Maxime Vachier-Lagrave beat Hou Yifan to join Nikita Vitiugov in the GRENKE Chess Classic lead after three rounds, Fabiano Caruana beat Georg Meier to join Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian in second place, but 13-year-old Vincent Keymer was the hero of the day. The German international master, coached by Peter Leko, began as the 99th seed in the GRENKE Chess Open but beat Richard Rapport in the final round to finish on 8/9 and win the €15,000 first prize. He’s earned the right to play in the top event next year.
For once we have to start with the GRENKE Chess Open, which came to an end on Easter Monday in Karlsruhe:
The almost 1500 player event is one of the biggest opens ever held, and its 800-player top section was won by a 13-year-old – Germany’s Vincent Keymer. His unbeaten 8/9, for a performance of around 2800, saw him finish half a point above Anton Korobov, Dmitry Gordievsky and Alexei Shirov:
You can check out all the games below:
The final game was stunning. Richard Rapport needed to win to have a chance of taking first place himself, and sacrificed a piece for what looked like an extremely dangerous attack:
25…Re7! here typified the way Vincent coolly handled the situation, though, preparing an escape route for the black king. The kid demonstrated that he can handle the media attention as well, displaying perfect chess English as he explained some of his decisions afterwards:
In a German interview with Georgios Souleidis he talked about being unsure whether he should take up the invitation to play in the GRENKE Chess Classic next year:
Although in terms of rating and the race to become a grandmaster Vincent doesn’t really stand out against his peers – this was his first grandmaster norm – no-one else has posted a result as eye-catching as this one. He also seems to have the perfect backup, with former World Championship challenger Peter Leko as a coach:
They’ve been working together for the last half year, though as Vincent revealed in that German interview above time has been limited since, for instance, Leko was working as a second at the Candidates Tournament (he didn’t reveal for whom!). Peter talked about his impressions of the youngster at the end of his latest recap video:
Some highlights include:
I’m extremely happy and very proud for him. It’s a sensational result. He just wrote history here. It was phenomenal to see how confidently he played... Under this immense pressure to navigate in all these complications against Richard was really world class. We’re working now since half a year together and I have noticed right from the beginning that he’s an exceptional talent and also a fantastic kid, and this combination is just wonderful, and I really hope that he can stay like he is, because he’s just super kind, super nice. At the same time he loves chess, he’s ready to fight at the board, he’s ready to handle any kind of situation perfectly, so I really believe that he has a very bright future ahead of him.
Leko talked about his protégé’s style:
I have seen that he has this very special something which you cannot learn, whether you have it or not, a feeling for the small nuances, and it comes so natural for him… It was not just about tactics, because he can do fantastic tactics, he’s very good at calculating everything, but what really most impressed me is this feeling for all the small nuances which usually is there when you are a world class player. So it’s a pure pleasure working with him.
We should leave Vincent to develop at his own pace without too much media hype, but it’s fair to say that the 12, 13 and 14-year-olds growing up at the moment are likely to transform the chess scene in the next 5-10 years.
But now let’s get back to the GRENKE Chess Classic, which ended its stay in Karlsruhe with another day of fighting chess:
You can replay the whole day’s commentary from Jan Gustafsson and Peter Leko below:
Up to move 10 the players were playing following Aronian 1-0 MVL from the rapid section of last year’s Grand Chess Tour event in Leuven:
Maxime said he’d realised even during that game that playing 10…Rc8 11.Rd1 Qc7 and allowing 12.Qe1 had been a bad idea, so this time he went for 10…Qc7 11.Rd1 Rad8 when the immediate 12.Qe1 would fail to 12…d5! That got Hou Yifan thinking, but she did eventually get her queen to e1 and it was unclear who was playing for what in the middlegame. 22.Ne3! instead of 22.e4!? and it might have been White on top, but 25.Qe3?! was a case of overpressing and 31.Nxa5? was reckless. 32…Ba6! was a cold shower:
Suddenly White is in big trouble and the best option is to try and bail out with the miserable 33.Bf3 or 33.Nc4, since after 33.Bf1? Bxf1 34.Kxf1 Qa8!, with a double attack on the a5-knight and the e4-pawn, it was game over. Maxime liquidated into a knight ending where he was about to be two pawns up at the moment Hou Yifan resigned.
