shortest round of the Candidates’ Tournament was followed by the longest, with two games going beyond move 60. It was also the most dramatic day with, for the first time, more than one decisive game — and a truly shocking moment after almost seven hours of play.

It might have looked strange that quite a few of the contestants played with the same color as yesterday, but that's because the arbiter had swapped rounds. Today the games of the seventh round were played, and on Saturday the round six games are scheduled. This will prevent players having the same color three games in a row.

Let's start at the beginning: a fine win by Vishy Anand over Peter Svidler. So far it's been a bit of a rollercoaster event for Anand, but now he is back to a plus one score and definitely among the contenders again.

Anand back to plus one. | Photo courtesy of WorldChess.

The way Anand won was both pretty and slightly strange. It started as a 8. a4 Anti-Marshall, which was seen three times in the 1993 Kasparov-Short match. After a dubious plan in the center by Svidler, Anand played an exchange sacrifice on e4 that was neat and rightly praised in the Twittersphere.

However, a close look at the database revealed that it had been played before! Well, almost.

The exact same idea had been played 12 years ago at the Calvia Olympiad by Alexei Shirov against Alexander Onischuk, but without axb5 and Rxa8. Svidler did know about this game, as he told, but he “wasn't sure it was this exact position.”

Something went wrong with Svidler's preparation. | Photo courtesy of WorldChess.

Trading the rooks was a clear improvement, as Na5-b3 (which worked for Onischuk) did not attack anything on a1 in this game. A devastating attack followed, executed with deadly precision by Anand.

Analysis by IM Danny Rensch

The Anand-Svidler postmortem courtesy of WorldChess.

The other win was scored by Levon Aronian, who inflicted the second loss upon Hikaru Nakamura. After more than 6.5 hours the American must have lost his concentration for a moment because, in a rook ending that didn't appear clearly lost yet, he made a king move that lost instantly.

Why did he play his king? Because he touched it.

On move 74 a rook move was necessary but Nakamura grabbed his king and held it for a few seconds, then let go again.

At the time of writing the Chief Arbiter, Werner Stubenvoll from Austria, wasn't available for comment, but on the official broadcast it can be seen that some words are exchanged between Aronian and Nakamura, and the arbiter directs Nakamura to make a move with his king.

After the game Aronian argued that the endgame is always winning for White. If that is true, it's only a small consolation for Nakamura. Being minus two is all that matters, and a win or two need to come soon.

The touch-king moment courtesy of WorldChess.

One top grandmaster, apparently still sore over his previous loss to Nakamura in an Armageddon game from the 2015 World Cup (where the American castled using two hands), took the opportunity to jab at the American on Twitter:

Aronian's postmortem courtesy of WorldChess.

We'd almost forget that the round started with a bang in terms of openings. Veselin Topalov surprised his opponent Anish Giri and the fans by going 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4!?. Wow!

According to Ukrainan GM Anton Korobov, who played it himself at the Aeroflot recently, it's a move in computer chess to avoid theory. English grandmaster Simon Williams has played it several times as well and likes to mention “Harry the h-pawn!” along the way.

Topalov pleased the fans with Harry the h-pawn. | Photo courtesy of WorldChess.

Giri's approach was to turn the game into a Benko/Volga Gambit, arguing that White's h2-h4 didn't make much sense there. “The Volga is a great opening but doesn't really work unless Black gets an extra tempo like h2-h4,” said the Dutch GM.

While Topalov was trying to show variations in the postmortem, Giri kept on repeating that he had a dream version of the Volga. And indeed, he won back the pawn and eventually won another one but failed to convert the resulting endgame. 

Having a certain setup in mind with his knight on c3, Giri traded the last pair of rooks but then discovered that he would never reach that setup. Getting low on time as well, he couldn't make progress. “I was hoping to win on time like against Magnus, but it didn't work this time!” joked Topalov.

Analysis by IM Danny Rensch

The Topalov-Giri postmortem courtesy of WorldChess.

And what about the tournament leader? Well, he was under serious pressure today, but once again proved to be a very tough nut to crack.

In yet another Queen's Indian Fabiano Caruana showed he had done his homework. With 11.a3 he deviated from Sergey Karjakin's game of yesterday and then went for a middlegame position similar to his opponent's game from two rounds ago.

Karjakin: not tired yet of playing of the Queen's Indian. | Photo courtesy of WorldChess.

With 17...cxb4?! Karjakin decided to give up his queen. “It was a little bit of a crazy decision. I didn't remember what was the most precise move. I thought it was very solid but maybe I was wrong,” he said.

White had a slight material plus, but practically speaking the chances were almost equal.

Caruana's advantage increased nonetheless, but then he allowed a tricky defense and suddenly it was just a draw.

Great defense by Karjakin. | Photo courtesy of WorldChess.
Analysis by IM Danny Rensch

The Caruana-Karjakin post-mortem courtesy of WorldChess.

2016 FIDE Candidates' | Round 6 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf Pts SB
1 Karjakin,Sergey 2760 2899 4.0/6 10.75
2 Aronian,Levon 2786 2899 4.0/6 10.00
3 Anand,Viswanathan 2762 2836 3.5/6
4 Caruana,Fabiano 2794 2779 3.0/6 9.25
5 Giri,Anish 2793 2778 3.0/6 8.75
6 Svidler,Peter 2757 2721 2.5/6
7 Topalov,Veselin 2780 2655 2.0/6 6.25
8 Nakamura,Hikaru 2790 2655 2.0/6 6.00

The round 6 recap by WorldChess.

Round 7 pairings (Saturday): Svidler-Caruana, Karjakin-Aronian, Nakamura-Topalov, and Giri-Anand.

The FIDE Candidates' Tournament runs March 11-29 in the Central Telegraph building in Moscow. The total prize fund is €420,000 with the Tashir Group as the main sponsor. The games start 3 p.m. local time, which is 4 a.m. Pacific, 7 a.m. New York, noon GMT or 1 p.m. CET. The winner earns the right to play Magnus Carlsen in November in New York.

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.”

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