Grand Swiss: McShane lets Caruana off the hook

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/15/2019 – Round five of the FIDE Grand Swiss was as exciting as could be, with the game on board one lasting almost seven hours and seeing world number two Fabiano Caruana miraculously saving a half point against Luke McShane. The point was also split in Wang Hao v Parham Maghsoodloo on board two, while Alexander Grischuk, Vladimir Fedoseev and Alexei Shirov won with White to join the leading pack. | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

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A Houdini-like escape

The FIDE Grand Swiss is an eleven-round event that serves as qualifier to the 2020 Candidates Tournament. It takes place from the 10th to the 21st of October, with a rest day on the 16th. You can find more info here. 

Having such an embarrassment of riches in terms of players' strength at a Swiss event makes it all but impossible to have a boring time as a spectator. Or at least that is how the first five days of the Grand Swiss have felt for the fans. Despite the fact that only five from the twenty top games ended decisively on Monday, there was no lack of drama in Douglas, as seven players now share the lead on 4 out of 5.

The four players that were atop the standings on 'plus three' faced each other on boards one and two. In both cases, the point was split, but not without a brawl. In fact, after the  fights we have seen so far, it is very likely that exhaustion will become a major factor already in Tuesday's sixth round, the last one before the rest day.

Ivan Cheparinov, Alexander Grischuk, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, Vladimir Fedoseev

Vladimir Fedoseev and Alexander Grischuk won on parallel boards in round five | Photo: Maria Emelianova / 

The top game of the day had Luke McShane playing White against Fabiano Caruana. The Englishman came from winning three in a row after signing a 121-draw against Mustafa Yilmaz in round one, when he kept trying to convert a rook and knight versus rook endgame. 

Known for his bravery while facing strong opponents (or anyone for that matter), McShane launched his g and h-pawns up the board out of a Ruy Lopez. Caruana's reaction was rather feeble and left him two pawns down by move 30. McShane was winning but in deep time trouble — while hurried by the clock, he almost gave away his advantage:


White's army certainly looks potent, but here it was time to breathe twice and play the quiet 39.h4. However, McShane had only seconds on the clock and followed his original plan of breaking through at once with 39.e6. Caruana was apparently caught in the moment and quickly responded 39...fxe6, instead of going for the equalizing 39...♛xg5 — not an easy find by any means, especially with those central pawns rolling down the board.

Fabiano Caruana, Luke McShane

Fabiano Caruana v Luke McShane | Photo: John Saunders

The time control was reached and the contenders received 50 minutes on their clocks. McShane knew he had a large edge and found some great manoeuvres to increase the pressure — 41.d6, 42.c7, 43.d7 — but he also failed to find an astounding shot that would have greatly eased his task:


The Englishman played the second suggestion of the engines, 44.f4, when 44.♘f6 was much more forcing — White can transfer the queen to h4 with decisive effect, as the only pawn that was shielding the black king is forced to leave its post. 

This miss has been included here mostly for how spectacular it looks, and by no means to devalue McShane's play. To the contrary, he handled his advantage with admirable proficiency. By move 56, the commentators thought the fight was coming to an end, as White was an exchange up and had a clear plan to continue:


The plan is simple: to pin the bishop. But which rook is better suited for the task? McShane chose the alternative that gave Caruana more chances to muddy the waters, as after 57.e1 e5 58.h2 d5 59.xd5 xd5, White needs to permanently defend the b-pawn, unfortunately stuck on a light square. 

Had McShane opted for 57.♖e2, Black cannot use the same idea, as a rook trade on f5 would not leave the bishop on the same diagonal as the b3-pawn — and other variations allow White to capture either the b or the h-pawn for free. After the text, on the contrary, McShane found himself trying to break Black's fortress:


A fighter at heart, the Londoner kept looking for chances until move 85, but after 6 hours and 45 minutes of play he was forced to accept the inevitable and sign a very distasteful draw. Caruana, on the other hand, had escaped miraculously, much like world champion Magnus Carlsen the day before.

Fabiano Caruana

World number two Fabiano Caruana barely escaped | Photo: John Saunders

The other clash of co-leaders was more of a roller-coaster, as both Wang Hao and Parham Maghsoodloo missed chances at different stages of the game. The Chinese was playing White and gave up an exchange on move 24. His pieces were much more active though, and he dangerously infiltrated into enemy camp:


Wang went for the immediate 29.xe6+, when he counted with the more tactical 29.♘f6+ — the forced line after the knight check goes 29...♜xf6 30.♕xe8+ ♜f8 31.♕xe6+ ♚g7 (the best way to get out of check) 32.♘d6 and Black needs to defend from a cramped position. 

