Magnus Carlsen’s phenomenal run continues, with the World Champion now up to a live rating of 2871.2 after mating Peter Svidler in 33 moves in the penultimate round of the 2019 GRENKE Chess Classic. That wasn’t quite enough to clinch the title with a round to spare, since Fabiano Caruana overcame Georg Meier and could still theoretically force a playoff if he beats Levon Aronian in the last round. That scenario also requires Magnus to lose with White to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who defeated Vincent Keymer in Round 8 to move into clear 3rd place.
You can replay all the GRENKE Chess Classic games with computer analysis using the selector below:
And here’s a brief glimpse of the atmosphere in Baden-Baden during the round (again thanks are due to the video production team from E&R Solutions):
Magnus Carlsen later said “I was full of confidence for today” after his win over Levon Aronian the day before, while Peter Svidler was feeling exactly the opposite. He lamented that he’d been blundering pieces in analysis every day, and facing Magnus he decided to play 3.Nc3 against the Sveshnikov:
I thought this at least gives me a chance to have a solid position to start with… It’s a solid position to start with, but you still have to play it!
Peter had tried the same ploy, with no success, in his recent chess24 Birthday Banter Blitz match against Magnus, and although the World Champion varied on move 4 (playing 4…Be7 instead of 4…g6) the outcome ended up being the same. Our commentator Peter Leko, who had played the same first 12 moves against Vladimir Kramnik in Dortmund 2003, dampened expectations among Svidler fans by explaining he’d disliked his position at the board and begun playing strictly to equalise with White.
Svidler found himself doing the same, but would live to regret the spark of inspiration that produced 19.f4!? exf4 20.Qg5:
He commented of his “imaginative idea”, “I would be quite proud of this idea with Qg5, if not for the fact that after Qf8 I’m fighting for survival!” He pointed out that White seems to be doing ok after 20…d4, but 20…Qf8!, which he noticed only when it was too late but before it appeared on the board, prepared to meet 21.Qxd5 with 21…Rd8 and an X-ray to the d3-pawn.
Deep computer analysis suggests that White is still completely ok if he gives up the d-pawn with 22.Qg5 or 22.Qh5, but neither the players nor the commentators could believe in that. Instead Peter tried to hold onto the pawn with 22.Qf3?!, but after 22…Ne5 23.Qe4 (Peter realised his 1st choice 23.Qe2? fails to 23…Nxd3 24.Rcd1 c4! and the pawn can’t be taken because of Qc5+) 23…Ng4 24.Rce1 Ne3 Black had a monster knight on e3.
There was still some potential to put up a fight, but shortly afterwards 27.Rfe2?, a move Peter called, “difficult to explain”, ended the game as a contest:
Not for the first time in Peter’s career, his thoughts soon turned to how to enable the game to at least end aesthetically, and he came up with allowing a pawn mate with 33…g2#
For a full account of the game check out GM Pepe Cuenca’s analysis below:
Magnus summed up:
It was a very nice game for me. I think he sort of misplayed it early on, and then he missed this Qf8 move, and after that my play just flows - I get Ne3, g5, everything, so it was certainly a fun game today. I don’t expect to win like this every game, but the last few rounds have been great!
He was asked how he now compares to his “favourite player”, i.e. himself from a few years ago:
I don’t want to particularly compare, but I’m very satisfied with the way it’s going now and I don’t really think that I was better back then. It’s just flowing so well now.
Check out that interview with Magnus:
On a 2871.2 live rating Magnus is now just 18 points short of his record 2889.2, and less than 11 below his highest official FIDE rating of 2882. Whatever live rating Magnus ends on should become official by Wednesday’s May rating list.
You can also watch Magnus and Peter talking about the game with Peter Leko during the Round 8 live commentary (and there are more interviews with Caruana and MVL):
Svidler conceded that Magnus had played “very well”, but engaged in some understatement when he noted that, “It’s possible to ask more questions than I have today”. It left Ian Nepomniachtchi as the last man standings against the World Champion:
That 5th win meant the World Champion came close to repeating his feat in Shamkir Chess of winning the event with a round to spare, but a 3rd win of the tournament for Fabiano Caruana ensured the fat lady hasn’t sung just yet. “He seems to be enjoying the Sveshnikov”, Magnus noted of the fact that Fabiano Caruana was once again playing it with Black after facing it with White in the World Championship match. The line Georg Meier chose meant we got a repeat of Games 1 and 3 in London, with things soon becoming highly unbalanced:
Caruana told Jan:
Yeah, it was a really tough game. This position that we got somewhere after like 15…f4 is just a mess… I thought I shouldn’t be worse here, but I really wasn’t sure. The thing is, of course, there is a lot of risk for both sides. The main risk for me is that at some point he’ll attack e5 and I won’t be able to defend it. On the other hand, his king is kind of chronically weak.
