Day five of Croatia Grand Chess Tour only delivered one decisive result. Ding Liren defeated Anish Giri after a 5-hour struggle, putting him 1.5 points behind the leader. Draws on the rest of the boards meant that there were no other changes in the standings; Ian Nepomniachtchi remains in the lead by a full point. Once again, Garry Kasparov joined the commentary team and expressed that he still considers Magnus Carlsen the favorite, as he still hasn’t faced the leader. The two will meet in round 7, the day after the rest day.
Giri was slowly outplayed from what looked like an even position. Already in a tough bishop and rook endgame, the Dutchman decided to exchange the bishops giving up a pawn to enter a rook endgame. The combination of being down on time and facing a tough endgame defense proved to be lethal for Giri, who finds himself in last place. Ding Liren played an excellent endgame, showing flawless technique when it was time to convert. He moves to a 50 percent score and joins a big tie for fourth place.
Victorious Ding Liren
Hikaru Nakamura vs Ian Nepomniachtchi ½ - ½
Nakamura chose the Nadanian Variation, a sideline in the Grunfeld. He had a novelty prepared which backfired after Nepomniachtchi played a more natural move rather than one that Nakamura had prepared for. Both players were left to their own devices and an interesting battle ensued. Nakamura pressed for a long time, creating some winning chances from thin air. Nepomniachtchi’s resilience earned him a very well-deserved half point. He will face Ding Liren with the black pieces tomorrow.
Sergey Karjakin vs Magnus Carlsen ½ - ½
The World Champion chose an unusual line in the exchange variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, playing both a6 and h6. Karjakin was prepared to face this line, armed with an idea of placing his bishop on the central square of e5. The former World Championship contender had a pleasant position, but Carlsen did not have many difficulties equalizing after a few inaccuracies. Once equality was achieved, the game remained quite uneventful until a draw was agreed on move 42 in an equal rook endgame.
Sergey Karjakin vs Magnus Carlsen
Fabiano Caruana vs Wesley So ½ - ½
The all American matchup saw another Guioco Piano, a popular opening at the top level these days. The game flowed normally for this opening until move 16, when Caruana made the curious decision of exchanging his knight for a bishop, which left him with several pawn weaknesses. So had a pleasant position and even won a pawn, but ultimately was not able to exploit the weaknesses enough. The game ended in a draw when in a double rook endgame Caruana’s rooks penetrated the eight rank, setting up an unavoidable perpetual.
Israel’s Ambassador to Croatia, Ilan Mor, making the ceremonial first move
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs Levon Aronian ½ - ½
Levon Aronian missed a golden opportunity to join the tie for second place. The Armenian superstar opted for the sharp Ragozin Variation in the Queen’s Gambit Declined. Mamedyarov sacrificed two pawns to make the game interesting, but did not have enough compensation for them. Aronian reached a winning position where he had two rooks and four passed pawns for a queen and a rook. After missing a winning shot, he let opportunity after opportunity slip until the players reached a position where either player could force a perpetual on their turn. Mamedyarov survived the storm for a second day in a row after playing a rather questionable opening.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Levon Aronian
Viswanathan Anand vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave ½ - ½
Vachier-Lagrave stayed faithful to his pet opening, the Najdorf. Anand avoided any kind of theoretical battles with 3.Bb5, a popular sideline for those who want to avoid playing the open Sicilian. The game was quite uneventful throughout. Black’s position looked more pleasant with more space on the kingside, but it was mostly aesthetics as white exchanged the pieces one by one until a drawn rook endgame was reached.