An incredible round today – the leaders both lost, the players in tow won and now there are 6 (!) players (that’s half the participants) leading the tournament with the modest score of +1. Anything is possible in the last 2 rounds and in situations like this one a wise bet would be to back Karjakin!
Radjabov and Karjakin, the most solid players in this tournament (together with Tomashevsky), played a not surprising solid draw. Karjakin’s tournament strategy, starting with the Candidates, never ceases to annoy and amaze me – just play unambitiously and solidly and it appears that all good things come to you! Without showing anything inspiring he’s now in the lead with every chance to win the tournament! But I cannot shake off the feeling that this cannot be right and that sooner or later he will have to pay a heavy price for this approach.
Svidler and Tomashevsky also played a short game that ended in repetition on move 22.
The other 4 games were decisive. Mamedyarov finally won a game against Gelfand – his last win was back in 2010. The popular 4 e3 (after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nf3 Bg7) in order to avoid the Grunfeld is a popular option and Gelfand went for the Benoni setup, where white has a pawn on e3, not the most ambitious way of playing against it.
First win for Mamedyarov in an event that wasn’t going well for him and this must be a relief after suffering for so long.
Caruana again went for the 3 f3 against the Grunfeld and the game quickly left theory after Grischuk’s novelty on move 4 (!). White was under pressure the whole game, primarily because of his king which was stuck on f1, preventing white from finishing development. Another example of the importance of subjective perception during a game – objectively white was OK throughout, but subjectively he was under pressure, feeling that he must finish development and defend against various threats. Humans being fallible, it is practically inevitable that they will make a mistake in such circumstances – it still pays off to play risky and aggressive chess, the engines’ cold calculations shouldn’t put us off! Does this loss (and weak, for his standards, play) mean that Caruana is out of steam? He can still win it though and if “weak” play means you can still win tournaments, then I suppose it’s not that weak after all.
Nakamura won thanks to an elementary blunder by Kasimdzhanov in a drawn position. Not a common occurrence at this level, but when fatigue sets in, anything is possible.
Andreikin proved what I said above – he played aggressive and risky chess and was
a piece down with a losing position, but he kept the pressure on Dominguez and the latter cracked – three bad moves in a row is too much for any position.
So we’re in for very exciting two final rounds – with so many players with chances to win it’s best just to sit and enjoy the fight. Or put money on Karjakin.