Round 7: Caruana leads as Meier claims first win

There was no love lost between the GRENKE Chess Classic players on Valentine’s Day, with tense fights on all three boards. It was only long after the first time control that Caruana-Anand and Adams-Naiditsch were agreed drawn, leaving Meier and Fridman to uphold the tradition of each round featuring a decisive game. Sure enough, after six hours Georg Meier banked his first win.

 

 

If you were going to bet on a decisive result in Round 7 you’d be unlikely to look much further than Arkadij Naiditsch. The German firebrand seemed well on his way to prolonging his streak of five decisive games in a row when he played the provocative 9…g5!? against Michael Adams (Magnus Carlsen once lost a pre-Biel blitz game to Etienne Bacrot after 9…Qa5).

 

 

It looked close to madness against a positional master like Adams, although the Englishman told Naiditsch afterwards in the press conference that after 10.Be5 Bg7 11.Bd6 he’d expected the mayhem of 11…Nb6!? 12.Nb5 Nc4 13.Nc7+  – “more in your style!”. After the 11…Nb8?! retreat White seemed to have an almost dream position, but when queens were exchanged Naiditsch felt the worst was over. Adams summed the game up: “I had a very nice position and then I gradually made it worse, steadily, move by move, but not quite enough to lose.” Adams' grip evaporated when he went for a tactical sequence on move 24. Although he was able to eliminate Black’s queenside pawns he ended up living dangerously in time trouble:

 

 

Adams said he’d “for some reason” assumed Naiditsch had to play 36…Kg6 and that “it starts to become a bit unpleasant for White” after 36…Kg4! The white king ended up boxed in the corner, but the ensuing position was one where even Naiditsch was forced to acknowledge a draw was inevitable.

 

Replay the post-game press conference with Michael Adams and Arkadij Naiditsch 

 

 

The other draw between Viswanathan Anand and Fabiano Caruana involved even more subtle manoeuvring, and there was more at stake – any decisive outcome might determine the fate of the tournament. Anand admitted afterwards he’d been on the ropes, identifying 16…Rab8?! and 24…Rb6?! as mistakes:

 

 

Anand: “The rook just gets in the way. It’s already unpleasant for Black. He may objectively be ok, but it’s not a fun position to play.” Anand had thought the knight was never going to get to d5, but when it did with 41.Nd5 he explained the time the players were taking with, “White is very close to winning”:

 

 

Caruana’s domination of the light squares makes a nice impression, but as with the Adams-Naiditsch game neither the players nor the computer could come up with a convincing way for White to exploit his domination. Anand was pleased with some accurate moves at around this stage, starting with 41…Ba5!, though it’s worth noting as a curiosity that after 42.Kf4 h6 43.Re4 Bd8 44.Kg3 h5, when Caruana accepted Anand’s draw offer, Houdini rates the line with 45.h4 as better for White than any other position that occurred in the game.

 

Replay the post-game press conference with Fabiano Caruana and Viswanathan Anand

 

 

The one win of the round saw Georg Meier leapfrog Daniel Fridman out of bottom place. Meier finally converted a good position resulting from some more fine preparation with White – he mentioned 12.Nbd2 had been a novelty when he checked it – but it was in many ways a self-inflicted defeat for Fridman. When the two players met in Round 2 Fridman took a pragmatic decision, commenting, “If I started to calculate all the variations I might play the same but without time on the clock.” That was exactly his problem in Round 7:

 

 

Here Fridman spent 40 minutes weighing the merits of 17…Qxb6, 17…Rxd1+ and the move he eventually played, 17…Qxc2. Then after 18.Rxd8+ he burned more time choosing between 18…Bxd8 and 18…Rxd8, eventually leaving himself under ten minutes for fifteen moves. Some fantastic lines were aired in the post-game press conference, but as Daniel explained, “the best solution was just to play something, but quicker!” The end result was Fridman overlooking that a long sequence of play simply ended with the b4-pawn dropping, although even the ending a pawn down left him with chances. As it happened, it was mainly a chance to commit another classical psychological error.

 

 

Fridman described 41…Kd6?! as a typical 41st move, where a chess player is so relieved to make the time control with seconds to spare that he rushes and blunders. Both Fridman and Meier thought 41…Ne4! would offer more chances, with Georg noting his pieces were poorly coordinated. After that Meier’s pawns advanced inexorably, with some help from his opponent, but that wasn’t quite the end. The players continued even after Meier queened a pawn (at the second time of asking). Fridman was drawn to the idea of finding positions where a pawn and knight can compete with a queen, but Meier kept his cool and took home the full point: “I was seeing some ghosts, but not so many”.

 

Replay the post-game press conference with Georg Meier and Daniel Fridman

 

Although that game transformed the standings at the bottom Fabiano Caruana continues to lead:

1. Caruana: 4.5
2-3. Anand, Naiditsch: 4
4-5. Adams, Meier: 3
6. Fridman: 2.5

The pairings for Friday's Round 8 mean Meier has no time to rest on his laurels. He said after today's game that it's been a recent trend for him to do well with White and terribly with Black (before it was the opposite) - so facing the World Champion with the black pieces could be tricky. The full pairings are:

Fridman - Adams
Naiditsch - Caruana
Anand - Meier

Follow our live coverage from 15:00 CET.

Report: Colin McGourty | Photos: Georgios Souleidis | Videos: Macauley Peterson