Magnus Carlsen has joined Arkadij Naiditsch in the lead at the GRENKE Chess Classic after outclassing David Baramidze in a complex ending. That was Carlsen’s second win and Baramidze’s third loss in a row, but the real story of the day was Viswanathan Anand’s second consecutive loss – a painfully sudden reversal in a position where the former World Champion seemed to be doing very well against Levon Aronian. The other two games were drawn, but only after six-hour struggles that ensured the packed house in Baden-Baden got its money’s worth.
GRENKE Classic 2015 Round 5 results (click a result to replay the game with computer analysis)
Coming off a loss to Magnus Carlsen, an encounter with Levon Aronian was almost the last thing Viswanathan Anand needed. His record against the Armenian no. 1 is surprisingly much worse than against the World Champion: 8 losses, 3 wins, 20 draws at classical chess before their meeting in Baden-Baden. The one consolation for Anand, though, is that he won the game that really mattered – their clash in the first round of the 2014 Candidates Tournament.
In Round 5 things initially seemed to be going Vishy’s way. He repeated the setup Aronian had used against Carlsen a fortnight ago in Wijk aan Zee (after a different move-order the positions on move 12 are identical), but while Levon had played passively and lost a miserable encounter without any counterplay Anand expanded on the kingside with 15…g5!
Aronian admitted, “I’m not too proud of my moves here”, and rather than going for any principled play on the queenside he hunkered down on the kingside, with 12.Rfc1 and 21.Rcf1 symbolic of his approach (“I got scared somehow…” and “I thought to be a little chicken…” are more of Aronian’s quotes from the press conference). The commentators were joking that he was going to show us how to misplay the structure for both sides, but as he put it himself, “today was my lucky day”. Anand collapsed for the second time in a row after 23.Qd2:
What Vishy should have played was 23…hxg3! when Aronian was planning 24.fxg3!? (Carlsen guessed this too: “I know Levon – he likes this kind of position!”), which would have been exciting, although objectively it favours Black.
Instead Anand walked into the trap with 23…Nh6?, allowing Aronian to break with 24.e4! The consensus of Aronian and the commentators was that Anand must have missed that 24…Qxf3 25.Qxg5+ Kh7 26. e5 Bf5 27.Bxf5+ Nxf5 fails to an absolutely only move: 28.Rc3!
That drew the praise of Magnus Carlsen: “Nice bit of calculation from Levon!” It was a hard pill to swallow for Anand, with Aronian commenting that, “blundering e4 can be a very, very bad feeling”. Not for the first time after a mistake Vishy failed to put up much resistance, rejecting the chance to pick up a pawn with 25…Bxb4 and then surprising everyone by resigning after 34.hxg3:
It’s true that White not only has an extra pawn but two connected passed pawns, but as Nigel Short put it, “it’s a won position, but you still have to win it”.
Watch Levon’s post-game comments in full below, including his thoughts on a potential bestseller, “How to blunder like a grandmaster,” and the problem with the grandmaster title:
Co-commentator Nigel Short provided a succinct before and after commentary on this game:
After going down in a blaze of miscalculated sacrifices in the previous two rounds Baramidze set out to play solidly against the World Champion, with a Ruy Lopez where he rerouted his bishop from e7 to g7. Carlsen explained:
This Bg7 is kind of the lazy system for people who are content with just playing this type of system instead of trying to equalise with c5-c4. It’s not that stupid, as I saw during the game…
Although it looked quiet, things suddenly came to a head with 23.d5:
Carlsen felt the correct response here was 23…Nc7 (“it looks very ugly but I don’t really see anything great for me”), although after 24.Ng5! Black is losing the pawn on d6 after an exchange of queens. That wouldn’t necessarily have been worse than what happened in the game.
It was harsh for Baramidze, as in the tactical sequence that followed he seemed to do almost everything right (28…Re7 rather than 28…Re6 might have been a subtle improvement, but it was a fine enough nuance that the World Champion didn’t mention it after the game).
When the flurry of exchanges was over Carlsen emphasised his trumps with 35.b4!
Black can’t defend the b5-pawn, and the connected white passed pawns are going to be hard to stop. Perhaps there were still chances if the black pawns could also get moving, but the time wasted with 38…Rh4? was the last straw. Baramidze still showed some ingenuity at the close, drawing praise from Magnus for the tricky 45…Rc2:
e.g. 46.b7?? Nh3+! is only a draw by perpetual check, since Kf1 of course runs into Rf2 mate. After Carlsen’s 46.Kh1!, though, it was over, with resignation coming four moves later.
Watch Magnus Carlsen’s press conference in full:
The remaining two games were drawn, but only after an enormous fight.
After we built up this game in the previous report by mentioning the fantastic attacking games these two played in the 2013 GRENKE Chess Classic it was perhaps inevitable that their encounter this time round would be the kind of game only a mother could love. Or perhaps Jan Gustafsson, since he has a new series on the Marshall Gambit almost ready to add to his existing chess24 videos…
Fabiano Caruana summed things up:
I played the Marshall, which is not the most ambitious opening. I didn’t really expect to get this line… It was slightly worse and then I misplayed it and it was clearly worse... It’s nearly losing, but somehow it’s holding.
Up to move 20 the players were following some notable predecessors, not only Adams-Aronian from the 2014 Olympiad but Caruana-Aronian from last year's Zurich Chess Challenge:
At the Olympiad Aronian played 20…Qxf3+ and a draw was agreed on move 31, while against Caruana he'd played 20...Kf8 and went on to lose. Caruana noted:
I played this line myself, but I just couldn’t remember the details.
On the other side of the board in Baden-Baden he went for 20…Rxe1 and eventually had to suffer on until move 65, with Naiditsch using his bishop pair to force a slightly better rook ending. He’d managed to squeeze an endgame win out of almost nothing against Carlsen, so he clearly fancied his chances, but it eventually got to the stage that the commentators were asking for video footage of the game to check the players were still alive…
Watch the post-game discussion:
Etienne Bacrot has now drawn all five of his games in Baden-Baden, but this was another big missed chance, just as in the first game against David Baramidze. On the other hand, it hardly started well, with the sharp 17.c5! giving Adams a fine position. Perhaps the moment the Englishman needed to seize came after 24…Nd4:
25.Nxe5!? Qxe5 26.f4! can lead to some wild lines, but the complications seem to favour White. Instead, at glacial speed, Bacrot took over, until it began to look grim for Adams. He was saved, though, by a crucial decision coming when Bacrot was in deep time trouble and very nervous:
The “human” 55…Qg1 allowed Mickey to hang on, with the white passed a-pawn counterbalancing the black d-pawn. With minutes rather the seconds to think, though, Bacrot would most likely have found the paralyzing 55…Qd1!!, with the point that 56.f4 Bh6 sets up a devastating mating threat, e.g. 57. a4 Bxf4!! 58.gxf4 Qg4 mate:
Instead the players called it a day on move 65 (the
same as the Naiditsch-Caruana game) after almost seven hours of play.
So with two rounds to go Magnus Carlsen has ominously hit the top:
In Round 6 we'll yet again, as in the Tata Steel Masters, get to see Magnus Carlsen face Fabiano Caruana with the black pieces. Will he manage to pull off another win, or will Caruana score his 5th classical win over the World Champion? And will the misery end or continue for Anand and Baramidze in their game?
Don’t miss the penultimate round action live on chess24 with commentary by Jan Gustafsson and Nigel Short!
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