Reports Jun 22, 2017 | 9:53 PMby Colin McGourty

Paris GCT, Day 2: Magnus breaks clear

Magnus Carlsen beat co-leader Wesley So in the first game of Day 2 of the Paris Grand Chess Tour and leads Hikaru Nakamura by a point going into the final day of rapid chess. He held a draw against his US rival in the last round of the day, while Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is just one more point back after overpowering MVL and Fabiano Caruana. The latter had another day to forget and only has a single draw to his name in the scoretable after six games and more tragi-comic blunders.

Carlsen leads Nakamura by a point after a draw in their Round 6 game | photo: Lennart Ootes

Day 2 of the Paris Grand Chess Tour featured only four draws in 15 games, making it great fun to watch. You can play through all the action using the selector below. Click a result to open a game with computer analysis or hover over a player’s name to see all his results so far:

Relive the day’s action with commentary by the teams in St. Louis and Paris:

The race for first

Wesley wilted under the bright studio lights... | photo: Lennart Ootes

Three players scored 2.5/3 on Day 2 of the event, and one of them was of course named Magnus Carlsen. The World Champion seized the initiative by beating Wesley So with the black pieces in a complex and exciting game. Wesley showed why he’s so tough to beat by finding one hidden resource after another, but missed the last big chance to give the game a happy ending for him. Jan Gustafsson takes us through that game and other highlights of the day’s play:

That saw a parting of ways for the two former leaders. Wesley went on to scrape draws in difficult games against MVL and Mamedyarov to end 3 points adrift on 7/12, while Magnus followed up with a good win over Veselin Topalov and one of the more solid draws you’ll see with the black pieces. 

Drastic times call for drastic measures - Wesley So put on some Baadur Jobava sunglasses for the remaining games | photo: Lennart Ootes 

Carlsen referenced the famously solid Chinese Grandmaster Wang Yue, who hit the top a decade ago and briefly made it into the Top 10:

Magnus commented after a fourth win in a row:

I’m feeling that it’s going well. I’m calculating quite well. I’m missing some things, but who doesn’t in rapid? In general, it’s flowing nicely!

Then after the final game of the day:

Finally I have a couple of white games tomorrow, so yippee! I’m looking forward to it. I think I’m playing well, but there are a couple of players hot on my heels.

One of those players is current world no. 6, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who has been playing perhaps the most convincing chess apart from Magnus. 

Mamedyarov has had the best half year of his career and shows little sign of slowing down! | photo: Lennart Ootes

He managed to get in opening preparation in both of his first two games, noting he’d prepared what he played against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave for their encounters in the FIDE Grand Prix. It was much easier to play for White, and although objectively Shak didn’t execute a computer-perfect attack it was more than enough:

25.Nxg5+! Kg8 (After 25…hxg5 there are some beautiful lines, e.g. 26.Bxg7 Kxg7 27.Qxg5+ Kh8 28.Qh6+ Kg8 and the killer 29.Rxd5!) 26.Ne4 Qb8 27.Bxg7 Kxg7 28.Qb2+!

Once again 29.Rxd5! is the killer blow against almost all of Black’s potential defences. Maxime instead resigned.

Then Mamedyarov did something no-one else has yet managed to do in Paris – outplay Fabiano Caruana from start to finish, although it helped that he again got in 17 moves of home preparation after which Fabiano almost immediately went astray. That was a third win in a row for Shak, who explained that his loss to Carlsen hadn’t hurt his mood, since he’d played just a single bad move rather than a bad game. He added:

You can win three games and you can lose five games. It’s normal – in chess a good mood is very important!

Nakamura won the Paris Grand Chess Tour in 2016 and is only trailing by a point this year | photo: Lennart Ootes 

Hikaru Nakamura also won three games in a row and is the only unbeaten player in the event apart from Magnus. He started the day with an easy win against Etienne Bacrot:

I was surprised that Etienne allowed this to happen – it’s very thematic. There are enough Fischer games that everyone’s seen!

He was talking about the knight manoeuvre: 14.Nf1 a4 15.N1h2 Qc8 16.Ng4 Rd8 17.Nxh6+! after which the game was very tough to hold, practically speaking:

Then came the remarkable victory over Alexander Grischuk.The Russian had been playing a flawless positional game, but let it slip, and then went on to lose a theoretically drawn but very tricky ending. 

That ending has bad memories for Grischuk, who once lost it in an absolutely critical game against Gata Kamsky in the 2012 Olympiad in Istanbul. 

Hikaru Nakamura was sitting on the next board that day and won one of the games of his career against Vladimir Kramnik to give the USA victory over Russia. That was the only defeat for Russia at that Olympiad and condemned them to silver medals behind Armenia.

