After losing in the first round, world champion Magnus Carlsen has won the next three matches in a row. His third-round match against the World Championship challenger Russia’s Sergey Karjakin was a big game for the organizers, chess fans and the players themselves but the Norwegian triumphed with a devastatingly ruthless kingside attack. Next day, Carlsen won his third match against USA’s Wesley So in just 26 moves. With all other Round 3 & 4 matches having been drawn, Carlsen’s lead over Nakamura has already stretched to 3 points after 4 matches.
The third-round matches on Friday were delayed because the organizers decided to involve everyone in observing a minute’s silence in paying homage and respects to those, who had lost their lives in a dastardly terror attack in France. In the all-important game between the world champion and the challenger, Carlsen played White but his 1.e4 start was hesitant. After Karjakin responded with c5, Carlsen played Nf3 and Karjakin was quick with d6. For the third move, Carlsen waited again for long before deciding on c3 in the Sicilian. It was difficult to figure out which way the game was going until Karjakin traded his light-squared bishop for a knight and chose a Dragon-like setup. The Russian looked comfortable and seemed to hold an upper hand at this stage. But Carlsen had other ideas. He developed an initiative on the kingside and robbed Karjakin of his knight on e5. This was unexpected for the Russian. That knight was crucial to him since it offered counter-play against White. Afterwards, everything became easy for Carlsen and he finished the game earlier than everyone thought.
On Friday Anish Giri and Wesley So had remained the only two players with exclusive draws against their names. Though So lost on Saturday, his third-round match with Giri was interesting. The Dutch GM made a pawn sacrifice and obtained some positional compensation in trapping So’s bishop on b8. But the American solved that problem quickly and activated his bishop. However, Giri came up with another surprise. By using an exchange sacrifice, Giri pressurized So on f7 that ultimately resulted in an ending with opposite-colored bishops. The game ended in a draw. In Friday’s third match, Hikaru Nakamura and Yi Wei played the shortest game of the day. Initially, Nakamura landed into trouble after a Semi-Tarrasch opening and when the American employed his plan B, Yi was able to create a fortress. Thereafter, the two players found a way to repeat the moves in order to circumvent the Sofia Rule and finished with an early draw.
On Saturday, Carlsen won his third match in a row, when he scored a surprisingly quick victory over Wesley So, ending the American’s streak of drawn games. It was such a short game that it didn’t allow much time for Carlsen to make any mistakes. So chose the 4.d3 Berlin but that led him to the wrong square for his queen on move 13. Later, he lost the tempo in trying to correct that mistake. The American had his king in the center and Carlsen attacked ruthlessly to win without much trouble. In the other game, China’s Wei Yi and Russia’s Sergey Karjakin drew their match in a little less than 2 hours. It was a Catalan/Bogo-Indian game and Karjakin seemed to be following a recent game by his compatriot Evgeny Tomashevsky. In the end, they couldn’t avoid the draw. The third game on Saturday between Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri lasted for close to 3 hours but ended as another draw. The match began with a Semi-Slav, in which the Black allowed a doubled f-pawn in front of the king in exchange for a strong bishop. With many pieces in the center, Black enhanced its activity and Giri gave up his h-pawn. Once the two players traded their rooks, the draw became inevitable.