Candidates' Tournament Wide Open As Karjakin Beats Caruana
"Comeback kid" Karjakin was the first to beat Caruana in this tournament. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Candidates' Tournament Wide Open As Karjakin Beats Caruana

| 108 | Chess Event Coverage

With two rounds to go, more than half of the field still has a chance to win the 2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament in Berlin. Sergey Karjakin beat, and caught Fabiano Caruana in first place today.

After 11 draws, Ding Liren won his first game, at the expense of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. The two are now half a point behind the leaders together with Alexander Grischuk.

Sunday is the last rest day. 


Anything can happen at the Candidates' Tournament now that Caruana lost his first game to comeback kid Karjakin. Five players are still in contention, or maybe six? Even Kramnik still has a theoretical chance, according to our member NM happytoad in the comments.

Sergey Karjakin is making a similar comeback as in 2014, when he also started with 2.5/7 in the first half. He was playing for tournament victory until the last round. Two years ago his (winning) tournament was more stable, and he could afford a draw in the final round with Fabiano Caruana to win the tournament. Instead, he won that game.

Again with the white pieces, today the situation was the opposite: Karjakin needed to win his game with Caruana to overcome the full point he was trailing. He won indeed, in a fine game, giving a nice birthday present to his wife.

Karjakin Candidates 2018

Karjakin: "Of course I can only dedicate my win to her!" | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana played the Petroff for the third time this tournament, after scoring 1.5/2 with it against Kramnik and So. But after facing the 5.Qe2 line twice, this time the American GM had to deal with one of the absolute main lines: 5.Nc3.

After the opening, the game looked almost equal. However, Karjakin's position was slightly more pleasant to play, and then things started to get exciting when he punished Caruana for the slightly careless 16...Bg4?!.

Here, Karjakin played the excellent exchange sacrifice 17.Bxd5!.

"It was quite obvious, but at the same time it was not an easy sacrifice when you understand how important the game is," Karjakin told "You start to think: should you sacrifice or not? But then I just looked at the position and I felt like, now I have to do it, or never, probably!"

Karjakin agreed that the tournament situation played a role in his decision here. "I think so. If I would be on plus two, then I would think twice to play it. But I can say that I believed in white's position so it wasn't like was pushing hard and then I was lucky or something like that but basically I felt like it's a very interesting sacrifice and it will be hard for him to play."

And indeed, Caruana's position turned out to be very difficult in practical play: "It was only after a few moves that I realised that I really can't do anything. I don't know, I was under the illusion that I would have some counterplay, or some way to trade bishops, or some way to get my king safe, but I just couldn't find the way."

Karjakin beats Caruana Candidates 2018

Caruana realizes his first defeat is a fact. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Giving up another pawn ("in order to get some air for his pieces" - Bojkov) didn't provide the desired relief, and in timetrouble Caruana ended up in a lost endgame. After the time control he played one a few more moves, while knowing his fate already.

Caruana: "This is the worst thing, basically, that could have happened. But, still two games, so... we'll see." 

Karjakin interviewed Candidates 2018

A happy Karjakin interviewed after the game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Karjakin's win came shortly after Ding Liren's first victory in the tournament. The Chinese GM beat Shakhriyar Mamedyarov after playing 11 draws, so Grischuk was right when he said: "there is only one Anish Giri in the world."

"Of course I was very happy after this win," Ding told "I didn't expect it before the game because I had the black pieces and against the Elo favorite of the tournament. My main idea was just to play, and if I could get a draw I would be happy."

After the opening Ding was satisfied with his position. He thought it was equal as long as White couldn't push d4-d5, while Mamedyarov still felt he had an edge. The Azerbaijani continued to play aggressively, but it backfired.

Mamedyarov loses to Ding, Candidates 2018

Mamedyarov stops the clock, and Ding wins his first game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Afterward Ding revealed that he could hardly sleep because of his missed wins vs Grischuk, but in the morning he finally got some sleep and he felt refreshed today!

Ding Liren Candidates 2018

The draw spell has been broken! | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Vladimir Kramnik seemed to have excellent winning chances today, but somehow (well, with a lot of very good moves!) Wesley So managed to hold a position that looked bad from the moment his opponent sacrificed a piece. These passed pawns on the kingside were quite menacing.

Kramnik said he found his opening setup while preparing the opening for black. He praised his opponent's defense, but lamented that he was always one tempo short. "I guess it is just not my tournament."

"Obviously I dodged a bullet today," said So. "The old saying goes true: with white you get nothing, and then with black you suffer, always short of equality."

Kramnik So Candidates 2018Kramnik and So analyzed for quite a while at the board before going to the press conference. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Alexander Grischuk avoid Levon Aronian's Marshall in the Ruy Lopez with some sideline, but still managed to keep a slight edge. He thought the critical moment was on move 19, but a few moves later White is still better. As it went, Aronian was not in trouble anymore.

Grischuk Candidates 2018

It looks like Grischuk was clearly better out of the opening. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament | Round 12 Standings

Rk. Fed Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 Karjakin 2763 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 1 0 1 7,0 1,5 4 40,75
2 Caruana 2784 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 7,0 0,5 3 39,50
3 Ding Liren 2769 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 6,5 2,5 1 38,50
4 Grischuk 2767 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 6,5 1,5 2 37,25
5 Mamedyarov 2809 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 6,5 1,0 2 38,50
6 Kramnik 2800 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 1 0 0 ½ ½ 1 1 5,5 0,0 3 29,75
7 So 2799 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 5,0 0,0 1 29,25
8 Aronian 2794 1 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0 0 4,0 0,0 1 26,50

Games via TWIC.

Round 13 pairings, on Monday:
Mamedyarov-Grischuk, Ding-Kramnik, So-Karjakin, Caruana-Aronian.

Round 14 (final round) pairings, on Tuesday:
Grischuk-Caruana, Aronian-So, Karjakin-Ding, Kramnik-Mamedyarov.

Tiebreak rules:

If the top two or more players score the same points, the tie will be decided by the following criteria, in order of priority:
a) The results of the games between the players involved in the tie.
If they are still tied:
b) The total number of wins in the tournament of every player involved in the tie.
If they are still tied:
c) Sonneborn - Berger System.

If there is no clear winner with the above three criteria, there will be a playoff.

The Chessbrahs' coverage of round 12.

Two hours into the round, a small wine tasting ceremony took place in the VIP room of the tournament. It was organized by Art Russe, the organization that sponsored the 2012 world championship between Vishy Anand and Boris Gelfand in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

Master of Wine Janek Schumann started explaining the concept of the Art Russe wine, which is  basically a wine of outstanding quality produced at Chateau La Grace Dieu des Prieurs, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru and owned by Andrey Filatov.

A special collection of 12 bottles has been made, with each bottle having an iconic Russian painting on its label.

Wine tasting Candidates 2018

The special collection of wines. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Wine tasting Candidates 2018

Wine tasting and chess is not a bad combination. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Janek Schumann

Wine expert Janek Schumann being interviewed. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

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