31 March - 9 April 2018

Vachier-Lagrave joins Vitiugov in the lead

On its final day in Karlsruhe (the event moves to Baden-Baden after tomorrow’s rest day) fans attending the GRENKE Chess Classic were once again treated to fighting chess and exciting games. A few players made a bid to join Vitiugov in the lead, but at the end of the day only Vachier-Lagrave was successful in doing so.

It’s goodbye to the Schwarzwaldhalle in Karlsruhe until next year

The first result of the day was a draw in the heavyweight encounter between Anand and Aronian. It looked for a while like Vishy might have a small edge, but Levon was in time to consolidate his position and a draw was signed on move 31.

The main clash of the day between Anand and Aronian ended peacefully

First blood was drawn when Vachier-Lagrave managed to create chances in a position where Hou Yifan seemed to be in control and it looked like the game was heading towards a draw. But the Frenchman showed why he is the number 4 player in the world (on the live list) and kept posing problems until Hou Yifan blundered with 33.Bf1, which MVL punished ruthlessly to reach 2.5/3.

Vachier-Lagrave takes the joint tournament lead thanks to his victory over Hou

The most exciting game of the day was undoubtedly that between Meier and Caruana, where the latter’s attack on the h-file looked incredibly dangerous to the human eye, but the computer kept coming up with cold-blooded ways to defend. The evaluation kept swinging back and forth between equal and winning for Black as the players were in mutual time trouble but after the final blunder 32.Be3 Fabiano found a nice combination leading to mate. The winner of the recently concluded Candidates Tournament thus won his first game at the GRENKE Chess Classic after starting with two draws.

Meier and Caruana discuss their game shortly after the German resigned

In stark contrast to the Caruana game, the encounter between Naiditsch and Vitiugov was always in the balance and ended peacefully after neither side ever really had any serious chances to play for the win. That meant that once again Magnus Carlsen was the last man standing (or sitting, rather) on the stage of the Schwarzwaldhalle. The game between the top and bottom seed was an interesting one as Bluebaum sacrificed a pawn in the opening. However, it was clear that Black’s missing dark squared bishop gave him sufficient compensation and it wasn’t long until Magnus decided to give the pawn back by playing 18…d4. After that the game seemed to be headed for a draw but there was yet another turnaround as it looked like Bluebaum missed the move 29…Ng4, after which he was forced to find a few precise moves to hold the balance. However, he did so masterfully and held the World Champion to a draw one day after doing the same against his next challenger.

Holding Caruana and Carlsen to draws on consecutive days is an impressive feat by Bluebaum

Thanks to his victory, Vachier-Lagrave has joined Vitiugov in the lead on 2.5/3, but they are followed closely by a threatening-looking pursuer group consisting of Carlsen, Caruana and Aronian. Tomorrow is the only rest day of the event as the players move to the nearby city of Baden-Baden, where on Wednesday the clash of the day is undoubtedly Carlsen taking on Vachier-Lagrave with the white pieces. Elsewhere we will see the all-German duel between Bluebaum and Meier, while Aronian faces Hou, Vitiugov takes on Anand and Caruana plays against Naiditsch.

When the action resumes in Baden-Baden our commentary duo of GMs Peter Leko and Jan Gustafsson will once again be on hand to take you through all the action live, starting from 3pm CEST.

Text and photos: Fiona Steil-Antoni

Player interviews on the official YouTube channel