Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen drew their first game since the London match in another Sveshnikov where Fabi seemed to win the opening battle only to narrowly escape defeat by the end. That was the only draw of the day, with Vishy Anand beating Paco Vallejo to join Magnus in the lead. Arkadij Naiditsch inflicted a 4th loss on Vincent Keymer with a brilliant attack, Peter Svidler blundered early and lost to Levon Aronian, while Maxime Vachier-Lagrave ground out an endgame win against Georg Meier.
You can replay all the games from the 2019 GRENKE Chess Classic using the selector below:
With the GRENKE Chess Open now over the huge hall in Karlsruhe was suddenly almost deserted, and the following short video gives a good idea of the new atmosphere:
If you want a quick video summary of the whole day’s action don’t miss our man Jan talking to Eric van Reem:
This was the most anticipated game of the tournament, and it didn’t disappoint! After Magnus Carlsen had beaten Jorden van Foreest, David Navara and Sergey Karjakin this year on the black side of the Sveshnikov he used in the London match you could have forgiven Fabiano Caruana for trying something different, but he decided to head right back out onto the theoretical battleground.
The game followed the 7.Nd5, 8…Ne7 line we saw in the final classical game and 2nd tiebreak game in London, and it was only on move 14 that Fabiano varied from Karjakin’s recent loss to Carlsen in Shamkir:
Instead of 14.Be2, Fabiano went for 14.Qa4 Bd7 15.Qc2. Magnus can’t have been entirely unprepared, since he spent only 5 minutes on 15…Bxb5 16.cxb5 Be7, but after 17.Bd3 he took 15 minutes over 17…Nf8!?
The question after the game was where White’s apparent opening advantage was lost, and this may have been one of the moments. Caruana said he felt this position was very dangerous for Black, and that here his 18.b6!?, played after half an hour’s thought, was “the critical move”. It seems, however, that it justified Carlsen’s knight move as 18…Nd7 now followed, and in the concrete play after White took on a7 Black was doing ok. Perhaps the threat of b6 was stronger than the execution, and a move like 18.0-0 to keep the tension may have been the way to go.
In any case, there were many more deep and almost impossible to assess moments like that, until suddenly the game had swung around. The point at which Caruana realised something had gone badly wrong was after 30.Qxh5:
Here Caruana was expecting only 30…Rh6, when he gets an ending “a pawn up for questionable compensation”. Instead after 30…g6! 31.Qg4 Qxg4 32.Bxg4 it makes all the difference that Black can play 32…Rf4!, which Fabi said, “forces my bishop to a horrible square” (e6). He summed up:
It was a strange transition from a position where I’m clearly better and it doesn’t feel like I made a horrible move, to a position where by force we get a worse ending for me - a very critical ending.
Caruana now has a lot of experience of such situations, however:
It felt like less pressure, somehow. I mean we were playing the same line as in the match, but the pressure was sort of off.
He found some very precise moves to avoid things escalating further, and although he wasn’t forced to he confidently entered a pure Rook vs. Rook + Knight ending. You can watch how he demonstrated he knew exactly how to draw it:
That draw was a chance for Peter Svidler to take the sole lead, but this wasn’t going to be Peter’s day:
In a Ruy Lopez Anti-Marshall Levon Aronian played an opening novelty, 18.Ncd2, that perhaps had some disguise, since he’d thought for 11 minutes on the previous move:
Peter told Levon afterwards that he’d previously analysed playing 18…Bxb3 19.cxb3 Qb5 20.Qxb5 Rxb5, but rejected it at the board. Peter Leko could understand that, saying he’d hoped to play the same novelty himself in 2017 (Harikrishna mixed something up and they never got to it) and that although the position was drawish it was “a nightmare”. The problem is that Svidler’s improvised “improvement”, 18…Rfe8?, lost him the game. After 19.Qxa6! Ra8 20.Qe2 Nxa5 21.Bxe6 fxe6 he was left with a ruined pawn structure and uncoordinated pieces, and blundering a pawn two moves later meant it was game over long before hostilities ended on move 38.
