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Tuesday, 27 Apr 2021 20:45
FIDE Candidates Tournament ends in Yekaterinburg, Russia

The longest-ever chess tournament in history came to an end in Yekaterinburg on Tuesday, 27th April 2021, exactly 400 days after it kicked off. The Candidates Tournament began in March 2020, but was halted after the 7th round for more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The winner of the event, Ian Nepomniachtchi, suffered a defeat in the last round. With the first place in the tournament already secured, he probably lacked the motivation required to overcome the difficulties he encountered in the game. Having the black pieces against Ding Liren, Nepomniachtchi mixed up his opening preparation, found himself in a difficult position, and resigned on move 35.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave defeated Wang Hao and won the silver medal in the tournament. The Chinese Grandmaster, who lost three last games in the Candidates, announced his retirement from professional competitive chess at the final interview. 

Anish Giri finished in third place, after losing to Kirill Alekseenko, in what is his second defeat in a row. The Dutch Grandmaster overestimated his chances, sacrificed a pawn without getting clear compensation, and eventually lost. 

Alexander Grischuk and Fabiano Caruana were the ones to make the last moves in this historical and unusual event. Their game was the last one to finish, as Grischuk had to defend a bad position stubbornly to save a draw. The participants receive a prize depending on their final place in the standings, but they also got a bonus for each point scored, so every half a point counts!

Ding Liren - Ian Nepomniachtchi (1-0)

Ian Nepomniachtchi, who won the FIDE Candidates tournament one round to spare, had some difficulties finding the right mindset before his last game in the tournament. "Yesterday I was very motivated, but today when I woke up I felt like my motivation significantly went down. I wasn't very happy that I had yet one more game to play", admitted Ian at the post-game press conference.

The grandmasters tested the anti-Grünfeld variation with 3.f3, which has become popular lately. Nepomniachtchi chose a very sharp line, which leads to a complex position where Black allows White to create a strong centre, while trying to use his advantage in development. In such positions, the cost of each move increases significantly, and Ian thought he was playing according to his home preparation until a certain point.

Ding Liren, who won two games in a row in 12 and 13 rounds, went for the most principled line against Ian. White sacrificed an exchange and a pawn but the black Knight was stuck and could not find its way out.

On move 18, Nepomniachtchi made the mistake of allowing the queen exchange – an endgame with a huge advantage for Ding Liren emerged as a result. Black lost two pawns and resigned on the 35th move.

“Such a blot at the end,” summed up the winner of the Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg.

Ding Liren, who won the last three games, lamented with a smile: "What a pity that the tournament is over!" The Chinese star didn't want to rate Nepomniachtchi's chances in the match against Carlsen: "Ian has a different style than Magnus, so it will depend on if he can get the positions he likes and Magnus doesn't."

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - Wang Hao (1-0)

The grandmasters had a theoretical discussion in the famous Berlin endgame, a common story at every high-level tournament. Both opponents had carefully studied at home the position which arose after White's 19th move but, interestingly, they came to different conclusions. Wang Hao believed that the position was equal, but Maxim managed to find a way to cause some problems for White.

Wang Hao, who had already lost three games in the second part of the Candidates, also defended poorly in the last round. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was increasing his advantage move by move and, on 29, the Chinese Grandmaster overlooked a simple tactical blow and immediately resigned. In an interview after the last round of the FIDE Candidates, Wang Hao announced his retirement from professional competitive chess.

Anish Giri - Kirill Alekseenko (0-1)

Anish Giri failed to evaluate the symmetrical position which emerged from the calm variation of the Catalan opening correctly, and Black seized the initiative. In time trouble, Anish acted too recklessly, weakened his king and, as a result of a miscalculation, found himself down a pawn, and without much compensation for it. White still had a chance to save the game, but Anish did not defend precisely, and Black scored a victory on move 56.

Fabiano Caruana - Alexander Grischuk (½-½)

In the Sicilian Defense, Grischuk repeated the same line which gave Giri a victory against Fabiano in this tournament. The American Grandmaster was the first to deviate to a sideline, using a very rare move 6.Qd3. Black quickly solved his opening problems and tried to seize the initiative, while destroying White's pawn structure on the queenside. Nevertheless, active pieces and pressure along the open files ensured enough counterplay for Caruana to maintain balance.

Grischuk made a few inaccuracies in the middle game and found himself in a difficult situation. However, Caruana did not exploit all his chances, and with a stubborn defence, Black saved half a point. The draw was agreed on move 65, after more than six hours of play. 

The final press conference with the winner of the tournament, FIDE officials, and organizers will take place at 2 PM local time. The closing ceremony will take place at 3 pm at the playing venue, and it will be broadcast live on the official website.

Final standings: 

1

 Ian Nepomniachtchi (2774)

2

 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2767) 

8

3

 Anish Giri (2763)

4

 Fabiano Caruana (2842)

5

 Ding Liren (2805)

7

6

 Alexander Grischuk (2777)

7

7

 Kirill Alekseenko (2698)

8

 Hao Wang (2762)

5



Media accreditation for the FIDE Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg is carried out on the official website of the tournament: https://candidates-2020.com/accreditation and tel. +7 962 385-05-61. Contact: press@fide.com 

Official site: https://candidates-2020.com/

Photo: Lennart Ootes
 

Partners supporting the FIDE Candidates Tournament:

Sima-land, as the General Partner 

Algorand, as the Official Blockchain Partner 

Kaspersky, as the Official Cybersecurity Partner 

PhosAgro, General Partner of Chess Federation of Russia 

Chessable, as Event Partner 

Pine Creek Golf Resort, as event Partner 

Mercedes-Benz Russia, the Official Auto Partner