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    Entries in Magnus Carlsen (183)

    Tuesday
    Feb022016

    Wijk aan Zee 2016, Last Round: Carlsen Wins Again

    The first supertournament of 2016 is now history, and it's little surprise that the winner is the world champion and world #1 Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen is just 25 years old, and yet this is already the fifth time he has won the main event in Wijk aan Zee. His score of 9/13 was not a record, but his 2881 TPR was good enough for him to pick up 6.6 rating points - 7 points once it's rounded it on the new list, 50 points ahead of world #2 Vladimir Kramnik.

    The last round looked ripe for drama coming in, with Carlsen only half a point ahead of Fabiano Caruana and a point ahead of his last round opponent, Ding Liren. The drama never materialized: Carlsen was always comfortable with white against Ding, who managed a draw after hours of suffering. Caruana was in a must-win situation, but winning to order with the black pieces against a solid, strong grandmaster like Evgeny Tomashevsky is a tall order. He didn't come close, and whether he was simply outplayed or because he took strategic risks in the hopes of getting a position where he could fight for more than a draw, Caruana was much worse straight out of the opening. It wasn't always clear whether Tomashevsky would win - he did - but it was clear that Caruana wouldn't win and wouldn't catch Carlsen.

    It was still a good tournament for the American #1; he gained rating points, tied for second with Ding (and finished ahead of him on tiebreaks, not that that mattered), and is for now safe in his position as the #1 player in the U.S. It was a fine result for Ding Liren as well, currently rated #9 in the world.

    Two other events are worth a quick mention. First, the other victor on the day was Pavel Eljanov, who defeated David Navara. Second, Hou Yifan nearly finished the tournament on a very high note, as she was clearly winning with black against Anish Giri. Unfortunately for her fans, she let the win slip, but one can be very impressed by Giri's tenacity in holding the rook ending.

    Final Standings:

     

    • 1. Carlsen 9/13
    • 2-3. Caruana, Ding Liren 8
    • 4-6. So, Giri, Eljanov 7
    • 7-8. Wei Yi, Mamedyarov 6.5
    • 9. Karjakin 6
    • 10-11. Navara, Tomashevsky 5.5
    • 12-14. Hou Yifan, Adams, van Wely 5

     

    In the Challengers' Group the three-man race between Baskaran Adhiban, Eltaj Safarli, and Alexey Dreev ended in a photo finish: all three wound up with 9/13. The former had the best tiebreak score, so he will play in the main event next year.

    Sunday
    Jan312016

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 10-12: Carlsen Leads Caruana by Half a Point Entering the Last Round

    There's one round to go in the 2016 edition of the Tata Steel Chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee, and it's not too surprising to learn that the world's #1 player, world champion Magnus Carlsen, is in first place, and the tournament's second seed - Fabiano Caruana - is in second. The players have been alternating wins the past few rounds: Carlsen won in round 9, Caruana in round 10, Carlsen again in round 11, and Caruana again in round 12. The margin of difference so far is Caruana's loss to David Navara; had that game finished in a draw the mighty Cars would both have 8.5/12.

    Going back to round 10: Carlsen entered the round with a full point lead, and with black a draw with Anish Giri was a satisfactory result, achieved without much fuss. Caruana took the opportunity to close the gap to half a point when he bludgeoned Wei Yi, who had been having an excellent tournament to that point. (Another game from that round I'll mention was the curious battle between Sergey Karjakin and Michael Adams. Karjakin played the London System and lost without a whimper. All Adams had to do was follow standard ideas - ideas Karjakin himself had employed in earlier games! - and he reached a superior position and won in crushing style.)

    In round 11 Caruana seemed on the verge of catching Carlsen, but instead finished the round a full point behind. Carlsen allowed Hou Yifan to play the Petroff, and to all appearances this was an error. She plays it often and knows it well, and she had no problems in the opening. She also had no problems in the middlegame, and the endgame went smoothly too. Eventually a pawn ending was reached, and had Hou played 45...a5 instead of 45...h5?? the draw she coveted would have been there for the taking. Meanwhile, Caruana enjoyed a clear advantage with the black pieces coming out of the opening against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Mamedyarov defended patiently and successfully, and in the second time control Caruana had to prove the draw, which he did. (For those of you who wonder why it's a draw, the answer is that Black will set up a fortress the moment White stops checking. He'll play ...Rd5, and that's the end, unless he wants to tidy everything up with ...h5 and ...Rf5, when there's nothing to attack the rest of the game.)

