Reports Feb 2, 2015 | 11:13 PMby Colin McGourty

GRENKE Classic Round 1: Fighting draws

64 fiercely contested moves, but Aronian-Carlsen couldn't produce a winner | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website

A heavyweight battle between Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen was the highlight of the first round of the 2015 GRENKE Classic, with both players managing to put real pressure on their opponent before agreeing a 64-move draw. Elsewhere Etienne Bacrot rushed just when he seemed about to put David Baramidze to the sword, while Caruana-Anand and Adams-Naiditsch were less eventful, though there was some great post-game commentary that you can rewatch below.

It’s two years since the first GRENKE Chess Classic was won by Viswanathan Anand ahead of Fabiano Caruana, but the weather hasn’t changed in the German spa town:

What has changed is that back then, with six players and ten rounds, there wasn’t a single day on which all the games ended drawn. This time round that record was broken on the very first day:

GRENKE Classic 2015 Round 1 results (click a result to replay the game with computer analysis)

1Caruana Fabiano2811½ - ½Anand Viswanathan27978
2Bacrot Etienne2711½ - ½Baramidze David25947
3Aronian Levon2777½ - ½Carlsen Magnus28656
4Adams Michael2738½ - ½Naiditsch Arkadij27065

This was only the start of the ordeal for supertournament (almost) newbie David Baramidze | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website

It didn’t look like it was going to end that way, though, when after seeming to do the hard work David Baramidze suddenly drifted into difficulty against Etienne Bacrot. First he took on g6 with what looked like the wrong pawn (Short called 22…fxg6 “a shocking positional error”), and then the capture of another g-pawn with 26…hxg4 looked like curtains, though by this stage there were no easy solutions:

26-year-old David Baramidze qualified for this year’s GRENKE Chess Classic by finishing second in the 2014 all-German event and, at 2594, is rated at least 100 points below his opponents this year. He knew he was in for a tough test, although Jan Gustafsson pointed out it was even worse than that:

I don’t know if David realises this, but everyone but him is a current or previous Baden-Baden player, and the plan was to gang up on him!

Jan added, though, that David hadn’t read the script. It might be more accurate to say that Etienne forgot his lines, since at this point he “hallucinated” a mate, playing 27.Nce4 gxf3 28.Rh8+ Kg7 before realising that his planned 29.Rdh1?? would run into 29…Nd2+ and it’s actually Black who wins! 

The knight fork that upset all Bacrot's dastardly plans (with video of the nail-bitingly tense Aronian-Carlsen) 

He was therefore obliged to take a draw by repetition.

Afterwards when David was asked about his goals for the tournament there was an amusing exchange:

Baramidze: I’m trying to survive the openings and play normal chess

Short: That’s normally Carlsen’s plan…

You can watch the full post-mortem below:

There were two draws that never quite caught fire, although the post-game interviews revealed that, as usual, we only saw the tip of the iceberg.

A confident start for Vishy Anand in his first tournament since the London Chess Classic | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website

Fabiano Caruana opened with the “patriotic” Italian Game, and was perhaps a little taken aback when Nigel Short began the press conference with, “Your opening was a little bit flaccid”, to which an on-form Vishy Anand responded: “The English commentator is making his mark!”.

Caruana said 6.b4 was an over-the-board choice and then described his 10.h3?! as “probably unnecessary”. It could have led to some great entertainment, since Caruana pointed out he’d been very concerned about lines like 19…Bxh3 20.gxh3 Qh4 21.Kg2 and then the stunning 21…Rd2!!

Vishy quipped, “I reckon you would have fainted!”

But another exchange was relevant here:

Short: These are great tactics, and probably not working.

Anand: Like all great tactics!

Instead the game seemed to swing in Caruana’s favour after he took drastic measures to prevent White’s knight making it to c4 or another outpost:

20…Bxe3!? It looked risky, but as Jan Gustafsson commented on the live broadcast:

He has so many games when he just effortlessly draws with a knight and bishop vs. the two bishops. It doesn’t look like much until you try to do it yourself…

Sure enough, Vishy never looked in danger and a draw was agreed in a dead drawn position on move 38. Watch the post-game session below:

“Flaccid” would perhaps have been overly generous of the French Tarrasch opening that Michael Adams himself called “a bit dismal”. 

Arkadij Naiditsch will have to win or lose or his remaining games to match his 80% decisive games in the 2013 event! | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website 

He soon got into difficulty against Arkadij Naiditsch and the players both agreed that 14.g3?! was a bad move:

Naiditsch felt it was an invitation to play Nb4-d5 – “I don’t think I’m risking getting worse”. Sure enough, it was Arkadij who was doing the pressing, but Adams got down to work and felt he had his best 15-move sequence of the game when he started exchanging off pieces. It all looked headed to an early draw, but Naiditsch, who only had 2 draws in 10 games in the 2013 event, pressed on and on in a bid to ruin Adams’ evening. It was tricky, but the Englishman’s nerves held. He was succinct when asked afterwards about his goals for the rest of the tournament:

To play a little bit better than today!

It was noted that Naiditsch had won his last supertournament ten years ago in Dortmund in 2005. He added that he’d won the European U10 Championship a decade earlier in 1995, to which Jan helpfully chimed in with, “and you were born in 1985!” Is this Arkadij’s year?

Watch the full post-game press conference below:

And that leaves the day’s headline clash between World Champion Magnus Carlsen and the “the former world no. 2” (as he was christened by Jan) Levon Aronian. 

Carlsen showed his usual determination to seize any chance to press an opponent - if he wins in Baden-Baden it seems he'll match the career supertournament haul of Anand and Kramnik | photo: Georgios Souleidis, official website

The Armenian had said in an interview late last year that his favourite opponents are Kramnik and Carlsen, since, “they’re the most complex to play against, but I’m drawn to complexity”. Careful what you wish for, as today’s game was certainly complex, even if neither player could quite land a killer blow.

Carlsen described the opening as “not the most swashbuckling of lines”, but he ended up spending almost 40 minutes over 13…Nf6 and 14…Nfd7, later describing them as “stupid, but maybe good moves”. It was hard for both sides to play but suddenly with 27.g4! Aronian “was starting to get excited”:

When he later followed up with 34.e4! the black pieces were being forced back into contorted positions. Carlsen:

I’m forced to put my pieces on some strange squares. Still it’s fairly solid, but a bit sucky.

Aronian was still in control with 36.Rg1:

But the way he played the move was the problem: “36.Rg1 was ok, but spending 7 out of my last 8 minutes on it…” After 36…Rd8 he played the “ridiculous” (Aronian’s word) 37.Qh2?! and the advantage was gone. It was just around this point that Jan had commented, “if Carlsen survives the next 3 moves he could well be better,” which proved prophetic, but once again, as often happens at the start of a supertournament, the defender was up to the task, and even the legendary torture techniques of the Norwegian couldn’t quite bring home a full point.

Replay the post-game commentary from the players below:

Round 2 starts once more at 15:00 CET on Tuesday, and sees the following pairings:

8Anand Viswanathan2797Naiditsch Arkadij27065
6Carlsen Magnus2865Adams Michael27384
7Baramidze David2594Aronian Levon27773
1Caruana Fabiano2811Bacrot Etienne27112

Jan pointed out that we have the four highest rated players playing the four lowest rated players, so, “it’s a pretty safe bet that there aren’t going to be four draws tomorrow”. If that’s not jinxing things, we don’t know what is… but here’s hoping!

Watch all the action live on chess24 with commentary by Jan Gustafsson and Nigel Short! You can also follow every move with our free mobile apps:


See also:

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