Hikaru later commented, “that was pretty silly, what happened in that game” but he was of course happy to take a win that gave him a chance to overtake Magnus if he could win their encounter in the final round of the day. It wasn’t to be, but Nakamura at least got to be in the driving seat, with Magnus admitting, “I think my position is solid enough to hold, but it’s not everybody’s idea of fun!”

The view from the control room in the Canal+ Sport studio | photo: Lennart Ootes

Still in contention

We’ve covered the lowest moment for Alexander Grischuk, but he also had a lot to cheer about. Veselin Topalov forgot his preparation in a razor-sharp line (17.Ne4! was needed) and gave Grischuk an ending a pawn up which he eventually went on to convert. 

They were moving fast until Topalov realised he didn't know what to do | photo: Lennart Ootes

Then Sergey Karjakin finally cracked in the final round of the day to give Grischuk another win with the black pieces:

Karjakin needed to put his bishop on g4 to physically block 58…Rxh4+!, and it was game over. In the best interview of the day, Grischuk explained to Maurice Ashley why that didn’t come as such a shock to him and gave his view on the delay time control used in this year's Grand Chess Tour:

Maurice Ashley: You must have felt a little bit embarrassed, taking on h4 and taking his queen?

Alexander Grischuk: No, actually I was very happy, not embarrassed at all! I mean I was embarrassed to lose my previous game (against Nakamura) – that was embarrassing.

(Karjakin) was playing for a win in a completely equal position. Once my rook is on c5 I’m not worse at all, but he was playing just because of a time advantage. My moves are very simple, I was just playing Kg8, Kh8, Qa5, Qc7 and he had to think, because in fact he has zero ideas in this position. At the beginning he had 10 minutes against 14 seconds, but then he had 5 minutes, 3 and I thought to myself, once he will be down to half a minute maybe I will start to play for a win, so it was not a 100% surprise.

How do you manage 10 minutes to 14 seconds?

You just play. Of course it’s not nice, but you just play.

What are your feelings going into the last day?

I haven’t thought about the last day yet. Of course it’s nice to win and a win is a win – especially since this time control very much gravitates to bad games, because it looks almost like 25 with a 10-second increment, but in fact it’s very, very different from increment. When you don’t play this time control often you just get down to seconds and then terrible things start to happen! Because, as I said yesterday, once you’re down to a certain amount of time you can’t go up again.

Chess in a TV studio | photo: Lennart Ootes

Alexander Grischuk is joined on 7/12 by Wesley So, who as we saw dropped back on the 2nd day, while Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is one point back on 50% after winning the final game of the day against Topalov. Maxime is unlikely to finish the rapid section ahead of Carlsen, but there are no prizes until after the players have also played 18 rounds of blitz at the weekend, so he has a different target: “I hope to use the last day of the rapids to edge closer to him”.

The also-rans

No-one else in the tournament has much to cheer about. Sergey Karjakin grabbed a first win when fellow struggler Etienne Bacrot blundered on move 22, but otherwise only has three draws and two losses. Veselin Topalov’s fine start went up in flames as he lost all three games on the second day, while Etienne Bacrot only had a draw against Topalov on the scoreboard... until he beat Caruana. 

Sometimes it's tough to be a local hero | photo: Lennart Ootes

Fabiano Caruana, meanwhile, is having an astonishingly bad tournament:

With Grischuk, Carlsen and MVL to come it's not going to get any easier, and even his one draw was a cause of sadness. He was a pawn and an exchange up against Karjakin:

In hindsight it’s easy to see that all he needed to do was stop one idea – White getting both his heavy pieces unchallenged on the 7th rank, for which moves like 31…Qb4, 31…Qb6 and 31…Qd2 would all have worked. Instead he played 31…Qb8? and after 32.Qc5+! Kg8 33.Qe7! Rf8 34.Bh5! the situation was utterly transformed. Given what had gone before it’s fortunate he didn’t go on to lose!

Fabiano was looking calm and collected, but nothing has worked out on the chessboard | photo: Lennart Ootes

As mentioned Caruana was only comprehensively outplayed by Mamedyarov, while his final game of Day 2 against Bacrot just summed up the whole tournament. If you haven’t watched Jan’s video above check it out now for how Fabiano first missed a killer blow and then stumbled into a lethal trap. As they say, things can only get better!

So the standings after Day 2 of rapid chess are as follows:

Given Magnus’s final three opponents in the rapid are all in the bottom four - Karjakin, Caruana and Bacrot - he must now be a heavy favourite to go into the blitz in the lead, but of course all of those players have the potential to play brilliant chess on their day.

Once again there are three rapid rounds on Friday. Don't miss all the action here on chess24 from 13:45 CEST onwards! You can also follow the games in our free mobile apps:


See also:

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