Carlsen made a quick draw when the most likely outcome would have been a three-way tie with Caruana and Nakamura. Instead the Don managed to outplay So from a dubious position to spoil the strategy. A bit of luck was involved but congratulations nevertheless.
This weird position occurred straight from the opening in the game Caruana vs. Nakamura from the 7th round. Who is better and why?
Using the Dorfman-Method we can easily establish that both kings are safe, because the queens are off and there is no direct way to attack either king. The next step is counting the material. White has the two bishops and therefore the material advantage. That’s it, no more steps. White is slightly better.
Using the Point-Count-Method, which is very close to a computer evaluating the position, we count the two bishops as +0.5. Then we and add +0.3 for each half-open file. Finally we add +0.3 for control of the center. This adds up to +1.4. At the same time we discount three isolated pawns and two doubled pawns, which adds up to -1.5. Since the black position has no weakness, it means that black a tiny bit better and the overall evaluation should be -0.1.
Stockfish gives b6 for black and evaluates the position as equal, 0.00.
Magnus chose to play the Slav and got punished. It is no surprise that Wesley played the Exchange Variation, because it suits his zero-risk-style, it also contains a bit of venom. If black plays for a win he usually gets in trouble very fast. I am not going to add any pointless computer analysis to the game. If you are interested, you should check out Svidler’s commentary on Youtube, that is if you survive the mild monotone voice and his human-tranquilizer-style for more than two minutes. Unfortunately I can’t, which is arguably very sad.
The first game features an interesting pawn sacrifice by MVL in order to deal with the annoying queen on a4. In the second game Caruana tried to get Hou Yifan out of her preparation and almost got punished for it.
On a sidenote: This tournament features excellent commentary by Leko. He seems to know everything about everything and doesn’t have a problem with sharing his knowlede with the audience.
8/9 with a GM-norm at the age of 13 sounds quite promising. The kid doesn’t come out of nowhere. He has already shown in youth competitions that he is the number one talent in Germany by far. He is working with Leko which means that his openings are already on a very high level. As the rating-underdog he has the advantage that many opponents are playing for a win against him. Right now he can gain Elo by drawing or by the occasional variance, like his victory against the hungarian GM Rapport. Once he becomes the favorite, things will have to be re-evaluated. Keep in mind that the human brain is fully grown around the age of 15, so he has lots of physical upside-potential. In any case, for Germany it’s either him or nobody.
It is very hard to defend the French on the highest level. If you check out Negi’s book, you will realize that virtually every single mainline is refuted. Yet black is successful every once in a while, because white has to be precise and there are simply too many too many lines to remember. The biggest recent ideas for black where the high class waiting-move Be7, supporting the pawn on c5 with b6 and leaving the knight on c8. In this game Blübaum comes up with a new move-order, which seems to be known to both players, and they quickly agree to a draw. The big question is if Caruana held back the refutation, because revealing the secret simply wasn’t worth it.