Magnus Carlsen beat Georg Meier in Round 6 for his third win with the black pieces in the 2019 GRENKE Chess Classic. That gave the World Champion a full point lead over no less than six players after Vishy Anand, the co-leader at the start of the day, sank without a trace against Arkadij Naiditsch. The other three games were drawn, with 14-year-old Vincent Keymer impressing by making Levon Aronian work hard to save a draw with the white pieces.
You can replay all the games from the 2019 GRENKE Chess Classic using the selector below:
And here’s the day’s live commentary from Jan Gustafsson and Peter Leko:
If you want a quick video recap of the whole day’s action check out Jan’s conversation with Eric van Reem:
If there was one certainty going into Round 6 it was that Magnus Carlsen wasn’t going to let having the black pieces get in the way of going for blood against Georg Meier, rated 217 points below him and coming off a run of three losses in a row. It took until move 6 to get a move that was essentially a novelty!
Peter Leko would later sum up:
This is a textbook game. Everything that Black wanted to achieve with 6…b5 he achieved!
Black took control, but it would be a theme of the game that Meier kept having chances to extricate himself from a very difficult situation:
Magnus pointed out 31.Ne3! here and felt the position would be drawn, while Meier, already short on time, went for what the World Champion called the “suicidal” 31.e3? – “I think e3 just opens up his king and loses time”. After 31…Ne4! 32.exd4 exd4 33.Nb3 d3! 34.Rc1 Jan pointed out that Black might have won much quicker with 34…Bxb4!. A shocked Magnus commented, “I considered Bg7 but not Bb4, which is pretty insane!”
After 34…Bxb4 Black is able to force through the queening of the d-pawn, or exact a high price to stop it, while after 34…Rxc1+ 35.Qxc1 Qxa4 36.Qc4 in the game White had something approaching a fortress for the next couple of hours. As Magnus put it, “In the game it’s just a mess. I think Meier misplayed it, but I got lucky”.
Magnus didn’t see any clear win even at the very end if Georg had played 58.Ke3, but instead the German grandmaster played 58.Kxd2?, allowing 58…Qe4!
Suddenly there’s no choice but to resign since Black is threatening to win the white queen on a4 with a discovered check, and there’s nothing to be done about it. As Jan pointed out, a move like 59.Qa6 to try and save the queen and protect the e2-square runs into the small issue of 59…Nb3 mate.
It was a huge relief for Magnus:
I was just so tired and I couldn’t calculate anymore. If he’d stayed passive it’s probably drawish, but it’s a pretty hellish position to defend for a long time, especially when he gets down on time. I was just so grateful to see 58.Kxd2 and, as they say, centralisation is the most effective attacking method! Even here at the end, after playing so long, I could do that one thing, but it was just an absolute mess today.
In terms of the tournament situation it was a great day for Magnus, but he confessed that playing long games in every single round was having an impact:
My play has deteriorated completely for the last few rounds, so it’s definitely getting to me. It’s just the way it is. Today I cannot finish it off, so then it gets to be a long game again, so it’s a bit frustrating. I’m +3, I know I shouldn’t complain, but the quality doesn’t by any means reflect the score at this point.
There was just time for Jan to ask about a more pressing issue – Magnus’ new clean-shaven look and what he felt about Anish Giri’s criticism of his beard:
It turned out Magnus wasn’t aware, but he has been following his arch-rival’s Chinese adventures:
Magnus: I was extremely worried after yesterday [when Harikrishna lost to Rapport]. I thought, this is it, he’s going to get his tournament victory!
Jan: Do you count Shenzhen as a supertournament?
Magnus: Yeah, kinda. It is a bit of a soft supertournament, but still it is, I think. I mean, Ding is there, and he’s world no. 3… I don’t know how the tiebreaks are like and such. I’m really nervous for that one tomorrow, and I’m nothing if not petty!
Jan: You’re team Jakovenko all the way?
Magnus: For sure!
Alas, there was no stopping Giri, who beat Jakovenko while Harikrishna lost to Ding Liren!
Watch the full post-game interview below:
If there was a theme to Round 6 it was the Four Knights variation, which appeared in both Vallejo-Caruana and Naiditsch-Anand.
That was good news for half of our commentary team, as Jan’s latest video series dealt with the Four Knights, and it would turn out that the secret to success was to follow the recommendations given there!
Paco Vallejo, playing White, had done his preparation and managed to test world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana:
I was kind of lucky that he didn’t remember exactly, but on the other hand he’s a very good player, so he found all the good moves.
What Fabi found, over the board or not, was a drawing line where Black defies what are initially high computer evaluations in White’s favour:
Here’s Paco talking about that game:
Arkadij Naiditsch went for a different line with 5.Ba4 against Vishy Anand, and up until 8.d3 they were following Jan’s recommendations.
Jan advises 8…Bh5!?:
And here I’m not sure it's a novelty, but my computer gives a move that is rarely played and made a lot of sense to me, even though it looks a little funky.
Vishy instead went for the main line with 8…d5, but a few moves later he decided not to castle kingside but to break up White’s pawn structure and castle queenside. On general grounds it looked a reasonable decision, but Naiditsch went on to consolidate effortlessly and was simply a pawn up with better pieces.
Vishy’s attempts to gain counterplay only resulted in an ugly structure that was waiting to be torn down:
With Black completely tied up the knight joined the party to end the game: 27.Ne2! c5 28.Ng3 Bh7 29.Nh5 Qd8 30.Nxg7 Black resigns.
In the remaining games Svidler-MVL was a theoretical battle in a position both players had played with the black pieces. Peter Svidler commented, “I think I would get immediately expelled from my Pioneers’ House” for moving his queen and dark-squared bishop 7 times by move 15, but the game fizzled out after Maxime’s choice on move 18:
The computer points out the brilliant 18…f5! 19.exf5 Nd5! when the threat is Nxe3. If White takes back with the pawn then the black rook would simply capture the knight on d2, while if White takes with the queen there’s Bh6!, also winning a piece. Instead Maxime played 18…Bh6?! immediately and after Peter exchanged bishops the position had stabilised.
The longest draw of the day was Aronian-Keymer, which got off to a curious start. Vincent Keymer picked the same 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 a6!? opening line as he had against Naiditsch in Round 4, a game where Vincent’s opening play drew high praise from Levon: “This is how the chess should be, slow and beautiful!”
But Levon nevertheless took his time over the opening moves and seemed to get absolutely nothing before following the old wisdom of taking kids into the endgame. That wasn’t a ploy that worked against young Vincent, who set about torturing his formidable opponent with an extra pawn, though in the end Levon’s passed pawn on a7 would prove enough for a draw:
A great result for the 14-year-old, who is no longer in last place.
The situation at the “top” of the table is remarkable, though. Magnus now leads by a point over six players!
There are still three rounds to go in Baden-Baden, where the atmosphere is very different from the start of the tournament in Karlsruhe:
We’ve got the classic Carlsen-Aronian match-up
on Saturday, while there are once again big rating imbalances in the other
clashes: MVL–Vallejo, Keymer-Svidler, Anand-Meier and Caruana-Naiditsch. That
means entertainment is almost guaranteed!
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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