The Russian champion Ian Nepomniachtchi leads three western rivals by a full point with only four rounds (out of 14) left this week as the Candidates to decide Magnus Carlsen’s next challenger entered its final days at Ekaterinburg — but controversy has emerged over one game. 

The Candidates Tournament was halted at halfway in March 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic, and will take more than 400 days to complete.

Nepomniachtchi is on 6.5/10, but still has to meet two of his closest rivals. Fabiano Caruana of the US, the world No 2, won the most impressive game. 

Caruana defeated Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the evocatively named Poisoned Pawn Sicilian after catching the Frenchman in some deep prep, where at one stage Caruana was a bishop and three pawns down. It finally came down to an ending where Black missed a chance for a drawing fortress by placing his knight on a different square.

Kirill Alekseenko’s loss to his countryman Nepomniachtchi in round 10 raised eyebrows, since Black’s defence was sub-standard. He explained it by confusion in an unfamiliar opening. The final four rounds are viewable free and live, starting noon BST (rest days Thursday and Sunday).

Puzzle 2416

White mates in three moves. Black is down to a single pawn move, and there are no checks until the final checkmate, but this tricky Fritz Giegold puzzle is hard even for some computers. Can you crack it?

For solution, click here

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