After the text, Maghsoodloo took over. The Iranian gave back the exchange but was a pawn up and had a better structure. On move 44, however, he was too greedy and gave his opponent counter-chances by capturing a second pawn. Moreover, the very next move, it was Wang Hao the one who let a golden chance slip away:


Maghsoodloo's 45...g7 was inexplicable. It gave way to 46.d7+, which was played in the game, but also to the lethal 46.♕c3+. After the backward queen move, Black needs to block the check with 46...♜f6, as otherwise 47.♖a1 traps the queen on a2, while after the mentioned 46...♜f6 White can end up a piece to the good against Black's passers on the queenside. 

None of this happened though. Instead, Wang Hao forced a draw by repetition five moves later.

Parham Maghsoodloo

Parham Maghsoodloo from Iran | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

Co-leaders, old and new

Boards three to ten all had players fighting to catch up with the leaders. And three of them managed. Russians Alexander Grischuk and Vladimir Fedoseev defeated Ivan Cheparinov and Radoslaw Wojtaszek respectively and joined the leading pack for the first time in the tournament. Both won with White and both took advantage of positional deficiencies in their opponents' positions. 

Later on, Grischuk attended a post-game interview. Fiona Steil-Antoni asked him about his playing both the Grand Prix series and this tournament, a rare occurrence among those fighting to reach the Candidates. Grischuk explained that he simply decided to participate because he enjoyed his experience at the Isle of Man last year. He also joked while referring to the fact that Anish Giri withdrew from the event after knowing he will most likely get the rating spot in the Candidates:

First of all I decided a long time ago, as you should. I mean, not everyone is allowed to decide first to play and then decide not to play. I'm not a special one, not a chosen one...


Click or tap any game in the list to switch 

Alexander Grischuk

Alexander Grischuk is now a co-leader | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

The third player joining the lead is none other than Alexei Shirov. The 47-year-old from Riga has yet to draw at this event. His latest victim in Douglas was Gabriel Sargissian, who lost a pawn in the late middlegame and was duly punished by the former world number two. 

Shirov was sharing first place after round two but went on to lose against Caruana in a thrilling encounter. Coincidentally, after winning two in a row once again, he has been paired against the only player rated higher than the American — a certain Magnus Carlsen — except that now he will play with the black pieces.


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Ganguly, Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen will play White against living legend Alexei Shirov | Photo: John Saunders

And yes, after having survived amazingly from a loss in round four, Carlsen is returning to the top boards, as he had no trouble defeating Ganguly with the white pieces on Monday (replay the game in the viewer above). The world champion thus tied Mikhail Tal's unbeaten streak in classical chess — 95 games — and talked about it in the post-game interview. The world champion was modest while acknowledging he has not been on top form the last few days:

For sure I'm thinking about [the undefeated streak]. It's been so many games that you cannot help to want to get that record, but from the way I'm playing [it] doesn't seem like that's what I care about 'cause every game it's been so crazy. I mean, it was so easy to see yesterday that I was lost, and even today it was a very very tricky position.

Commentary webcast

Commentary by GM Daniel King and IM Anna Rudolf

Pairings for Round 6 (top 20 boards)

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Caruana Fabiano 4   4 Fedoseev Vladimir
Maghsoodloo Parham 4   4 Grischuk Alexander
Wang Hao 4   4 McShane Luke J
Carlsen Magnus   4 Shirov Alexei
Karjakin Sergey   Kryvoruchko Yuriy
Aronian Levon   Dreev Aleksey
Vitiugov Nikita   Bluebaum Matthias
Gelfand Boris   Adhiban B.
Alekseenko Kirill   Akopian Vladimir
Lenderman Aleksandr   Anton Guijarro David
Anand Viswanathan 3   Abdusattorov Nodirbek
Sjugirov Sanan 3   3 So Wesley
Nabaty Tamir 3   3 Yu Yangyi
Kovalev Vladislav 3   3 Harikrishna Pentala
Wojtaszek Radoslaw 3   3 Demchenko Anton
Mamedov Rauf 3   3 Artemiev Vladislav
Nakamura Hikaru 3   3 Riazantsev Alexander
Svidler Peter 3   3 Lupulescu Constantin
Bu Xiangzhi 3   3 Zhang Zhong
Kasimdzhanov Rustam 3   3 Vidit Santosh Gujrathi

...77 boards

All games of Round 5


All games available at


Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.


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