Candidates' Tournament R9: Karjakin Prolongs Kramnik's Misery
Karjakin beat Kramnik today. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Candidates' Tournament R9: Karjakin Prolongs Kramnik's Misery

| 89 | Chess Event Coverage

The 2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament is becoming a disastrous tournament for Vladimir Kramnik, who continues to play below par. Today he continued on for a long time in a lost position and eventually threw in the towel vs Sergey Karjakin. In a deep endgame, Fabiano Caruana missed a chance vs Ding Liren to increase his lead to a full point.


At the 2014 Candidates' Tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk, Sergey Karjakin started with 2.5/7, but scored five points in the second half. He could have won the tournament that he eventually would win two years later, if he had beaten Vishy Anand in the final round.

This year Karjakin's start wasn't great either, but with two wins in the last three games he is suddenly in contention again, provided that he finishes strong.'s interview with Karjakin after the game.

His win over Vladimir Kramnik put a big smile on his face today; not only because of the result, but also because he could show a nice opening idea.

That was the move 9.h4, a pawn push on the flank against Kramnik's pet opening, the Semi-Tarrasch. Asked about this move, GM Simon Williams commented for

"It is a very weird day when the 'Minister of Defence' starts lobbing Harry up the board. These guys are learning, slowly."

Kramnik 9.h4 Candidates

Kramnik facing 9.h4. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Perhaps in an attempt to sidestep his opponent's preparation, Kramnik replied with the creative 9...f5. Karjakin: "Very hard to expect but I don't really believe it."

After some logical moves by White, Kramnik went for another committal move (16...e5) which more or less sealed his fate. "Interesting, but too sharp and I think bad, but practically interesting," said Karjakin, who kept his cool even when Kramnik played some tricky moves in his own time trouble to keep the game going.

When White consolidated with 32.Rh3 it was perhaps time to resign, but Kramnik decided to play until the time control. With both players away from the board, Kramnik came back to make his 41st move, but he was completely lost so he stopped the clock, signed the score sheets and stood up. Karjakin quickly came back to the board and the players shook hands.

The game between Levon Aronian and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had finished just before them, and when Kramnik realized that their press conference was going to be held first, he decided to leave the building.

It was the first time in this tournament that someone skipped a press conference, which is a breach of contract. Kramnik might lose 10 percent of his prize money, as the regulations stipulate.

Karjakin wins two in a row, Candidates 2018

Karjakin wins two in his last three, and is back on 50 percent. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Fabiano Caruana missed a golden opportunity to beat Ding Liren, and get a full-point lead in the tournament standings. Perhaps it's some sort of consolation that this chance only appeared after an inaccuracy by his opponent, who, before that, had defended superbly and was very close to a draw.

However, if Caruana finds out that he had not one, but two wins, he might have some issues sleeping. Luckily for him there's a rest day now to get ready for another big battle against Mamedyarov in the next round.

Caruana vs Ding Liren Candidates 2018

Caruana: "He defended very well." | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Ding said he had completely missed 59. Ra1, and was lucky that with 59...Nc6 he wasn't immediately lost.

The clearest win for Caruana came right at the end, when he had less than two minutes on the clock (plus 30 seconds increment per move). It didn't exactly help that he had missed Black's last move 65...Nc6-d8, and he failed to spot an important detail here:

Here Caruana's chances for tournament victory would have increased with 66. Nf8+ Kg8 67. h6! with the idea 67...Kf8 68. h7! (it was that last move he missed).

"It's kind of silly because I was looking at this," said Caruana. "Somehow 68. h7 completely slipped my attention. Once you see it, it's pretty obvious; it's a pretty simple tactic if I had a few minutes. So I should have found it."


Ding Liren Candidates press conference

After a narrow escape today, Ding has drawn all his games so far. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

The endgame was similar to the one in the classic encounter between Garry Kasparov and Tigran Petrosian in 1983. Here it is:

Levon Aronian kept a small edge vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in a Catalan that was kind of similar to Mamedyarov's game with Karjakin. Yesterday the Azerbaijani already suggested that the endgame is not his forte, and indeed he seemed to be suffering a bit today.

When Aronian spoiled his advantage with what he called "a crazy blunder," the position was suddenly completely equal.

Aronian vs Mamedyarov, Candidates 2018

With a draw against Aronian, Mamedyarov remained half a point behind Caruana. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

The last game of this report was hardly a game. Wesley So and Alexander Grischuk drew in no time from the boring 5. Re1 line of the Berlin Ruy Lopez.

Grischuk: "After today's game I am much, much happier than after yesterday's game! I mean, I was so tired, it was an extremely exhausting game."

So vs Grischuk, Candidates 2018

A brief and uneventful encounter between So and Grischuk. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament | Round 9 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Caruana,F 2784 2905 ½ ½ ½½ ½ 1 1 6.0/9
2 Mamedyarov,S 2809 2859 ½ ½ ½ ½½ ½ 1 5.5/9
3 Grischuk,A 2767 2829 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 01 5.0/9
4 Ding Liren 2769 2788 ½½ ½ ½ ½ ½½ ½ ½ 4.5/9 20.50
5 Karjakin,S 2763 2792 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½1 4.5/9 19.25
6 Aronian,L 2794 2707 0 ½½ ½ ½½ 1 0 0 3.5/9 17.00
7 So,W 2799 2704 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 3.5/9 15.75
8 Kramnik,V 2800 2701 0 0 10 ½ ½0 1 ½ 3.5/9 14.75

Games via TWIC.

The Chessbrahs' coverage of round 9.

Round 10 pairings, on Thursday:
Grischuk-Karjakin, Kramnik-Aronian, Mamedyarov-Caruana, Ding-So.

Correction: an earlier version of this report erroneously stated that Karjakin won two games in a row. However, there was a draw in between those wins.

Previous reports:

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