FIDE Candidates' Tournament: Aronian, Caruana Win In Incredible Round 4
The final phase of Kramnik vs Caruana. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

FIDE Candidates' Tournament: Aronian, Caruana Win In Incredible Round 4

| 75 | Chess Event Coverage

Fabiano Caruana beat Vladimir Kramnik in a dramatic game in round four and is now the new leader of the FIDE Candidates' Tournament in Berlin. More incredible complications were seen in Alexander Grischuk vs Ding Liren which ended in a draw.

Visiting his family and playing some Scrabble on the rest day worked out well for Levon Aronian, who defeated Sergey Karjakin as Black. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs Wesley So was a relatively quick draw. 


London 2013 was a dramatic and historic Candidates' tournament. This year's Candidates' has only just started, but it's already shaping up as another event that the chess fans will remember for years to come.

Today's round, once again, produced thrilling, edge-of-your-seat chess. Especially Vladimir Kramnik vs Fabiano Caruana was an unbelievably rich game where both players showed tremendous resourcefulness. You could say the game deserved to end in a draw, but eventually it was Kramnik, who was winning earlier in the game, who made the last mistake in time trouble.

Kramnik vs Caruana Candidates 2018

The deepest concentration couldn't save Kramnik today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Ironically, this amazing game began with Boris Spassky's very timid 5. Qe2 in the Petroff. Things started to get interesting when Kramnik went for 23. c5, which Caruana thought to be "risky for White."

Caruana was satisfied with his play in the middlegame, and rightly so. 28...Rad8!! was a fantastic resource, and Black ended up with a piece for two pawns. However, White had no less than four passed pawns running (referred to by commentator IM Lawrence Trent as the "March of the Penguins"). 

Caruana Candidates 2018

Caruana played a few truly amazing moves today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The longer the game went, the more it became clear that White was close to winning but it was never easy and in the second half of the game it was Kramnik who started to use more time. Just when he thought he found the killer, his opponent came up with 47...Bf6!! and everything remained unclear.

Kramnik's time was ticking away, and according to commentator Judit Polgar, "[Kramnik's] sense of danger was leaving him just because of the time control." This dramatic game eventually ended in Caruana's favor, who thus took over the lead from his opponent.


Kramnik Caruana press conference Candidates 2018

The players at the press conference with FIDE's Nastja Karlovich. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

You know that the Candidates' is a different kind of tournament altogether when you see not one, but two wonderful games in just one round. The encounter between Alexander Grischuk and Ding Liren was another gripping fight, and this one did end in a draw after Grischuk had missed a clear win after the opening.

The players went for the Anti-Moscow variation of the Semi-Slav, which has seen so many great games already. One of the most famous examples is Veselin Topalov vs Vladimir Kramnik, Wijk aan Zee 2008 where Ivan Cheparinov's 12.Nxf7 was a blow at the time which got Topalov a small but sweet revenge for the 2006 match loss in Elista, Russia.

An antidote to this knight sacrifice was found only a few days later when Ljubomir Ljubojevic improved upon Kramnik's play against Jan Timman, on the same stage in Wijk aan Zee. Another key game is Alexei Shirov vs Sergey Karjakin, Foros 2008.

A decade later, Grischuk went for it anyway in Berlin, using a novelty on move 16. In the press conference, he joked about his preparation: "It is an idea of AlphaZero because Stockfish thinks it's very stupid. AlphaZero shows and thinks Black is in very big danger here."

Alexander Grischuk Candidates 2018

Grischuk claimed to have analyzed with AlphaZero.  | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

He showed a line where Black put his bishop on a6 instead of c6, and White had his queen on c2. There, Black could take on f4 and after Bh4+, Bf6 was a good reply.

In the game the white queen was on d1, and that made a huge difference, unnoticed by Grischuk. Afterward Ding (or "Mr. Ding, as Grischuk kept calling him today!) pointed out to his opponent the killer 22.Bh4+ Bf6 23.Qg4! and it's over.