    Finally, in round 12 Carlsen again secured a comfortable draw with Black, this time against Wesley So, while Caruana collected a full point against Loek van Wely in a sharp Najdorf line that was popular around the turn of the century. Caruana played brilliantly at first, possibly refuting the variation, but shaky play later on gave van Wely some chances to survive. Those chances vaporized after 29...Rc4?, allowing the aesthetically pleasing 30.f6+!, after which Caruana finished in style.

    Meanwhile, a third protagonist has entered the picture: Ding Liren. He won with black against Evgeny Tomashevsky in round 11 and as white against Pavel Eljanov in round 12, pulling within a point of Carlsen and half a point of Caruana. Better still, he'll face Carlsen in the final round, albeit with the black pieces, so three players have a chance for first place. (Note: There are no playoffs or tiebreakers used, so if there are two or three players tied for first they are the co-winners of the event.) Here are the final round pairings:

    • Mamedyarov (6) - Karjakin (5.5)
    • van Wely (4.5) - Wei Yi (6)
    • Tomashevsky (4.5) - Caruana (8)
    • Eljanov (6) - Navara (5.5)
    • Carlsen (8.5) - Ding Liren (7.5)
    • Adams (4.5) - So (6.5)
    • Giri (6.5) - Hou Yifan (4.5)

    Tuesday
    Jan262016

    Wijk aan Zee, Round 9: Carlsen Extends His Lead

    As I've already said once or twice, the entire field (and their fans) can blame what is happening in Wijk aan Zee on Loek van Wely for losing a winning position against Magnus Carlsen in round 5. Carlsen won his fourth game in the last five rounds (only giving up a short draw with black in round 8 to Sergey Karjakin), defeating Michael Adams to increase his lead over the field. Early tournament leader Fabiano Caruana is a point behind, and four other players (Wesley So, Ding Liren, Wei Yi, and Anish Giri) are another half a point back.

    For most of the game it looked like another trademark Carlsen victory was in process. First, a low-theory Giuoco Piano to get the ball rolling, then slow but steady progress leading to a winning endgame. Adams did drum up some kingside counterplay, but it was clearly too slow. Moreover, this counterplay hit its apogee early in the second time control, so Carlsen had all the time in the world to work it out.

    But somehow, Carlsen faltered. His 49.b4 committed him to a sacrifice of a rook for Adams' kingside passers, played in the belief that his pawns would still win the game. His hope was fulfilled, but it seems that this was more due to Adams' errors rather than to a correct assessment of 49.b4.

    As for Caruana, he had some chances with White against Karjakin around the first time control, but he allowed Karjakin to save the game with a very concrete approach starting with 45...bxc5. Black forces the play through the end of the game, and holds by a hair.

    All the other games were drawn, with one exception. Wei Yi won an exceptional attacking game against David Navara, featuring a promising-looking line against the Berlin. Interestingly, Caruana and Wei Yi played the same line - including the same novelty - through move 10, when the games diverged. Perhaps Karjakin's reply to Caruana is the cure; that may or may not be. What is clear is that Navara's treatment is a dead end, and the result was a spectacular victory for the young Chinese superstar.

    With Carlsen ahead by a point with four rounds to play, the field is going to have to hurry up to catch him. Here are the pairings for round 10, and Carlsen's pairing may offer his foes their best reason for optimism, as Carlsen has never defeated Anish Giri in a classical game:

    • Karjakin (4.5) - Adams (2.5)
    • Giri (5) - Carlsen (6.5)
    • Hou Yifan (4) - Eljanov (4.5)
    • So (5) - Tomashevsky (3.5)
    • Ding Liren (5) - van Wely (3.5)
    • Navara (4) - Mamedyarov (4.5)
    • Caruana (5.5) - Wei Yi (5)

    In the Challengers' tournament Baskaran Adhiban finally lost a game (to Jorden Van Foreest, with white), so he has fallen into a tie with Eltaj Safarli, who drew with Erwin l'Ami. They both have 6.5/9, half a point of Alexey Dreev, who also drew (with Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu).

