Today In Chess: Candidates Edition Recap – Round 9

Today’s round provided a lot of excitement as at one point all four boards looked like they could have a decisive result, though only Anish Giri was able to capitalize on his chances, winning an impressive technical effort against Wang Hao to move within half a point of the leader, Ian Nepomniachtchi. This puts Giri in a shared second place with both Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, with just five rounds to go in this historic event.

Standings after Round 9

Giri - Wang Hao

In what ended up being the only decisive game of the day, Giri took on a compromised kingside structure in order to establish a powerful knight in the center, putting Wang Hao under serious pressure until the latter faltered in his time trouble. According to both players the key mistake was like 27...g6, which ended up being too weakening to Black’s position. Dubbed “a very very good game” by none other than World Champion Magnus Carlsen, this was Giri’s second win of the event, bringing him to +1 and well within contention for the final rounds.

Anish Giri played excellent chess to score his second win of the event. | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes

Grischuk - Nepomniachtchi

Alexander Grischuk essayed a rare line against Nepomniachtchi’s Grunfeld Defense, sacrificing a pawn for long-term space and pressure. Despite spending lots of time in the middlegame, Grischuk was unable to find an advantage and quickly got into time trouble, forcing him to find an accurate way to simplify the game and secure the half-point.

After 26.Rxf7!?, Grischuk showed no fear in sacrificing the exchange with three minutes on his clock

Post-game analysis before the press conference | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes

Alekseenko - Caruana

The two winners from Round 8 faced off in a rather sharp Italian Game, with Alekseenko having the better preparation, sacrificing a pawn in the opening to take the early initiative. Under pressure, Caruana soon returned the favor by giving a pawn back, with the further intention of sacrificing the exchange if allowed. This turned the tide in Fabiano’s favor, but Alekseenko managed to stabilize and defend well, eventually holding a slightly worse rook endgame. The draw brought Caruana to 5.0/8, still half a point behind Nepomniachtchi.

After 18...Qe8! by Caruana, with idea 19.Qxb6 Nd7! followed by sacrificing the exchange with Rxf3 if allowed.

Caruana had some attacking chances today, but eventually had to settle for a draw. | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes

Ding Liren - Vachier-Lagrave

In what was perhaps the most intriguing game of the day, Ding Liren seized a large advantage thanks to a fantastic piece sacrifice in exchange for positional domination and a powerful initiative. The Frenchman decided to immediately give the piece back, leaving his position clearly worse. It seemed as though Ding was going to win his second game of the event, but he slipped up towards the end of the first time control, allowing MVL to survive by the skin of his teeth. 

Ding Liren pushed for over six hours but couldn’t break MVL’s defenses. | Photo courtesy of FIDE, Lennart Ootes.

Our ‘Today in Chess’ coverage of the 2021 FIDE Candidates resumes tomorrow, April 21 at 8:00 AM CDT with live coverage from GMs Alejandro Ramirez, Yasser Seirawan, and Maurice Ashley on and on our YouTube and channels.