After an exceedingly close tournament, a new face emerges as the sole leader of the tournament. Ding Liren sits on top of the leaderboard after drawing with Levon Aronian using the black pieces and his closest rival, Ian Nepomniachtchi lost his game today. World Champion Magnus Carlsen scored his first victory of the tournament and is half a point behind the sole leader along with Sergey Karjakin, Viswanathan Anand and Ian Nepomniachtchi. With only one round left, any one of these players can still clinch the title.
Standings after round 10
Ian Nepomniachtchi vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 0-1
Vachier-Lagrave called this result a payback for his opponent playing so fast in every game, as Nepomniachtchi made the deadly blunder in 26 seconds. In a theoretical line in the Symmetrical English, Nepomniachtchi sacrificed a pawn in return for quick development and initiative. He had the opportunity to win the exchange, giving his opponent the bishop pair and two connected passed pawns on the queenside, which Vachier-Lagrave thought was complicated. Instead, the Russian Grandmaster chose to stay down a pawn and was meaning to play a move that would force the game into a draw, but instead moved his knight to the wrong square where it got trapped. In order to rescue it, he had to give up several pawns, entering a lost endgame which Vachier-Lagrave converted without any difficulties.
Levon Aronian vs Ding Liren ½ - ½
With Nepomniachtchi losing, a draw was enough for Ding Liren to take the sole lead of the tournament. Aronian’s opening choice was surprising: he essayed the 4.Ng5 variation against the two knights opening, an extremely rare occurrence at the top level chess. Ding must have been very surprised and admitted to forgetting the correct way to equalize. In this line, White grabs a pawn but get behind in development and has to put his pieces on awkward squares. Aronian remained up a pawn throughout the game, but Ding always had enough counterplay against the extra pawn as well as with his bishop against the knight, creating another target on the queenside. The game petered out into a draw after the material equalized and the remaining pieces were traded off.
Magnus Carlsen vs Wesley So 1-0
Carlsen hasn’t been happy with his play in the tournament so far, but he was certainly pleased with this win. After the standard opening moves in the Giuoco Piano, the game took an interesting turn with the change of the pawn structure. Carlsen ruined his own structure, finding himself saddled with an isolated pawn as well as isolated doubled pawns on the queenside. The pawn weaknesses couldn't be attacked, however, and served the function of controlling his opponent's pair of knights. So set up a fortress but unfortunately for him, Carlsen showed a bishop maneuver which would have put So in zugzwang, forcing him to lose a pawn. Carlsen was critical of his handling of the resulting rook endgame as he allowed too much counterplay. It appeared that by that point So had already collapsed and made an immediate blunder, allowing the World Champion’s passed pawns quickly run down the board.
Sergey Karjakin vs Viswanathan Anand ½ - ½
The critical game for the standings was a wild affair in a less popular line of the Queen’s Gambit Declined. Anand sacrificed a pawn, forcing his opponent castle “by hand” and getting ahead in development. The former World Champion had reviewed the line in the morning before the game and was well versed in the subtleties. The game became completely chaotic with mutual attacks as Karjakin’s queen and rook penetrated the seventh rank while Anand’s rook was on the second rank. The remaining of the game was played perfectly with both players calculating the complicated lines with utmost precision. The final position where Anand gave a perpetual looks like a miraculous safe, as it is hard to believe that White isn’t simply getting checkmated.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs Fabiano Caruana ½ - ½
To a less experienced player the line Caruana chose in the 4. Qc2 variation of the Queen’s Indian Defense would look terrifying but he described it as a “theoretical line you choose when you want to test your opponent’s memory or you don’t really want to play that day.” He admitted that he forgot his preparation but played normal looking moves relying on his general knowledge of the position. The position required handling with care by both players as White was up a pawn but could find himself under considerable amount of pressure. Mamedyarov gave up the exchange and found an excellent continuation forcing the game into a perpetual.
Hikaru Nakamura vs Anish Giri ½ - ½
What could have been a long strategic battle came to an abrupt end with a threefold repetition after Giri decided to give up the bishop pair. In the quieter line of the Ragozin Defense, Black grabbed more space in the center, closing the queenside which gave him the opportunity to start advancing with his queenside pawns, leaving the difficult task of finding counterplay up to his opponent. After he gave up his dark squared bishop, Nakamura’s own bishop came to life and the players settled for a draw with an unusual repetition.