Candidates 2016 – Rounds 7-9

In the third three-game segment Anand replaced Aronian in the lead by beating him in Round 9 so now he leads together with Karjakin with 5.5/9, the same +2 as before.

Anand was the most impressive player in the last 3 rounds – with black he drew with Giri after the Dutchman took on f6 without any shame in the position on move 12:
Then he drew with Topalov with black in the same line (you can see the opening phase of that game in the comments above) in a game where he was pressing. And in Round 9 he crushed Aronian, his uncomfortable opponent. But perhaps it’s better to say uncomfortable with a twist – Anand usually loses to Aronian, but when it matters the most, in the World Championship cycle, he usually beats him: he beat him 1.5-0.5 in Mexico 2007, in Khanty 2014 and now in Moscow.

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.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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6 Comments
  • Mar 24,2016 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks! If you decide to do so, good luck!

  • Mar 24,2016 at 3:20 pm

    It all makes sense, I agree. But we can never know the condition of their nervous systems and how they will react to the ultimate stress of the last rounds! Remember London and Carlsen's and Kramnik's meltdown? It can happen again…

  • Mar 23,2016 at 11:00 am

    Great blog. Good layout. I am thinking of starting my own chess blog too.

  • Anonymous
    Mar 22,2016 at 9:49 pm

    Aronian is most likely to win the tournament despite his loss to Anand. The next two rounds, he plays White against the 'in form' Topalov and Svidler.I predict two back to back wins.

    Anand has to face a daunting task against Naka's white and to be honest I do not see another win for Anand (3 Blacks against Caruana , Naka and Svidler) and two Whites against resolute Karjakin and Giri !

    Karjakin has I believe the toughest road ahead among the three , with Black against Aronian and Anand (may be 1 loss here) and White against Giri, Caruana (2 draws). Topa might be his only win left.

  • Mar 22,2016 at 10:41 am

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Yes, it does seem to coincide what Nakamura said and his bad results in Moscow, being result of increased tension. I hope he's open about it after the tournament in the interviews that will follow.

    Yeah, negations are tricky things. 🙂 I think since it's a triple one it should be OK, but I reckon you're a native speaker so I'll change and prefer your second option.

  • Mar 22,2016 at 4:03 am

    Very insightful thoughts about resilience and fatigue; it will be fun to see how this turns out. Once again, I must thank you for taking the time to write these blogs. I enjoy your analysis of the games, and perhaps I enjoy your analysis of the players even more!

    I had thought Nakamura would be one of the favorites. But now I remember that he said one of his reasons for his success in 2015 was the result of being more relaxed about the outcome of his games. In the candidates it's probably hard to be relaxed, and I suspect his nerves got to him.

    By the way, I might be wrong, but I think it should be: "Topalov managed to improve neither his play nor his standings…" or "Topolov didn't manage to improve either his play or his standings."

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