General Apr 19, 2019 | 10:22 PMby Colin McGourty

Keymer vs. Carlsen in GRENKE Classic Round 1

Talk about a baptism of fire! 14-year-old Vincent Keymer has been paired to play World Champion Magnus Carlsen in Round 1 of the GRENKE Chess Classic on Saturday. The good news for the kid? He has White. The bad news? If he survives he then has Black vs. Anand and White vs. Caruana in his next two rounds! Meanwhile the start of the massive GRENKE Chess Open featured an unfortunate incident: 15-year-old Alireza Firouzja forfeited his Round 3 game against Israel’s Or Bronstein rather than get into trouble back in Iran.

It's Caruana-Carlsen for the 1st time since the match, but first it's Keymer-Carlsen! | photo: Georgios Souleidis, GRENKE Chess

When we wrote our preview of the GRENKE Chess Classic a month ago it was entitled Keymer to face Carlsen in GRENKE Chess Classic, but we didn’t imagine the showdown would happen in the very first round! That’s what we’ve got, though, with a first round to compete with last year’s Caruana-Carlsen match-up. Here are the full pairings for all rounds:

14-year-old Vincent Keymer was the last player to pick out his seeding number on Thursday night in Karlsruhe, and he already knew his fate:

Vincent of course has earned every moment in the limelight after finishing ahead of almost 800 players in last year’s GRENKE Chess Open, but it goes without saying it’s daunting to face the World Champion. Magnus was in the form of his life at the end of Shamkir Chess just 10 days ago, and the rating difference simply obliges him to go all-out to beat Vincent, even with the black pieces:

Talking of the black pieces, once again Magnus has five Blacks and four Whites:

It’s becoming quite a streak:

It hasn’t stopped Magnus winning in Wijk aan Zee and Shamkir already this year, and the fact he has Black against Fabiano Caruana in Round 4 in their first game since the World Championship match may also be good news for us chess fans. By far the best games in London came when Magnus had the black pieces and played double-edged lines of the Sveshnikov Sicilian.

There’s a lot more to look forward to in Round 1. MVL-Anand and Svidler-Caruana are match-ups that have produced plenty of decisive games in the past.

Levon Aronian recently talked about the Magnosaurus…

…and then he came across some more dinosaurs in Karlsruhe:

It’s likely he’ll try to start his hunting early when he faces Arkadij Naiditsch in Round 1. His tournament is the opposite of Keymer’s, as it’s only in the final three rounds in Baden-Baden that he’ll face the formidable trio of Carlsen, Anand and Caruana.

Meier-Vallejo is a chance for two relative outsiders in such a strong field to get off to a good start. For Paco it’s his debut in the GRENKE Chess Classic, and he seemed to be savouring the experience at the opening ceremony:

Firouzja forfeits as massive GRENKE Chess Open gets underway

45 players lead the GRENKE Chess Open after three rounds, but 15-year-old Alireza Firouzja isn’t one of them. The 4th seed made the journey straight from finishing second in Reykjavik, and rather than having an easy first round he found himself in real trouble against Norwegian CM Svetoslav Mihajlov, before going on to grind out a 60-move win...

It would get tougher, but not immediately, since in Round 2 he scored a comfortable win to join 128 players on 2/2. Those included just one of the four Israeli players in the 900+ player field, but that's who the computer paired him against: Israeli FM Or Bronstein.

That left Alireza facing a bleak choice: either to defy instructions that Iranian sportsmen must refuse to play Israeli opponents, or face punishment. We saw what that could mean back in Gibraltar in 2017, when Borna Derakhshani, also 15 years old, was immediately banned from playing in Iranian tournaments or representing Iran at chess after playing a game against Israel’s Alexander Huzman. That pairing had been somewhat accidental, since the Gibraltar organisers usually follow a common practice of adding a rule to the pairing system so that Israeli and Iranian players can’t meet. That policy is also employed in major FIDE events, though it’s a policy the European Chess Union wants to change:

In any case, Firouzja decided not to play the game and jeopardize his career, though the lost point makes winning the GRENKE Chess Open even more of an uphill struggle now.

Alireza Firouzja is arguably the hottest prospect in chess right now, and there's a lot of competition! | photo: Georgios Souleidis, GRENKE Chess

The loss didn’t cost him any rating points, so he remains at 2684.3, a level that at age 15 makes him a clear potential World Champion. His talent is certain to mean big questions ahead for the young star, and perhaps his country. Borna Derakhshani now plays for England, while his sister Dorsa, who was banned for appearing without a head-scarf, now represents the USA. There are no doubt federations who would be thrilled if Alireza would join them, but it would be a massive decision to uproot his life and change a formula that has worked so well to this point.

Back at the chessboard, meanwhile, there have been few sensations so far, though it was curious that the star player on Board 1 in Rounds 2 and 3 was on each occasion held to a draw – Etienne Bacrot in a 149-move game against German FM Robert Stein, and Gata Kamsky against another German FM, Emil Schmidek. 

It's very early days, but after 3 rounds Timur Gareyev tops the 900-player field | photo: Georgios Souleidis, GRENKE Chess

You can play through over 300 of the games using the selector below (Rounds 2 and 3 couldn’t be broadcast live due to religious regulations in the local area):

The big event starts at 15:00 CEST on Saturday 20th April, when Jan Gustafsson will be joined by Peter Leko to commentate on Keymer-Carlsen and all the other games from Round 1 of the GRENKE Chess Classic live here on chess24. Don’t miss it!   

See also:

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