Final Round

Greetings Chess Players. My name is Chris Torres and this is my daily chess musing for Tuesday, April 27 2021.

We have made it to the final round of the FIDE Candidates Tournament! Although we know that Nepo won, we will continue analyzing and learning from all these fascinating games. 

The final round of play featured three decisive games. Ding Liren had a beautiful victory over the tournament winner Nepo, MVL finished strong by defeating Wang Hao and a demoralized Anish Giri lost a long battle to Kiril Alekseenko. Also, in the latest chess news, Wang Hao has stated that he will no longer play professional chess and move on to a less stressful job and hobbies as he has a few health issues. Although we are sad to see him go, we hope to see him do casual chess in the near future.

As I mentioned earlier, Ding Liren put together a masterpiece against Ian Nepomniachtchi. Let’s take a closer look at how Liren managed to send the Candidates Victor home with a final round loss.

Thank you for joining me to see the conclusion of this epic 406 day tournament! I will be sure to follow up in the coming weeks with some of the early rounds and my favorite positions of the games played. Next we will be eagerly awaiting the World Chess Championship beginning on November 24, 2021. I hope you will join me again at that time to review each round and experience the astonishing level of chess excellence we can expect from such high caliber players.


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All pictures of the players and games are from the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2020-2021 website @ https://en.candidates-2020.com/

[Event “FIDE Candidates 2020”]
[Site “Yekaterinburg RUS”]
[Date “2021.04.27”]
[Round “14.1”]
[White “Caruana, Fabiano”]
[Black “Grischuk, Alexander”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[BlackElo “2777”]
[BlackFideId “4126025”]
[BlackTitle “GM”]
[ECO “B40”]
[EventDate “2020.03.17”]
[Opening “Sicilian”]
[Variation “Anderssen variation”]
[WhiteElo “2842”]
[WhiteFideId “2020009”]
[WhiteTitle “GM”]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Qd3 d5 7.exd5 Nb4 8.Qc4
Nbxd5 9.Bg5 Bb4 10.Bd3 Bd7 11.O-O Bxc3 12.bxc3 Rc8 13.Qb3 Qb6 14.Qxb6 Nxb6
15.a4 h6 16.Bxf6 gxf6 17.Rfb1 Rc7 18.Nb5 Bxb5 19.axb5 Nc8 20.Ra3 Ke7 21.Rb4
f5 22.g3 Kf6 23.f3 Rd8 24.Rd4 Rdd7 25.Kf2 b6 26.Ke3 Ne7 27.f4 Nd5+ 28.Kd2 Ke7
29.Be2 Rd6 30.c4 Nf6 31.c3 Rd8 32.Bf3 Nd7 33.Ke3 Nc5 34.h3 f6 35.g4 fxg4
36.hxg4 Re8 37.Rd1 Kf8 38.Ra2 Kg7 39.Bc6 Rec8 40.Rd6 Kf7 41.f5 e5 42.Rad2 Ke7
43.Bf3 Rg8 44.Rd1 Rgc8 45.Be2 Kf7 46.Bf3 Ke7 47.R6d5 Na4 48.R1d2 e4 49.Bxe4
Nxc3 50.R5d4 Nxe4 51.Rxe4+ Kf7 52.Rdd4 Re8 53.Kd3 Rxe4 54.Rxe4 Re7 55.Rd4 Ke8
56.Kc3 Rd7 57.Rf4 Rh7 58.Rf1 h5 59.gxh5 Rxh5 60.Ra1 Kd8 61.Rxa7 Kc8 62.Ra6
Kc7 63.c5 Rxf5 64.cxb6+ Kb7 65.Kb4 1/2-1/2

[Event “FIDE Candidates 2020”]
[Site “Yekaterinburg RUS”]
[Date “2021.04.27”]
[Round “14.2”]
[White “Giri, Anish”]
[Black “Alekseenko, Kirill”]
[Result “0-1”]
[BlackElo “2698”]
[BlackFideId “4135539”]
[BlackTitle “GM”]
[ECO “E01”]
[EventDate “2020.03.17”]
[Opening “Catalan”]
[Variation “closed”]
[WhiteElo “2763”]
[WhiteFideId “24116068”]
[WhiteTitle “GM”]

1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 e6 3.Bg2 d5 4.d4 Bb4+ 5.Nd2 O-O 6.Nf3 b6 7.O-O Bb7 8.b3 Re8
9.Bb2 Nbd7 10.Qc2 Rc8 11.Rad1 c5 12.Qb1 Qe7 13.dxc5 Nxc5 14.cxd5 Bxd5 15.Ne5
Bxg2 16.Kxg2 Qb7+ 17.Kg1 b5 18.Nef3 Red8 19.a3 Bxd2 20.Bxf6 gxf6 21.Nxd2 Kg7
22.Nf3 Ne4 23.Rxd8 Rxd8 24.Qb2 a5 25.b4 a4 26.Rc1 Qd5 27.Qc2 Rd7 28.Kg2 Qb7
29.Kg1 Rd8 30.Kg2 Rd7 31.Kg1 Rd6 32.Kg2 Nd2 33.Rd1 Nc4 34.Rxd6 Nxd6 35.Qd3
Nc4 36.e4 Qc6 37.g4 Qc7 38.Nd2 Ne5 39.Qe3 h6 40.f4 Nxg4 41.Qg3 f5 42.Kf1 h5
43.Ke2 Qb6 44.h3 h4 45.Qc3+ Nf6 46.exf5 exf5 47.Nf3 Qe6+ 48.Kd2 Qd5+ 49.Qd3
Ne4+ 50.Ke3 Qa2 51.Kd4 f6 52.Qf1 Qxa3 53.Kd5 Qxb4 54.Qg1+ Kf8 55.Ke6 Qe7+
56.Kxf5 Ng3+ 0-1

[Event “FIDE Candidates 2020”]
[Site “Yekaterinburg RUS”]
[Date “2021.04.27”]
[Round “14.3”]
[White “Ding, Liren”]
[Black “Nepomniachtchi, Ian”]
[Result “1-0”]
[BlackElo “2774”]
[BlackFideId “4168119”]
[BlackTitle “GM”]
[ECO “E60”]
[EventDate “2020.03.17”]
[Opening “King’s Indian defence”]
[WhiteElo “2805”]
[WhiteFideId “8603677”]
[WhiteTitle “GM”]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.f3
{ Nc3 is by far the most popular choice for white but 3. f3, the fourth
most commonly played move, has been played over 8000 times in high level
games so it is certainly something black must be prepared to deal with. }
{ Out of those 8000 games, e6 has only been played 155 times. Bg7 is the most played response to 3. f3 having been played nearly 50% of the time this position has been reached in master games. }
{ So white is obviously occupying the center and black’s plan is to control
the center indirectly through the use of pieces. } 4…c5
{ [%cal Gf8g7]Nepo strikes at Ding’s center pawn with a noncentral pawn to create dark square weakness that his fianchettoed bishop can capitalize on. }
5.d5 d6 6.Bd3
{ Ding’s first move that develops a piece is an exceptionally rare move.
The main line here continues: } ( 6.Nc3 Bg7
{ [%cal Gc1g5,Gg1e2] and then Bg5 or Ne2. } ) 6…Bg7 7.Ne2 exd5 8.cxd5 Nbd7
{ [%cal Gd7e5,Gg7a1,Gc5d4,Gd6e5] Nepo isn’t phased by his opponent’s strange variation and continues to operate on the key dark squares. }
{ [%cal Gg1e2,Ge2c3,Gb1d2,Gd2c4]Ding Liren drops an innovation on Nepo. The idea here is that the white knight on e2 is a hard piece to make good use of so by placing it on c3 it takes the queen’s knight’s role. So what happens with the queens knight? Well it can perhaps move to d2 and then c4. Of couse, using two early moves on each knight gives black the opportunity to play more assertively. }
9…a6 { an important move to stop any b5 incursions from white’s pieces. }
10.a4 Nh5
{ [%cal Gd6e5,Gc5d4,Gd7e5,Gd7f6,Gh5f4,Gh5f6,Gd8h4,Gh5g3,Gg7c3] Nepo’s dark square dominance continues to grow and now Qh4+ is a serious threat. }
{ Ding Liren purposefully castles right into black’s attack. Not only is he
showing off a new innovtive approach for white in the King’s Indian
Defense. It’s seriously spicy. } 11…Bd4+
{ amd now the newly crowned challenger to Magnus Carlsen is being begged to
attack and obliges. } 12.Kh1
{ White’s king is forced into the corner. It looks as though black is
getting close to a checkmate involving bringing his queen to h4. Let’s take
a closer look (see note for 12… Qh4) } 12…Ne5
{ Nepo wants to keep his queen and attacking chances. } ( { [%cal Gh5g3] }
{ Threatening a pretty mate in 1 with Ng3. But white would have Qe1. } 13.Qe1
{ which defends mate and leads to either a trade of wueen or loss of time
for black. } 13…Qxe1 14.Rxe1 Ne5
{ improving the knight while attacking the bishop. } 15.Be2 O-O
{ [%cal Gc1d2,Gc1h6,Gb1a3]would result in a roughly even position where, after finishing with development, I slightly prefer white’s piece activity. }
) 13.Ne2
{ [%cal Ge2d4]Ding Liren wants to get rid of the bishop on d4. If Ding retreats the bishop to e2, then Nepo would have a neat ideainvolving g5. }
( 13.Be2 g5
{ [%cal Gd8f6,Gf6h6]Helping to guard against an f4 push from white while making room for the queen to possbly go to f6 and then h6. Once the queen is on h6, black will have mating opportunities. }
) 13…Qh4 { This looks very dangerous for white. } 14.Nxd4
{ removing the threat of mate in 1 because the king can now move to g1.
However, black still has several dangerous attacking schemes to chose from.
} 14…Nxd3
{ That certainly was one of black’s choices. the alternative’s are: } (
14…cxd4 15.Kg1
{ making use of the now available g1 square to step out of the pin. } 15…g5
{ is the most agressive choice but Nf4 and castling should also be
considered. } 16.Be2
{ [%cal Gd4d3,Gg5g4,Gh5f4]and even here, black has several attacking schemes including d3, g4 and Nf4. With machine precision, white could escape with an advantage but these are the positions that a player like Tal would dream of. }
) ( 14…Ng3+ 15.Kg1 Nxf1 16.Bxf1 cxd4 17.Qxd4 O-O { seems roughly even } )
15.Qxd3 Ng3+
{ [%cal Gg3f1,Gg3h2,Gh4h1] With the bishop no longer on d4 this isn’t a checkmate but is still a nice fork buit off of a pin. }
16.Kg1 Nxf1 17.Nc2
{ Ding calmly plays Nc2 to take his knight out of the line of fire while
defending e1 from black’s queen. } 17…Nxh2 18.Qe3
{ A nice move that is preparing to trade queens. } 18…O-O $2
{ Nepo makes a mistake. If white plays Qg5 his knight and queen will have
some trouble. To avoid this, black could have played: } ( 18…g5 19.e5 Kd7
{ stepping the king out of the file of white’s queen and preparing to place
the rook from h8 there instead. } 20.Nc3 Re8 21.Qxg5
{ removing the queen out of the e-file by setting up a queen trade is
white’s only real option } 21…Qxg5 22.Bxg5 Rxe5
{ [%cal Gg5f4,Gg5h4,Rh2f3,Ye5h5,Gg5h6,Gg5d2] and f3 will fall when white retreats the bishop to h4, f4 or d2. For Bh6, black can also play Bh5 first. Regardless, the resulting positions are imbalanced bu roughly even. }
) 19.Qg5 $1
{ Ding Liren capitalizes on his opponent’s mistake. After the game, Ian
Neponiachtchi said of Qg5, “I just missed this.” } 19…Nxf3+ (
{ [%cal Gg2h3,Rh2f3] } 19…Qh3
{ setting up a royal fork if pawn takes h3 is tempting. But will fail to…
} 20.Ra3 f6 21.Qf4 Nxf3+ 22.Rxf3 { still definately worth looking at. } )
20.gxf3 Qh3 { avoiding the bad trade but costs time. } 21.Bf4
{ and that time is just what Ding Liren needs to get his pieces into the
game and win. } 21…Qxf3 22.Nd2
{ Developing a knight with a threat is still a solid strategy even on move

  1. } 22…f6
    { defending against the threat of Qf6 followed by Bishop to h6. } 23.Qxg6+
    hxg6 24.Nxf3 Bg4 25.Nd2
    { White’s best strategy is not trading the minor pieces without a good
    reason. } 25…Be2 26.Kf2 Bd3 27.Ne1 c4 28.Bxd6
    { creates a dangerous passed pawn. } 28…Rfe8 29.Nxd3 cxd3 30.Bc7 Kf7 31.Ra3
    Rac8 32.d6 { pushing the passed pawn to defend the bishop. } 32…Ke6 33.Rxd3
    { and then placing a rook behind the passed pawn with a capture. } 33…Kd7
    { Nepo tries blockading the passed pawn with his king. } 34.Nc4
    { [%cal Gc4b6] But blacks plan will fail do to Nb6 check. } 34…Rxc7 35.Nb6+
    { Nepo resigns and the tournament victor gets sent home with a loss. } 1-0

[Event “FIDE Candidates 2020”]
[Site “Yekaterinburg RUS”]
[Date “2021.04.27”]
[Round “14.4”]
[White “Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime”]
[Black “Wang, Hao”]
[Result “1-0”]
[BlackElo “2762”]
[BlackFideId “8602883”]
[BlackTitle “GM”]
[ECO “C67”]
[EventDate “2020.03.17”]
[Opening “Ruy Lopez”]
[Variation “Berlin defence, open variation”]
[WhiteElo “2767”]
[WhiteFideId “623539”]
[WhiteTitle “GM”]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.O-O Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5
8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.h3 Ke8 10.Nc3 h5 11.Ne2 b6 12.Bg5 c5 13.Nc3 Bb7 14.Rfd1 Bxf3
15.gxf3 c6 16.f4 Be7 17.Ne4 Bxg5 18.fxg5 Ke7 19.Nd6 Ke6 20.Rd3 Rhd8 21.Re1 a5
22.f4 c4 23.Rdd1 b5 24.Kf2 a4 25.a3 g6 26.Kf3 Ng7 27.Rd2 Ne8 28.Red1 Nc7
29.Nxb5 1-0

Published by chessmusings

Chris Torres is a nationally renowned scholastic chess coach working in the San Francisco Bay Area. His classes have attracted players of strengths ranging from rank beginners to world champions. A chess professional since 1998, Chris is widely recognized as one of the main driving forces behind the explosion in popularity and sudden rise in quality of scholastic chess in California. Chris Torres served as the President of the Torres Chess and Music Academy from 2005-2020 and currently is recognized as a correspondence chess master with the United States Chess Federation. Since 1998 Chris Torres has taught 6 individual national champions as well as led multiple school teams to win national championship titles. In addition, Chris Torres has directed and taught at 10 different schools which have been California State Champions at chess. In 2011 and 2012, several former and current students of Chris Torres have been selected to represent the United States at the World Youth Chess Championships. Mr. Torres’ hobbies include playing classical guitar and getting his students to appear on the national top 100 chess rating lists.

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