Today’s contentious round produced three decisive results. Magnus Carlsen continues his phenomenal display, winning once again with the black pieces against Ding Liren. Wesley So kept pace with a victory over his countryman Hikaru Nakamura, remaining in second place only half a point behind the leader. Tomorrow, the World Champion will have the white pieces against his long time rival, Levon Aronian, while Wesley So will be black against previous tournament leader Ian Nepomniachtchi.
Standings after round 8
Ding Liren vs Magnus Carlsen 0-1
For the second day in a row, Carlsen defeated a player he has never beaten before. Ding Liren and Magnus Carlsen had faced off 7 times before, with all the games ending in a draw. The World Champion essayed an unused line from his World Championship preparation, playing a novelty on move 11 in the Catalan. The Chinese player was significantly low on time throughout the game, which contributed to him getting slowly outplayed. The World Champion played a phenomenal game in true Carlsen-esque fashion, grinding out a win with his pair of bishops against the bishop and knight. This win puts his live rating at 2881, only 8 points shy of his peak.
Wesley So vs Hikaru Nakamura 1-0
The all-American match up started off quietly with the open variation of the Berlin Defense, an opening which leads to a symmetrical pawn structure. Nakamura decided to get adventurous with some dubious moves, first by putting his knight on the edge of the board, then by allowing the position to open up when his pieces were poorly placed. The US Champion was forced to give up a pawn in a queen and rook endgame. After accurate calculation, So returned the pawn and entered a winning king and pawn endgame. With this win, the 2016 Grand Chess Tour winner comfortably remains in second place, a full point ahead of his closest rivals.
Wesle So vs Hikaru Nakamura
Anish Giri vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 1-0
Mamedyarov’s suspicious opening play in this tournament caught up to him once again. The Azeri star was punished mercilessly for his provocative play. Giri opened with 1.Nf3, which transposed into a Bb5 Sicilian, which in turn transposed into Panov like structures. Mamedyarov fell behind in development in order to hang on to his bishop pair, then castled queenside in a position where his opponent’s pieces could easily attack his king. Mamedyarov’s frail king only managed to survive for 15 more moves, until the loss of significant material became inevitable.
Viswanathan Anand vs Fabiano Caruana ½ - ½
Caruana escaped unscathed after suffering for a very long time. The former World Championship challenger played an opening resembling Carlsen’s from yesterday. Caruana was hoping to get a fighting position, but instead he found himself on the worse end of a King’s Indian like structure, down a pawn and with a terrible dark squared bishop. Anand pressed for a long time, eventually entering a pawn up endgame. Thanks to Caruana’s tenacious defense and resourcefulness, he managed to give up his knight for his opponent’s pawns and secure to draw.
Levon Aronian vs Ian Nepomniachtchi ½ - ½
After a tough loss yesterday against the World Champion, Nepomniachtchi recovered with a quick draw with the black pieces. The pair played down an uncommon line in the Grunfeld Defense, where Aronian could have tried to press for an advantage. He wasted a tempo on move 13, which allowed simplifications with a central pawn break. The game ended with a threefold repetition on move 27. Both players remain tied for third place along with Fabiano Caruana.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Sergey Karjakin ½ - ½
Vachier-Lagrave wasn’t able to break the super solid Berlin Defense. The players followed their game from the 2018 Olympiad in Batumi until move 10 when Karjakin deviated. The Russian ran his king to the queenside and brought his rooks into the game in time, something he didn’t manage to do against Aronian two rounds ago. After all the minor pieces were traded off, a double rook endgame occurred where white had a one pawn advantage to the kingside due to black’s double pawns on the queenside. After a pair of rooks was traded off, the game ended with a repetition as entering a pawn race would be losing for White.
Sergey Karjakin with Shakriyar Mamedyarov before the game