    Friday
    Jan222016

    Wijk aan Zee: Caruana, Ding, and Carlsen Lead After 6 Rounds

    The first super-tournament of the year is approaching the halfway point, and after six of 13 rounds three players share the lead in the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee: Fabiano Caruana (the early leader, who has been caught), Ding Liren, and Magnus Carlsen. All three players have +2 scores; let's see how they got there.

    Round 1 was a success story for the American entrants in the field. Wesley So won convincingly against Anish Giri, while Caruana won - less convincingly - again Pavel Eljanov. Caruana's compensation for a pawn sacrificed in the opening was sketchy at best, but the pressure of his sustained initiative led Eljanov to make some serious errors near the end of the first time control. The round's third victor was Ding Liren, who won a pawn and ground out a victory against Michael Adams in a rook and knight endgame with all the pawns on the kingside. Of the draws, Hou Yifan was much better and probably winning against Sergey Karjakin, and Loek van Wely had excellent chances against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

    In round 2 all seven games were drawn, including the marquee matchup between Carlsen and Caruana. Carlsen had an advantage early on, but it quickly dissipated. Perhaps the best chance anyone had for a win came in the Hou-So game: Hou had an extra pawn but no obvious way to take advantage of it.

    Round 3 saw two decisive games: Caruana-Adams and Mamedyarov-Eljanov. Caruana was a bit worse almost through the first time control, and even once it had been made he was only slightly better. Everything went wrong for Adams in the second time control, however, and Caruana became the sole leader with 2.5/3. As for the other game, Mamedyarov was much better throughout and well on his way to a deserved victory. In fact, Eljanov's position was nearly resignable when Mamedyarov hung his rook for absolutely nothing. In general, Mamedyarov is a player who is blessed with "good luck", but not this time.

    The round also produced the first game of what could turn into a historic rivalry between Wei Yi and Carlsen; this time there was no winner nor anyone who could bemoan any serious missed chances. David Navara, by contrast, should have beaten Giri, while the other three draws were relatively free of drama.

    Round 4 was the last one prior to the tournament's first rest day, and like the first round it produced three winners. Hou Yifan stopped coming close to winning and finally did win a game - handily - against Navara. Eljanov parlayed his good fortune in the previous round into a second straight win, this time over van Wely. Van Wely faltered in an equal but complicated position due to time pressure, and not for the last time in the tournament. Winner #3 was Sergey Karjakin, who rolled up Evgeny Tomashevsky in almost embarrassing fashion. When was the last time you saw a super-GM so dominated in a final position? As for the draws, Wei Yi and especially Caruana had very good winning chances against Adams and Giri, respectively, despite having the black pieces.

    In round 5 Carlsen finally "woke up", though it could have turned out disastrously. An interesting but reasonably calm game with van Wely blew up when Carlsen tried the extravagant 21...Ng4!? 22.Bxg7 Kxg8 23.f3 Qg5?!? Objectively the sac was dubious at best, and it was clear from the subsequent play that Carlsen hadn't worked everything out - not even close. With a 200-point rating advantage and a big lead on the clock, however, Carlsen decided to take a risk to get his tournament going. Van Wely played well at first, but very short on time missed a clear forced win (29.Qh4+ wins the exchange at the very least), then lost the thread and finally blundered in an already lost position.

    Mamedyarov finally won a game, taking advantage of tournament tailender Adams' terrible form. The other winner was Ding Liren, who moved into a tie for first by beating Karjakin. Karjakin had singlehandedly defeated the Chinese team in a Russia-China summit last year, but the story in early 2016 is being written differently.

    And now, at last, round 6 - today's round. The concept of the "hot hand" in sports has been widely rejected by statisticians (though there has been some recent pushback against that rejection), but it seems to me that there are chess players for whom confidence makes a colossal difference. Bobby Fischer was one of them, and Magnus Carlsen is another. There have been numerous tournaments in recent years where he has struggled and failed to win a game for several rounds, and then once he wins one game more wins follow in rapid succession. That happened at the end of the London Chess Classic, and it's starting to happen here. A lucky but deserved win* over van Wely was followed by a speedy victory over Tomashevsky. The sequence 16.f4 exf4 17.Rf1 was very attractive, but even so Tomashevsky was alright until he played 20...Ne4. Had he traded on d4 first he would have been okay; omitting the trade, he wound with a horrid structure that Carlsen had no trouble exploiting.

