Candidates 2020-21 Round 10: Why did Alexander Grischuk think for 72 minutes for a move?
From a competitive perspective things are heating up at the Candidates 2020-21. Ian Nepomniachtchi has a full point lead over the field. With his win against Alekseenko, the Russian top GM has moved to 6.5/10. He is being followed by Anish Giri, Fabiano Caruana and MVL on 5.5/10. One of the highlights of the round was Alexander Grischuk's game against Wang Hao. The Chinese GM sacrificed a queen, but what was even more interesting is the fact that Grischuk thought for 72 minutes in one position. What was he thinking and what was his analysis? We bring you all of that in this report, along with all the news that took place in the 10th round.
What was the longest think you have had in a game? 20 minutes? 30? ok 40 should be the max, right? Welcome to planet Grischuk! He thought for a massive 71 minutes in his 10th round game at the Candidates 2020-21 against Wang Hao. And guess what? It was only the 11th move of the game! Grischuk is known for his long thinks, but this one surpassed everything else! A player of his class wouldn't just take 71 minutes for a move if there wasn't a good reason. So let's try to understand what was going on:
Wang Hao vs Alexander Grischuk, Candidates Round 10
Grischuk, who is black in the above position, clearly understood that White has the trumps going for him. White has the space and all his pieces have nice squares. What Black has going for him is that his king is castled and he has a slight lead in development. Also when a side has a lot of space, it is natural that there are weaknesses which is left behind. So Grischuk wanted to make things work out for himself. "I know 11.Qb3 is the main move. I was only considering 12.Nexd4.11...cxd4 – I also knew this move but I could not remember how to continue. White’s setup is very ambitious, if he manages to finish his development, he will be clearly better. Because he has a huge center. So black needs to play very energetically."
He first began with the most natural move cxd4. Now here taking with Nexd4 is the most natural response. The e6 pawn is attacked and there could be a discovered attack from the knight. However, in the spirit of playing with energy Black continues with...
Option A - take the rook
What should White do here?
White plays the move Qd5! The idea is simple - you want to checkmate your opponent's king on f7 or g8. While in post-game analysis one can see the engine showing you an advantage of +- 1.5 and stop here, for Grischuk over the board it was not so clear that White is winning. Also because materially black is doing quite fine and he also has the move Ke8 to try and escape. However, when he delved deeper here, he realized that the king is not running away anywhere and that White has a permanent attack. He gave up this idea.
Option B - save the bishop
While calculating all of these complicated lines Grischuk went back to cxd4 Nexd4 and figured that fxe5 Nxe6 d4 Nxf8 dxe3 Bc4+ can be met with...
After all of thi calculations when Grischuk spent 72 minutes and made his move cxd4, Wang Hao responded with...
But this was not all of the action in the game. Wang Hao later sacrificed his queen and got a deadly attack against Grischuk's king. Black had to give back material in order to salvage the half point.
After the game Grischuk said, "I think yesterday I was watching some stream with Kramnik and Bareev commentating. Speaking about today’s round, they said that, Wang Hao-Grischuk is the least interesting game of the day. So I wonder if they still think the same." When Karlovich asked Grischuk if 72 minutes is his personal record for the longest think, the Russian GM responded, "It’s not such type of record you should be proud of."
Nepo vs Alekseenko
Nepomniachtchi talking about the game said, "First of all. It was like optically very easy but in fact I think it was not. I was lucky that in the opening Kirill quickly got into some position, he is not familiar with."
Nepo: "I guess here (after 8.Nc3) the important plan is Qc7, b6, Bb7. The idea is to develop the c8-bishop as fast as possible. Because if black fails to do this, they somehow fall into some edition of Catalan." In the game Kirill went Be7 and he was worse right out the opening.
Nepo: "After 14...e5, I mean the problem that it’s probably lost tactically. Even besides, white has got everything he could just dream about… If this is not a big advantage then I don’t know what is."
