Nakamura Beats Topalov; Aronian & Karjakin Retain Lead At Halfway Point

Nakamura Beats Topalov; Aronian & Karjakin Retain Lead At Halfway Point

| 52 | Chess Event Coverage

As we reach the conclusion of the first half of the 2016 FIDE Candidates, Sergey Karjakin and Levon Aronian kept their narrow edge over the field, drawing an interesting game today to reach 4.5/7.

The bulk of the standings did not change, as the matchups between Anish Giri vs. Viswanathan Anand and Peter Svidler vs. Fabiano Caruana also ended in draws, keeping Anand in clear third place with 4/7, while Giri and Caruana remain even with 3.5/7 and Svidler at "-1" with 3/7.

The lone decisive result of the day came between the two players struggling the most so far in the tournament, as Hikaru Nakamura was able to accept Veselin Topalov's numerous sacrifices and live to tell the tale, though the former FIDE World Champion definitely missed his chances. This puts Nakamura tied with Svidler for 6th place with 3/7, while Topalov is in clear last with just 2/7.

After the touch-move controversy from yesterday, Nakamura was able to bounce back with his first win of the event. Photos courtesy of World Chess

The most anticipated game of the day between the co-leaders Karjakin and Aronian was full of intrigue. Karjakin played the King's Indian Attack, against which Aronian introduced a new idea in 6...a5, quickly gaining space on the queenside before deciding where to develop his b8-knight. Karjakin played aggressively but his attack was fought off without much trouble by Levon, who confessed that he had a lot of optimism for his position in the post-game press conference. That said his advantage soon fizzled out, and he had to settle for a draw after just 31 moves.

Annotations by IM Danny Rensch:

See the post-game thoughts of Karjakin-Aronian, courtesy of World Chess

Despite the game being less relevant to the overall standings, a clash between Nakamura and Topalov, arguably two of the most aggressive players in the field, rarely disappoints, and was indeed quite entertaining today. Faced with Nakamura's early queenside expansion in a 4.e3 Slav, Topalov embarked on a kingside attack and sacrificed his bishop in order to create very serious mating threats against Nakamura. After some mutual errors, Hikaru eventually came out on top, finishing the game with that extra bishop.

Post-game press conference between Nakamura and Topalov, courtesy of World Chess

In the battle of the two Grunfeld expertsSvidler had outpreparedCaruana in a Symmetrical English/Grunfeld Hybrid, launching his h-pawn early and forcefully. Caruana did not react in the most solid way and soon found himself in trouble, although Svidler ultimately could not make the most of his advantage and the game was finally drawn after several hours of play.
Annotations by IM Danny Rensch:

Post-game press conference between Svidler and Caruana, courtesy of World Chess

Fabiano was in grave danger today but somehow managed to survive. Photos courtesy of World Chess

The first game of the day to finish was easily the least eventful, as Giri opted for simplifications in view of not feeling fully prepared against Anand's treatment of the Queen's Gambit Declined. But the press conference between the two players had some insights into the position, which you can find below.
Annotations by IM Danny Rensch:

Press conference with Giri and Anand, courtesy of World Chess

2016 FIDE Candidates' | Round 7 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf Pts SB
1 Karjakin,Sergey 2760 2882 4.5/7 15.25
2 Aronian,Levon 2786 2879 4.5/7 14.25
3 Anand,Viswanathan 2762 2829 4.0/7
4 Caruana,Fabiano 2776 2776 3.5/7 12.25
5 Giri,Anish 2793 2776 3.5/7 12.25
6 Svidler,Peter 2757 2731 3.0/7 10.50
7 Hikaru Nakamura 2790 2727 3.0/7 9.00
8 Veselin Topalov 2780 2619 2.0/7

IM Danny Rensch's highlight recap and analysis.

The round 7 recap by World Chess

Round 8 pairings (Sunday): Svidler-Karjakin, Caruana-Nakamura, Aronian-Giri, and Topalov-Anand.

The FIDE Candidates' Tournament runs March 11-29 in the Central Telegraph building in Moscow. The total prize fund is €420,000 with the Tashir Group as the main sponsor. The games start 3 p.m. local time, which is 4 a.m. Pacific, 7 a.m. New York, noon GMT or 1 p.m. CET. The winner earns the right to play Magnus Carlsen in November in New York.

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