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John Henderson
By John Henderson

With rounds and time now fast running out in the FIDE Candidates Tournament in Ekaterinburg, Russia, local-hero frontrunner Ian Nepomniachtchi very tentatively edges closer to achieving the biggest result of his career, as the 30-year-old Russian champion systematically exchanged off all the pieces in round 11 against his nearest rival, Fabiano Caruana, to score an easy draw to maintain his lead at the top.

Whilst draw with the US world #2 will come as something of a relief to Nepomniachtchi, it is still not certain that he will become Magnus Carlsen’s next title challenger. He now needs to worry about the very much in-form Anish Giri who has been the revelation of the second half of the Candidates, and now just half a point behind and breathing down the neck of the leader after wowing the chess fans once again on Chess24 with his simply breathtaking takedown of China’s Ding Liren, one of the original pre-tournament favourites.

In doing so, Giri also brought back to life a forgotten old opening against Ding, the DERLD (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Bxc6), the acronym title given to the Delayed Exchange of the Ruy Lopez Deferred by the English author/publishing club-mate team of Tony Swift & Len Pickett. In the early 1970s, the intrepid Lewisham Chess Club duo collaborated on a series of critically acclaimed opening research pamphlets (and many magazine articles), the most famous being The DERLD, and their analysis picked up and used to good effect by the notorious and untitled British champion, Brian Eley, as he demolished one of the world’s then top theoreticians, the Czech GM Ludek Pachman, in a blistering 25-move miniature that proved to be the big highlight of the Evening Standard London Chess Congress in 1972.

It was an equally barnstorming DERLD from Giri, and further indication that the Dutch #1 has transformed his game, attitude, and sharpness over the past pandemic-troubled year, going from the “Drawmeister” to now the “Flying Dutchman” with his rapid rise back up the world rankings (now up a further three spots to #4 on the Live Ratings). It all started with a remarkable renaissance for Dutch chess in general, with Giri being dramatically pipped back in January to second place at the Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee by his compatriot Jorden van Foreest.

And on a roll, last month Giri also scored a very impressive victory in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational. The question now being asked is whether Giri can dramatically snatch victory in Ekaterinburg to emulate the unlikely feat of Dr. Max Euwe – who 86 years ago stunned not just the chess world but also the world, storming back from a 3-6 deficit to beat World Champion Alexander Alekhine – by becoming only the second Dutchman to play for the world title?

And if you want to get an insight into how Giri works, which World Champion he has an affinity with, and five things that make him happy, then with apt timing you can find out this and much, much more in the latest issue of New in Chess magazine, with an in-depth Giri interview by Jonathan Tisdall, the always readable and very lucid Norway-based US GM and journalist.

And as we are in the territory of New in Chess, while Magnus Carlsen awaits to see just who will emerge as his title challenger, the World Champion is back in action again as he heads the field in the New in Chess Classic, the fifth leg in the online $1.5m Meltwater Champions Chess Tour that starts on Saturday evening (6pm BST) on Chess24.com.

Carlsen is still in the hunt for his first Tour win of the season, and his main challengers will be US rivals Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura, former challenger Sergey Karjakin, and Levon Aronian. Also in the field will be a young future world champion in-the-making, India’s 15-year-old whizz-kid Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, the ‘golden ticket’ wildcard winner from the Polgar Challenge, the first leg of the Julius Bär Challengers Chess Tour.

Round 11: Nepomniachtchi ½-½ Caruana; Alekseenko ½-½ Wang Hao; Grischuk 1-0 Vachier-Lagrave; Giri 1-0 Ding Liren

Standings: 1. I. Nepomniachtchi (Russia), 7/11; 2. A. Giri (Netherlands), 6½; 3. F. Caruana (USA), 6; 4-5. M. Vachier-Lagrave (France), A. Grischuk (Russia), 5½; 6. Wang Hao (China), 5; 7. K. Alekseenko (Russia), 4½; 8. Ding Liren (China), 4.

There’s live commentary coverage with Judit Polgar and regular host IM Tania Sachdev of the final three rounds of the Candidates on Chess24.com.

