The fourth round of the Candidates had everything that chess fans could hope for. Strong novelties, excitement and heartbreaking blunders, but also commentators with such low energy that you could almost fall asleep. Listening to Svidler’s euphemisms for six hours was just too much for me, so I had to switch it off.
Anyways, let’s start with the novelty. Grischuk prepared a nice improvement in the Moscow Variation, that changed the evaluation of Topalov’s piece sacrifice from better for black to 0.00. Black has many viable continuations, which makes it tough to keep the position under control. Ding chose the wrong one and Grischuk missed the refutation. Nevertheless this opens up a new chapter in the Moscow Variation with lots of new ground to discover.
The game of the day was the clash between the two leaders. Kramnik chose a slow approach against the Petroff to show his class, but he got slowly outplayed on the kingside. After a couple of inaccuracies by Caruana he actually managed to turn the tables, but messed it up again in time-trouble. Since there are so many missed chances on both sides, there is no point in adding computer analysis. In the end Caruana had to win the game twice to score one point.
The honorable mention goes to Aronian who managed to trick Karjakin in a sideline of the Vienna.
Chess is a zero-sum game. We don’t know what Aronian had prepared in order to refute Kramnik’s Berlin, but we do know the refutation of 7. h3 by now. Ironically activating the rook is also the first suggestion of Stockfish. Things are running well for Kramnik.
The players with five whites (Anand, Mamedyarov, Karjakin and Nakamura) managed to secure the top four spots in the final standing. The only player with four whites to fail at this task was Svidler, who finished next to last.
The game of the tournament was played by young Daniil Dubov. He managed to catch Naka in a nice piece of preparation.
To win a tournament against competition of similar strength one needs to be lucky. Anand’s lucky moment came against Grischuk.
The following game shows what happens when a mathematical approach based on static factors meets deep understanding. It was already too late when Giri found out that the evaluation of this position wasn’t 0.00. Carlsen shows how to beat an engine.
Karjakin and Fedoseev are the most obvious cases, but also Jakovenko and Morozevich have shown it from time to time.
Whenever something is happening, there is usually not one single clear cut explanation for it, instead there are a variety of possible explanations. Some are more likely, some are less likely. One of these possible explanations can be found >> here <<. How likely is it?
Note: I am not talking about possible doping, because using banned substances is only illegal if people don’t have a prescription for them.
We have already seen how Vitiugov managed to lose in 18 moves to Svidler by simply forgetting well known theory and backing it up with third-rate moves over the board. This time it was Svidler’s turn to lose without a fight to Karjakin’s second Mamedyarov. How did this happen? Svidler, who is usually a safe bet to draw with white against opponents with a similar rating in less than 25 moves, came up with a bad novelty on move 6 in a known position that instantly forced him to fight for equality. Mamedyarov found the computer-line up until move 17, and that was it. Easy game!
The good news is that this unexpected victory put Mamedyarov in the position to win the tournament. He will face Carlsen with white, while Giri has to hold Caruana with black. Svidler on the other hand can make the usual quick draw with his second Matlakov.
This game is quite remarkable, because not only does MC manage to swindle Jones, it is also important for theory. It discusses what I regard as the critical line of the whole system and it seems that Jones had prepared an important improvement over the line given in his book. I added some quick analysis by Stockfish, in which direction this may be heading.
The cat is out of the bag. Now we know why the players from China are going for the early Bf5. Drummroll please for the variation that curtains the mainline of the Petroff:
The biggest advantage of the Petroff is that it not only dodges the discussion in the Berlin, it can also dodge the Italian, the Scotch and the Four-Knights, although black has to go slightly offbeat to do so.