Nepo: "You know what is even worse for black (after 17.Bg5) that every time I had this tactical idea Bxf6 and then Be4, actually not going for c4-knight, just going for mate. Everything comes together, Nd5, Qh7-h8. So this is not really a position I would love to play as black you know"
What are Nepo's thoughts on being a sole leader? "Well I guess the point is that everyone has like seven finals here. So seven finals in a row, that’s my take on this. You know it’s better to have +3 than +1." He did add though that, "It’s too early to make any conclusions." When asked about his mood, Nepo said, "Of course I am stressed because you know I got used to playing from home. You know having some daily routine is little bit important. I think everyone is tired but that’s how it goes normally if you invest a lot of energy, a lot of time, of course you are getting tired. I hope (laughs) I have enough energy to go on."
Alekseenko had the toughest round of the event Speaking about his opening mistake, he mentioned, "Well, it was an awful game and I didn’t remember the opening, probably I didn’t have to play 8...Be7. Then I also started to play bad moves. My position became worse and worse. I think at some point it was just losing already."
MVL vs Anish Giri
This was an important game of the tournament as both players are fightig for the top spot with 5.0/9 score. MVL opened the game with 1.e4 and Anish responded with his main weapon for the event - the Sveshnikov.
Anish mentioned: "I don’t think it’s (c5) been played in the human high level games much before. So I don’t think it’s known to be equal but we can assume it’s fine for black. On paper it is like a new idea that I assume that most players are aware of this before and I also was but of course as you can see from the game I was not getting it very clear in my head.
When Anish got in the move ...e4 it was clear that he had enough activity to hold the balance. The game ended in a draw.
Karlovich: Now that Ian has one point lead, what are you going to do about it?
Giri: Yeah actually many Candidates, there’s a lot of pressure at some point. So a lot is up to Ian for example because it is basically he is sort of somewhat in control but it is his to spoil.
Karlovich: He will play against himself as well.
Giri: Yeah that is exactly what I mean, he has to play against himself for the last couple of rounds. So it’s not going to be easy. I don’t recall a single Candidates that anyone won easily so we will see.
Karlovich: We can expect big fight in the end.
MVL: Well I mean clearly like all the players are going to be in a very savage mode. It’s been very savage the last few days but I think it’s getting more clutch.
Giri: Yeah because also at some point, people are in their last chance to still win that game so you know you will have two players playing each other who both have to win. That will lead to most likely very exciting games.
Fabiano Caruana vs Ding Liren
Karlovich: Fabiano, can you please also explain a bit the ideas in the opening say black can take the pawn on a5 and what white has for this pawn?
Caruana: I would explain it if I could but I don’t understand the line at all. I guess the main two moves are 17...Nb4 and Nxa5.
Ding: I played 16...Nb4 before so I guessed he must have something prepared in this line. So I didn’t want to repeat Nb4. Also 16...Nxa5 was another line but I didn’t know it. So I played 16...Qc8.
Caruana: I mean 16...Qc8 is slightly odd looking move but it’s probably okay for black.
Ding: Yeah I found this move over the board, I am very happy about it. If I play 16...Qd7 then you can develop 17.Nc4 d5 and then 18.exd5 exd5 and 19.Nce5. If I play 19...Nxe5 you will take with the pawn 20.dxe5…
Ding: I think I am slightly better here (after 22.Rxe4).
Karlovich: Did you feel the same Fabiano?
Caruana: Well I thought that Ding was playing for a win here because he can make a draw if he wants for example 22...Bxc5 I think was a draw instead of 22...Rd8. I think 22...Bxc5 is almost an immediate draw.
Ding: I played 27...h5 and I was very very happy when I saw the lines but unfortunately he had Qg6 after a few moves which I missed.
Karlovich: Now that Ian has a full point lead, what are you going to do in the next round?
Caruana: I don’t know. I mean it’s not amazing that he won but one point deficit isn’t insurmountable.
Karlovich: Ding, what is the plan for the next four games?
Ding: I think I have played well in these two games. I had some chances in both of those games. So I have to continue. I will play better in time-trouble.
Shahid Ahmed contribute to the article