 

 

GM Anish Giri – GM Ding Liren
FIDE Candidates Tournament, (11)
Ruy Lopez, DERLD
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.d3 We depart from the aforementioned 1972 Eley-Pachman miniature, that continued a bit more ‘spirited’ with 7.Nc3 Nd7 8.d4 exd4 9.Nxd4 0-0 10.Qe2 following up with Rd1 and f4 that so confused Pachman, who at least had the perfect excuse for his debacle in that he hadn’t played competitively for over two years following his enforced imprisonment for his political beliefs, chronicled in his book Checkmate in Prague. 7…Bd6 8.Nbd2 Be6 9.Nb3 The knight is heading to a5, where it will prove to be a thorn in black’s queenside. 9…Qe7 10.Na5 0-0-0 11.Qe2 Bg4 12.c3 c5 Ding isn’t so much worried about d4 but more b4, hence the reason for …c5. 13.a3 But Giri is determined to blow the queenside wide-open – and how! 13…c6 14.b4! Bc7 15.Nb3 Also a solid and good option was 15.Nc4, but from b3, Giri highlights the problems Ding created with his …c5. 15…Nd7 16.h3 Bh5 17.Be3 f5! This is by far Ding’s best hope now of avoiding being rolled over on the queenside, by creating his own aggressive counter-attack on the kingside. 18.Bxc5 Qf7 19.Rab1 The solid option is 19.Nbd2 Nxc5 but after 20.bxc5 Qd7! 21.Rae1! Qxd3 22.exf5 Qxf5 23.Qc4 it looks as if it will all peter out to a draw after 23…Bxf3 24.Nxf3 Rd5 25.Re3 Re8 26.Rfe1 and it’s difficult to see how either side can make any headway. But rather than that, Giri opts to up the ante by keeping the tension for now – and it pays off big-time for the big in-form Dutchman! 19…g5 It all starts to go wrong for Ding from here, as his position rapidly collapses. Much better was 19…fxe4 20.dxe4 Nxc5 21.Nxc5 Rhf8! where the pressure on f3 keeps the white attack at bay. 20.exf5 g4? It seems to me that Ding is seeing more ghosts here than Doris Stokes, as another inaccuracy sends his position into a tailspin – best was 20…Nxc5! 21.Nxc5 Qxf5 22.Qe4 Forced with …Rhf8 threatened. 22…Qxe4 23.dxe4 Bxf3 24.gxf3 Rd2! where, despite the extra pawn, white can’t make any progress due to his own pawn weaknesses. 21.Ng5! Very accurate from Giri, and with it a second very crisp and clean successive win with the white pieces. 21…Qxf5 Ding has lost the plot. He should have gone for 21…gxh3 22.Nxf7 Bxe2 23.g3! Bxd3 24.Rfe1 Bxb1 25.Rxb1 Nxc5 26.Nxc5 Rhf8 27.Nxd8 Bxd8 28.Ne4! Be7 (Not 28…Rxf5? 29.Nd6+!) 29.Kh2 Rxf5 30.Kxh3 where while white has the better endgame prospects, going on to convert this for a win is another matter as it will involve a lot of work. 22.h4 b6? The outpost on c5 (either by the bishop or knight) is clearly annoying Ding – but he’s missed a wonderful tactical “happening” that Giri quickly seizes on. Ding could have tried 22…h6 23.Ne4 g3 24.Qc2 gxf2+ 25.Rxf2 Qg4 but white has the crucial breakthrough 26.b5! axb5 27.c4! bxc4 28.Qxc4 Rhg8 29.Qa4 that leaves black struggling for his very survival. 23.Ne4! [see diagram] Giri shows no nerves as he moves in for the kill, the immediate threat being d4 and Qxa6+ mating – and this forces Ding’s hand. 23…bxc5 A better try to grimly hold on was 23…g3!? 24.Qb2 gxf2+ 25.Rxf2 Qg4 26.Na5 Nb8! but after 26.Be7 Rde8 27.Bg5 h6 28.Be3 white is clearly better. 24.bxc5! Nf6?! The only obvious square for the knight was to retreat to defend a6 and c6 with 24…Nb8 but again after 25.Nd6+! Bxd6 26.cxd6 Rxd6 27.Qe3! black has to contend with major threats of Qa7 and Nc5 and his king caught in the desperate desolation of no man’s land. 25.Nd6+! Bxd6 26.cxd6 Rxd6 27.d4! You really can’t fault Giri’s determination here to shake things up in the second half of the Candidates, with a second successive crisp and clean win with the white pieces. 27…c5 You can try running the king with 27…Kd8, but after 28.Na5! Re8 29.Qxa6 Ke7 the black position collapses after 30.dxe5 Qxe5 31.Rfe1 Ne4 32.Nxc6+ Rxc6 33.Qxc6 Kf8 34.Qd7 Qf4 35.Qd4! defending both f2 and attacking h8, and black’s king is doomed. 28.Nxc5 Re8 29.Qc4 1-0 Ding resigns, facing either his king being mated or a very heavy loss of material.

 

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