Nakamura Beats Topalov, Final Round Candidates' To Decide Everything

Nakamura Beats Topalov, Final Round Candidates' To Decide Everything

| 130 | Chess Event Coverage

After both drew their games in the penultimate round Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana will decide tomorrow in their mutual game who will win the 2016 Candidates' Tournament. If they draw and Vishy Anand wins tomorrow, Caruana will win the tournament on tiebreak. If Anand does not win, Karjakin only needs a draw. In today's round Hikaru Nakamura beat Veselin Topalov; Vishy Anand drew with Anish Giri.

In many countries it was Easter Sunday, but not in Russia where the Orthodox church uses the Julian calendar. It was, however, a day on which the sun was shining even brighter than the previous days. But players and journalists were to stay inside the Central Telegraph building for seven and a half hours.

The tournament is coming to an end. Many media were present at the start of the round, and the whole day the sixty black and white chairs for spectators were almost fully occupied. The visitors witnessed a long and tense round that was similar to so many rounds: three draws, one decisive game. But everyone knew what was at stake, and even some of the children in the audience had no trouble obeying the signs to be quiet (which, in English, say “please be quite.”)

The players all have their habits, and it's not difficult to recognize them when you sit down and spend some time among the spectators. The tournament leaders, Fabiano Caruana and Sergey Karjakin (both wearing jeans below their jackets) don't walk around too much; they tend to stay at the board and think in the opponent's time.

Anand and Caruana check out Aronian and Karjakin's board. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

As written before, Anish Giri and Peter Svidler like to stroll, and when the concentration is desperately needed, the latter has his hands in his pockets, his head down and his eyes watching the floor, but almost closed. Giri tends to take a piece or pawn that he took from his opponent with him, and play with it while walking around. Many times in his career (including once here in Moscow) he arrived in playing halls, finding a piece from the previous round in his pocket.

Vishy Anand is the only player who tends to look into the direction of the audience regularly, either at the board or not, but he doesn't really see anyone. He's just calculating away, while sometimes biting his nails.

Levon Aronian often stretches out both of his arms before putting his head in his hands, the start of some deep calculation for him. Sergey Karjakin hides his head completely inside his hands when he needs to be very accurate, like in his ending today.

The game was an English Four Knights with 4...d5, with a lot of maneuvering at the start. Things became really interesting when Karjakin took a pawn on a3 because of the very nice intermediate move 26.c6!. The situation was very tactical but seemed to be going Aronian's way.

The handshake between Aronian and Karjakin before the game while
Deputy Arbiter Hal Bond starts the clock. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

Getting lower on time, Aronian couldn't calculate everything accurately (although he showed some amazingly long lines in the post-mortem!). He did win a piece, but didn't get the best possible version of the endgame. It was understandable that he tried it for a long time, as he was fighting to keep hopes for a (shared) first place after 14 rounds. With this draw Aronian is now out of contention.

When commentator Dylan McClain asked whether this was “creatively an interesting game,” Aronian replied: “It's like a painting and then you suddenly throw your brush and hit the painting up the wall!”

The Aronian-Karjakin post-mortem courtesy of WorldChess.

Fabiano Caruana hardly has any habits. He usually just sits at the board, quietly. Every now and then he has a quick look at the other boards, but not for too long. Whereas Peter Svidler is visibly struggling sometimes, it's almost impossible to decipher Caruana's body language.

The two played one of the longest (if not the longest) games of the tournament today. It started as a Closed Ruy Lopez with the modern 6.d3 line. Svidler went for a “slow approach” with Re8, Bf8, g6, Bg7 and h6 but started to feel uncomfortable, especially when he had to play the “incredibly ugly” (his words) 21...Nb8.

Svidler wasn't happy with putting a knight on b8. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

But from that point Caruana started to miss some of Svidler's moves, and so the endgame he got wasn't perhaps the best possible scenario. He won a pawn, but Svidler defended well until the famous RB-R endgame appeared on the board.

