Jon Speelman: The Candidates after round six

by ChessBase
3/18/2016 – Six rounds are played at the Candidates Tournament 2016 in Moscow, eight more are left. L. Aronian and S. Karjakin lead with 4.0/6, V. Anand is half a point behind with 3.5/6, while F. Caruana and A. Giri follow with 3.0/6. Will Karjakin and Aronian keep their nerves and will Giri or Caruana start a run? And what will Anand do? Jon Speelman takes a look.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


The 2016 FIDE World Chess Candidates Tournament is a 14-round event, which determines the next Challenger to Magnus Carlsen's title, is taking place in Moscow from March 10–30. Eight players, including six of the World’s top-ten rated grandmasters. The time control is 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, 50 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game, plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move one. The guaranteed prize fund is US $420,000.

Standings after six rounds

The second tranche of three rounds in Moscow clarified matters to some extent but also raised many questions. You don't have to be a clairvoyant to see that the bottom three, Peter Svidler, Hikaru Nakamura and Veselin Topalov are in bad shape and unlikely to win. None of them has won a game.

Svidler has generally played well until the debacle against Anand but never looked convincing when playing for a win; Topalov's 3.h4!? against Giri was very wonderful but did smack rather of desperation and he spent most of the rest of the game on the back foot; and Nakamura has made two dreadful blunders. 29...Nxg3?? against Sergey Karjakin was bad enough. While the touch move farrago against Aronian when he clearly intended 74...Kf8?? not realising that the rook was now able to go to d6, is very far from his normal level.

Showing nerves: Hikaru Nakamura

L. Aronian - H. Nakamura, position before 74...Kf8??

S. Karjakin - H. Nakamura, position before 29...Nxg3??

V. Topalov - A. Giri, position after 3.h4!?
Topalov needs to turn his tournament around and chose shock therapy against Giri with 3.h4.
But the shock rebounded against him as Giri coped excellently
and hoped for "future creativity from my opponents."

The top half is much less clear, though especially the form of the two lurkers, Fabiano Caruana and Giri, who have drawn all six of their games thus far. Up to the first rest day, Sergey Karjakin had shown the best form and he underlined this in round four when he beat Viswanathan Anand for the first time after 26 previous attempts. It was a huge moment for him and he consolidated with two draws as Black against Topalov and Caruana, negotiating difficult positions in both games: just for a few moves early on against Topalov but long term against Caruana.

Karjakin still looks in great shape but the big question is whether he's a "good leader". It's something I posed to the statisticians James Jorasch and Chris Capobianco (without an answer yet as I write): though while previous tournaments will provide some indication the Candidates is so singular that we'll just have to see.

Sergey Karjakin goes with 4.0/6 into the rest day and leads the field together with...

Aronian is also in fine form. He's a player whose results tend to vary quite widely and has thus far been very much in the ascendant. He played the attack against Caruana very confidently showing the proper regard for his intuition in a really complicated position (though Caruana defended staunchly); and put serious pressure on Nakamura to precipitate his collapse.

...Levon Aronian, who also has 4.0/6.

Anand must have been at the very least surprised to lose to Karjakin and his play in that game, especially 18...Ba6, betrayed nerves.

S. Karjakin - V. Anand, position after 18...Ba6?
Anand likes to simplify when he's playing to draw but would
he have played a move as negative as ...Ba6 in normal circumstances?

But he's recovered really well with a fairly quiet game against Nakamura to regain his composure and then the fierce win against Svidler. Svidler to some extent gave it to him on a plate but he still had to find and analyse the refutation.

V. Anand - P. Svidler, position before 20.Ng5.
20.Ng5! is winning but missable on a bad day.

Vishy Anand and Peter Svidler at the press conference.

And so to those two "lurkers". Giri has been playing very carefully, aiming above all to avoid loss. He's succeeded but needs to start winning at least the odd game to get into contention.

Anish Giri

Caruana's tournament has been much more dramatic with one huge missed opportunity against Topalov and good chances against Karjakin too though it was never simple. He must be a bit frustrated but has been trying every game and a small spark could still ignite his tournament.

F. Caruana - V. Topalov, position before 41.R1b5?
It's pretty extraordinary that Caruana failed to play
41.Rxf6 Qxf6 42.Rb2 after the time control.

Of course they're still under half way through and any one of them could still embark on a huge run. But I think it'll be hard for the last three in particular, partly because of the timing of the rest days. There are many instances of double round tournaments which have indeed had two very different halves. But the most striking instances have been when the two halves are separated geographically - and so indeed almost two different tournaments. One example would be the Sao Paulo - Bilbao Grand Slam 2011.

1st half in Sao Paulo

2nd half in Bilbao

Moscow is more a tournament of "five fifths". The rest days are after rounds 3, 6, 9 and 12 which means that the two halves elide into each other without a rest after round seven. And I suspect that somehow makes it harder psychologically to change gear and convince yourself you've got a clean slate. In any case, we'll soon see. This is one that could easily run to the very end - great for the spectators but murder for the players involved.

