Heading into the 12th round of the 2013 Candidates Tournament, Magnus Carlsen had a slim half-point lead on the resurgent Vladimir Kramnik, with the struggling Aronian just one point back. Furthermore, Kramnik and Aronian were playing each other, making that a game that could easily propel one of them into contention while eliminating the other, while a draw would play right into Carlsen's hands. But when looking at the schedule, most observers noted that both Carlsen (who was playing Vassily Ivanchuk) and Aronian had the white pieces, meaning that it would be hard to imagine the balance of power being upset too dramatically...right?
Wrong. In two stunning results, both Aronian and Carlsen lost with the white pieces today, sending Aronian all but out of contention and allowing Kramnik to leapfrog Carlsen for first place. Kramnik now leads the tournament by a half-point over Carlsen, while Aronian needs a miracle, down 1.5 points to the former World Champion with only two rounds to play.
Even more unusual was the manner in which the two players managed to lose their games. Carlsen was clearly unhappy with his play, and never had much to play for right out of the opening. But he wasn't lost, either, and held on for a long time, even managing to reach a rook and pawn endgame that appeared to be drawn with proper play. But one last mistake allowed Ivanchuk to secure a winning position, which he converted flawlessly.
Meanwhile, the Aronian-Kramnik encounter was a back and forth battle of sorts -- but only between two results, as Kramnik seemingly had the game won on multiple occasions, only to allow Aronian back into the game with drawing chances. After being pushed to the brink several times, Aronian finally reached a completely drawn endgame, only to inexplicably blunder by pushing the wrong pawn and losing instead.
With just two rounds to play, Kramnik is now red-hot and sitting in the driver's seat. However, he'll have to keep an eye on Carlsen, who is very much in the tournament, particularly as he would likely beat Kramnik on tiebreakers should the two end up with the same score (Carlsen would need to win an extra game to tie him, and "most wins" is the second tiebreaker after head-to-head results, in which they drew both games). After the rest day on Saturday, the players will be back for the final two games on Sunday and Monday to determine who will meet Viswanathan Anand for the World Championship later this year.