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FIDE halts Candidates at half-way point

FIDE has taken the decision to halt the Candidates tournament immediately, following the completion of the first cycle of 7 games. They say results so far will stand.

The second cycle, in which the players will meet each other with reversed colours, will be played at some future date.

The tournament to decide Magnus Carlsen's next challenger was being played in Yekaterinburg, Russia, and was due to continue into early April.

The seventh of 14 rounds was played yesterday. There was only one decisive game, after which we have two joint leaders.

Russian grandmaster Jan Nepomniachtchi had taken the sole lead in round 5 by defeating Wang Hao of China and next he beat the other Chinese player, Ding Liren. So Nepomniachtchi had 4.5/6 with a full point lead going into the rest day.

But in round 7 Maxime Vachier-Legrave defeated him, so they are on the same score at the half-way point and the tournament gets exciting! The French grandmaster only joined the field as a substitute after Radjabov decided not to take up his place.

Current scores at half way are: Jan Nepomniachtchi andMaxime Vachier-Legrave 4.5/7; Caruana, Giri , Grischuk and Wang Hao 3.5; Alekseenko and Ding Liren are on 2.5 points.

The tournament is a double round-robin involving eight of the world's elite grandmasters, so there are still 28 more games to be played, and a possible play-off.

How the players will now travel home remains to be decided. It could be problematic for the overseas competitors but perhaps the Russian government can make special arrangements.

Round 7 games:

Vachier-Legrave v Nepomniachtchi: 1-0. French Defence, Winawer Variation. Both grandmasters played the opening fast until Nepo' spent 13 minutes on move 16. The French grandmaster outplayed his opponent and won a key pawn in the queen and knight endgame. Black resigned at move 42.

Most of the competitors were probably pleased to see MVL beat the leader in this crucial game because otherwise the Russian (with four White games to come) could draw his way to the title match in the second half of the tournament.

Caruana v Wang Hao: DRAW. Petroff Defence (5 Nc3 line). There was a typical tiny edge to White after 15 moves but the American made no progress and either a draw after move 40 or a long endgame is in prospect. If anything, Wang Hao had the better chances in this game and eventually it came down to Bishop and two pawns against Knight and one pawn but in a dead drawn position.

Giri v Grischuk: DRAW. English Opening 1 c4 e5 2 g3 c6; a sort of reversed 2 c3 Sicilian arose. Giri's 10th move may be a novelty; Grischuk spent 29 minutes on his move 10 and Giri blitzed his reply but in the end neither player achieved a significant advantage. Grischuk's run of draws continues; can he match Giri's 14 draws in the last Candidates?

Ding Liren v Alekseenko: DRAW. Closed Catalan. Long dour middle game manoeuvres were in prospect but by move 34 a very drawish double rook ending was on the board.