Grand Swiss: Aronian catches up with Caruana

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/18/2019 – In a round that only saw three decisive results on the top fifteen boards, Levon Aronian defeated Wang Hao to climb to shared first place at the FIDE Grand Swiss. The Armenian caught up with Fabiano Caruana, who signed a 42-move draw with Alexander Grischuk. Caruana will have the white pieces against Aronian in round eight, while Wang Hao will face world champion Magnus Carlsen on board two. GM SIMON WILLIAMS looked at the highlights of the day. | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

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Draws all around

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. 

Most of the top games ended peacefully as the players showed good preparation after the sole rest day in the Isle of Man. Things atop the standings barely changed in consequence, with only Levon Aronian leapfrogging Wang Hao after winning their direct encounter. For the Armenian, this seems like the last chance to get a spot at the Candidates, a tournament he has been part of in every edition for over a decade.

The lack of decisive results also meant the chasing pack has not changed in size, with Wang Hao taking the place left by his round seven rival. After a painful loss, the Chinese was paired up against none other than world champion Magnus Carlsen. At least Wang will have the white pieces, a key consideration given the fact that Carlsen won three times in Douglas with White. 

Viswanathan Anand, Yuriy Kryvoruchko, Nikita Vitiugov, David Anton

Kryvoruchko v Anand and Anton v Vitiugov finished drawn | Photo: John Saunders 

Apparently Wang Hao was surprised by Aronian's choice in the opening, as he spent around twenty minutes both on move 8 and on move 12, when his 12...f6 was a novelty that gave up a pawn in almost every line. Black did have compensation but some imprecisions in the middlegame left Wang in a dismal situation against such a strong opponent:


Black had already been defending this endgame a pawn down for about ten moves. At this point, Aronian decided he would give up the a-pawn and go for an invasion on the kingside. Six moves later, his monarch had reached g7 and he started to look for ways to undermine Black's pawn chain. Wang was defending tenaciously though, and for a while it seemed like round seven was going to end with draws on all twelve top boards. 

Suddenly, however, Wang lost the thread: 


Aronian later mentioned that he could not understand Wang's decision to play 54...f4 here. The pawn push is still a draw, but it just complicates the defensive task. Black could have simply moved the rook along the third rank and wait for White to find a break, when it is very likely that only the h-pawn will survive — an easier-to-hold theoretical ending. 

Instead, after the text, White continued with the most challenging alternative, 55.g4, and after 55...f3 56.g5 there was only one move that held the balance:


56...♜d3 is the sole drawing continuation, while after Wang's 56...a3 Aronian found 57.f6 a8 58.f5+ e4 59.h5 and White's connected passers are too strong. Black resigned.

The idea behind 56...♜d3 is that in case of 57.♖f6 ♜d8 58.♖f5+ ♚e4 59.h5, as in the game, Black has 59...♜d5 pinning the white rook. After the rooks leave the board, Black's f-pawn queens before White's passer on the h-file. White would still be a pawn to the good, but it would be impossible to escape the perpetual checks.

Wang Hao

It was a painful loss for Wang Hao | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

A visibly disappointed Wang discussed some lines with Aronian after resigning the game. Although this loss must certainly feel like a big blow to his chances, the Chinese is still well in contention for first place, as his great start in Douglas will give him an edge if tiebreak criteria are used to decide the winner.

Aronian, on the other hand, talked to Fiona Steil-Antoni and described as 'exciting' the prospect of facing Caruana in the next round. Then came the commentators' 'daily question':

Steil-Antoni: If you could resurrect a player from the past, give him theory and knowledge and have him at his peak, who would you like to have playing in this tournament?

Aronian: I'd say Alekhine. Especially in modern days — everybody is playing sharp, so it would be a good fit.

When asked the same question earlier, Fabiano Caruana chose Bobby Fischer:

I guess it's the obvious choice. I mean, he was so dominant for such a short period of time before he stopped I would be curious if he would become world champion to start with, and also if he would be a consistent top player in the world.

Wang Hao, Levon Aronian

The moment Levon Aronian joined the lead | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

The draw that allowed Caruana to remain in the shared lead was not without drama, as both he and Alexander Grischuk had barely a few minutes left on their clocks around five moves before the time control — Grischuk was in deeper trouble first, as he had about a minute to make ten moves, but soon enough Caruana 'caught up' with him in a highly complex position.

Grischuk had chosen the aggressive 12.g4 early on, which led to him giving up a pawn a few moves later. By move 28, with fewer pieces on the board, the Russian kept on pushing forward:


There followed 28.h4 d2 (forking queen and rook) 29.xf7+ xf7, and here Grischuk let his clock run down to 29 seconds before going for one of the sharpest playable continuations, 30.b4. Soon enough, Caruana was also in zeitnot, but in what followed none of the elite contenders committed a big enough inaccuracy to disrupt the balance. 

Grischuk's 34.h5 undermined the black structure around the king, which allowed him to find a perpetual with his doubled rooks on the f-file. The draw was signed after Black's 42nd move.

Fabiano Caruana

World number two Fabiano Caruana | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

On board three, Kirill Alekseenko held Magnus Carlsen to a draw with the white pieces. With great performances both at the World Cup and here, the 22-year-old Russian has gained 31.3 rating points, climbing a whopping 27 places in the world ranking — he is currently number 37 with 2705.3 in the live list

Alekseenko will play Black against Wesley So in round eight. The American defeated Ganguly on Thursday, thus returning to the top boards.

Kirill Alekseenko

Kirill Alekseenko showing his game | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

Round-up show

GM Simon Williams recapped the action of round seven

Commentary webcast (two parts)

Commentary by GM Daniel King and IM Anna Rudolf

Pairings for Round 8 (top 20 boards)

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Caruana Fabiano   Aronian Levon
Wang Hao 5   5 Carlsen Magnus
Anton Guijarro David 5   5 Grischuk Alexander
Maghsoodloo Parham 5   5 Vitiugov Nikita
So Wesley   5 Alekseenko Kirill
Anand Viswanathan   Fedoseev Vladimir
Shirov Alexei   Yu Yangyi
Karjakin Sergey   Dreev Aleksey
Wojtaszek Radoslaw   Kovalev Vladislav
Nakamura Hikaru   Melkumyan Hrant
Gelfand Boris   Zhang Zhong
Hovhannisyan Robert   McShane Luke J
Adhiban B.   Robson Ray
Tari Aryan   Kryvoruchko Yuriy
Svidler Peter 4   Jumabayev Rinat
Lenderman Aleksandr 4   4 Artemiev Vladislav
Mamedov Rauf 4   4 Vidit Santosh Gujrathi
Matlakov Maxim 4   4 Najer Evgeniy
Sarana Alexey 4   4 Le Quang Liem
Xiong Jeffery 4   4 Papaioannou Ioannis

...77 boards

All games of Round 7


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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