Reports Apr 23, 2019 | 11:05 AMby Colin McGourty

GRENKE Chess 3: Svidler catches Carlsen

Peter Svidler beat Georg Meier to join Magnus Carlsen in the GRENKE Chess Classic lead after the World Champion allowed Vishy Anand to escape twice over the course of another six-hour marathon. Fabiano Caruana was the day’s other winner, but the world no. 2 flirted with defeat until 14-year-old Vincent Keymer cracked in the run-up to the time control. The other games were drawn, but not without a great fight. In the Open, Daniel Fridman had the best tiebreaks of 8 players on 7.5/9 (including 12-year-old Gukesh!) and will play in next year’s Classic.

Carlsen-Anand turned into an emotional rollercoaster for both players | photo: Eric van Reem, GRENKE Chess   

You can replay all the 2019 GRENKE Chess Classic games using the selector below:

Carlsen ½-½ Anand: 3rd time lucky for Vishy

Magnus Carlsen played 1.e4 to beat Vishy in Wijk aan Zee, then 1.d4 in Shamkir Chess, so of course it was the turn of 1.c4 in Karlsruhe! He repeated the 1.c4 e5 English variation with an early 4.e4 that he’d used to beat Fabiano Caruana in their first World Championship tiebreak game, arguably the most important game of the match. Peter Leko found the eagerness of Carlsen’s opponents to find out what else Magnus had prepared in his match repertoire puzzling, while Jan thought Vishy might have been tricked with the move order, but the speed with which Vishy played suggested he had things under control:

Peter Svidler also defended Vishy’s initial choice:

I tried playing this with White in a Bundesliga game against Tomashevsky. I understand I’m not Magnus, and he knows what he’s doing and I don’t, but I was slightly worse after 15 moves with White in this line, and he clearly wasn’t.

Vishy felt everything was going just fine, until 10…c6?:

For one minute I just took my eye off the ball. Even h5, h4 and then c6 might be better than what I did. If I want to play c6 then I can start with h5. It’s just so wrong on so many levels. I did it, and then I think the moment I went c6 the expression on his face already… then the problem with the position hit me. I must be very close to lost, and I must have been very close to lost the whole game.

Magnus paused only a couple of minutes before playing 11.f4! and soon a phalanx of white pawns on the kingside was threatening to steamroller Black. To Vishy’s great credit he hung on, and on, until Magnus played 52.Kg1!, a move everyone would later agree was very clever, and Vishy went astray with 52...Nc7?

Vishy could instead have played 52…Bxb5!, but he missed the danger:

Then at the end I thought I’d finally escaped and then I played 52…Nc7?, completely missing 53.Bf2!, with seconds left on my clock. I had exactly 1 minute 28, and this was move 53, so 7 moves left. I thought I’d lost the game again, and then somehow… 52…Nc7? is just a kind of dreaming move. Also 52.Kg1 is very clever in that sense - so he’s of course very good at this!

Carlsen’s king move had been disguised as a way to avoid dangerous checks from the black queen coming to the h-file, but it also prepared the Bf2-g3 manoeuvre. As 53…Nb7 54.Bg3 Bxb5 55.cxb5 Qd6 followed it seemed certain Magnus was going to pull off the trick of beating Vishy from an equal position for a 3rd time in 2019:

Vishy also felt it was over:

I couldn’t see a defence to 56.Kg2, frankly, because I’m kind of just locked. He will take the queens and then play Bxe5 and Kf3 somewhere, and I just couldn’t see how I was going to save this.

Magnus is mortal after all, though, and played 56.Qe2?, allowing 56…Ne6!, a move Vishy played in 26 seconds. He admitted he wasn’t thinking clearly by this stage but, “of course Ne6 is a move you make with a lot of gratitude!” 

There were no more twists as the game finally ended in a draw. That meant Magnus had missed a chance to win a 6th game in a row and climb even higher on the rating list (the draw cost him exactly one point), but he was in a good enough mood to engage in an almost 10-minute post-mortem on the stage. Jan helpfully lip-read what they were saying to each other 

You can watch Vishy’s commentary on the game below – rewind to watch the whole day’s show, including post-game interviews with Svidler, Aronian, Vallejo and Caruana:

And for full analysis of the game check out Grandmaster Pepe Cuenca’s video:

Keymer 0-1 Caruana: Earning praise but not points

Jan quipped at the start of the day’s live commentary that things were getting easier for 14-year-old Vincent Keymer, since his Round 3 opponent “hasn’t even been World Champion!” World no. 2 Fabiano Caruana was of course a formidable opponent, but he couldn’t help but be impressed with Vincent. When asked about his own chess youth he commented:

It wasn’t how I played when I was a kid. I had some cases of playing top players when I was 14, 15 and usually I didn’t have so many chances. Usually I would lose early on without much of a fight, so it’s quite impressive in general that he was able to outplay Magnus in the first game and I was outplayed today. It shows that he’s a very good player. Maybe he’s not so experienced and when he gets into time trouble he feels the pressure and starts to make inferior moves.

Our commentary team compared Keymer's play for most of the game to AlphaZero, which plays "how supergrandmasters would like to play" according to Peter Leko | photo: Eric van Reem, GRENKE Chess

As against Magnus, Vincent showed himself to be both brave and clever when it came to the early middlegame manoeuvring, and after 31…Rf8?! Black’s position was critical:


It was a very difficult game and I think at some point my position was bad and possibly losing, but he started to lose the thread at some point. When he played 32.Rf1 I think this was the main mistake in the game and letting me back into the game, and then it was followed up by further mistakes by both of us. I don’t think I was any worse after that move, but before that I think if I’m not losing then I really have to play very well to prove it… Instead of Rf1 I thought Qf4 was close to winning, but I could be wrong - it’s just the feeling I had at the board.

Some relatively superficial computer analysis suggests 32.Qf4! is indeed winning for White, but the position is, like in the first round against Magnus, extremely difficult to grasp, and Vincent’s 32.Rf1! was by no means a bad move. Even after 32…c3 33.Kh2!? (33.Qf4!) 33…Ra8 the decision to play 34.hxg6, that was heavily criticised by the commentators and e.g. Svidler (“It’s difficult for me to understand why you would ever take on g6 here”), doesn’t seem to have been a mistake. There were still tricky paths to a big advantage, but things finally went wrong for the youngster after 35…Bxc6:

36.Qf6! now forces an exchange of queens, after which White should be no worse. Instead 36.Rc1?! Qxb4! 37.Kg3! Qa3 38.Rh1? (38.Rc2!) 38…c2! was game over, even if Fabiano missed a clean win and could still have been made to work for the victory.

Watch Fabiano talking about the game:

It meant the murderers’ row of chess stars Vincent had played in the first three rounds had left him on 0/3, but his play has impressed, and it’s going to get at least slightly easier from now on. Up next are Naiditsch and Meier.

Svidler 1-0 Meier: Working on chess

So far, so good for Peter Svidler | photo: Jakob Baum

This was perhaps the quietest game of the day, but it produced the first win and was vital for the tournament standings. Georg Meier playing the French was to be expected, but his picking 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 instead of 3…dxe4 (the Rubinstein) did catch Peter by surprise:

It felt like a bit of a betrayal, because Georg is a Rubinstein player, he played, if you include online, thousands of Rubinsteins, including a number against me, and we just thought, if 3…Nf6 happens it happens.

The next critical moment was a fork in the road, which was surprisingly reached on two boards almost simultaneously!

Meier’s 12…Bb4 was the rode less trodden, of late, with Peter summing up:

It’s not a pleasant situation, because I understand if this was excellent for Black probably everyone would be playing it, but you still need to make moves!

What Peter did had the great virtue of finally getting Georg out of book, so that he spent an enormous 46 minutes on his 18th move. It may have been a case of “long think, wrong think”, since 18…a6 looks better than the 18…Ba5 he chose, and soon the position would turn out to be much more treacherous than it looked at a glance. 26…f4?! ran into the surprisingly powerful 27.g3!

Peter felt this should just win a pawn, since it’s too dangerous to take, but Meier called that “bluff” with 27…fxg3?!, and after 28.Kc1+ Ke8 29.hxg3 Bc6?! 30.Rd4! there was no stopping White’s plan of simply swinging the rook to the h-file and picking up the h-pawn. The attempted defence that followed only saw Black caught in a mating net (the only way out is to give up material):

Peter had an extra reason to be happy to have won in that manner:

It reminded me of a number of games I lost to Kramnik. In particular in Wijk, I lost a number of those opposite-coloured bishop positions. The one that everybody remembers is when I resigned in a drawn position, but I also lost one very similar to this with two rooks and opposite-coloured bishops, where my king was very unsafe. Nice to finally be on the right side of these endings!

This 2005 game is the one Peter was thinking about:

Here he fell for a trap with 20…Bxc4?, when after Kramnik’s 21.Rfe1! White is simply winning in all lines! Peter gave up a piece 4 moves later and resigned on move 28.

Back in Karlsruhe Peter is now in the joint lead with Magnus on 2.5/3. Jan pointed out things weren’t going too badly:

Peter: Yes, it’s mystifying!

Jan: But you did this working on chess trick again, you confessed?

Peter: Well, I brought people who do that. I can’t lay claim to any work done myself, but I have brought some people who are doing work, yeah. It seems to actually be a good idea, surprisingly. It’s making me question my life decisions… not very strongly… but somewhat question my life decisions!

The other French Defence took a different path when Paco Vallejo played the main line 12…a6 and went for 15…Rc8, a move introduced at the top level, as Leko mentioned, by Alexander Morozevich in the final round of the 2014 World Rapid Championship:

Sergey failed to fathom the consequences at rapid speed and lost the game when a win would have tied him with Magnus for the title. Vallejo explained his reasoning:

This line is of course deeply analysed everywhere, but to remember everything is a nightmare, and I decided to play it and I was expecting Levon not to remember… and I was kind of right!

Here Levon Aronian thought for half an hour before coming up with the novelty 16.Qe3!?, since he said he thought 16.0-0 was bad due to 16…Qa3, even though that’s how most of the games in the line had gone. The fireworks that followed are impossible to assess without deeper analysis, but it’s worth pointing out that after a later transposition all the moves up to 23.Be5 were seen in Shirov-Forcen from the penultimate round of last year’s Spanish Team Championship.   

Vallejo’s 23…d4!? doesn't seem to have been an objective improvement on Forcen’s 23…Bf6, but it did force a spectacular finish:

White would be losing now if not for 26.Rxd7! Kxd7 27.Rb7+ and White gave perpetual check. The black king could run to g6, but in that case it’s only White who could be better.

In an entertaining post-mortem the players found time to criticise Aron Nimzowitsch’s My System:

The remaining draw could lay some claim to being the most spectacular game of the round! Maxime Vachier-Lagrave showed again that he’s one of the few remaining top players with the appetite and skill to take on the Berlin in the classical ending. By around move 20 it looked as though he might go on to win smoothly against Arkadij Naiditsch, but then soon after he went for a dramatic try:


A glance at computer analysis might suggest it was a blunder, but if you played through the main line of that analysis you found it was actually White who was winning!

In the game after 25…gxf6 26.exf6 Bd6 there was no reason for engines (at shallow depth) or chess fans to feel embarrassed about not knowing what was going on, since even at the very end super-grandmasters could fail to assess the position:

Aronian and Vallejo stared at this position for a while and thought Maxime was simply lost after Black takes the h5-pawn, but after Rg5+ the black king can’t escape from checks. If it goes to h6 then Rg4! will form a mating net, while if the king goes down the board White gives one discovered check and then has the time to play Kf2 and give perpetual checks with the rook along the g-file.

So while Vincent Keymer remains in sole last place we now have joint leaders after three rounds:

Daniel Fridman qualifies for the 2020 GRENKE Chess Classic

Daniel Fridman played in the first ever GRENKE Chess Classic won by Vishy Anand back in 2013, and he’ll be playing the supertournament again in 2020 after topping the 900-player field in the top section of the GRENKE Chess Open:

His Round 7 win over Jorden van Foreest turned out to be critical. Daniel had been on the back foot, but 26.Rd3? was suddenly a losing blunder:

26…Qe1+! 27.Kh2 Ne5! and White resigned. 28.Re3 would run into 28…Ng4+! and 29.Qxg4 (29.Kh3 Qh1+ 30.Qh2 Qxh2#) 29…Qxe3 30.fxe3 fxg4 Black is up an exchange.

On the way to that victory Fridman drew against 12-year-old Gukesh, the second youngest grandmaster in history, who also made the 8-way tie for first place with another phenomenally good performance:

Fridman came top on buchholz tiebreaks, with Gukesh 5th behind Anton Korobov, Andreas Heimann and Samvel Ter-Sahakyan and above Matthias Bluebaum, Alexander Donchenko and Tamas Banusz. 

Fridman and the other GRENKE Open winners | photo: Georgios Souleidis, GRENKE Chess 

The most notable player among the 23 players half a point back on 7/9 was 15-year-old Alireza Firouzja, who came back from the forfeit loss in Round 3 and huge blunder in Round 4 to win his remaining games and limit the rating damage to less than a single point (in the graphic the forfeit loss is counted for rating):

So the Open is over, but the GRENKE Chess Classic will this year continue for two more rounds in Karlsruhe before switching to Baden-Baden after the rest day. Round 4 is no chance for us to catch our breath, since it features Caruana-Carlsen for the first time since the match! Fabiano is trailing by half a point and has the white pieces, so now would be a good time to end the drawing streak.

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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