Zagreb GCT, Catching Up: Carlsen, Nepomniachtchi, and So Tied for First After Six Rounds
Wednesday, July 3, 2019 at 12:58AM
Dennis Monokroussos in 2019 GCT Zagreb, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So

The tournament reached (and passed) the halfway point on Sunday followed by a rest day on Monday. Ian Nepomniachtchi had been the solo leader from early on, and had accounted for most of the action in the tournament up to that point. After the four decisive games in round 1, the next four rounds only produced three more wins in total - and two of them were Nepo's! (The third came in round 5 when Ding Liren ground out a win against Anish Giri.) That's not to say that there wasn't action: there were entertaining games and missed opportunities, just not very many wins.

In round 6 the dam burst, and five of the six games finished with a winner. The most important was Ding Liren's second straight win, this one at Nepomniachtchi's expense. The game was a disaster for Nepo, who was lost by move 19, and Ding never gave him a chance to fight back. Ding had lost in round 1, so even with the back-to-back wins he remains half a point behind Nepo.

Two other players caught up, however, including top dog Magnus Carlsen. After squandering his winning advantage against Viswanathan Anand in round 2 he seemed to struggle, but a win over his old customer Hikaru Nakamura was just what the doctor ordered. His win was convincing, as was Wesley So's butchery of Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Along with Nepomniachtchi, they're all at +2.

Joining Ding Liren in the chase pack half a point behind are Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian. Caruana outplayed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with Black in a Ruy Lopez, while Aronian won on the white side of the Berlin ending against Sergey Karjakin.

The only draw on the day was Giri-Anand in an Open Ruy Lopez. Giri was better throughout, but never winning thanks to the former champ's sturdy defense.

The games are here, with some notes to the games from rounds 3-5 but none from round 6. (Lest I never get any sleep.) Here are the pairings for round 7:

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