FIDE Candidates' Tournament R5: Grischuk Thrills Again
Grischuk was again involved in a great battle. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

FIDE Candidates' Tournament R5: Grischuk Thrills Again

| 33 | Chess Event Coverage

For the first time at the 2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament, the day's action ended in stasis. All four games ended drawn, despite the best efforts of GM Alexander Grischuk, who played another wild encounter.

For the second day in a row, his up-and-down fight ended in a draw; today his foe was GM Levon Aronian. But unlike yesterday, where he could only show fantastic variations with three queens on the board, today's maelstrom actually produced a third queen, albeit briefly.


As has been a theme all tournament, the player moving second had good chances as the Russian almost produced some more Black Magic. Aronian was in sight of a win himself (or several wins!).

Both were out for a battle as they each opened the position without thought of their exposed kings.

But right at a critical moment where Aronian could have castled queenside and been winning, he failed to stick the needle in the voodoo doll for what would have been his second win of the tournament. He missed at least one other massive chance, thus Grischuk's luck evened out after his own missed win yesterday.


The normally placid GM Levon Aronian was angry over his missed chances today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The man being chased, GM Fabiano Caruana, couldn't extend his lead. A day after a marathon affair with GM Vladimir Kramnik, the American didn't get any kind of plus against GM Sergey Karjakin. Not usually one to waste a turn with White, Caruana simply had to admit that Black achieved full equality and complete symmetry before move 20. The pair, who comprised the top two finishers from the 2016 Candidates', shook hands right after the minimum number of moves.

Right on cue, GM Ding Liren, or as Grischuk has dubbed him in New York Times style, "Mr. Ding," also agreed to peace with GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. On this occasion, Shak couldn't get anything with Black, and so just like in Caruana-Karjakin, they drew after move 30.5.

Caruana Karjakin

Today Caruana-Karjakin didn't have quite the gravitas or energy of Game 14 in the last Candidates', but the two will meet again. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Kramnik, the elder of the tournament, again had the longest game, but it's not clear why. Against GM Wesley So, the two "slugged" it out for 57 moves, although it was really a poking and pinching contest. There just wasn't anything there worth fighting over, although chess players should hardly be castigated for trying. Usually the public quiet rightly reviles the short draw.

In the game of the day, Aronian's anti-Grunfeld turned into a Benoni that he had played many times before, including recently at the Grand Prix event in Spain in November. He then improved on his own play on move 17 before both armies began taking up aggressive postures.

Both players willfully opened the center despite their kings being at home. The complications caused Grischuk to be playing on the increment by move 24. Or, you could say Grischuk waited until move 24 to play like Grischuk!

Aronian then missed a somewhat forgivable win, ironically involving getting his king to safety, followed by a much more calamitous gaffe shortly thereafter. The second missed win can be explained by not seeing a second queen sacrifice. That's right -- White could have won by having one of his queens captured on move 25, then the second six moves later!

Our analyzer GM Dejan Bojkov is officially getting "hazard pay" for the games being produced this tournament:


Aronian said afterward he'd seen 29. Qxc8+ of course, but did in fact miss that second queen sacrifice with 31. Rxg4.

"I don't understand how I played 28. Qd8+," he said. "It is beyond me...I think I lost my cool." He wanted to put his anger behind him.

"I generally don't analyze my games after I play them. I mean you normally know what went wrong, or, when you win, you don't wanna dwell on the feeling of your greatness. It's better to just forget the game after you played it."

Grischuk said that despite shading two different near-losses, he was upset he didn't have anything at the end. "In contrast with what I had, it almost felt winning!" Grischuk said.


Aronian-Grischuk was a melee, because, well, Aronian and Grischuk. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana made this reporter's job harder today, in the opposite way of Aronian and Grischuk. Despite being one of the two directors of content for, Caruana said afterward that "there really wasn't any content today." But try we will:

Unlike yesterday, where Karjakin's move-order inversion cost him big time, today a subtle transpositional possibility tripped up his opponent. The result wasn't as catastrophic for Caruana, but it did leave him in unfamiliar territory. 

Last cycle's runner-up tried to surprise the vice-world champion with 6. Qb3, but it turns out that just transposes to 6. Qc2 if the c-pawn is captured. 

"When he took on c4 I realized that actually he probably checked it from the Qc2 move order," Caruana said. "Which is a more common move. I don't know this idea. Over the board I just couldn't find a clear way to play.”

For his part, Karjakin confirmed this theory. He navigated back to familiar waters in just the way his opponent guessed.

