Caruana Leads, Aronian Suffers In Candidates' Round 11
Aronian resigns to Karjakin. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana Leads, Aronian Suffers In Candidates' Round 11

| 74 | Chess Event Coverage

Levon Aronian today lost his fifth game at the 2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament in Berlin. The Armenian GM was beaten by Sergey Karjakin, who is now a point behind the leader, Fabiano Caruana, who he faces tomorrow with the white pieces. Ding Liren spoiled a completely winning position vs Alexander Grischuk and drew his 11th game.


Yesterday we paid a lot of attention to Vladimir Kramnik, but Alexander Grischuk has also been involved in large number of fantastic games of chess here in Berlin. Today was not any different, but Chinese chess fans are probably wondering how the Russian player survived a -15 position.

Ding Liren Candidates 2018

What a chance Ding had today! In fact, more than one. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Ding Liren had a great opportunity to break away from his drawing streak as he missed more than one win today, while having more time on the clock than his opponent. But, just like Anish Giri two years ago, the 25-year-old grandmaster from Wenzhou seems to be under a spell, and whatever he does, the game will end in draw.

Grischuk, however, said that he wasn't thinking about the 10 draws his opponent had played before today's game: "There is only one Giri in the world!"

Grischuk vs Ding Candidates 2018

Grischuk somehow escaped White's onslaught today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The Russian GM had mixed up his preparation ("this is supposedly good for Black, but I do not know how") and got into a position where both his knights were bad, and his king couldn't castle.

Ding's double pawn break in the center looked crushing, and it should have been when he got the opportunity to play the killer 25.Bg6!. With about six minutes on the clock vs one for Grischuk (plus 30 seconds per move), White could have decided the game brilliantly:

Here 28.Nd8! (a bit similar to Kramnik's  37.Ne8+ the other day) 28...Bc6 (28... Rxd8 29. Bxd8 Qxd8 30. Qe8+ Qxe8 31. Rxe8#) 29. Rxd5 would have decided the game.

Ding played 28.Nxd5, and after 28...Bxd5...

...there was another chance to go 29.Rxd5! Qxd5 30.Nd8! and it's actually a forced mate in four.

With resilient play in time trouble, Grischuk managed to reach move 40, but the remaining endgame should still have been lost for him. However, Ding messed it up completely.


Ding vs Grischuk Candidates 2018

A thrilling time trouble phase in Ding vs Grischuk. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Fabiano Caruana once again kept his lead in the tournament as he drew with Vladimir Kramnik. That was after some slightly awkward moments, as he had to face a novelty as early as move five—very rare for a Candidates’ Tournament.

As we know, Caruana is not playing 1.e4 in this event and as it turned out, he had prepared the Marshall Gambit against the Semi-Slav (1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 c6 4.e4). But then it was Kramnik’s turn to surprise the opponent by going 4...dxe4 5.Nxe4 c5!?

Caruana: “I just got surprised in the opening. 5…c5 is a rare move. I guess it has some problems…”
Kramnik: “It’s a pretty bad move yeah, I fully agree. A little bluff, why not? It worked!”

Later, Caruana added: “It was also a bit unpleasant because you never know how much it’s wired out. It’s also confusing because suddenly you’re on your own by move [five].”

Since everyone has access to strong computers these days, Kramnik didn’t mind revealing that in this position...

...11.Nc7 should give White an advantage. “I should have played 11.Nc7,” said Caruana, “but I was already burning time and I was afraid of exchange sacs there. I just wanted a position where we’re both on our own.”

Caruana Candidates 2018

Caruana avoided the most principled continuation to get his opponent out of his preparation. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The endgame seemed fairly equal throughout—at least that was Caruana’s impression. But Kramnik wouldn’t be Kramnik if he wasn’t claiming a small advantage. “It’s a draw yes, but I can try," he said. "I understand objectively it’s fine for White, it’s equal, but I have the feeling I had the initiative, I could have played somewhere better.”

Kramnik Caruana press conference Candidates 2018

Once again Kramnik claimed he had an edge during most of the game. Caruana wasn't so sure. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The only decisive game of the round was seen in Levon Aronian vs Sergey Karjakin, who played a Catalan where Black developed his queenside in "Slav style." Karjakin slowly but surely equalized, and on move 28 he decided that it was time to avoid a draw, and try a bit. That was a good decision, because Aronian made several inaccuracies and was slowly outplayed.

It's sad to see a great player like Aronian suffer so much, and today it really showed at the press conference. While he was ready to debate Kramnik's assessments the other day, this time he sat silently, and didn't give any comment at all.

Aronian Candidates 2018

Levon Aronian, again not doing great in the Candidates'. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Karjakin: "After I lost to Levon in the first part of the tournament I felt like I have to improve my chess. I am very happy that I started to play better, won a few games. It was the most important not to start losing games. I had a few draws as Black, and started to press as White. It started for me like a new tournament."

Aronian-Karjakin Candidates 2018

Another tough loss for Aronian today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Wesley So vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was the shortest game of the round, even though it took 40 moves—and the players easily could have agreed to a draw 10 moves earlier. It was in fact Mamedyarov who offered a draw despite being a pawn down, but when asked about it by, So didn’t really see a problem with that.

Playing a Catalan as well (a rather popular opening in this tournament), So couldn’t prove much against Mamedyarov’s Slav setup on the queenside. But the Azerbaijani didn’t mind: “A draw is a good result against Wesley.” He didn’t see a reason to take more risks today. “Why? A draw is good," he said. 

Mamedyarov Candidates 2018

The players were in good spirits at the press conference. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament | Round 11 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Caruana,F 2784 2886 ½½ ½ ½ ½½ 1 7.0/11
2 Mamedyarov,S 2809 2847 ½½ ½ ½ 1 ½½ ½½ 6.5/11
3 Grischuk,A 2767 2817 ½ ½ ½½ ½½ 01 ½ 6.0/11 31.75
4 Karjakin,Sergey 2763 2821 ½ ½½ ½ ½1 1 01 6.0/11 31
5 Ding Liren 2769 2787 ½½ ½ ½½ ½ ½ ½½ ½½ 5.5/11
6 Kramnik,V 2800 2750 0 10 ½0 ½ ½ 11 5.0/11
7 So,W 2799 2720 ½½ 0 ½½ ½ 1 4.5/11
8 Aronian,L 2794 2653 0 ½½ ½ 10 ½½ 00 0 3.5/11

Games via TWIC.

The Chessbrahs' coverage of round 11.

Round 12 pairings, on Saturday:
Grischuk-Aronian, Karjakin-Caruana, Kramnik-So, Mamedyarov-Ding.

Previous reports:

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