Magnus Carlsen won a 5th game in a row as he beat Paco Vallejo in Round 2 of the GRENKE Chess Classic to retain the sole lead and move over 50 points ahead of Fabiano Caruana on the live rating list. He did it in an ending he said “you get once in your life”, and where you wouldn’t have bet on anyone else picking up the full point. Elsewhere Peter Svidler and Vishy Anand moved into second place with wins over Arkadij Naiditsch and Vincent Keymer, while Caruana-MVL and Meier-Aronian ended in draws.
Replay all the games from the 2019 GRENKE Chess Classic using the selector below:
And here’s a very quick video recap of the day:
When Magnus Carlsen is in this kind of form he just somehow finds a way, even though his game against Spanish no. 1 Paco Vallejo looked to be going nowhere. Magnus admitted:
I’d completely missed 31.f4+, so I think at this point I was just lucky not to be seriously worse.
Magnus played 31…gxf3 and here pointed out that he was fortunate that 32.h4+ fails to the “little trick” 32…Nxh4! 33.gxh4+ Kf4! and Black is actually winning, with threats including Rg8-g1 and mate. In the game after 32.Bxf3 h4 Magnus noted Paco should simply have taken on b7 (33.Bxb7! is the computer’s choice):
There’s no reason for him to play for a draw. I think if he takes with something on b7 then I should be very happy to force a draw somehow. I suspect it’s well within drawing range, but he’s the one who’s slightly better.
In the game after 33.Nc4?! it already became uncomfortable for White, but Paco made it to the time control and, in practical terms, seemed to have saved a draw when Magnus steered the game into an unusual pawnless ending:
Jan Gustafsson asked Magnus if he felt he was winning here:
I think opposite-coloured bishops and a rook it’s basically always winning, but I actually asked the arbiter how many moves do I have, because I thought there are some exceptions where you have 75, but maybe that’s just in my mind. I knew it was generally always winning, but I had no clue how and I was sure that against good defence it would take more than 50 moves… When he said it was 50 I thought I have my work cut out for me, but I guess you get this once in your life and this is mine, so I’m sort of curious how to proceed, but I’ll probably never get to use it again!
Tablebases agree, since it was mate-in-54 in the line Paco picked with 51.Bf3. The inhuman chess oracles then continued to note moments when Magnus could, or couldn’t, force a win in time, but in the end he caught his opponent out and Vallejo resigned just 23 moves after the torture began:
Don’t miss Magnus talking in detail about the game (and his Game of Thrones expectations):
While you can also watch the last moves:
And for an account of the whole game check out Spanish GM Pepe Cuenca’s video:
That win, a 5th in a row for the World Champion, took him to new rating heights over 50 points ahead of 2nd placed Caruana on the live rating list:
There wasn’t much you could criticise, but that’s no reason not to try!
Magnus had again played for 6 hours, with all the other games ending before that. Meier-Aronian was a 29-move draw in an offbeat 3.Bb5+ Sicilian where the speed with which Levon Aronian made his moves was perhaps more impressive than the position he achieved.
Caruana-MVL was notable for Fabiano Caruana adopting the 2.Nc3, 4.Qxd4, 5.Qd2, 6.b3 Sicilian line that Magnus had used to bamboozle Radek Wojtaszek in Shamkir Chess 2018:
Maxime played 7…d5 rather than Wojtaszek’s 7…a6 and a heavy theoretical battle ensued. If anything Caruana was better, but MVL never looked in danger before a draw was reached in 49 moves.
14-year-old Vincent Keymer’s baptism of fire is proving as hot as expected, after he fell to a second defeat in two days. You can’t knock his bravery, since he went for the Najdorf against one of the great Najdorf players of our age, and the resulting position was at least playable:
This is what Vishy Anand considered the critical moment:
I felt it was a very difficult game. It was very difficult to judge for me what happens if Black advances his pawns any further, but I had this move Bg5 and if he plays Bf6 I was going to put the knight on b5. I was unable to evaluate it. I feel that Black is ok because my plan of a3, b4 is kind of slow, but he made a really big mistake, he played Nf4 and this allows me to put a rook on e6. After that I think it’s unpleasant for Black one way or another.
Computers don’t entirely agree with those judgments, liking the position after 24…Bf6 25.Nb5 for White, and considering Vincent’s 24…Nf4!? the best move. They only consider the choice after 25.Bxf4 exf4 26.Re6 a serious mistake:
They suggest that after 26…Rxe6 27.dxe6 Nc5 Black has decent chances of survival, while after Vincent played 26…Ne5?! 27.Be2 Rxe6 28.dxe6 Re8 29.Qd5 it really was a tough position to hold. For a second day in a row the youngster was seriously short on time, and this time he failed to put up any resistance.
Watch Vishy being interviewed after the game:
And also talking to Jan and Vicent’s coach Peter Leko:
Arkadij Naiditsch surprised Peter Svidler with the 4.Bxc6 Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez, but while that variation has a drawish reputation Peter didn’t think that was White’s plan:
Arkadij plays the Exchange Spanish occasionally, and as with everything else he does, he doesn’t do it to make a draw – for him it’s an aggressive opening, an ambitious opening played to win, and somehow I didn’t really think this was very likely, so my preparation consisted of… we discussed it with my second a little bit and he just said, play this line, it’s a safe line, and that’s it.
The 5…Qf6 Svidler went for was a line he’d played against Dmitry Jakovenko in the 2015 Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix, and whether he recalled that game or not it went in a similar way, with Peter methodically applying pressure to White’s e-pawn before going on to win. This time Peter felt the key moment came after he played 19…Ba6:
Peter said White “absolutely had to play” 20.f5!? here, with unclear consequences, while after the passive 20.Nf2 Black took over. The game’s MVP was that knight that’s currently on g6 – by the final move of the game it had made it all the way to a3 to gobble a key pawn!
Peter summed up:
A nice game by me, I think, but I’m pretty sure Arkadij will not be very happy, because you don’t normally lose positions like this with White.
Watch Peter talking about the game:
That means that after just two rounds the standings are beginning to spread out:
Round 3 is a chance for Magnus to boost his rating even higher if he can win a third classical game in a row against his old rival Vishy Anand. For a third time he also has the white pieces. The chances of decisive action elsewhere are high, with Svidler, Caruana, MVL and Aronian all clear rating favourites against Meier, Keymer, Naiditsch and Vallejo respectively.
Follow all the action from 15:00 CEST, when Jan Gustafsson will again be joined by Peter Leko live here on chess24.
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