Latest news

Reports Apr 7, 2018 | 11:04 PMby Colin McGourty

GRENKE Classic 7: Caruana & Carlsen grab wins

World Championship Challenger Fabiano Caruana is the sole leader of the GRENKE Chess Classic with two rounds to go after beating Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with the black pieces in Round 7. Magnus Carlsen summed up “bad game, good point!” of his win over Arkadij Naiditsch that helped him stay just half a point behind, where he’s joined by Nikita Vitiugov. The Russian will have a big say in the final outcome as he has Black against Magnus in the penultimate round and then White vs. Caruana on the last day.

Fabiano Caruana's Candidates momentum continues | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website 

Check out some more impressions from Baden-Baden:

At some moments it looked like being an even more impressive day for the players with the black pieces, but in the end there were “just” two wins, for the world nos. 1 and 3:

You can relive the day’s action, and watch the players talk about their games, in the live commentary from Jan Gustafsson and Peter Leko:

MVL 0-1 Caruana

This was the big clash between the co-leaders, and with the white pieces it was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave who you might have expected to make a claim for overall tournament victory. Instead it was a shockingly one-sided game, with Maxime apparently caught off-guard when Fabiano Caruana played 4…Bb4 for the first time in his career in a 1.c4 e5 English.

He spent 10 minutes on the next two moves, with Fabiano later commenting:

I thought he was surprised in the opening. I normally don’t play 4…Bb4 and he was very clearly unfamiliar with the line, and we were both on our own after 9.Qc2, I guess.

The curiosity here, though, is that the highest rated player to have had this position with the black pieces (according to the chess24 database) is… Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who played it 10 years ago against Loek van Wely in the French Team Championship.

It was soon clear that Maxime would have been more at home on the other side of the board | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website 

They were still following that game until Maxime played 12.Bf4 instead of Loek’s 12.Rb1, and after that things fell apart at an astonishing speed. 17.Bf1 already seemed a decision born of desperation, 18.a4!? surprised Fabiano, but not as much as combining it with leaving that pawn unguarded with 19.Rac1?!, when 19…g5! was the start of a dangerous attack. How dangerous became clear after 20.Bd2 Qf5 21.f3 Qc5+:

Fabiano pointed out afterwards that the plausible 22.Kg2?? loses on the spot to 22…Bxf3+!, when 23.exf3 is mate-in-4 after 23…Re2+!, while the “best” move 23.Kxf3 is mate-in-10 after 23…Qg1! Even after 22.Kh1 in the game 22…Bxf3+! 23.exf3 Qf2! was strong, though Caruana’s 22…Bd5! was possibly even stronger.

He felt he missed some things in the play that followed (that was to be a theme at the winners’ post-game interviews), but Maxime didn’t even make it to the time control.

Watch Peter Leko go through that encounter and recap the rest of the day’s action:

That win took Fabiano Caruana within a rating point of becoming not only the challenger but the world no. 2, with no sign of the post-Candidates Tournament hangover we might have expected:

Caruana has also opened up a 20-point lead over MVL | source: 2700chess

Fiona Steil-Antoni asked him where he was getting the energy from:

I can’t say I’ve had much energy throughout the tournament. I’ve felt a bit burnt out, but I haven’t really put any stress on myself. I guess it’s working out, and obviously I was lucky in a bunch of games, specifically my game against Magnus. I was very lucky to survive that, and my game against Hou Yifan, and also my wins were kind of random, but I guess I took my chances!

Naiditsch 0-1 Carlsen

Not this time, Naiditsch! | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website 

Magnus Carlsen needed to win to stay just half a point behind, and he had the ideal opponent for such a situation. It’s not that Arkadij was going to be easy to beat – after all, he had a 2.5/3 score against Magnus in their last three classical encounters – but he was going to be at least as keen as Magnus to play for a win.  

Naiditsch chose the 6.g3 variation against Carlsen’s Najdorf and began to take a series of provocative decisions, beginning with 13.f3, then 16.f4 and 17.Kh1:

Magnus hesitated but chose not to take on f4, and when he instead played 17…Bf8, a move he felt sure wasn’t the best, Arkadij pushed the pawn to f5. The next major provocation was then 25.Nd1!?

This was too much for Magnus, who said it “felt so strange I just wanted to punish him”, though his 25…e4!? was at least double-edged. It seemed to work out, though, with our commentary team singing the praises of the black position:

It was the time situation that would drive the last nail in Naiditsch’s coffin, though, since despite making a number of best moves with almost no time remaining he faltered just as the time control approached:

38.Qd1! was a last resource for White, since if queens are exchanged White has excellent drawing chances. Instead 38.Kg2?! allowed the pin 38…Rc3!, when playing 39.Qg4+ was the last chance to get out of that, even if White’s survival chances were probably slim (the d5-pawn will also fall). Instead 39.Rd1 h5! both stopped the queen check and prepared for the bishop to enter the game, with Arkadij resigning after a few last desperate moves.

Afterwards Jan asked Magnus how it felt to be only half a point behind Fabiano, which brought a sharp reply that gradually mellowed:

It’s actually not too different from yesterday, or this morning… It feels better to have won a game, even though I don’t think the game itself was very good. It’s not in my hands, but I have a chance. When you win one out of your first six games that’s pretty much all you can hope for!

Fiona had an even tougher task, but the “bad game, good point” summary of the encounter was worth it!

The other three games were drawn, with Levon Aronian failing to keep pace with Magnus when his English Opening was very professionally neutralised by Nikita Vitiugov

Hou Yifan had tortured Caruana the day before but needed to defend in Round 7 | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website 

Hou Yifan had been slightly better out of the opening against Matthias Bluebaum, but after playing 19.Qb2?! she was forced on the defensive:

White is targeting the g7-pawn, but 19…Qf5! made the threat of Rc2, Qxf2 and giving mate a more urgent matter. The women’s no. 1 ended up going for the miserable 20.Qe2 Rc2 21.Qf3 Qxf3 22.gxf3 but went on to hold the ending relatively easily.

