Today In Chess: Candidates Edition Recap – Round 10

Things couldn’t have gone better for tournament leader Ian Nepomniachtchi today, as he took advantage of an opening disaster to defeat Kirill Alekseenko and extend his lead in the event to a full point, while his main rivals Fabiano Caruana, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Anish Giri all drew their games. With four rounds to play and White against both Caruana and MVL, Nepo looks to be in excellent shape to qualify to become the next World Championship challenger.


Nepomniachtchi - Alekseenko

The key game of the round was also the first to finish, as Nepomniachtchi took advantage of a misplayed opening by Alekseenko to win the game with more than an hour left on his clock. What started out as a classical Catalan quickly turned sour for Black as Alekseenko mixed up his opening preparation and was never able to develop his queenside. After a few more inaccurate moves, Black’s position was already untenable on the light squares.

After 16.Qxf5, White’s strategic advantage was already tremendous.

“It was optically very easy but in fact I think it was not, so I guess I was lucky that in the opening Kirill quickly got into some position that he’s not familiar with ”, said Ian in the post-game press conference.

Ian Nepo’s chances soared after today’s round in the Candidates. | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes

Caruana - Ding

The two pre-tournament favorites faced off in a strategic Anti-Marshall variation of the Ruy Lopez. While Caruana sacrificed a pawn to hold some pressure, Ding defended well and was eventually the only one playing for the win. But the game remained balanced and the players repeated moves to draw at the end of the first time control.

Fabi could not do much today against the ultra-solid Ding Liren | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes

MVL - Giri

Vachier-Lagrave and Giri faced off in a topical line of the Sveshnikov, with MVL landing the first surprise and gaining an edge both on the board and on the clock. Despite the advantage, Giri defended well and MVL’s initiative was slowly neutralized. As he explained in the ‘Today In Chess’ post-game interview, Vachier-Lagrave thought he “had a great position, but just didn’t make the most of it.”

Vachier-Lagrave during a post-game interview with Grandmasters Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley, and Alejandro Ramirez | Today In Chess

Wang Hao - Grischuk

This game featured Grischuk in his trademark time trouble as he spent 72 minutes (!) on his 11th move, cxd4, in a known position of the French Defense. The position was relatively equal until a few moves later, when Wang Hao ambitiously sacrificed his queen for his two minor pieces. 

After 30.Nxg7! posing huge problems for Black’s king.

Although Grischuk had chances for a large advantage with his extra queen, he ended up allowing too much counterplay and the game soon simplified into a drawn endgame.

Grischuk and Wang Hao in the post-game press conference | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes

Looking to the final rounds, Nepomniachtchi seems tobe the clear leader with a point ahead of his nearest rivals, Caruana, Vachier Lagrave, and Giri. Will anyone be able to stop him? Fans will find out soon enough in what is sure to be an exciting finish.

Pairings for Friday’s Round 11

Our ‘Today in Chess’ coverage of the 2021 FIDE Candidates resumes with Friday, April 23 at 8:00 AM CDT with live coverage from GMs Alejandro Ramirez, Yasser Seirawan, and Maurice Ashley on and on our YouTube and channels.