FIDE Candidates' Tournament R6: Mamedyarov Catches Caruana, So Beats Aronian
Kramnik goes down again, this time vs Mamedyarov. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

FIDE Candidates' Tournament R6: Mamedyarov Catches Caruana, So Beats Aronian

| 76 | Chess Event Coverage

By beating Vladimir Kramnik today, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov caught Fabiano Caruana in first place at the 2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament. Wesley So scored his first win in this sixth round, at the expense of Levon Aronian.


If stamina will be playing an important role in this Candidates'—and why wouldn't it, in a tournament that lasts 14 rounds—things are looking grim for the two oldest participants, Levon Aronian (35) and Vladimir Kramnik (42). Both lost their second game today, and we're not even halfway yet.

Levon Aronian recovered well from that horrible loss against Kramnik which was, apart from brilliant play by his opponent, also not a very good game by himself. But after his win against Karjakin, yesterday's multiple missed wins must have hit him hard. 

Today Aronian was unlucky enough that Wesley So played his best game so far; a "masterpiece" according to the eight-time Russian champion GM Peter Svidler.

Wesley So Candidates 2018

So played an excellent game today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The American player, who is the youngest in Berlin at 24, was not afraid to go for battle in the Ruy Lopez. Right after the opening he played a positional pawn sacrifice, and Aronian couldn't find the best piece setup.

With pretty little moves such as 34.Re2!, 35.Qb1! and 36.Bc1! So indeed created a game he can be proud of.


So vs Aronian, Candidates 2018

A tough second loss for Aronian. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Even though it was only the sixth round, Vladimir Kramnik hinted that his big mistake in his game with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was the result of tiredness—he mentioned the "long games" he had played before.

It was a strange mistake. "A hallucination," Kramnik called it.

In his earlier calculations, Kramnik had "seen" this position with his rook on c8 instead of c7. He is losing h4, but he had planned 37...Bc6 38.Rxh4 Rf8+ here, winning back the pawn as the white king cannot go to either e3 or g3. But to his horror, the rook was not on c8...

Kramnik hallucination Candidates 2018

Kramnik suffered a "hallucination" today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

This happened after Kramnik had avoided a move repetition earlier, which prompted some pundits to claim that the 14th world champion had been too ambitious. At the press conference, the variations shown by Kramnik were convincing enough to believe that he still had everything under control if he hadn't committed this oversight.

Interestingly, both players thought they were better after White's 32.g6. Mamedyarov: "I [thought] he missed this idea 30.e5." Kramnik: "I saw it, I thought it was very good for me." 

Mamedyarov vs Kramnik Candidates 2018

Mamedyarov fought himself to shared first place. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The other two games ended in draws, with one hardly deserving a mention, and the other being quite interesting. Guess in which of the two Alexander Grischuk was involved?

The Russian GM, who played Fabiano Caruana, took the "initiative" in yet another fun press conference by stating: "It was a bit strange to fight against what I consider to be one of my best opening inventions." He was referring to the calm e2-e3 against the King's Indian/Grünfeld, with one of the ideas being that White is happy to play a Benoni a tempo down.

"Benoni means 'son of sorrow'; that is well known," Grischuk said. "I like everything that is connected with sorrow. I cannot say I played that greatly but I enjoyed somehow. Even yesterday, I could resign immediately but I still was enjoying the game very much."

Grischuk press conference Candidates 2018

Grischuk claimed to be enjoying sorrow. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The first classical game with this e3/Be2 was, in fact, an encounter between Grischuk as White vs Caruana. He had more or less given it up, but Grischuk said he might try it again as White after today.

Caruana: "This to me looks like the best Benoni you can pretty much have with Black...But I still feel White should be better somehow."

Asked about "the perfect game," Grischuk replied: "Today's is the closest one. Definitely I don't see mistakes even after the game for neither of players." 
"So the perfect game is the one without mistakes?"
"Or mistakes only by your opponent, it's even better!"

Caruana vs Grischuk Candidates 2018

Just after the game, with the arbiter. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The game between Ding Liren and Sergey Karjakin was over in no time. "Today I did not expect this line," said the Chinese player. "I tried to remember my analysis. Totally forgot."

"I felt like I'm playing in the spirit of this line," said Karjakin. "This is not some very solid stuff. If you go to this line you have to play active, otherwise it's very dangerous."

Ding, who is in Berlin together with Wei Yi, had a nice remark about the weather. "Today I am happy because it was snowing. It's first snowy day in this year. In China it is snowing in many cities but not in my city. Today I am very happy before the game."

2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament | Round 6 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Caruana,Fabiano 2784 2904 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 4.0/6 11.50
2 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2809 2905 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 4.0/6 11.00
3 Ding,Liren 2769 2786 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.0/6 9.00
4 Grischuk,Alexander 2767 2784 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 3.0/6 8.25
5 Kramnik,Vladimir 2800 2786 0 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 3.0/6 7.75
6 So,Wesley 2799 2729 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 2.5/6 7.50
7 Aronian,Levon 2794 2727 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 1 2.5/6 7.00
8 Karjakin,Sergey 2763 2667 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 2.0/6

Games via TWIC.

Meanwhile, the organizers are still seriously struggling with their website. Since two rounds, they finally have the games up for playing through (alongside the streaming video). But besides the absence of results or clock times, there's at least one huge bug: it doesn't understand the en passant rule.

The worst thing is that it's not the first time that this happens. After the 2016 world championship, the software was completely rebuilt, but the new developers seem to be making the same mistakes.

The Chessbrahs' coverage of round 6.

Round 7 pairings, on Sunday:
Grischuk-Mamedyarov, Kramnik-Ding, Karjakin-So, Aronian-Caruana.

Previous reports:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

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