31 March - 9 April 2018

Four decisive results in round 2 as White goes 4.5-0.5!

While yesterday we had five thrilling games but only one decisive result, today we got both the thrill and the crucial outcomes. Apart from Fabiano Caruana, all rating favourites took advantage of the white pieces to get the better of their opponents in very similar, positional fashion.

An aerial view into the Karlsruhe GRENKE Chess venue - the Schwarzwaldhalle

The first player to draw blood today was Levon Aronian, who put an end to a winless 12-games streak. The Armenian employed a rare system against Naiditsch’s King’s Indian Defence and took control over the game as early as move 13, when he played the strong Nb5! Levon then went on to play a model game and bagged the full point before the time control was reached.

Aronian bounced back from a disastrous Candidates Tournament with a fine win over Naiditsch

The next result to come in was what was going to be the only draw of the round, in the game between Caruana and Bluebaum.  The young German displayed impressive preparation and later admitted to being ‘in book’ all the way up until 22…f6. His homework gave him both a big advantage on the clock and an equal position, which Matthias went on to confidently hold.

Caruana never got any chances in his game against Bluebaum

The game between Vachier-Lagrave and Anand came to an abrupt end as the Indian legend resigned in a position where he was only a pawn down, but could in fact barely move. The game had started out with Vishy springing a slight surprise by playing the Taimanov Defence, but the Frenchman had some aces up his sleeve as he had prepared it all previously. Once the queens came off on move 24, Maxime felt the position was practically very difficult to defend for his opponent and Leko went one step further in the live show, calling it ‘almost lost on the high level’. MVL never set a foot wrong and won the game on move 38.

Vachier-Lagrave displayed flawless endgame technique to get the better of Anand

The encounter between Vitiugov and Meier started with an interesting psychological standpoint, as the Russian opened with 1.e4, which was countered, perhaps unsurprisingly, by 1…e6. The French has been Meier’s pet opening for as long as memory serves, but Vitiugov also wrote an acclaimed book on it – ‘The French Defence Reloaded’. In the end it was the author who prevailed, as Vitiugov played a positional masterpiece to storm to a perfect 2 out of 2.

Vitiugov is the sole leader on 2/2 after another flawless victory

For the second consecutive day Carlsen played the longest game of the round, but this time he didn’t fail to convert what was a trademark Magnus endgame advantage. While in the studio, Vachier-Lagrave dubbed the position ‘Magnus’ bread and butter’. After duly bringing the full point home, the World Champion explained on the live show that the difference in this game had been the activity of the knights and this edge was enough for him to take his overall score against Hou Yifan to 5.5/6 (and his white score to a perfect 4/4).

Carlsen won a trademark game against Hou Yifan

After two rounds Nikita Vitiugov is still the sole leader on a perfect 2/2 score, but the chasing pack of Carlsen, Vachier-Lagrave and Aronian on 1.5 looks pretty threatening. Caruana is incredibly the only player on 50%, while Anand, Naiditsch, Hou, Meier and Bluebaum all sit on 0.5/2. Tomorrow leader Vitiugov takes on Naiditsch with the black pieces, while the match-up of the day is undoubtedly Anand-Aronian. Elsewhere there will be big rating disparities, but with all favourites on the black side of the board, which should make for interesting clashes: Bluebaum-Carlsen, Meier-Caruana and finally Hou against Vachier-Lagrave.

Monday’s round 3 will be the last one to be played in Karlsruhe and you shouldn’t miss our live coverage with commentary by GMs Peter Leko and Jan Gustafsson starting from 3pm CEST.

Treats were provided for those who chose to play chess over enjoying Easter Sunday sweets

Text and photos: Fiona Steil-Antoni

Player interviews on the official YouTube channel