World sport may have ground to a halt in the last week but thankfully there is still the FIDE Candidates tournament currently taking place in Russia to entertain…..oh, hang on…..it’s just been stopped! Today Russia announced that as from tomorrow all flights out of the country will be stopped so today was the last chance for the candidates to get home. There has been opposition among some of the players almost from the start and certainly Ding Liren and Fabiano Caruana have not been at their best. On the opening day Alexander Grischuk only gave the tournament a 50% chance of being completed and yesterday there was doubt that the players would be able to get a flight home. When asked about this, one grandmaster replied: “They won’t get home – they’ll stay with the winner and prepare him for the (world title) match!” All of this is of no consolation to the Azerbaijani GM, Teimour Radjabov who, having qualified for the tournament but not wishing to take part in the circumstances, pleaded with the organisers to postpone the event. When his request was turned down, he pulled out to be replaced by the French number one, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who was unlucky not to qualify in his own right. Keen football fans remembering when Denmark replaced Yugoslavia in the 1992 European Championships and went on to win, wondered whether history might repeat itself. After four successive draws, MVL was drawn against the current leader, Ian Nepomniachtchai.
White: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2767) Black: Ian Nepomniachtchai (2774)
FIDE Candidates Round 7
As a result of this win, MVL joins Nepo on 4½/7 at the half-way point in the tournament. It may be a game of two halves but when the second half begins is anyone’s guess.