Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, Vishy Anand and Hikaru Nakamura all picked up wins as the rating favourites were in good form before the rest day of the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss on the Isle of Man. The co-leaders are now Caruana, who comfortably beat Vladimir Fedoseev, and Wang Hao, who perhaps faced a Luke McShane still groggy after his missed win against Fabi the day before. David Anton and Parham Maghsoodloo are the only sub-2700 players in the 7-player group half a point behind after Kirill Alekseenko prepared for Carlsen in Round 7 by entering the 2700 club!
You can replay all the games from the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss using the selector below – click on a game to open it with computer analysis or hover over a player’s name to see all his or her games:
There was a curiosity with the pairings for Round 6, which turned almost sinister when it turned out that the rating 2664 is 666 multiplied by 4!
It wasn’t a day for the underdogs, however, as two of those players lost, the favourites won in 7 of the ten games and you had to go down to board 14 to find an upset – Vladislav Kovalev outplayed Harikrishna in a classical Ruy Lopez, though whether you can call that an upset after Kovalev already drew with Yu Yangyi and should have beaten Magnus Carlsen in previous rounds is another question.
At the top Fabiano Caruana scored an utterly convincing win over Vladimir Fedoseev, who played the Rossolimo Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6) but already seemed to be surprised on move 5 when Fabi went for 5.c3 instead of the 5.Re1 he played against Magnus Carlsen during the London World Championship match. Fabi commented of the position after 9.Bd6:
He just wasn’t very well prepared for this line, which is very dangerous for Black - after Bd6 it’s clear that White has a very strong positional bind and Black’s king is unsafe.
Caruana thought 9…0-0 was “already not very accurate”, though it’s at least curious that it’s by far the most popular move in the position, as was his reply 10.Nbd2 (played 119 times), which took him 21 minutes. White’s advantage grew smoothly after that, though as the world no. 2 pointed out later 22…Nb6! instead of 22…d5? might still have made the game a contest. It later became a question of why Fedoseev was playing on a whole rook down, but Caruana showed that a plausible move like 37.Ng5? would only have drawn after 37…Ne3!
Some risky-looking but seemingly excellent preparation from Parham Maghsoodloo enabled him to draw his game against Alexander Grischuk in just 24 moves, but Wang Hao made sure there wouldn’t yet be a sole leader of the Grand Swiss by beating Luke McShane on board 3. It was a game in which Luke often seemed tantalisingly close to equalising with the black pieces, but he ended up a pawn down for no compensation and was ground down in 63 moves. Wang Hao is closing in on the world top 20.
The other leader at the start of the day, Alexei Shirov, had been given the unenviable task of playing the black pieces against Magnus Carlsen, and the task got no easier when Magnus was able to repeat the Petroff line Nikita Vitiugov had used to knock Wesley So out of the recent World Cup:
Only Shirov’s 11…c5 was a new move (Wesley had played 11…Be6), and Magnus was well aware of the precedent:
There’s really nothing very new. It was played in the World Cup between Vitiugov and So and So was also suffering immensely and eventually lost.
It was the same story for Shirov, who eventually lashed out with 17…g5!?
Anish Giri had joked on Instagram that this was a case of, “when you play the Petroff but then remember you’re Alexei Shirov,” while Magnus felt it was, “born out of some sort of desperation”. The game swung decisively in the World Champion’s favour after 24…Rg8?! allowed mass exchanges on d4. At first glance 27…Bc5 looks good for Black, but Magnus had a brilliant reply ready:
28.c3! was his choice, and after 28…Bxd4 29.cxd4 Qd7 30.Qd2 it turns out there’s nothing to stop the plan of d5, e6 and Be5, forcing Black to block with his rook on g7.
Some of the brilliancy was accidental, since Magnus confessed after the game that he’d overlooked that his original plan of 30.Qh4 there didn’t win immediately due to 30…Qd8, which he'd missed. In any case, when the dust settled Magnus was a pawn up in a queen ending with a centralised queen, and it wasn’t long before Alexei resigned. You couldn’t blame him, since even if you couldn’t calculate the mate-in-21 claimed by computers it was clear there would be no happy ending against Magnus.
It was a day of favourites not only winning, but doing it in spectacular style. 50-year-old Alexey Dreev went for an extremely resourceful piece sacrifice against Levon Aronian that was at least close to sound, but in the end he fell to a nice finish:
Black would be winning here if Levon didn’t have 23.Be3!, when after 23…Qxe3 24.Qxd3! White stops the threats and remains a piece up. Alexey went for 23…Qxb2, but after 24.Nxd3! White had everything under control.
Nikita Vitiugov felt in his game against Matthias Bluebaum that 15…Qa6?! was a move that deserved to be punished, and he was right, but objectively speaking 16.Bd5!? c6 17.Bxf7+!? Kxf7 18.Qh5+ Kg8 19.Re8 wasn’t the way to go about it:
When Fiona Steil-Antoni later asked Vitiugov what was going through his head when he sacrificed on f7 he replied, “That I was winning,” but it turns out here 19…Qa3! is good for Black, even if it looks as though Nikita is right that after 20.c5! Qxc3 21.Rae1! White has very decent compensation. “Sometimes it’s better to be optimistic!” noted Vitiugov, and there’s no doubt that from a practical point of view the sacrifice was an idea worth trying even if you knew the refutation. Matthias still had to find it, and when he played 19…Qxc4 instead Black was indeed lost – play continued 20.Rxf8+ Kxf8 21.Re1 Bd7 22.Qg5! and it was too late for Black to get his queenside pieces into play.
“Once you make a mistake like that you just play game to game”, said Vishy Anand about his Round 1 loss to Evgeniy Najer, but now he’s back up to +2 after strategically outplaying 15-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov in Round 6. Hikaru Nakamura is on the same score after making short work of Alexander Riazantsev’s Caro-Kann, but the prettiest finish of the day came for 24-year-old Spanish Grandmaster David Anton against Aleksandr Lenderman:
That was similar to a beautiful mate Jules Moussard found against Karen Grigoryan in a bullet game towards the end of their epic Banter Blitz Cup match but it’s not something you often get to do in a classical game!
Anton will have White against Nikita Vitiugov in Round 7, while 22-year-old Kirill Alekseenko is the latest player to get a shot at Magnus Carlsen. The young Russian has continued his fine form from the World Cup and after beating Vladimir Akopian in Round 6 has gained 28.7 points to enter the 2700 club:
Meanwhile we can’t end a round report without one more great escape by a top player. This time it was Peter Svidler, who Alekseenko has seconded, who followed Magnus and Fabiano by getting into an objectively lost position:
This one was anything but easy, especially down to under 5 minutes for both players, but 37…Qc7!, removing any escape route for the white king, should have led to a fast win for Contantin Lupulescu. You could hardly blame him, however, for “merely” winning a piece with 37…Rh1+ 38.Kc2 Rxa1 39.Bxa1 Qc1+ 40.Kb3 Qxa1. Nevertheless, after many more adventures, that extra piece didn’t prove to be enough and a draw followed in 71 moves!
Peter remains one of 42 players, including Wesley So, on +1 and in need of some wins to challenge for a Candidates place, while the players above them look as follows after we’ve crossed the halfway point of the event:
After Wednesday’s rest day the remaining five more rounds are likely to get tenser by the day. Tune into all the live action here on chess24 from 16:00 CEST!
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