Two moments illustrate just how double-edged the position was. Fabiano felt it was critical for Meier to try 20.Bc3 Qc7 21.d4, when he was planning to respond sacrificially with 21…g5!? 22.dxe5 c5!? 23.h4 g4!?
Fabiano believed this was “very dangerous” for Meier, but the computer just counts pawns and asks Black what on earth he’s doing!
After that chance was missed Black took over and nursed the game to a logical conclusion, but there was one potential bolt from the blue:
26.Rxg6!! Kxg6 27.Nxf4+! Kf7 (of course not 27…exf4?, as 28.Rg1+ ends in disaster on g7) and Fabiano said he basically stopped his calculations, but after 28.Rg1 Bf6 29.Nxe6 Kxe6 Fabi was shocked to learn that 30.f4! (or 30.Qb5 Ra8 31.f4!) may simply be winning for White:
Fabiano called it “miraculous”, and added, “It was a careless moment, but I don’t think I’d ever find over the board that White was winning this. You just stop in a position with White a rook down”.
In the game Meier lost the thread in time trouble and after the time control it was more or less a mopping up operation for Caruana. His second win in a row, and third of the event, took him within a point of Magnus, but as in the US Championship the world no. 2 felt he’d given himself too much to do after a slow start. He’d already written off catching Magnus before playing Meier:
I don’t think any disaster will happen, and Magnus’ opponents are basically falling on their swords at this point!
The one player who still could stop Magnus is Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who warmed up for that last-round battle with a tough win over 14-year-old Vincent Keymer. Maxime paid the kid the respect of dodging his Najdorf with the Alapin, 2.c3, and the French no. 1 felt Vincent handled things well until move 17:
Vincent equalised quite convincingly in the opening, but then made one very inaccurate move, at least in practical terms, when he played b5, allowing me this free attack on his king. He managed to sort of get out, but I had long-term play on his king and at the end in the time trouble he erred and it was then too difficult to save.
17…b5!? was a bold choice…
…but after 18.cxb5 Nb4 19.Ne5 Qxb5 20.Rh3! Black had to scramble to defend against crude threats such as Qh5 and delivering mate. As so often in the games Vincent has lost in the GRENKE Chess Classic, there were moments he could look back on with regret:
Here, with two minutes on his clock, Vincent missed a chance to equalise with 37…fxg4! 38.Qxh6 g3!, and after 37…Rc8?! he never got another chance in the game.
Maxime feels the youngster has “a bright future ahead of him”, but it’s another chess talent, Magnus Carlsen, that his thoughts are now turning to before their last-round game:
He’s been playing fantastic for the last months, and even since the beginning of the year. The work he did for the World Championship has paid off. It’s always exciting to play against the World Champion and I hope I will be able to bring my A game, because I have not seemingly been able to do that so far. My result is still alright, but I feel like I could have played better chess, and I have to be able to show my best side tomorrow.
Watch the full interview with Maxime:
The remaining two games in Round 8 were drawn, with Aronian-Anand seemingly a case of two chess legends licking their wounds after painful defeats. After some brief tension it ended in a 33-move draw.
Vallejo-Naiditsch, meanwhile, lasted six hours and 87 moves, with Paco Vallejo unable to win a very tricky ending with two extra passed pawns.
That leaves the standings as follows with one round of the 2019 GRENKE Chess Classic to go:
All eyes will be on Carlsen vs. MVL in the final round, but the chances of a quick draw that would confirm the title for Magnus and 3rd place for Maxime must be high, unless Caruana-Aronian ends in a quick draw and Magnus would again, as in Shamkir Chess, have absolutely nothing to lose. He commented on how his performance in the events compares:
I suppose Shamkir is still better, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow and then take stock.
Perhaps the biggest incentive for the World
Champion to press is that rating record. This is the last day he’ll get the
chance to play off a mere 2845 official rating!
Follow all the action from 15:00 CEST, when Jan Gustafsson will again be joined by Peter Leko live here on chess24. If you're a French speaker there's a bonus today, as 2-time French Champion Laurent Fressinet will join GM Iossif Dorfman and IM Jean-Baptiste Mullon to commentate on the games. Simply pick the French flag under the video.
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