The player who did take advantage of Carlsen’s draw was Vishy Anand:
For the second day in a row Vishy emerged from the opening watching a phalanx of white pawns march down the board towards his king. That’s perhaps as good an excuse as any to post some amazing video and audio footage of yesterday’s Carlsen-Anand post-mortem (but we still absolutely stand by Jan’s lip reading!):
You can see there that Magnus missed the winning moves at the end for a simple reason: he thought his 56.Qe2 was winning, having missed 56…Ne6! completely.
Against Vallejo it looked almost as bad, with Vishy commenting:
I thought I was worse, quite simply, because I felt his attack is much faster than mine. I can’t really say why I sort of blundered into this.
What saved him was that, “Paco spent too much time trying to find something forced”, while Vishy felt simply pushing the pawns further, and transferring the knight from f3 to g4 via h2, would have given White a big advantage:
Instead Vallejo went for piece play, but when the dark-squared bishops were exchanged it was clear it was going to be Black’s day:
The g5-knight was easily pushed back by h6 and Vishy commented that, “this f4-square is just gaping”. He never actually put a piece on the square, but he didn’t have to since his domination on the c-file led Vallejo to a desperate sacrificial try that only hastened the end.
It was the old familiar story for 14-year-old Vincent Keymer. The early stages of the game went very well for him, including getting Arkadij Naiditsch to think for 15 minutes on move 3 by trying 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 a6!?
Then his subsequent play drew the highest possible praise from Levon Aronian:
Actually I think Vincent plays fantastic positionally. I can feel that there is this Peter Leko touch – no positional mistakes, all the pieces are going to these deep squares.
Levon said he loves the kind of “strategical fights” that we witnessed in Naiditsch-Keymer, and when Leko suggested that was “Armenian chess”, Levon warmed to his theme:
This reminds me of where we came from - Shatranj, Chaturanga. The pieces were moving slowly, you couldn’t move the pawn two [squares], so you would slowly, slowly move your pieces and the alfils, the ancient bishops, would slowly come. This is how the chess should be, slow and beautiful!
Don’t miss Levon’s interview (and the rest of the day’s live commentary):
We returned to the brutal reality of a kid getting bashed around on his supertournament debut, however, on move 21:
21…g5! was the way for Black to keep the position closed with a significant advantage. After 21.f6? he could simply play 21…Qe8 and the e5-pawn is going nowhere. Instead he immediately played 21…Ncxe5?!, when Arkadij was able to take on h6 and then open the f-file. The game suddenly became all about Naiditsch’s attacking prowess, and it was a beautiful finish. Don’t miss Pepe Cuenca’s analysis:
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave wasn’t going to miss out on a day of the higher-rated players “filling their boots”, even though an offbeat opening (the players had left theory by move 5) yielded nothing and the game seemed to be petering out into a draw. Maxime kept a tight grip on an extra pawn, and after 70…Nh2 Georg Meier finally cracked:
The knight is unfortunately placed on g2, but 71.Rd1! is still a draw. After 71.Ra1 tablebases helpfully announce that 71…g3+! is mate-in-31 – the difference between the rook moves is that the king is now forced to go to g1, whereas after 71.Rd1 it could go to e2, with Rd2 ready to meet Rb2+.
Maxime didn’t put a foot wrong after this, and with 83…Kb2! he quite beautifully illustrated the problem with White’s construction:
The white rook can’t leave the back rank without allowing mate, but it’s already standing on the only safe square – a perfect zugzwang! The sad 84.Rg1 followed, and Maxime went on to demonstrate how to win with a rook against the knight.
That result meant that Maxime joined Caruana, Aronian and Svidler in 2nd place behind Anand and Carlsen:
Round 5 is the last before the rest day and the switch to
Baden-Baden, with Carlsen-Naiditsch the obvious game in which to expect
fireworks. Arkadij won consecutive games against Magnus in the 2014 Olympiad
and 2015 GRENKE Chess Classic, though the World Champion has racked up 4 wins
of his own. Keymer-Meier looks like Vincent’s best chance to get on the
scoreboard before he starts facing more monsters.
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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