    (* Deserved because he took a reasonable, calculated risk that put van Wely under strong pressure to go along with his difficulties on the clock; lucky because van Wely did obtain a winning advantage, and was only one) good (and not particularly amazing) move from converting it into a sure victory.

    Giri finally won a game, defeating Mamedyarov, and the remaining games were drawn. Two were especially interesting: So-Caruana and Hou Yifan - Wei Yi. Both games featured opponents from the same country, and in both cases the player with the white pieces enjoyed serious winning chances in a long game, though it's not clear that either So or Hou missed a clear win at any point.

    Round 7 is tomorrow, and here are the pairings:

    • Navara (2.5) - Karjakin (3)
    • Caruana (4) - Ding Liren (4)
    • Wei Yi (3) - So (3.5)
    • Mamedyarov (2.5) - Hou Yifan (3.5)
    • van Wely (2) - Giri (3)
    • Tomashevsky (2) - Adams (1.5)
    • Eljanov (3.5) - Carlsen (4)

    A brief note about the Challengers' section: Alexey Dreev and Baskaran Adhiban share the lead with undefeated 5/6 scores, and Eltaj Safarli is just half a point behind. For those who are interested I found two games especially interesting from today's play: Admiraal-Sevian and Van Foreest-Abasov.

    Friday
    Jan012016

    Carlsen Wins the Qatar Masters

    Whatever doubts and controversy may have surrounded the tiebreaks and playoffs of the London Chess Classic and the Grand Chess Tour, there aren't any questions of that sort when it comes to Magnus Carlsen's victory in the 2015 Qatar Masters. After being held to a draw in the first round by an IM, Carlsen played great chess the rest of the way, finishing with 7/9. Remarkably, last year's winner, Yu Yangyi, managed to match that score after a gritty last round win over Wesley So, and they went to a blitz playoff. Carlsen was a convincing 2-0 winner, and while 2015 wasn't the best year of Carlsen's career it wasn't bad either. He won this, London, the Tour, the World Rapid championship and Shamkir.

    More on Qatar here, and more on Carlsen's (and others') 2015 achievements here.

    Saturday
    Dec192015

    Qatar Masters Open Starts Tomorrow (Sunday)

    The second edition of the Qatar Masters, the strongest open tournament of the year (and probably ever) starts tomorrow - Sunday - and features a fantastically strong lineup. There are 18 players rated over 2700, including Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Wesley So, Sergey Karjakin and, skipping down several spots, the Chinese super-prodigy Wei Yi. The action begins at 3 p.m. local time (=7 a.m. ET).

    Seeing as it's the holiday season, however, I'm going to take a little vacation from blogging until the new year, and will enjoy the tournament purely as a fan, just like the rest of you. It's not impossible that I'll jump on here between now and 2016 (as a heads-up for my next column, for instance), but that aside, this might be it until next year. So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and best wishes for a blessed 2016!

    Sunday
    Dec132015

    Grand Chess Tour Tiebreaks: A System Than Which None Lesser Can Be Conceived

    Having concluded my reporting on the proceedings, it's time to vent some spleen. Before doing so, it's important to note that nothing I will now say is intended to blame Magnus Carlsen or to deny that he was a deserving winner of the London Chess Classic. (I certainly don't think he's the deserving winner of the Tour, but again, that's not his fault.)

    I've already noted the unfairness of the playoff procedure which forced Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to engage each other for around three or four hours (including breaks between games) while Carlsen could rest, nap and/or prepare for his tired challenger. For that matter, I don't understand why it should have been a two-stage event. Using the Sonneborn-Berger tiebreak makes sense in a Swiss system event, where players face different opponents; in a round-robin it seems to me without value. Fine, player A beat player C while player B beat player D, where A and C finished in a tie while C outscored D by half a point. Why not criticize A for his relative incompetence in failing to beat D? And what if A beat C because C was fighting for first place and had to take undue risks? Also, maybe A had White against C while B had Black against both C and D. Why is A's performance more noteworthy? Still further: suppose A is higher-rated than B. Then B had a higher TPR than A; again, why isn't that the first criterion? It has the further benefit of not making A's and B's tiebreakers dependent on how C and D perform against players E through J.

