Candidates Final: Karjakin triumphs in thrilling finale

With a final round victory over Fabiano Caruana, Sergey Karjakin won the Candidates Tournament 2016, thus securing the right to play the current World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a World Championship match later this year.

Going into the fourteenth and final round, Karjakin and Caruana were tied at the top of the table with 7.5 points each. Add to it the fact that the duo were to clash against each other in the final round, the tournament was all set for an exciting finish. The game, as it turned out, lived up to the hype.

The Karjakin-Caruana clash took off with the Rauzer Sicilian. A complex battle ensued, whereby both the players tried to generate as much activity as possible. However, Caruana’s inaccurate 36th move allowed Karjakin to wheel out a beautiful Rook sacrifice. From that point on, matters quickly fell apart for Caruana, with the American Grandmaster resigning on move 42.

All the other games viz. Svidler-Anand, Giri-Topalov and Nakamura-Aronian resulted in draws.

The Carlsen-Karjakin World Championship match will be held in New York City this November. As it turns out, this match will be the ‘youngest’ ever undisputed World Championship match in the history of chess.

Final Standings

1 Sergey Karjakin 8.5
2 Fabiano Caruana 7.5
3 Viswanathan Anand 7.5
4 Anish Giri 7
5 Peter Svidler 7
6 Levon Aronian 7
7 Hikaru Nakamura 7
8 Veselin Topalov 4.5

Candidates 09: Anand beats Aronian, joins Karjakin in lead

Continuing his good run of form at the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2016, Viswanathan Anand registered his 3rd victory of the event by overcoming Levon Aronian with the White pieces. Courtesy of this important victory, Anand has moved on to 5.5/9, joining Sergey Karjakin at the top of the table.

Anand’s victory was a fine example of virtuoso strategic play coupled with excellent practical decisions. To begin with, Anand surprised one and all when he opted for the Closed Guico Piano instead of his favourite Ruy Lopez. Indeed, he emerged with the more pleasant position out of the opening. In the middlegame, Anand kept improving his pieces, soon reaching a better endgame.

It was on the 38th move, during Aronian’s acute time-trouble, that Anand opted for an interesting practical decision in the form of 38.Kg4. In reply, Aronian was unable to find the best continuation, allowing Anand to obtain serious winning chances. Finally, the Armenian GM made a huge blunder on move 57 which helped Anand wrap up the matters rather quickly.

Meanwhile, Anish Giri failed to capitalize on a significantly better position against Fabiano Caruana. The Giri-Caruana battle finally ended in a 96-move draw. The remaining games, viz. Topalov-Svidler and Nakamura-Karjakin, were also drawn.

Candidates 06: A dramatic round!

The 6th round of the Candidates Tournament 2016 proved to be the most enthralling one so far with all the four games producing a whole lot of excitement. While two games ended decisively, the remaining two turned out to be extremely interesting draws. However, what ‘stood out’ was a touch-move incident in the Aronian-Nakamura game. Game by game report follows:


Out of a normal-looking Ruy Lopez, Anand launched a powerful attack on Svidler’s king starting with 18.Rxe4. In reply, Svidler was unable to find the exact defensive resources, thus helping Anand win a 24-move miniature.


In a topical variation of the Queen’s Indian Defence, Karjakin had achieved a satisfactory position out of the opening. Interestingly, he decided to go for a double-edged Queen sacrifice on move 18, which resulted in Caruana possessing the better chances. Despite Caruana’s advantage, Karjakin defended brilliantly and escaped with a crucial draw on move 36.


Against the Grunfeld Defence, Topalov wheeled out the ultra-aggressive sideline with 3.h4. In reply, Giri opted for a Benko setup, emerging with the slightly better chances out of the opening. Indeed, the Dutch GM kept his initiative going all the way, which helped him emerge with an extra pawn in the endgame. However, he was unable to convert his material advantage and the game petered out to a draw.


Just like the other games of round 6, the clash between Aronian and Nakamura generated a lot of interest. While Aronian had the pressure for the major part of the game, he missed a winning opportunity on move 53. After this missed opportunity, the game seemed to be coasting away to a draw despite Aronian possessing an extra pawn. However, something unexpected happened – on move 74, Nakamura touched his king with the intention of moving it. On realizing that any king move in the position would simply lose, he claimed he was adjusting the king. Aronian objected to this, upon which Nakamura was forced to move his king under the ‘touch-move’ rule. Aronian won shortly after this scandalous incident.

After a thrilling sixth round, Karjakin and Aronian are in joint lead with 4/6. Anand is placed sole third with 3.5/6.