That meant it was two wins in a row for MVL, who was happy with how things were going:
I cannot complain. Last year I had a more difficult time - I think I lost two games in the first three rounds. Also my level of play was good so far.
For Hou Yifan it was two losses in a row, though that’s an occupational hazard when you’re playing the world nos. 1 and 4. Up next? Black against Levon Aronian!
Watch Maxime talk about the game:
In Round 3 the players with the black pieces were higher rated on all boards, but Fabiano Caruana was the only other one who managed to win. Georg Meier played the Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation and reached the following position:
The only other player to get here with White was Arkadij Naiditsch in 2013, and Caruana revealed afterwards that his blockbuster novelty 10…g5! here had been prepared for Naiditsch four years ago. Fabiano may not have remembered all the details – he joined his opponent in thinking for half an hour on the next two moves – but after 11.Nf3 Rg8 12.h4 Qg6 Black already had what looked like a ferocious attack.
That was nothing compared to how scary things got eight moves later, when Georg decided to take drastic measures:
21.b4?! objectively wasn’t a great move, but it succeeded, for a while! Georg managed to get his dark-squared bishop back into the action along the a1-h8 diagonal and Fabiano failed to find the best way to continue the attack (admittedly the computer lines after 24…Nh2! are crazy!). In the end, though, the defensive moves White needed to find were too much for time trouble and the game was finally over after 33…Rh3! 34.Rxe6:
34…Rxg3+! 35.fxg3 Qxe3+ 36.Kh2 Qf2+ 37.Qh1+ had been seen in advance by Meier, but he’d missed that after 37…Qf1+, the last move of the game, the bishop joins the action to give mate-in-2: 38.Kh2 Qh3+ 39.Kg1 Bc5#
It was more evidence that, as we saw in the Candidates, Fabiano isn’t a player you want to take on in a calculating duel in a wild, unbalanced position. Watch the players talk about the game:
That win took Caruana level with Magnus Carlsen in 2nd place, since Matthias Bluebaum managed to get away with taking a 50-minute think on move 15 on the white side of a King’s Indian Defence.
The drawing line he calculated had no hole in it, but he was visibly shaken when Magnus came up with the intermezzo 29…Ng4:
It was a weird case of déjà vu, since once again, as in Round 1 against Nikita Vitiugov, just when most of the material had been traded off and a draw seemed likely, a surprise knight move meant Bluebaum was suddenly in real danger of losing the game. Once again the black queen was threatening to wreak havoc on the dark squares, but this time after 30.Qg3! it turned out White could stay afloat with a series of only moves. Matthias went on to draw the ending comfortably.
The other two draws never really caught fire. Anand-Aronian was an Anti-Berlin which Leko considered “theoretically very important” for the way in which Levon tried to save a tempo by not playing h6 in a line where it had almost always been included. Vishy navigated the new position securely, though, and a draw by repetition was reached on move 31.
Naiditsch-Vitiugov was a Ruy Lopez in which both sides castled queenside and engaged in a manoeuvring battle, but even such combative players couldn’t stop the game fizzling out into a draw.
That leaves the standings after three rounds of the GRENKE Chess Classic as follows, with MVL and Vitiugov ahead of the field:
Tuesday is a rest day, during which the players will make the 20-minute trip to Baden-Baden, where the remaining six rounds will be played without the accompaniment of 1400 other players!
Check out Fiona Steil-Antoni's behind-the-scenes look at the venue in Karlsruhe:
In Wednesday’s Round 4, Carlsen-MVL is a chance for the World Champion to try and hit the front, while Aronian-Hou Yifan, Vitiugov-Anand and Caruana-Naiditsch are more games with clear favourites where we can expect a fight.