    So those are two ways - one more particular, one more general - in which Carlsen was (greatly) benefited and Giri and Vachier-Lagrave were harmed by the tiebreak system in the London Chess Classic. Next, let's recap the way Giri and MVL were punished by the Grand Chess Tour's tiebreak system in the Sinquefield Cup while Carlsen was rewarded. That tournament was won by Levon Aronian, and after that there was a four-way tie for second between Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave and Giri (in tiebreak order). Rather than splitting the points for second through fifth places, the points were allocated as if each player had outscored those below him. As a result Carlsen obtained 10 Tour points, Nakamura 8, Vachier-Lagrave 7 and Giri only 6. As was widely noted at the time, the upshot was that Giri, who was undefeated and +3 in the first two Tour events (the first event was the Norway Chess tournament back in May), was behind Carlsen, whose cumulative score was -1. What a crock.

    Finally, Vachier-Lagrave got ripped off in his own special way by the Tour and its absurd policies. The London Chess Classic wasn't just important in its own right or even in its own right and for its implications for this year's Tour; it also had implications for next year's Tour invitees. So, you may ask, who gets to play in next year's Tour? The answer is that the top three finishers from this year's Tour, plus the next six players based on the average of their monthly ratings from February through December of this year, with their live post-tournament rating counting as another "month" to average. (As this year, so too next year will include a tenth wildcard spot for each tournament, decided by the organizers.) They are: 

    • Magnus Carlsen
    • Anish Giri
    • Levon Aronian
    • Vladimir Kramnik
    • Hikaru Nakamura
    • Fabiano Caruana
    • Viswanathan Anand
    • Veselin Topalov
    • Wesley So

    The first three were Tour qualifiers, the last six made it by rating. Carlsen finished with 26 Tour points, Giri with 23, and Aronian with 22. Vachier-Lagrave finished with 21 points, and before you say "hard luck, he just had to win rather than take second", here's some information for you: he took third. That's right: he beat Giri in the playoff and nevertheless took third in the tournament, behind him. (Incidentally, it wouldn't have mattered to Giri if their places were reversed, because Giri still would have qualified by rating, bumping Wesley So off the list.) So Vachier-Lagrave finished tied or better with Carlsen in all three tournaments (not counting the playoff), but somehow finished fourth and off of the 2016 Tour.

    There's enough steer manure here to fertilize a small country. FIDE has been guilty of incompetent and unfair practices over the years, but I don't think they've ever managed to pack so many brain-dead and unjust policies within such a small space in their entire history, and that's really saying something. Well done, Grand Chess Tour. Well done.

    Sunday
    Dec132015

    London Chess Classic, Playoff Final: Carlsen Defeats Vachier-Lagrave to Win London and the Grand Chess Tour

    And then there were two. The champion's title at the London Chess Classic would be decided in a two-game rapid match (with an Armaggedon blitz game to follow, if necessary) between Magnus Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. This final match would also decide overall victory in the Grand Chess Tour - but only if Carlsen won. If Vachier-Lagrave were to win, then they would finish the Tour in a tie and would (incredibly) have to play another rapid match on Monday to decide that title.

    Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of drama in the match, but there was one critical moment. Carlsen easily outplayed Vachier-Lagrave in game one, but only up to a point. Carlsen squandered a huge advantage, and Vachier-Lagrave was on the verge of saving the game. Carlsen did a nice job of posing a few last problems for his opponent, and MVL finally stumbled on the last hurdle. The sequence 51...h2! 52.Re2 Ra1! 53.Rxh2 Ra8! 54.Re2 Rh8+ saves the game with a nice series of rook moves (alas, the next move isn't ...Rh1). Black's rook has sufficient distance and White's pawn hasn't crossed the Rubicon, and the try 55.Kg5 Rg8+ 56.Kf4 Rf8+ 57.Kg3 Rg8 58.Re4 it's crucial that Black has 58...Ke5!, not allowing White's king to march back up the board with the g-pawn safely protected. Vachier-Lagrave missed this, and Carlsen went on to win a few moves later.

    The second game was an anti-climax. Vachier-Lagrave got nothing from the opening and was clearly worse early in the middlegame. The only question was whether Carlsen would win, and the answer was a kind of yes-and-no: he built his advantage into a decisive one, but allowed his opponent to save some face with a charity repetition at the end. (The games, with my notes, are here.)

    As mentioned above, victory in the tournament also gave Carlsen victory in the first edition of the Grand Chess Tour and a cool $75,000 bonus. Deservedly so? Stay tuned for another post, which will address the Tour's absurd tiebreak system.

