Today In Chess: Candidates Edition Recap – Round 14

Although Ian Nepomniachtchi already clinched tournament victory yesterday, the candidates still had money and pride to play for in a combative final round. Ding Liren continued his winning streak, defeating Nepo to finish the event with three wins in a row, while Anish Giri ended up losing to Kirill Alekseenko, allowing Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to sneaking into second place thanks to his win over Wang Hao. 

Final Standings

In some unfortunate news after the game, the 31-year-old Wang Hao announced his retirement from professional chess, citing health issues.

Ding - Nepomniachtchi

This game saw Nepo playing quite aggressively out of the opening in a Sämisch King’s Indian, though an imprecise sequence allowed Ding to win two minor pieces for a rook, with a nearly decisive advantage.

After 18.Qe3!, preparing to trade queens and win Black’s trapped knight.

From there Ding played well and converted cleanly, earning his third straight win in a row.

Having won the tournament yesterday, Nepo had a hard time finding motivation for today’s game | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes

Giri - Alekseenko

It seems Giri may have also been affected by yesterday’s round, after a difficult loss to Grischuk knocked him out of this year’s World Championship contention. He was gradually outplayed by Alekseenko in a safe Catalan middlegame, eventually losing after a prolonged queen and knight endgame. 

Despite a rough second half, tournament wildcard Kirill Alekseenko ended his event on a positive note | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes

Vachier-Lagrave - Wang

This was a difficult game for Wang Hao, who ended up announcing his retirement from professional chess shortly after resigning. MVL went for the Berlin Endgame and slowly built up some pressure with his control over the d-file. Though what should have been a long grind was suddenly cut short, as Wang blundered a losing tactic in time trouble that would cost him a full exchange.

After 29.Nxb5! Winning on the spot due to the threats of Rxd8 and Nxc7+

After a difficult tournament Wang Hao announced the end of his professional chess career | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes

Caruana - Grischuk

The only drawn game of the round saw Caruana essay the rare 6.Qd3 against Grischuk’s Najdorf, which appeared to be a one-game surprise more than anything, as Grischuk was able to navigate his way to a drawish endgame. Caruana pushed for some time, but could not break Black’s blockade, eventually trading down into an equal four rooks endgame. Grischuk defended well and the game was drawn on move 65.

An unusual opening lead to a long endgame struggle in Caruana - Grischuk | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes

This concludes one of the most dramatic candidates events ever, but of course fans should now look forward to what will be a hotly contested World Championship match between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Magnus Carlsen: