Round 3: Bloodshed and violence

For the second day in a row Arkadij Naiditsch lit up the stage of the GRENKE Chess Classic, but on this occasion it was his opponent Fabiano Caruana who was the last man standing after a brutal time scramble. Elsewhere Viswanathan Anand failed to make headway against Georg Meier and Michael Adams’ long grind brought no dividends against Daniel Fridman, though it did at least prove his painful loss in round two hadn’t lessened his appetite for chess.

 

 

Meier began the press conference of his game against the World Champion by reusing Fridman’s line from the day before: “you didn’t fall asleep during my game?” It was the World Champion Anand who did most of the talking, however, and it was evident he was frustrated with his failure to get any sort of real play against an opponent he outrated by 140 points. It wasn’t for a lack of trying – Vishy explained he wanted unbalanced play and went for a “slightly unpredictable opening” where Black makes concessions in the centre to post a strong knight on b4. Meier in turn was dreaming of pushing his f-pawn to generate play on the kingside and leave the b4-knight far from the action. Neither plan materialised. Among all the nuances discussed in the press conference it was the position after 20…Nd7 that provoked the strongest emotions.

 

 

Georg Meier played 21.Bf1, but Anand described 21.e4!? as “very complicated” and “the only way we could have got anything. I don’t know if White’s better but it seemed like the move to play”. A possible line would be 21…dxe4 22. Nxe4 e5 23.Nd6 exd4 24.Re7 and suddenly both sides have chances. Vishy’s less technical description of the positions after 21.e4 was “a mess”, but instead we got a tidy and bloodless draw.

 

 Replay the post-game press conference with Viswanathan Anand and Georg Meier

 

 

That was a plus for the GRENKE Chess Classic's live broadcast, however, as the players were happy to comment on the state of play in the other games. They assessed Adams – Fridman as comfortable for White, with Vishy noting that “maybe 26.f5 was allowed too easily”.

 

 

Meier, a Catalan expert himself, added that what was nice for White is that “you don’t need to think too much”. Nevertheless, it seemed Fridman had everything under control until he nearly became another victim to fall into Adams’ quietly woven webs:

The problem was I thought it was a completely equal rook ending. Then I relaxed for a while and played some inaccurate move and the position became quite unpleasant in time trouble.

In the end he escaped with a slight scare and a much-delayed dinner.

 

 

 

Saturday’s real action, however, came in the showdown between the early leaders, Fabiano Caruana and Arkadij Naiditsch. Caruana has made a habit of surprising his opponents with deep opening preparation in Baden-Baden, but in Round 3 the shoe was on the other foot. Naiditsch’s 8th move took him "out of book", and 10…a5 provoked Caruana into 11.Kb1?, a move Naiditsch described as a “big positional mistake”. The problem was 11…a4! 12.Nc1 a3! and White’s king is open to the elements.

 

 

Naiditsch listed his trumps: “the bishop pair, the dark squares, you can’t get more in the Najdorf!” Chess is seldom easy, however, and from the press conference you got the impression that it was a question of what would triumph – Naiditsch’s optimism and belief in his position or Caruana’s objectivity? A case in point was the discussion of 17…Nd4, which Caruana apparently rightly flagged as an inaccuracy. Naiditsch’s response: “I thought I’m just winning!” Another view on the situation was provided by the World Champion, who liked White:

My hand is itching to take on d4, and it’s just very pleasant for White. Black’s pieces look uncoordinated and he has a very bad bishop on h6.

Anand would already have played the exchange sacrifice on move 19, but it was even better when Caruana played it on move 22.

 

 

22.Rxd4! That was only the prelude to the drama, and Caruana and eventually Naiditsch were left with perilously little time to navigate the hair-raising position that arose. They’d been there before, and Caruana told the press team afterwards that he’d drawn some comfort from the fact that Naiditsch had failed to win a similarly wild game in their last meeting in Dortmund. Back then Houdini assessed Naiditsch’s edge as over -7 while here his edge “only” reached -2, but Georg Meier, who was a fine co-commentator for IM Lawrence Trent, explained that you shouldn’t pay too much attention to the computer:

The problem is Black’s position is so close to strategically lost he needs to make the correct move every time.

Sure enough, Naiditsch faltered with 32…Qg2? instead of 32…Qxg3! (if Houdini is to be believed) and collapsed after 36.Ne7:

 

 

Meier greeted Naiditsch’s resignation after 36…g5? 37.fxg5 Bf8 38.Nf4! by exclaiming:

It’s over. That’s why I came – to see some bloodshed and violence!

Trying to keep hold of the material with 38…Qf3 fails to the simple 39.Qxf3 Bxf3 40.Neg6+. Blunder perhaps isn’t the correct word for 36...g5?, however, as neither player had much faith in Black’s chances of survival after the only move, 36…g6! Again, computer evaluations are of little help when you’re on the stage with your clock’s flag about to fall.

 

 Replay the post-game press conference with Fabiano Caruana and Arkadij Naiditsch

 

That dramatic reversal of fortune put Fabiano Caruana back in the world Top 10 and leaves him in the driving seat of the inaugural GRENKE Chess Classic on 2.5/3. Anand, Naiditsch and Fridman are a point behind on 1.5, while Adams and Meier have 1 point each.

Round 4 pairings

Fridman – Anand
Naiditsch – Meier
Adams – Caruana

Sunday's game of the day on paper will be Adams – Caruana. Can the multiple English Champion hold back the rising Italian star? Find out by following the live coverage on the GRENKE Chess Classic website from 15:00 CET. 

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