Ding Liren Keeps Winning His Way Towards First Candidates’ Title. With a draw, Nepomniachtchi kept control of the tournament and Liren’s win streak came to an end.
Ian Nepomniachtchi is at a very high score in the Candidates, and just needs one draw to win. He plays Rapport, then Duda in the last two rounds.
Today’s match between Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi was very short. After only 8 minutes of play, after both players reached an agreement to split the point in the Berlin endgame and following a question from Nakamura, they agreed that if he had lost, there would be no chance for him at second place, given the prospects of Magnus Carlsen not defending his world title.
Teimour Radjabov won on the black side in 26 moves. Ding Liren, who had won three consecutive games and played at a level above 2800 before today’s game, was unrecognizable in this one. ToRad destroyed him so quickly that even after 21 moves, Black had an overwhelming position. With this win and tie for second place, Radjabov will play Nakamura in the last round of the tournament.
Jan-Krzysztof Duda missed several opportunities to win against Alireza Firouzja. In a sharp line of the Semi-Slav, Firouzja pressured Duda’s castle and weakened his pawns. Duda responded with an energetic push on f4, but weaknesses in his position meant he was unable to exploit his advantage. Firouzja offered winning chances that Duda took, but in the final moments he wasn’t able to execute.
Black missed a great opportunity to end the game in a draw by forcing the line which Firouzja avoided, but Duda was not as lucky and missed an opening which would have given him five points. The Candidates tournament is long with demanding games, so both players showed signs of tiredness today and will struggle to earn four more points over the next 5 rounds.
The final game to finish was between Richard Rapport and Fabiano Caruana. In the anti-Berlin, the opponents found their way into a fresh position as early as on the move ten. The game played mostly on the king side where Rapport advanced his pawns, but Caruana got some initiative. The Hungarian GM neutralized it with many precise moves and equalized fully. After exchanges of hefty pieces, the opponents transitioned into a rook endgame where Black had an extra pawn on h-file, but Rapport’s active rook saved him from trouble and helped him hold Caruana draw. Unlike in the previous games where in even positions, he pushed for a long time; Caruana was in no mood to force today’s game, and they agreed to split a point. With plus three, Caruana is on at mere 50%, near the middle of the table (joined by Radjabov), while Rapport is below it with 5/12.
The opponent in this game was a tricky one. Fabiano Caruana is seen as having a lack of appetite for the tournament because he has lost three of his last four games, which effectively ruined his chances of advancing.
Rapport was wearing his salmon-pink jacket during round eight, when he scored a victory against Duda. Rapport’s first move in the game was delayed, either because he was psyching himself up or trying to play a psychological game.
They both played solidly in the anti-Berlin, and had positions by move ten. Fabiano introduced a novel concept, one that differed in comparison to his light square bishop on the previous move. He did this before castling long.
World Number 2 and 2800 elo player, Ding Liren, got beaten in 21 moves by Radjabov who is at world No. 34 in the leader board.
The game between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Hikaru Nakamura ended in an eight-minute draw, as both sides easily split one point. The two players agreed on a draw after threefold repetition of the same position.
If Magnus Carlsen were to just forfeit his title, Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi are the two players that would be vying for second place. While some may be disappointed by both players’ decisions, neither player has any chance of winning against Nepomniachtchi, despite his tendency to play highly aggressive games.
However, we can’t judge if fortune favors the brave or the savvy if they don’t fight.