Svidler kept on defending perfectly, using the Second Rank Defense, but when his king had to run to another edge of the board, he went wrong. At the post-mortem Caruana pointed out that this defensive method is easier when it's actually on your side. Svidler agreed and wondered: “Is it actually allowed to change seats and move to that side of the board?”

When Caruana finally got a winning position, he failed to find that win (he had constantly about a minute on the clock, plus the 30-second increment). “I saw this Philidor position so many times and I just forget every time what I'm supposed to do,” he said. If he had found it, Svidler would not have escaped with the 50-move rule: to avoid mate he would have had to give up his rook three moves before he could claim the draw...

Caruana briefly spoke to

Annotations by GM Robert Hess


The Caruana-Svidler post-mortem courtesy of WorldChess.

This means that Vishy Anand could have joined the leaders again today. However, he was playing Anish Giri and that means the Indian's game was destined to end in a draw, right? Well, like in so many of Giri's game, there were lots of adventures and a different result was absolutely possible.

The handshake between Anand and Giri before the game. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

Giri also deserves credit for finding (and playing!) 24...Bxf2+!, a strong piece sacrifice that came out of nowhere and gave Black a strong attack. Anand then found an amazing defense and ended up with two pieces for a rook and a pawn.

A last critical moment was on move 45, when Giri could have forced the draw with an active rook move, but instead played the very passive ...Rf8, and had to suffer a bit more. 

Annotations by GM Robert Hess

The Anand-Giri post-mortem courtesy of WorldChess.

With this draw Anand lost his last chance to win the tournament. He can still tie for first tomorrow if he beats Svidler as Black and Karjakin and Caruana draw their game, but in that case Caruana wins the tournament on the first tiebreak rule: mutual score — he has 2.5 points in this group of three players.

If Anand does not win, and Karjakin and Caruana draw, Karjakin wins the tournament on the second tiebreak rule: number of wins. In other words, if Anand does not win Caruana needs to win his game.

We'd almost forget about that decisive game of the round, but it gets the last place in the report because it had so little to do with the situation in the leaderboard. Hikaru Nakamura is back to a 50 percent score thanks to his second win over Veselin Topalov. He surprised the Bulgarian in the opening, failed to find the strongest continuation but then profited from a collapse by Topalov.

Photo Lennart Ootes.

Annotations by GM Robert Hess

The Topalov-Nakamura post-mortem courtesy of WorldChess.

Nakamura briefly spoke to as well.

2016 FIDE Candidates' Tournament | Round 13 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Karjakin,S 2760 2833 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 10 ½½ ½½ ½½ ½1 7.5/13 46.00
2 Caruana,F 2794 2830 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½1 ½½ ½½ ½½ ½1 ½½ 7.5/13 47.50
3 Anand,V 2762 2808 01 ½0 phpfCo1l0.png ½1 1 ½½ ½0 7.0/13
4 Aronian,L 2786 2776 ½½ ½½ ½0 phpfCo1l0.png ½0 ½½ 1 6.5/13 40.75
5 Svidler,P 2757 2782 ½½ ½½ 0 ½1 phpfCo1l0.png ½½ ½½ ½½ 6.5/13 41.75
6 Giri,A 2793 2776 ½½ ½½ ½½ ½½ ½½ phpfCo1l0.png ½½ ½ 6.5/13 43.50
7 Nakamura,H 2790 2776 ½0 ½1 0 ½½ ½½ phpfCo1l0.png 11 6.5/13 39.00
8 Topalov,V 2780 2636 ½½ ½½ ½ 00 phpfCo1l0.png 4.0/13

Final Round: Svidler-Anand, Giri-Topalov, Nakamura-Aronian, and Karjakin-Caruana.

Who will win the Candidates'? | Photo Lennart Ootes.

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. phpfCo1l0.png


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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