Reports Feb 10, 2015 | 8:19 PMby Colin McGourty

GRENKE Chess Classic 2015: Final wrap-up

Magnus Carlsen won the 2015 GRENKE Chess Classic in a thrilling play-off against Arkadij Naiditsch that we reported on yesterday (don’t miss the most highly-rated and amusing commentary team ever assembled for live commentary!). To wrap up the tournament we’re now looking back on the classical games in the final round, and giving our assessment of how the tournament went for all eight players.

Magnus Carlsen with the trophy, though Arkadij Naiditsch was the positive surprise of the event | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website

GRENKE Classic 2015 Round 7 results (click a result to replay the game with computer analysis)

2738Adams Michael1 - 0Anand Viswanathan2797
2706Naiditsch Arkadij½ - ½Aronian Levon2777
2865Carlsen Magnus½ - ½Bacrot Etienne2711
2594Baramidze David½ - ½Caruana Fabiano2811

Three participants – Magnus Carlsen, Arkadij Naiditsch and Fabiano Caruana – went into the final round knowing they might need a win in order to finish first in the tournament. All of them came close, but none could quite pull it off:

Magnus Carlsen 1/2 – 1/2 Etienne Bacrot

Etienne Bacrot narrowly escaped from Carlsen's clutches in the final round, though it didn't stop the World Champion winning the whole event!

The game: Up to a point everything seemed to go according to plan for Magnus Carlsen. Peter Svidler, who joined the commentary team during the round, noted that any kind of manoeuvring middlegame with 32 pieces still on the board was playing into Magnus’ hands. Bacrot took too long deciding between apparently good options and failed to follow up accurately after he began pushing pawns on the kingside. Carlsen noted 22…Nd5 not 22…Ne4 was when it started to go wrong for the Frenchman, with Etienne admitting, “I just blundered. I thought I was much better”.

Soon the advantage had grown to game-winning proportions and the last thing anyone expected was for Magnus to let his prey escape from his grasp. That’s just what he did, though, with Bacrot managing to find sufficient counterplay in time trouble.

Here Carlsen said his original intention had been the beautiful piece sacrifice: 35.Nxd6 Bf8 36.Rf1! Rxf1+ 37.Kxf1 Bxd6 38.Nxc6, when the a-pawn can’t be stopped from queening.

I saw all this but decided it wasn’t worth giving up a piece. I just thought it was even simpler to play 35.Na5.

The last straw was 39.Nxa7?

Taking on a7 was insane – I should have gone 39.c3 or something.

After 39…Bd4+! all Bacrot’s problems were solved, with the three black pieces capable of giving perpetual check or even mate if White got careless (40.Rxd4 Ne2+! is an important nuance).     

Watch the player’s press conference after the game:

Magnus Carlsen: 4.5/7 (3 wins, 1 loss), 1st after a playoff, 2835 performance, -2.1 rating points

This wasn’t quite vintage Carlsen – the most memorable event of the whole tournament was perhaps his ill-fated #Bxg4WTF sacrifice against Naiditsch – but his three wins could easily have been four, and beating his arch-rival Anand no doubt has some added significance for him:

Winning the play-off gave the World Champion his second consecutive supertournament victory, and if he continues to experiment with more risky lines it bodes very well for chess in the months and years to come. His next major tournament looks set to be in Shamkir in March-April for the second Gashimov Memorial, with an incredible line-up assembled:

The change from a 6-player double round-robin to a 10-player single round-robin will be welcomed by fans – the format also makes you wonder whether they might be planning to join the recently-revealed Golden League.   

Etienne Bacrot: 3.5/7 (7 draws), 6th, 2755 performance, +4.3 rating points

For the Frenchman, who in 2013 played not in the main GRENKE Chess Classic but the accompanying open tournament, this has to go down as a success, but one where he’ll feel he could have done better. Although lucky to escape in the final game Bacrot let gilt-edged chances slip against David Baramidze in the very first round and Michael Adams in the 5th. In general, he played entertaining chess, and his “usually my games with Black are quite interesting”, was something of an understatement. He had an epic battle with Caruana in Round 2 and was perhaps only let down by a tendency to get into time trouble, a likely symptom of a lack of recent supertournament experience.

