With two rounds to go, it's looking good for a USA sweep of the gold medals. Wesley So won (convincingly, against Radoslaw Wojtaszek) in round 10 to put himself a full point clear of the field in the Masters group, and while Wei Yi closed the gap to half a point after defeating Sergey Karjakin in round 11 (Karjakin completely misplayed the opening and was losing after his 15th move) So is still looking good to win yet another super-tournament on his current hot streak.
Wei Yi was the only winner in round 11, but several other players came close. Tournament surprise Baskaran Adhiban was pressing with Black against Magnus Carlsen, and had a one-move chance to obtain a winning advantage. Had he played 34...Qg4!, intending ...Re3 or ...Ne3, he probably would have won to join the big tie for third. Anish Giri was completely winning from early on against Penteala Harikrishna, but he not only lost his advantage but even wound up with a losing position near the end. Richard Rapport was better against Loek van Wely early on, but near the end would have been lost had van Wely played 34...Bd7.
The other three draws were smoother for everyone involved. So drew Dmitry Andreikin without a speck of trouble on the Black side of a 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1 Berlin; Ian Nepomniachtchi and Pavel Eljanov played a relatively long and hard fought game, but one that never got out of hand for either player; finally, Wojtaszek did have a pull against Levon Aronian, but didn't seem to miss any clear chances for a full point.
As for round 10, So's victory over Wojtaszek was already mentioned, and there were two other winners in the round. Karjakin beat Andreikin in an Italian game taking advantage of one inaccuracy at a time, while Levon crushed Rapport in a beautiful attacking game. The most noteworthy game among the draws was Eljanov-Wei Yi, which saw Black have a serious advantage before the time control and Eljanov a similarly large one after it before everything finished peacefully.
The decisive games from the last two rounds are here (with my annotations), and this is what the pairings look like for round 12:
- Aronian (6.5) - van Wely (2.5)
- Harikrishna (5.5) - Rapport (4)
- Adhiban (6) - Giri (5.5)
- Eljanov (6.5) - Carlsen (6.5)
- Karjakin (6) - Nepomniachtchi (4.5)
- So (7.5) - Wei Yi (7)
- Wojtaszek (4.5) - Andreikin (4.5)
Nice pairings on boards 4 and 6!
To the Challengers Group: Entering round 10 Markus Ragger and Ilia Smirin shared the lead with 6.5 points each, half a point ahead of Xiong and Gawain Jones. Ragger and Smirin only managed to draw (against Benjamin Bok and Erwin L'Ami, respectively), and they were caught by Xiong (who like almost everyone else in the tournament so far defeated Sopiko Guramishvili). Jones drew his game (with Lei Tingjie) to remain half a point behind, along with the surging Eric Hansen (who crushed Lu Shanglei in a great game that was the subject of my World Chess column this week).
In round 11 some stratification occurred. Ragger drew again, with Nils Grandelius, and for the first time all tournament was out of first place after one co-leader - Xiong - defeated the third - Smirin. Interestingly, the two players were half a point back also played each other, and Jones defeated Hansen (with Black) to join Ragger in second, half a point behind Xiong.
Here are the leading pairings for round 12:
- Tari (5.5) - Xiong (8)
- Ragger (7.5) - Van Foreest (3.5)
- Jones (7.5) - Dobrov (3.5)
- Smirin (7) - Lei Tingjie (3.5)
Xiong has his work cut out for him this round, but on the flip side he's the only one of the four with seven or more points to have White in the last round, and he also has the easiest opponent by far - at least in terms of the tournament scoretable - in that last game.