Candidates 04: Karjakin shoots into sole lead

A victory over Viswanathan Anand in the 4th round of the Candidates Tournament 2016 helped Sergey Karjakin move into sole lead after Round 4. At the moment, Karjakin is on 3/4, half a point ahead of second-placed Aronian.

Karjakin’s victory over Anand was a strategic one. The position after the opening, although equal, held dangers for Anand as he was behind the ‘hanging pawns’ structure. On move 19, Anand offered a dubious exchange of bishops, followed by a bold pawn push on move 23. However, the pawn move backfired for Anand, allowing Karjakin to simplify into an advantageous Rook and Knight endgame. Karjakin was spot on with his technique and went on to win the game without any fuss. This turned out to be Karjakin’s first ever victory over Anand in the classical format.

With this defeat, Anand has been pushed down to the No.2 spot in India after 30 long years. Pentala Harikrishna, with a live rating of 2763.3, is a mere 0.3 points ahead of Anand in the live rankings.

All the rest of the games were drawn. While Nakamura and Giri played out an exciting but home-cooked draw, Caruana failed to win an overwhelming position against Topalov. The Svidler-Aronian draw, however, was a relatively subdued one.

Candidates 03: Aronian gets off the mark

The 3rd round of the Candidates Tournament 2016 followed the trend set by the previous rounds – three games resulted in draws while one game ended decisively. This time, it was Aronian who got off the mark as he accounted for Bulgarian Veselin Topalov. The latter has had a disappointing start to the event with two losses in the three rounds played so far.

The Topalov-Aronian battle took off with the English opening. On move 12, Topalov offered an interesting pawn sacrifice, which was accepted by his Armenian opponent. However, Topalov’s obvious-looking 17th move turned out to be a big mistake, helping Aronian grab another pawn. This left Topalov two pawns down with nothing to show for it. Indeed, Aronian had no troubles converting his material advantage into a full point.

Meanwhile, Viswanathan Anand was unable to make the most out of a promising position against Fabiano Caruana. The game was agreed drawn on move 40.

Round 3 Results:

Nakamura ½-½ Svidler
Giri ½-½ Karjakin
Topalov 0-1 Aronian
Anand ½-½ Caruana


Candidates 02: Karjakin joins Anand in lead

With a victory over Hikaru Nakamura in the second round of the Candidates Tournament 2016, Sergey Karjakin moved on to 1.5/2, joining Viswanathan Anand on the top of the table. Karjakin’s victory over Nakamura was the only decisive result of the day as the rest of the games finished peacefully.

The Karjakin-Nakamura clash began in a sedate manner with Nakamura opting for the Queen’s Indian Defence in reply to Karjakin’s Queen’s Pawn opening. A manoeuvring phase ensued, wherein Karjakin’s position seemed slightly better than Nakamura’s. However, it was Nakamura’s faulty tactical sequence starting with 29…Nxg3?? that allowed Karjakin to gain a decisive advantage in the form of an extra Bishop. Nakamura resigned shortly on move 38.

Meanwhile, the Aronian-Anand encounter turned out to be a theoretical battle. Soon, an equal middlegame arose. In the latter part of the middlegame, Aronian sacrificed a pawn with the intention of simplifying into a Bishop endgame where the extra pawn didn’t account for much. With a lifeless endgame on the cards, the players agreed to a draw on move 31.

Round 2 Results:

Karjakin 1-0 Nakamura
Aronian ½-½ Anand
Svidler ½-½ Topalov
Caruana ½-½ Giri


Candidates 01: Anand takes early lead

In a repeat of Candidates 2014, Vishy Anand won his first round game to take an early lead in the tournament. While Aronian was his victim in the 2014 event, he overcame Topalov in a roller-coaster 49-move game this time round.

Just as in the first round of the Candidates 2014, Anand was White and wheeled out the Ruy Lopez on the board. The game took an interesting turn when Anand went pawn grabbing on the 18th move. The Madras Tiger, as he is often called, was unable to follow-up his 18th move in the best possible manner, thus giving Topalov a deadly chance on his 20th move. Inexplicably, Topalov chose a simplifying move instead of the brilliant resource that would have promised him an advantage. This left Anand with a wonderful position and he seemed to be running away with the game.

However, the game had another twist. From moves 35-40, Anand was unable to find the best moves and he lost a major chunk of his advantage. A serious mistake by Topalov on the 40th move helped Anand weave a deadly net around the Black king. After that, Anand gave no further chances to his opponent and went on to register a crucial victory.

All the rest of the games viz. Karjakin-Svidler, Nakamura-Caruana and Giri-Aronian resulted in draws. While the Russian derby between Karjakin and Svidler turned out to be a pretty dull affair, the other two draws were fairly interesting.