    Sunday
    Dec132015

    London Chess Classic, Round 9: Carlsen Beats Grischuk To Tie For First

    The London Chess Classic has just finished, but rather than post about the tiebreaks too I'll divide the material into two (or maybe three) posts. Let's start with the final round, which saw Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave enter tied for first, with Magnus Carlsen, Alexander Grischuk and Levon Aronian half a point behind. The last round pairings were just about ideal, with Aronian paired with Vachier-Lagrave and Carlsen paired with Grischuk; only Giri (with Black against Anand) wasn't facing someone with a direct stake in the race for first.

    Giri equalized with ease against Anand in a well-worn line of the Berlin. Anand only innovated on move 27, and the players started to repeat moves several moves later. Aronian played with more motivation against MVL, but the result was the same: a comfortable draw for Black, which like Giri-Anand finished after 33 moves.

    Carlsen-Grischuk was much more interesting. The players revisited a sharp line of the Moscow Variation of the Sicilian, with Grischuk repeating 7...g5, used successfully by Topalov against Carlsen in round 1 of the Sinquefield Cup. Carlsen improved and obtained an advantage, and things were proceeding smoothly for him until around move 27. Errors on moves 27, 28 and especially move 30 gave Grischuk not only sufficient counterplay for a draw, but even a chance to win the game outright and reach the playoff. To win (or at least to obtain a decisive advantage; there was still some work that needed to be done to collect the full point) he needed to spot 30...Rxg4. With more time on the clock there's little doubt that he would have played this; instead 30...fxe6 allowed Carlsen to retain equal chances. Unfortunately for Grischuk, but fortunately for Carlsen (who seems to have an almost infinite supply of good luck), Black missed (or rejected) an easy draw on move 31, and then erred on moves 32 and 34 to lose the game before the time control. Carlsen thus tied for first, and qualified for a playoff involving Giri and MVL - more on that in a later post.

    Wrapping things up with the other players, Michael Adams and Fabiano Caruana drew in a Ruy (not a Berlin) that was very well played by both sides, and that meant that they both finished with nine draws in nine games. Finally, Hikaru Nakamura and Veselin Topalov drew in a Berlin, putting an end to what was a disappointing tournament for both players, as they came into the London Chess Classic second and first in the overall Tour standings.

    We'll get to the events of the tiebreakers next; but here were the (unfinished) standings after round 9:

     

    • 1-3. Carlsen, Giri, Vachier-Lagrave 5.5
    • 4. Aronian 5
    • 5-7. Grischuk, Caruana, Adams 4.5
    • 8. Nakamura 4
    • 9. Anand 3.5
    • 10. Topalov 2.5

     

    The games, with my comments, are here.

    Saturday
    Dec122015

    London Chess Classic, Round 7: Three Wins and No Berlins

    It took a while, but in round 7 of the London Chess Classic the drawing glut finally abated, and three games finished with a winner. Up to this point in the tournament only five games had been decisive, with Veselin Topalov losing three and Viswanathan Anand losing two. The bad news for their fans is that they constituted two of the day's three victims, losing to Levon Aronian (very badly) and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (thanks mainly to a one-move blunder). The third victim was Hikaru Nakamura, who lost to Magnus Carlsen for the 12th(!) time in classical chess without a single win to his credit. (He has of course drawn plenty of games with Carlsen, and beaten him at faster time controls.)

    The day's other games saw well-played draws between Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri and between Michael Adams and Alexander Grischuk. All of the games, with my annotations, can be replayed here.

    Vachier-Lagrave is the sole leader with two rounds to go, while Grischuk, Aronian, Carlsen and Giri are just half a point behind and Caruana, Adams and Nakamura are just another half a point back. 80% of the field is still in the running for first place! Here are the pairings for round 8:

     

    • Giri (4) - Nakamura (3.5)
    • Topalov (1.5) - Carlsen (4)
    • Grischuk (4) - Aronian (4)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (4.5) - Adams (3.5)
    • Caruana (3.5) - Anand (2.5)

     

    An aside: on the Live Rating list it's a bit like old times: Carlsen is in first (of course), but Kramnik is in second and Aronian has fought all the way back to third, and is one win from taking over the #2 spot. Aronian's selection as the wildcard for next year's Candidates' is a great choice, but it's a pity Kramnik won't be participating as well.