Ding Liren played a clean game to put away Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and take the lead in the finals of the Grand Chess Tour in London.
Levon Aronian was very close to equalizing the score but ultimately was unable to break Magnus Carlsen’s defense in the fight for third place.
Both Carlsen and Ding will enter the final day with a 6 point lead, putting an enormous amount of pressure on their opponents to score in the rapid to collect as many points as possible. The winner of the tour will be decided tomorrow at the end of two rapid and four blitz games followed by tiebreaks if required. As a special treat, legendary former World Champion Garry Kasparov will be calling into the show to share his thoughts.
After failing to deliver the decisive blow yesterday, Ding Liren proceeded more methodically in the final moments today. The commentators thought that Ding didn’t get any advantage out of the opening in the Symmetrical English, but that he simply played better than his opponent thereafter.
The critical developments in the game happened on move 33, when the opening of the kingside made the g-file available for Ding, while he still kept control of the queenside and the center. While Vachier-Lagrave’s pieces were overcommitted on the queenside, the Chinese star was able to launch an unstoppable attack on the opposite wing by lifting his rook. The game ended with a beautiful sacrifice by Ding, who admitted to double-checking the line several times in order to avoid yesterday’s fiasco. Tomorrow, one of these two fine players will be crowned the 2019 Grand Chess Tour Champion.
Magnus Carlsen ended the year without a single loss in classical chess after a miraculous save, extending his undefeated streak to 107 games. Trouble began for the World Champion right out of the opening when he felt compelled to sacrifice a pawn in order to muddy the waters. He gave up another pawn a few moves later to open the center and get at his opponent’s king, but could never claim enough compensation for the material deficit.
The evaluation of the position was changing throughout the game as Aronian kept allowing his opponent back in the game. The final blunder occurred on move 43, when Aronian miscalculated a tactic, ultimately entering a queen ending which ended with a perpetual on move 82. Carlsen described the game as “objectively awful quality-wise”, but to his credit, he did find amazing resources to survive.