Besides the confusion over the variation with ...Ba6, another reason why he missed 23. Qg4 was that Grischuk thought 22. Rxf4 won as well. "I didn't see a defense for Black... But after what he played, I could not find a solution."

Ding Liren Candidates 2018

A narrow escape for Ding today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

After that the game remained extremely interesting, and both players managed to keep a very high level of play a highly tactical positions.

Ding said he was "very lucky to survive this game. I shook my head so many times."

Grischuk Candidates 2018

Alexander Grischuk said he didn't like the question: "How did you sleep?" And although he wasn't asked, he added that the also didn't care for: "With whom did you sleep?" | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The other decisive game of the day was Sergey Karjakin vs Levon Aronian. For the Armenian, the roles were completely reversed compared to his game with Kramnik: This time it was he who got a big advantage out of the opening.

"I was actually preparing this line... but I mixed it up," said Karjakin. "I forgot that I had to play 14. Rh3 immediately. And I played 14. Rb1 first, [thinking] it was hardly important. After 16...Nc5 I felt like Levon in the game against Vladimir after ...Rg8. Instead of fighting for advantage you are clearly worse with White in 10 minutes. It's just a terrible feeling."

Karjakin Candidates 2018

Karjakin thought he could transpose back into another variation, but he couldn't. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Aronian: "As Vladimir said in the game with me, 'Sometimes you've got to get lucky.' It's not like we're not trying. We are trying. But if you don't get lucky, you're not going to get a better position with Black."

So what was the luck? "The fact that Sergey thought that this was a transposition back to the main line with 16...Ne5. But in fact after 16...Nc5 it's not a transposition at all because Black is threatening ...e5 and White is just clearly worse."

And so Aronian recovered quickly from that devastating loss. It might have helped that on the rest day he visited his parents and his sister who live in Berlin. They played Scrabble, and he won. "Winning in something is a good start. You have to play the games where you can win. This is the trick!"

Aronian Candidates 2018

Levon Aronian after the game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Compared to what happened on the other boards, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs Wesley So was a damp squib. Apart from a short tactical phase, this 4.Qc2 Nimzo-Indian wasn't very exciting. 

"Maybe I played my best moves and my best game but it is not enough for a win sometimes," said Mamedyarov.

So: "I was trying to be careful not to miss something. In my first two games, I missed many, many things. I missed all the best moves."

Wesley So Candidates 2018

So: "I still wish that I could start the tournament again, or add more games, I don't care... In fact I wish I could play like Anish, you know, two years ago (all 14 games drawn in 2016 Candidates -- P.D.). I don't understand why people make fun of Anish. His results are very good in a way, compared to many others. Unless of course your name is Shak. You just win with Black."  | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ 

2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament | Round 4 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Caruana,Fabiano 2784 2985 1 ½ ½ 1 3.0/4
2 Kramnik,Vladimir 2800 2865 0 1 1 ½ 2.5/4 4.5
3 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2809 2873 ½ ½ ½ 1 2.5/4 4
4 Ding,Liren 2769 2786 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.0/4 4
5 Aronian,Levon 2794 2786 0 ½ ½ 1 2.0/4 3.25
6 Grischuk,Alexander 2767 2782 0 ½ 1 ½ 2.0/4 2.5
7 So,Wesley 2799 2592 0 ½ ½ 0 1.0/4 2.25
8 Karjakin,Sergey 2763 2602 ½ 0 0 ½ 1.0/4 2.25

Games via TWIC.

Round 5 pairings, on Thursday: Aronian-Grischuk, Caruana-Karjakin, So-Kramnik and Ding- Mamedyarov.

Toiletgate 2 update: Grischuk said that when had five minutes remaining, "I wanted to go to the bathroom, and it was closed. OK so I ran back, made one more move, and then went again. Then, just some random person went out of [the bathroom]. Already we have only one toilet, and some people are using it, apart from the players."

The Chessbrahs' coverage of round 4.

Previous reports:

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