Candidates 2016 – Rounds 7-9
Karjakin continued with his peculiar unstable stability: he got nothing and was soon worse with white against Aronian in Round 7, unleashed a good novelty in Round 8 against Svidler and was better before starting to commit mistakes and became lost, only to be saved by Svidler’s inability to finish off winning games, and finally played a decent game in Round 9 against Nakamura in his favourite line in the Queen’s Indian. I really don’t know what to think of Karjakin’s play – he shows his usual resilience and it’s almost impossible to beat, but as fatigue accumulates his “luck” may run out.
Aronian was in cruise control until his loss to Anand – he pressed with black against Karjakin and with white against Giri, but without a threat to win. The loss to Anand will force him to take more risks as he needs to win a game or two to catch up, so I’m curious to see how he reacts to this new situation.
Caruana was very lucky (or perhaps better to say “lucky,” as in Karjakin’s case, meaning “extremely resilient and finding all the best moves when lost”) not to lose after falling into Svidler’s preparation in Round 7.
And he got the beat his fellow-American, Nakamura, who is definitely out of contention after suffering 3 losses in 9 rounds. This win brought Caruana to +1, finally, one may add. The game was, rather surprisingly, one-sided:
Giri is on 50%, probably still in his comfort zone. He missed his best chance against Caruana in Round 9, when Caruana seemed to mix up his preparation:
Giri is the last participant who can still win the tournament (although very unlikely). But the rest are definitely out of contention.
It is amazing how many times Svidler missed a win in this tournament. He gets his preparation in in almost every game, gets a winning position, and then fails to win. When he didn’t get his prep in, against Anand in Round 6, he lost in a miniature, and against Karjakin in Round 8, when he was caught in the opening, he managed to turn it around and still get a winning position only to spoil it again. He saved a difficult position against Topalov in Round 9, a game that I feel shows that he still hasn’t found a balance between a good prep and a good play afterwards – against Topalov he got a more or less decent position, but he still failed to play well afterwards. A very frustrating tournament for Svidler!
Nakamura’s 3 losses are something very uncharacteristic of him. After the touch-move drama and loss to Aronian he came back and beat Topalov in Round 7, but his resurgence was short-lived as he lost horribly to Caruana in Round 8 (see above). This was followed by a good game against Karjakin in Round 9, but it’s already too late for him. Too many losses as a result of nerves and tension (as I see it). Perhaps he put too much pressure on himself as he saw it as a must to win this one?
Topalov didn’t manage to improve either his play or his standings since the last free day. He lost to Nakamura in Round 7, from a position with initiative and attack, got nothing with white against Anand in Round 8, and failed to win a promising position against Svidler in Round 9. I don’t expect things to change for him in the remaining 5 games.
The last 5 rounds will revolve around the resistance the outsiders will put against the players trying to win the tournament and the latter’s ability to hold their nerve. Tension is rising and anything can happen.