To answer my question from the last post, no, Nepomniachtchi didn’t dare play the Scotch against Kramnik. Instead he took advantage of Kramnik’s infinite self-confidence – if Kramnik prepares an opening, or variation, he’s so confident in his preparation (and rightly so) that he doesn’t fear the opponent’s preparation and doesn’t mind at all repeating the line. So Nepomniachtchi went 1 c4 and, predictably, Kramnik again went for the Hedgehog he used against Svidler in Round 1. Both players were well-prepared and this led to an equal endgame. As I see it, Nepomniachtchi wasn’t against a draw if black found it, but he kept the safe and more active position if black didn’t. I don’t know why Kramnik didn’t choose to draw when he could – there were many moments to do this – and then he found himself in trouble. After Nepomniachtchi’s inaccuracy he could have saved himself, but blundered instead! A very strange game for Kramnik and a second win for Nepo, who now leads with 2.5/3!
Giri joined Nepomniachtchi in the lead after grinding down Tomashevsky from a sterile position in the London System. Under Carlsen’s influence the players have learned how to play long and boring games until the end (and not offer nor accept draws in sterile positions) and it pays dividends. What I liked in this game was the atypical solution to the problem of the IQP that arose after the time-control and Giri’s excellent technique afterwards.
The shortest win belongs to Mamedyarov, who destroyed Gelfand. My wishes for Gelfand’s coming back to form will have to wait – today he was again sluggish with the time management, but Mamedyarov played a brilliant attacking game nevertheless. After Gelfand beat Mamedyarov in the Candidates match in 2011 things seem to have turned around for the Azeri, who hasn’t lost a game to Gelfand since then.
The two drawn games were controlled affairs. Li Chao played a line in the Nimzo that I studied in great depth some years ago, but he played badly and ended up worse against Anand. His active counterplay secured him a draw though, even though perhaps Anand could have been more precise in posing problems.
Aronian and Svidler went deep into the Grunfeld woods and Aronian’s novelty on move 19 didn’t change the evaluation that black is OK. Good play by both players led to a repetition on move 41.
The youngest players lead the field after 3 rounds. They both needed this – Nepo’s always been regarded as one “with potential,” which he always seemed unable to fulfill, while Giri’s crisis after the Candidates lasted for too long. Will they manage to fight their demons and keep afloat?