2016 Baku Rd9: US and Ukraine lead, Russia third
If the competition were to be described as a race around a track, then the ninth round could be seen as the final curve before the sprint to the finish line. Although the highest profile encounter of the day was the United States versus Norway, it was mostly by virtue of the board one encounter between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana, both over 2800, and quite likely the only game between two 2800 players that will take place at Baku.
On paper the Americans had a significant advantage overall. The World Champion could undoubtedly score a point for his team, but that was unlikely to offset the depth of the US team’s other boards.
Once more the media and photographers gathered around the point of greatest interest, and there was little denying the attraction of the match between the two young elite players. (photo by E. Kublashvili)
Earlier this year, Fabiano Caruana had led the Candidates Tournament going into the last round and might easily have been Carlsen's challenger. Although he missed his chance this time, he did win the US Championship, arguably with the strongest field ever. (photo by Pascal Simon)
It was a rather curious choice of openings as Magnus Carlsen decided to whip out the Scandinavian Defense (1.e4 d5) with black for the second time against Caruana. He had previously done so in a classical game in Tromso 2014. Hikaru Nakamura's face shows exactly what he thinks of this choice. (photo by E. Kublashvili)
Fabiano Caruana analyzes his game with Magnus Carlsen
Although it ended in a very interesting draw, the strength of the US team made itself felt on other boards as Hikaru Nakamura and Sam Shankland both won their respective games to win the match 3-1.
The highest profile match overall, at least inasmuch as the standings were concerned, was between Ukraine and India, both of whom shared the lead with the US entering the round.
It was a tough, high quality match that was ultimately decided on the fourth board between S.P. Sethuraman and Anton Korobov. The Ukrainian nursed an endgame advantage with the utmost seriousness and was ultimately able to convert it and decide the match. With this result, Ukraine ties the US for first-second. (photo by M. Emelianova)
Alexander Grischuk started slow, but has now scored two important wins in the last two rounds (photo by David Llada)
The Russian team faced a tough challenge with the very strong Azeri team, but ended up winning it 3-1 with wins by Kramnik and Grischuk (above) over Radjabov and Naiditsch respectively. This also helped keep Russia's medal ambitions alive as they are in clear third, just behind the US and Ukraine. We bring you detailed annotations by GM Elshan Moradiabadi on Kramnik's victory.