Vishy Anand rolled the dice against Georg Meier, but remains winless in this year's GRENKE Chess Classic | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website  

The most dramatic draw of the day by far was Anand-Meier, a battle between two players who had lost the day before. It looked as though it might end as a case of both players licking their wounds with a quiet draw, until move 29:

Vishy commented afterwards, “Black’s lynchpin is this knight on d5,” and although he said his first instinct was to take a draw with 29.Raa7 he eventually decided to get rid of that lynchpin once and for all with the exchange sacrifice 29.Rxd5!?

He commented, “I thought this was a very serious winning chance,” but the fun only lasted a few more moves:

Vishy said he had to play 33.h3!, with full compensation, but instead went for 33.f4?!, when Black got in his counterplay such as Ra2-d2-d3 and h4 with tempo. Anand summed up his feelings as, “two moves ago I was fighting for an advantage, and now I’m worse”, but it’s not clear Georg missed anything in what followed. “Somehow I escaped”, was how Vishy put it. The former World Champion has an interesting end to the tournament coming up, as first he’s Black against Naiditsch and then White against Carlsen in the final round.

Round 7 shook up the standings with two rounds to go, with Fabiano Caruana now out in the sole lead:

As we already mentioned, Nikita Vitiugov still has his fate in his own hands since he plays Carlsen in Round 8 and Caruana in Round 9. Caruana’s Round 8 opponent is Levon Aronian, a player he beat twice in Berlin. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave suffered a blow, but with Black against Bluebaum and White against Meier in the last two rounds he still has an excellent chance of fighting for the title. Remember that it’s traditional in the GRENKE Chess Classic for a rapid playoff to be held if players are tied for first.

Tune in to live commentary with Jan Gustafsson and Peter Leko here on chess24 from 15:00 CEST!

See also:

Sort by Date Descending Date Descending Date Ascending Most Liked Receive updates

Comments 6

Guest 4683969547
Join chess24
  • Free, Quick & Easy

  • Be the first to comment!


Create your free account now to get started!

I am aged 16 or older.

By clicking ‘Register’ you agree to our terms and conditions and confirm you have read our privacy policy, including the section on the use of cookies.

Lost your password? We'll send you a link to reset it!

After submitting this form you'll receive an email with the reset password link. If you still can't access your account please contact our customer service.

Data Consent Details

We respect your privacy and data protection guidelines.

Using chess24 requires the storage of some personal data, as set out below. You can find additional information in our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, Disclaimer and Terms of Website Use. Please note that your data settings can be changed at any time by clicking on the Data Settings link in the footer at the bottom of our website.

data details

Necessary Data

Some data is technically necessary to be able to visit the page at all. A so-called cookie stores identifiers that make it possible to respond to your individual requests. It contains a session ID - a unique, anonymous user ID combined with an authentication identifier (user_data). A security identifier (csrf) is also stored to prevent a particular type of online attack. All of these fields are alpha-numeric, with almost no relation to your real identity. The only exception is that we monitor some requests with the IP address that you are currently using, so that we are able to detect malicious use or system defects. Additionally, a technical field is stored (singletab) to ensure that some interactions are only processed in the browser tab that is currently active. For example, a new chess game will not be opened in all your current tabs. We use your local storage to save the difference between your local clock and our server time (serverUserTimeOffset), so that we are able to display the date and time of events correctly for you. You can also enable more data fields, as described in the other sections. Your personal decision on which data storage to enable is also stored as necessary information (consent).

Settings Data

We offer a range of personal settings for your convenience. Options include which opponents you prefer to be paired against, your preferred chessboard and pieces, the board size, the volume setting of the video player, your preferred language, whether to show chat or chess notation, and more. You can use our web page without storing this data, but if you would like to have your individual settings remembered we recommend enabling this feature. For logged-in registered users this setting is mandatory to store information about your privacy settings, users you have blocked and your friendship settings. As a registered user we also store your data consent in these settings.

Social Media Data

We embed a Twitter feed showing activity for the hashtag #c24live and also make it possible to share content in social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+. If you enable this option social networks are able to store data in your cookies or local storage for the purpose of these features.

Statistics Data

We would like to measure how our page is used with Google Analytics, so that we can decide which features to implement next and how to optimize our user experience. If you enable this feature Google will store your device identifiers and we will send tracking events (such as page requests) to Google Analytics. These have no direct relationship to your person except for the IP address currently being used.

Marketing Data

To help cover the cost of free services we would like to show you advertisements from our partner networks. Members of these networks store data on the banners shown to you and try to deliver ads that are relevant. If you choose not to allow this kind of data we have to show more anonymous advertisements and will be more limited in the free services we can offer.

Other Data

For registered users we store additional information such as profile data, chess games played, your chess analysis sessions, forum posts, chat and messages, your friends and blocked users, and items and subscriptions you have purchased. You can find this information in your personal profile. A free registration is not required to use this application. If you decide to contact the support team a ticket is created with information that includes your name and email address so that we can respond to your concern. This data is processed in the external service Zendesk. If you subscribe to a newsletter or are registered we would like to send you occasional updates via email. You can unsubscribe from newsletters and as a registered user you can apply several mail settings to control how your email address is used. For newsletters we transfer your email address and username to the external service MailChimp. If you buy content or subscriptions on chess24 we work with the payment service provider Adyen, which collects your payment data and processes information about the payment such as fraud protection data.