Arkadij Naiditsch has beaten Magnus Carlsen for the second time in a row after the World Champion bashed out a bishop sacrifice that saw Maxime Vachier-Lagrave christen him Magnus Jobava. Naiditsch defused any immediate danger, but had to win an epic battle two or three times against Carlsen’s legendary resilience. That overshadowed Fabiano Caruana regaining the world no. 2 spot after a ramshackle performance by Levon Aronian, while Michael Adams bounced straight back with a win against David Baramidze.
GRENKE Classic 2015 Round 3 results (click a result to replay the game with computer analysis)
Since there’s no question about the game of the day, let’s whiz through the other action, featuring two wins and a Berlin Wall draw.
Levon Aronian remains a pale shadow of the razor-sharp and resourceful player we all knew and loved a year ago. On Wednesday in Baden-Baden he had the white pieces but handed Fabiano Caruana a win on a plate. Caruana admitted to one “terrible blunder” (30…Kg7? allowing 31.Nc7!), but that was nothing compared to Aronian’s torrent of self-castigation:
35…Bxf2+! (you can see Caruana executing the move above) won even more material, since 36.Kxf2 runs into the simple 36…Qf6+! double attack. It was an almost painful game to watch, but Caruana won’t be complaining as he took the lead and climbed back to number two on the live rating lists. Aronian used to be synonymous with that no. 2 spot, but he’s long since been headed the other way:
Watch the post-game press conference below:
After being painfully outplayed by Magnus Carlsen the day before Michael Adams was gifted a chance to get straight back to 50%. He said he thought in advance that David Baramidze’s 16…Ne7? looked a bit loose, and when it appeared on the board he realised it was simply losing:
The problem was 17.axb5 axb5 18.Rxa7! Rxa7 19.Bg5 Qg6 20.Qe3!
An unusual double attack, since as well as hitting the a7-rook it prepares Nxe5 or Nh4, trapping the black queen. There was nothing better for Baramidze than to give up material with 20…f6, but the position was objectively hopeless, even if Adams saw some ghosts that prolonged the conversion (they might have prolonged it indefinitely if not for Baramidze’s 25…Nxg2 piece sac – a theme of the day!).
Watch the post-game press conference:
It’s fair to say few have been saddened by the relative absence of the mainline Berlin Defence since the London Chess Classic, and this was an illustration of why. Bacrot apparently played the first new move on about move 23, with Anand starting the press conference: “Don’t ask too many questions about the opening!”
Two moves later Bacrot stopped to think for over 50 minutes, concluded all his winning tries failed, and then, as he admitted, “decided to play for a draw”. The resulting position apparently held few mysteries for the players, who rushed to that draw on move 37. For more on the game see the post-mortem below:
And now we get to a truly epic battle.
This game requires some backstory. Round 7 of the 2014 Olympiad. Magnus Carlsen leading Norway against Germany goes for a bold winning attempt just before the time control, only to realise too late that it’s one position where a knight and passed pawn outweigh a bishop.
Naiditsch wins a virtuoso endgame and, as the other three games are drawn, Germany beat Norway.
So there was an added edge when the players faced each other in Baden-Baden in Round 3 of the GRENKE Chess Classic. Carlsen had the black pieces this time round, but when he replied to 1.e4 with 1…g6 it was clear he was out for blood. Still, that couldn’t stop 10…Bxg4!? being anything but a huge bolt from the blue!
The World Champion had just given up a bishop for two pawns for what was clearly (as any chess engine told the watching world) a speculative sacrifice. Nigel Short in the commentary booth was lost for words, although fortunately not literally!
What the heck? What an animal!! He’s out for blood. He wants to bite Arkadij Naiditsch’s head off with this kind of chess. Very brave, very bold. I wouldn’t do it. I’d be chicken.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won the response of the day contest, though, by showing us that it’s not only fans but Top 10 (after Aronian’s loss) players who can be thrilled by chess moments:
Clarification was obviously needed at this point (not for Magnus Jobava, that was clear!):
And then after some reflection:
Some other players were also asked after their games if they’d have considered the move:
Anand: “I’d have considered it” Would you have played it? “50:50”
Bacrot: “Only if I think my position is very bad”
Caruana: “I couldn’t believe Bxg4 – this was an extraordinary move. It makes sense, but…”
Naiditsch himself described it as “maybe quite a good practical try” in what he considered already a very difficult position for Black. What followed is impossible to summarise in a quick report, so let’s just give a few snapshots:
After initially playing extremely ingeniously to consolidate his extra material Naiditsch has given up a pawn on b2 and now takes on b7. Computer evaluations suggest White has given up the lion’s share of his advantage, but the problem for Magnus is that after 19…Rab8 White can blast the position open with 20.Rxg7! Kxg7 21.Bxf5!! and although computers suggest it’ll all end in perpetual check Nigel Short explained:
You’re facing this vicious onslaught and it looks as though White has a draw as an absolute minimum. You’ve got to have calculated everything until the end to go for this.
So it was understandable Magnus played 19…Rf7, when he was definitely worse again. Naiditsch went on to force an exchange of queens and seemed well on course for victory until 30…Ra2:
I shocked myself completely by not taking on e5. I was very angry at playing 31.Bg2.
The German was in time trouble and it seemed as though, as in so many of Magnus’ games, the World Champion was solving all his problems and could dream of playing for a win, since his phalanx of pawns wasn’t obviously weaker than the white pieces. Nigel Short commented:
Against some players you can just wait for them to die. Against Magnus Carlsen you’ve got to stick the stake through the heart and hammer it in.
Perhaps it was also partly our common Carlsen complex, though – when Jan Gustafsson asked Aronian who was playing for a win he immediately replied, “Definitely White”.
Perhaps the moment it all slipped away was here, after 49.Kh1:
Naiditsch pointed out Black barely has a move. 49…Rf4 may have been the best bet, since after 49…Kf6 50.Nc4! the a5-pawn was doomed and White was able to control the situation with his rook on d3. The final position told the story, with Black’s pawns a tempo short of saving the day:
Naiditsch was understandably happy afterwards:
It's a nice feeling, of course, to beat the strongest chess player in the world!
Watch his full interview here:
Magnus didn’t stay for the post-game interview, though he did contribute an extraordinary fact on Twitter:
Sure enough, Carlsen lost to Caruana in the third round of the Sinquefield Cup, Anand in the third game of the World Championship match and Wojtaszek in the third round of the Tata Steel Masters. After the Tata loss he did admittedly go on to win his next six games in a row, though as Jan pointed out, that’s problematic when the GRENKE Chess Classic only has four rounds remaining!
So then, we have two new leaders in Baden-Baden:
It’s perhaps not entirely what he needed, but Magnus Carlsen’s next game, after Thursday's rest day, will be his first encounter with Vishy Anand since the World Championship match. He has Black, and will have to decide whether to try something sharper than the repertoire he used in the match, which failed to pierce Vishy’s armour.
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