The three rounds that were played at the Candidates’ Competition for the Chess Crown Match in Madrid significantly changed the standings and brightly marked the two main favorites of the competition.
In the fourth round, Ian Nepomniachtchi (playing under the FIDE flag) played with white against Alireza Firouzja representing France. The Frenchman chose the Sicilian Defence, but apparently he didn’t take into account the fact that Jan had previously played a match for the crown. Therefore, in many variants, he retained certain homemade preparations. And although the Najdorf variation in the match between Nepomniachtchi and Magnus Carlsen never came up, of course, the challenger was well prepared for it.
And it ricocheted to Firuja. Jan played not only very fast, but also quite strong. It was evident that he liked the position, and he felt it with his fingertips. His opponent felt insecure, began to make one mistake after another and eventually came under a devastating attack and stopped the clock.
The American Fabiano Caruana, unlike his rival for the lead with black, fought to save half a point against the Chinese Ding Liren. Not to say that such a fight was too difficult for the American, but he had to show a certain accuracy. Fabiano played skillfully, and the rivals signed a peace agreement.
The games of Pole Jan-Krzysztof Duda (White) against Timur Radjabov (Azerbaijan) and Richard Rapport (Hungary) against American Hikaru Nakamura ended without much adventure in a draw.
All four games of the fifth round ended in a draw. Of course, the fight between Nakamura and Nepomniachtchi was central. In the Russian game, the American was able to seize the initiative with White. And Jan’s few mistakes brought his party to the brink of defeat. However, the American came to his aid and allowed a stubborn opponent to avoid a fiasco. A draw is clear evidence of luck for a man without a national flag.
Among other games, only Ding had real chances to beat Radjabov with Black, but did not take advantage of them. Firja with Duda and Caruana with Rapport also played bloodlessly.
The sixth round significantly strengthened the positions of the leaders. Nepomniachtchi played White against Duda. Moreover, he began the game modestly – with the move of the king’s horse. But again, thorough preparation for the championship match played a role. And even in a calm position, Jan’s set of ideas was diverse.
At the very least, the position, which seemed absolutely equal and rather simple, turned out to be problematic for the Polish grandmaster. He did not show his inherent resourcefulness in defense this time. And Black’s mistake on the 20th move, when he inadvertently opened the line for White to attack, led Duda to a difficult position. Black’s last attempts to take away all the pawns from White did not lead to anything. The mating attack on Black’s king turned out to be decisive.
However, Caruana also played successfully, although at first he held the defense against Firouja. The young chess player strove to win at all costs, which would allow him to catch up with his opponent. Such a desire to win at any cost played a cruel joke on Alireza. He missed the opportunity to “curl” the game and make a draw. Black’s witty tactical blow allowed him to maintain his material superiority. Well, in the implementation of Fabiano was, as usual, accurate.
The other two parties (Radjabov – Rapport and Nakamura – Ding Liren) ended in peace.
After the sixth round, the position of the participants is as follows: Nepomniachtchi – 4.5 points, Caruana – 4, Nakamura and Rapport – 3 each, Ding Lizhen, Duda and Radjabov – 2.5 points each Firoudja – 2.
Today is the second day of the tournament.
Peter Marusenkointernational master.