Maxime Vachier-Lagrave improved his chances of facing Magnus Carlsen in the World Championship match when he got the better of overnight leader Ian Nepomniachtchi in the seventh round to share the lead with the Russian at the halfway stage of the Fide Candidates 2020 tournament in Yekaterinburg on Wednesday.
The top of the table clash with Nepomniachtchi having a full point advantage on his Frenchman had a special significance to the race to decide Carlsen’s challenger for the world championship crown as had the Russian won or even split points, he would have been the runaway favourite.
He, therefore, opted for a sharp line in the French Defence while playing with black pieces to look for another win. However, the ploy backfired as he soon came under time trouble and Nepomniachtchi resigned after 42 moves.
The result means that both Vachier-Lagrave and Nepomniachtchi are on 4.5 points after seven round with four others – Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Wang Hao, and Alexander Grischuk – trailing them by a full point.
Caruana had to settle for a draw in 41 moves against Hao while Grischuk split points for the seventh straight time when he and Giri shook hands soon after reaching time control.
China’s Ding Liren continued to struggle in the tournament and was held to a draw by Russian wildcard Kirill Alekseenko. Both the players now have 2.5 points at the half way stage and look completely out of the title race.
Standings after round seven