Arkadij Naiditsch 1/2 – 1/2 Levon Aronian

More evidence for the thesis that all rook endings are drawn, though it was very close... | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website

The game: Nigel Short called this "yo-yo chess" from Levon Aronian, who first played 15…Qd8-f6 “provoking” (Aronian insisted not “blundering”!) 16.e5 before returning with the queen to d8, only to return with 18…Qh4, provoking 19.g3, when the queen of course went back to d8 again!

Aronian admitted he’d perhaps got “too profound” at some point, and all it got him was a truly miserable rook ending:

31…c5! was a nice shot from Aronian, though it’s an open question whether the ending was still won for White or not. There are no prizes for guessing how Naiditsch answered Short’s query: “Did you have winning chances?” (it’s unlikely Naiditsch's response would differ much after whichever of his games you asked it!) but the computer and, more to the point, Aronian, kept coming up with clever ideas.

Watch Levon and Arkadij analysing after the game:

Arkadij Naiditsch: 4.5/7 (2 wins, 5 draws), 2nd after play-off, 2858 performance, +14.7 rating points

Naiditsch was the man of the 2013 GRENKE Chess Classic (8 decisive games out of 10!), but in 2015 he managed to combine enterprising play with results | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website 

This was a triumph for Arkadij, although one tinged with bitterness. He came one draw in an Armageddon game away from his first supertournament victory in a decade – in 2005 he won Dortmund ahead of the likes of Kramnik, Topalov, Svidler, Bacrot and Adams. It had also been noted that he won the U10 European Championship in 1995 and was born in 1985… but the perfect sequence wasn’t quite to be.

Nevertheless, it was hugely impressive how Naiditsch built on his escape against Viswanathan Anand in Round 2, beating the World Champion and David Baramidze in the next two rounds and pressing for a win at no risk in his final three games. Like Magnus he’s already won two tournaments this year, even if the Basel Chess Festival isn’t entirely comparable with the Tata Steel Masters.

Levon Aronian: 3.5/7 (1 win, 1 loss), 5th, 2746 rating performance, -2.8 rating points

Even when not at the top of his game Levon remains one of the most entertaining top players to watch - both on the board and as a commentator | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website 

The way Levon Aronian ended the tournament was just the opposite of Naiditsch – fighting to save a draw in his final three games. Miraculously, though, he not only managed it, but actually scored 2/3 – gratefully accepting Vishy Anand’s profligacy.  

Jan: Would it be fair to say you got a bit lucky over the last three games?

Levon: Yes, very fair!

Overall, though, it was another disappointing tournament for the “former world no. 2”. He seemed to get into opening difficulties in almost every game (even, for instance, against David Baramidze), and lost surely one of the worst games of his career against Fabiano Caruana. It was fitting that although he lost only roughly the same number of rating points as Magnus Carlsen he fell out of the live Top 10 by the end of the tournament. The question remains:

The commentators couldn’t come up with much of an answer to the biggest mystery in chess, though. Nigel Short suggested that based on his own career 32 might be a point at which age becomes a factor, while Jan Gustafsson and Peter Heine-Nielsen suggested that perhaps only the World Championship can really motivate a guy who’s got to Aronian’s level. How to balance the World Championship and “ordinary” supertournaments? It was suggested “former World Champion” was the sweet spot!

Michael Adams 1-0 Viswanathan Anand

Role reversal after Anand beat Adams in the last round of the London Chess Classic | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website

The game: Vishy Anand won the London Chess Classic by defeating Michael Adams with Black in the final round, so this was perhaps sweet revenge. Though it was the one game with almost nothing at stake and seemed to be headed nowhere, it suddenly sparked into life in the run-up to the first time control:

Adams thought it was a mistake for his opponent to allow him to push his h-pawn all the way to h5, and explained why it was so difficult for Anand to play:

I think psychologically it was very unpleasant because he had a good position where he could take a draw at any time, and now he ended up defending this miserable rook ending. I don’t think it was a bad decision to force it…

Anand boldly gave up a pawn for what appeared to be a fortress, but just when Adams was running out of options the former World Champion played 84…Ke5?:

Adams seized the chance to play 85.h6! and the only consolation was that it was at least all over mercifully quickly for Vishy.