"6. Qb3 was a surprise for me but fortunately we switched to the line which I knew," Karjakin said. "Finally I am quite proud that I got my preparation; I wanted to show that at least I have some ideas in the opening, and actually I knew all the line until 17…Nxc5. I was just trying to remember it and after 17…Nxc5 it's just a dead draw. It's very important that White doesn't have Nd4 here because of Bg5."

They admitted that the next dozen moves were only played to fulfill the 30-move draw rule.

Caruana, who doesn't usually admit to things like tournament management, and who certainly never wastes a White, admitted that a lifeless draw wasn't his intention. But it wasn't horrible, either.

"Actually I was ready to play, but I was also happy that for the first time in a few days my opponent didn't have any passed pawns," the American said as Karjakin laughed. "I mean, I had to fight against four connected passed pawns, three connected passed pawns. At least today I was pretty sure I would never lose at any point!

"I'm also not dissatisfied with a relatively calm game and an early day, because yesterday was enormously tough."

Karjakin, still tied for last, was then asked about a sign outside the playing hall, boldly asserting that chess can raise your IQ.

"Maybe for some good chess players it will happen but for me it's getting down at the moment!"


Hopefully raising the IQ of a few chess fans, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk joined the commentary today. Here she chats with IM Lawrence Trent. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

An anagram for "Ding" and "Shak" is "Had Kings" and that matter-of-fact statement is about a shiny as one can polish this one. Perhaps chess fans have just gotten spoiled from the previous excitement of the event, and especially from the Azeri's play as Black (he was very close to 2/2 as Black coming into this game).

For the second time in as many days, Mamedyarov again played a line for the first time. Around move 13, Ding Liren admitted to being surprised at the choice.

Unlike the pinching moves in the day's longest game, this one at least had some mild jabs, but nothing more.

"When he offered me a draw, I think Black is OK but I don't know how to play," Mamedyarov said. "Active is bad, passive is also bad!"

The world's number two player said yesterday that he played his best game but still couldn't win. We found out today that at least one sporting endeavor went Mamedyarov's way. His favored FC Barcelona won 3-0 over Chelsea to advance in the Champions League. They are now through to the round of eight, just like Mamedyarov is.

What's keeping Ding's attention? He admitted that he's spending a lot of time on his mobile phone. At the risk of being charged with assistance, can offer the advice of installing one of these screen-time-limiting apps, Mr. Ding (we'll also suspend your account for two more weeks if you ask!).

Finally there was So and Kramnik, battling and battling but without much hope of anything happening. Yes, Kramnik had a little more space on the kingside, but So's position was tidy enough. Yes, So had a solitary target on the queenside, but the b-pawn was safe enough. It was Rosencrantz and Guildenstern chess -- a lot of back and forth but without any kind of advancement of the plot.

It wasn't the most exciting ending to the day, but still, you could consider it "bonus chess." Their game ended last, thus extending the round. That's never a bad thing for fans paying for pricey tickets -- just ask fans from this event 30 years ago (those paying back then for at-home access, like Agon hopes for today, had to pay about $0.50 per second for this one):

So wasn't alive for that fight. He was interested in another kind of history after the game. After Kramnik pointed out that he's used to adversity in the Candidates', So asked him if his first was in 1995?

Kramnik replied that it was actually 1993. 

"Ah, my birthday!" So said.

Kramnik So

Kramnik's games have had glimpses of Mike Tyson lately, but So is more of a calculating fighter. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

As for the game, experience told Kramnik there was no harm in playing on. "You cannot win this position but White can lose it," he explained, and Dutch fans will recognize a bit of Johan Cruyff in there.

Playing through the moves will hopefully last longer than 91 seconds:

2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament | Round 5 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Caruana,Fabiano 2784 2935 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 3.5/5
2 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2809 2852 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 3.0/5 6.5
3 Kramnik,Vladimir 2800 2851 0 1 1 ½ ½ 3.0/5 6.5
4 Ding,Liren 2769 2790 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.5/5 6.5
5 Aronian,Levon 2794 2782 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 2.5/5 5.5
6 Grischuk,Alexander 2767 2785 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 2.5/5 4.75
7 Karjakin,Sergey 2763 2644 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1.5/5 4.5
8 So,Wesley 2799 2639 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 1.5/5 4.25

Games via TWIC.

Round 6 pairings, on Friday:
Caruana-Grischuk, So-Aronian, Ding-Karjakin, Mamedyarov-Kramnik.

The Chessbrahs' coverage of round 5.

Correction: an earlier version of this report erroneously stated that Mamedyarov spends a lot of time on his phone; that might be the case but it was Ding who stated it at the press conference.

Previous reports:

FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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