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Chess: candidate matches reach their nail biting zenith

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Levon Aronian lost his fifth game at the 11th round of the 2018 FIDE Candidates' Tournament in Berlin. The Armenian GM was beaten by Sergey Karjakin, who is now a point behind the leader, Fabiano Caruana, who is facing Chinese top player Ding Liren with white. Earlier on, Ding wasted a completely winning position against Alexander Grischuk and didn’t get further than a draw.

Eight of the world’s top players are fighting to win the honour to challenge world champion Magnus Carlsen (Norway).

They are: Three Russians (Alexander Grischuk/ELO 2767, Sergey Karjakan/ELO 2763, Vladimir Kramnik/ELO 2800); two Americans, top seed Fabiano Caruana/ELO 2784 and Wesley So/ELO 2799; an Azerbaidjani (Shakhriyar Mamedyarov/ELO 2809), a Chinese (Ding Liren/ELO 2769) and an Armenian (Levon Aronian).

Fabiano Caruana and Shak Mamedyarov led the pack most of the time, so the American and the Azeri will try and play it safe, not taking risks and holding off any late challenges. At stake: a €95,000 first prize and the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the world crown in London in November.

After 11 of the 14 rounds Caruana (US) led with 6.5 points, ahead of Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) 6, Alexander Grischuk and Sergey Karjakin (both Russia) 5.5.

For several rounds now Caruana has had a half-point lead but he missed the opportunity to extend it to a full point when he patiently built a winning endgame against Ding Liren in Tuesday’s ninth round, only to miss a win right at the end.

First Chinese candidate

Ding is China’s first ever candidate and he stoically continued his debut.

Former world champ Vladimir Kramnik is playing a disappointing Candidates tournament: the 42-year-old Russian, who won the world title from Garry Kasparov and held it for seven years, was long tipped to outplay Carlsen in a match.

Kramnik defeated the tournament favourite Levon Aronian in a masterly game and took the lead in the third-round but then completely lost his balance, began to play a risky style of chess and found himself at the bottom of the list. He did fight back in round 10 by again beating Aronian but the damage was done, and the chance for him to challenge Carlsen has disappeared.