Photos: Amruta Mokal

Pairings and results

Round 1, Friday 11 March 2016
Karjakin Sergey
Svidler Peter
Nakamura Hikaru
Caruana Fabiano
Giri Anish
Aronian Levon
Anand Viswanathan
Topalov Veselin
Round 2, Saturday 12 March 2016
Svidler Peter ½-½ Topalov Veselin
Aronian Levon ½-½ Anand Viswanathan
Caruana Fabiano ½-½ Giri Anish
Karjakin Sergey 1-0 Nakamura Hikaru
Round 3, Sunday 13 March 2016
Nakamura Hikaru
Svidler Peter
Giri Anish
Karjakin Sergey
Anand Viswanathan
Caruana Fabiano
Topalov Veselin
Aronian Levon
Rest day, Monday 14 March 2016
Round 4, Tuesday 15 March 2016
Svidler Peter
Aronian Levon
Caruana Fabiano
Topalov Veselin
Karjakin Sergey
Anand Viswanathan
Nakamura Hikaru
Giri Anish
Round 5, Wed. 16 March 2016
Giri Anish ½-½ Svidler Peter
Anand Viswanathan ½-½ Nakamura Hikaru
Topalov Veselin ½-½ Karjakin Sergey
Aronian Levon ½-½ Caruana Fabiano
Round 6, Thursday 17 March 2016
Anand Viswanathan
Svidler Peter
Topalov Veselin
Giri Anish
Aronian Levon
Nakamura Hikaru
Caruana Fabiano
Karjakin Sergey
Rest day, Friday 18 March 2016
Round 7, Saturday 19 March 2016
Svidler Peter   Caruana Fabiano
Karjakin Sergey   Aronian Levon
Nakamura Hikaru   Topalov Veselin
Giri Anish   Anand Viswanathan
Round 8, Sunday 20 March 2016
Svidler Peter   Karjakin Sergey
Caruana Fabiano   Nakamura Hikaru
Aronian Levon   Giri Anish
Topalov Veselin   Anand Viswanathan
Round 9, Monday 21 March 2016
Topalov Veselin   Svidler Peter
Anand Viswanathan   Aronian Levon
Giri Anish   Caruana Fabiano
Nakamura Hikaru   Karjakin Sergey
Rest day, Tuesday 22 March 2016
Round 10, Wed. 23 March 2016
Svidler Peter   Nakamura Hikaru
Karjakin Sergey   Giri Anish
Caruana Fabiano   Anand Viswanathan
Aronian Levon   Topalov Veselin
Round 11, Thursday 24 March 2016
Aronian Levon   Svidler Peter
Topalov Veselin   Caruana Fabiano
Anand Viswanathan   Karjakin Sergey
Giri Anish   Nakamura Hikaru
Round 12, Friday 25 March 2016
Svidler Peter   Giri Anish
Nakamura Hikaru   Anand Viswanathan
Karjakin Sergey   Topalov Veselin
Caruana Fabiano   Aronian Levon
Rest day, Saturday 26 March 2016
Round 13, Sunday 27 March 2016
Caruana Fabiano   Svidler Peter
Aronian Levon   Karjakin Sergey
Topalov Veselin   Nakamura Hikaru
Anand Viswanathan   Giri Anish
Round 14, Monday 28 March 2016
Svidler Peter   Anand Viswanathan
Giri Anish   Topalov Veselin
Nakamura Hikaru   Aronian Levon
Karjakin Sergey   Caruana Fabiano

Roundup broadcasts

ChessBase is doing roundup shows at the end of each round of the Candidates.

Here is the full schedule of future broadcasts – you need to be a premium member to watch

Roundup Commentary Schedule

Date Day Round English German
18.03.2016 Friday Free day Summary Yannick Pelletier  
19.03.2016 Saturday Round 7 Oliver Reeh/Karsten Müller Klaus Bischoff
20.03.2016 Sunday Round 8 Chris Ward Klaus Bischoff
21.03.2016 Monday Round 9 Simon Williams Klaus Bischoff
22.03.2016 Tuesday Free day Summary Yannick Pelletier  
23.03.2016 Wednesday Round 10 Daniel King Klaus Bischoff
24.03.2016 Thursday Round 11 Simon Williams Klaus Bischoff
25.03.2016 Friday Round 12 Daniel King Oliver Reeh/Karsten Müller
26.03.2016 Saturday Free day Summary Yannick Pelletier  
27.03.2016 Sunday Round 13 Daniel King Klaus Bischoff
28.03.2016 Monday Round 14 Yannick Pelletier Klaus Bischoff

About the author

Jon was born in 1956 and became a professional player in 1977 after graduating from Worcester College Oxford where he read mathematics. He became an IM in 1977 a GM in 1980 and was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980-2006.

Three times British Champion he played twice in the Candidates reaching the semi-final  (of what was then a knockout series of matches) in 1989 when he lost 4.5 - 3.5 to Jan Timman. He's twice been a second at the world championship for Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.

He's written for the Observer (weekly) since 1993 and for The Independent since 1998. With its closure (going online but without Jon on board) he's expanding online activity and is also now offering online tuition.

He likes puzzles especially (cryptic) crosswords and killer sudokus.

If you'd like to lambast Jon or otherwise he can be contacted via his email


Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register