Today In Chess: Candidates Edition Recap – Round 13

After drawing with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Ian Nepomniachtchi clinched victory in the 2020/21 FIDE Candidates Tournament, earning the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen in the 2021 World Championship, to take place this November 2021 in Dubai. The win was earned after Alexander Grischuk defeated Ian’s main rival in the final stages of the event, Anish Giri, knocking the Dutch No. 1 out of contention.

Standings after Round 13 | Since Nepo has better tiebreaks over Giri, he is able to clinch the event with a round to spare

Nepomniachtchi - Vachier-Lagrave

Facing a must-win situation as Black, MVL opted for a somewhat dubious double-fianchetto setup, giving Nepo a lot of space in the hopes of creating an unbalanced situation. MVL’s gamble paid off, as he was able to reach a dynamic position with potential for kingside play, but to the bewilderment of commentators, he inexplicably traded off all the major pieces in the position, allowing Nepo a safe endgame where he could play for two results.

After 28...Rab8, allowing White to trade off several pieces with Rxb8 followed by Qb2 in the end

This left Nepo up a pawn in the endgame with no losing chances, though with Giri already losing at this point, Nepo saw no point in risking things further and secured the draw, clinching the event.

MVL needed to win today but could not create enough chances against the tournament leader | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes

Grischuk - Giri

With a half point less and worse tiebreaks than Nepo, this was a must-win game for Giri, who chose a rare but playable line in the Bogo Indian Defense. In order to keep the game alive, Giri took on a ton of risk in the position, compromising his structure in the hopes of activity. Grischuk then took advantage of Black’s weaknesses, offering his knight as a sacrifice in order to mate Black’s king. The knight was untouchable, and Giri’s position simply collapsed with too many weaknesses, allowing Grischuk to collect the full point and ultimately spoil Giri’s World Championship chances.

After 31.exf5! With idea 31...Qxe3 32.Qxg6+ Kf8 33.f6+-, winning

Wang Hao - Caruana

This game started out as a Sicilian Alapin (2.c3) where the players quickly reached a balanced middlegame, with a bishop and knight for Caruana and two knights for Wang Hao. The position stayed relatively equal, though Wang Hao started to fall under pressure as the players approached the first time control, and ended up blundering on move 39, allowing Caruana to win a crucial central pawn and the game with it.

Caruana played patiently and eventually won a pawn in the late middlegame | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes

Alekseenko - Ding

Despite being out of contention, both players entered a sharp battle in today’s game, with Ding Liren sacrificing two pawns on the Black side of a Italian Game. Alekseenko reacted to Black’s sacrifice well, even rejecting a repetition at one point, but ran into issues when Ding found a speculative piece sacrifice to put White under serious pressure. With threats against his back rank, Alekseenko faltered, allowing Ding to win back his sacrificed material with a decisive advantage. White tried to save himself with a perpetual check, but Black’s king was able to escape, prompting a resignation.

47...Rb8! put White under great difficulties

Ding Liren took on a lot of risk but was eventually rewarded | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes

Our ‘Today in Chess’ coverage of the 2021 FIDE Candidates will conclude tomorrow, April 27 at 8:00 AM CDT with live coverage from GMs Alejandro Ramirez, Yasser Seirawan, and Maurice Ashley on and on our YouTube and channels.