Michael Adams: 4/7 (2 wins, 1 loss), 3rd, 2802 rating performance, +6.3 rating points

Trickey Mickey was never predictable in Baden-Baden | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website

The final win and a 2802 performance meant this has to go down as a success for Michael, although it was a very erratic performance. The English no. 1 was perhaps fortunate that the tournament schedule meant he was able to follow up a one-way-traffic loss to Magnus Carlsen by quickly bouncing back against David Baramidze. He could then easily have lost to Caruana and Bacrot while he might have beaten Aronian. In short, anything from -1 to +1 would have been a fair score for the second oldest man in the field.

Viswanathan Anand: 2.5/7 (1 win, 3 losses), 7th, 2641 rating performance, -15 rating points

Onwards and upwards in Zurich? | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website

Most things that could go wrong did go wrong for Vishy in this tournament, although until Round 4 the only real disappointment was a missed chance against Arkadij Naiditsch, when the German no. 1 failed to rush to his doom in the way he had in the final round of the 2013 GRENKE Chess Classic. In Round 4, though, the opponent was Magnus Carlsen, and the old issue of nerves in critical positions seemed to resurface. It wasn’t the loss – that was always a possible outcome in a strategically fascinating position – but the way he crumbled without a fight that made it hard to take. A similar scenario played out against Levon Aronian (including an early resignation), and it was clear that beating David Baramidze could do nothing to lift the Indian’s spirits. The last round just compounded the misery.

In the bigger picture, though, Vishy had a great 2014 and has the chance to bounce back straightaway in Zurich starting this Friday. Vishy is perhaps not the only participant who’ll be cheered by the absence of the World Champion!

David Baramidze 1/2 – 1/2 Fabiano Caruana

The game: Fabiano Caruana failed to force a play-off against Vishy Anand in the 2013 GRENKE Chess Classic when he missed a win on move 65 of a tricky endgame against Daniel Fridman. In 2015 the only real difference was that Fridman (who had lost three of his last four games but played very solidly against Caruana) was replaced by Baramidze (four losses in a row). Caruana wove some magic (and received some help) to win a pawn, and eventually had a chance to score a goal on move 71:

71…Kd4!!, just giving up the e-pawn, was the move,  although it was hard to see that the point was that the white knight can be trapped on h2 by the black king. Caruana noted afterwards that he’d thought he was setting up a clever zugzwang with 71…Kf6, but Baramidze was just in time.

David Baramidze: 1.5/7 (4 losses, 3 draws), 8th, 2542 rating performance, -3.9 rating points

David Baramidze at least ended on a positive note | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website

Baramidze performed below his rating, but not by much, and strange as it is to say about a tournament performance involving four losses in a row, no wins and 1.5/7, it could have been worse. Bacrot was winning the first game, Caruana the last, and some of the kamikaze chess David played during the tournament suggested he’d gone on tilt. This will be an event to leave off the young German's CV for future supertournament applications.

Fabiano Caruana: 4/7 (1 win, 6 draws), 4th, 2791 rating performance, -1.5 rating points

Fabiano scored his second +1 supertournament performance in a row - even by his standards it's hard to call it a crisis | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website

1 win in 7 doesn’t match up well with Fabiano’s famous 7/7, but this was another of those impressive-even-when-not-playing-well performances that the Italian seems capable of posting at will. He lacked penetration, but came much closer to beating Adams and Baramidze than he did to losing to Bacrot and Naiditsch. He fell just short of the play-off and also dropped to world no. 3 on the live rating list, though than can all change in a flash when he plays in Zurich while Alexander Grischuk is in action in the Tbilisi Grand Prix.

Let's have a final look at the table:

Rk. NameRatingFED12345678Points Wins
1Carlsen Magnus2865NOR01½½½114.53
2Naiditsch Arkadij2706GER1½½½½½14.52
3Adams Michael2738ENG0½½½½114.02
4Caruana Fabiano2811ITA½½½1½½½4.01
5Aronian Levon2777ARM½½½0½1½3.51
6Bacrot Etienne2711FRA½½½½½½½3.50
7Anand Viswanathan2797IND0½0½0½12.51
8Baramidze David2594GER000½½½01.50

So that’s all from this year’s GRENKE Chess Classic - we hope you enjoyed the show here on chess24! Stick with us for upcoming events like the Zurich Chess Classic starting this Friday, and if you want to support the free live broadcasts do please consider upgrading to Premium Membership. For €9.99 a month you get features that enhance the live coverage (such as the ability to analyse any move with our engine – also applicable to your Playzone games!) but also unlimited access to our video library.

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