Candidates' Tournament R8: Grischuk Outwits Kramnik

| 66 | Chess Event Coverage

He didn't overpress this time, but how Vladimir Kramnik missed several draws and eventually lost his game to Alexander Grischuk was still painful. Fabiano Caruana drew with Wesley So and kept his lead in round eight of the 2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament in Berlin.


Concentration was the key word in Berlin's eighth round. The design of the playing hall, where each duo of players has their own separate space, almost forces the participants to focus even harder on their own game than they’re accustomed. And today, more than before, almost all players were constantly pondering over their next moves while holding their head in their hands, with their elbows resting on the table—one of the classic poses in chess.

What the fans at home are missing are the sounds. A cocktail bar on the third floor had to be closed after the first round as the spectators made too much noise, but now it’s much better. Especially on a working day like today, with only a handful of spectators present on the same floor as the players, the only audible sounds you hear are produced by the players themselves.

One of them is actually quite loud, and it’s not clear if he’s aware of it himself. Vladimir Kramnik’s shoes are squeaking terribly, so much that someone might want to get him some lubricant to deal with that! Big Vlad is known to leave his board a lot, especially now that he is back to being a heavy smoker, so the other players are treated to this sound multiple times during the round. But, as Aronian pointed out yesterday, only the ones who are playing badly might notice…

Kramnik Candidates 2018

The tallest participant also has the loudest shoes. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

The same Kramnik received some mockery in the Twittersphere for his, how to put it, strong self-confidence that he's been expressing at the press conferences. Kostya Kavutskiy made a good one (click on the images for a bigger version):

Even today, for a moment, it seemed that the 14th world champion preferred a Marshall kind of endgame (pawn down, but the two bishops) over a draw, as if he was "playing for two results" (a draw and a loss!). Caruana: "I got the impression Vladimir was again playing for a win somehow."

As commentator Judit Polgar pointed out, there was a fairly easy draw with 31...Bxc3 but before that there was also a very drawish possibility on move 22.

A friend of this author compared Kramnik to a rock band that has announced its retirement but is giving a farewell tour in which it's giving, one more time, everything that it has. Let's hope Kramnik won't be announcing his retirement after this tournament, or else, let him be the Elton John of chess because then his farewell tour will last three years!

Why "outwit" in the title? Well, because in the final hour of play, with both being low on time, Grischuk found two great moves which Kramnik had both missed: 71. Bc3! and 75. Ne7. It might still be a draw after that, but when playing on the increment it's super hard.

As the highest-ranked Russian participant, Grischuk is now in clear third place, half a point behind Mamedyarov and a point behind Caruana.


Grischuk Candidates 2018

A fine win by Grischuk today, who profited handsomely from Kramnik's mishaps. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

There was also the all-American encounter between Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana. The rounds are "mirrored" compared to the first half of the tournament, which means that players from the same nation are again paired as early as possible.

At the press conference, So kind of justified this policy when he answered the question how he evaluated the N vs R and pawns endgame: "I had nothing to lose. If Fabiano beats me then it’s good for USA; if I draw it’s not bad either!"

So had played the 5. Qe2 vs the Petroff, which Caruana faced against Kramnik earlier in the tournament, but also against Magnus Carlsen earlier this year in Wijk aan Zee. Caruana had no trouble at all solving his opening problems.

So vs Caruana, Candidates 2018

The early queen trade in the Petroff has a boring reputation but twice it led to interesting games in this tournament. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

So took some risks when he maneuvered his knight to b7 and took on d6 with the other one. Knights that protect each other have one problem: neither of them can move. But somehow it worked, and even though he had to give an exchange, So was never close to losing.

Caruana vs So Candidates 2018

Caruana kept his half point lead today. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Vladimir Barsky, a reporter working in Berlin for the Russian Chess Federation, pointed out that the endgame is famous as it appeared in the game Lasker-Lasker, New York 1924. The white player was the former world champion, the black player Edward Lasker, a distant relative and a strong player as well.

Ding Liren and Levon Aronian drew an interesting game where the white player had the better chances. Fighting for his very last, tiny chance, Aronian was never close to an advantage.

The Catalan that came on the board usually leads to quiet positions, but somehow the players managed to make it really sharp today.

Levon Aronian vs Ding Liren Candidates 2018

Aronian: "I promised my team to play solid today!"  | Photo: Peter Doggers/

After the dust had settled, Ding was a pawn up and just before the time control everyone expected him to torture his opponent for quite some time. Pushing his f-pawn to the fifth rank was probably not a good decision, and suddenly the players repeated moves at the time control.

Polgar: "In the Candidates' you cannot afford such mistakes and give the draw so easily to Aronian."

Ding Liren Candidates 2018

Ding definitely had some chances today.  | Photo: Peter Doggers/

The game between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Sergey Karjakin, two good friends off the board, was a friendly one on the board. White basically failed to get a tangible advantage in what was another Catalan.

Karjakin didn't see problems in the endgame; Mamedyarov felt he was slightly better but he admitted: "It is not normal for me to play endgames!"

Are we seeing the spirit of his second Alexey Dreev, was one of the questions. "It is very good if I will play like Mamedyarov and like Dreev sometimes. Mamaedyarov for aggressive chess, Dreev for normal chess."

Karjakin vs Mamedyarov Candidates' 2018

No problems whatsoever for Karjakin today.  | Photo: Peter Doggers/

2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament | Round 8 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Caruana,Fabiano 2784 2924 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 5.5/8
2 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2809 2868 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 5.0/8
3 Grischuk,Alexander 2767 2833 ½ ½ ½ ½ 01 ½ 1 4.5/8
4 Ding,Liren 2769 2788 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½½ ½ 4.0/8
5 Karjakin,Sergey 2763 2748 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 3.5/8 14.25
6 Kramnik,Vladimir 2800 2738 0 0 10 ½ ½ 1 ½ 3.5/8 12.75
7 Aronian,Levon 2794 2694 0 ½ ½ ½½ 1 0 0 3.0/8 12.25
8 So,Wesley 2799 2696 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 3.0/8 12.00

Games via TWIC.

The Chessbrahs' coverage of round 8.

Round 9 pairings, on Tuesday:
So-Grischuk, Caruana-Ding, Aronian-Mamedyarov, Karjakin-Kramnik.

Previous reports:

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