31 March - 9 April 2018

Bluebaum shocks Anand as Naiditsch bounces back to beat Meier

After being on the verge of defeat against Naiditsch yesterday, Matthias Bluebaum bounced back in the most sensational of ways – by taking out former World Champion Vishy Anand. Meanwhile Naiditsch himself also seemed to have recovered as he got the better of Georg Meier.

The start of the round was attended by the Board of Directors of the GRENKE AG, the tournament’s main sponsor. Chairwoman Antje Leminsky made the symbolic first move 1.c4 for reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen in his game against Levon Aronian.

From left to right: Gilles Christ, Antje Leminsky, Mark Kindermann, Sebastian Hirsch (Photo: Georgios Souleidis)

The first game to end was also the upset of the day as in the encounter opposing two players who were yet to score their first win it was sensationally Matthias Bluebaum who got the better of Vishy Anand. After the game Matthias seemed lost for words at first as he stated he wasn’t sure how he had won the game: ‘I didn’t really understand how it happened – I didn’t get anything out of the opening and thought things would peter out to a draw.’

However, after Anand’s 19…Bd5? Bluebaum went on to find all the best moves and after 26.e4! defeat was probably already unavoidable for the former World Champion. Despite scoring one of the most famous wins of his young career, Matthias remained humble: ‘I am satisfied with the result; with the games not so much’.

Matthias Bluebaum is on a very impressive 50% score after beating Anand

The encounter of the day, Carlsen-Aronian, was dubbed by Peter Leko a thrilling game with a fascinating opening debate. Both players joined him in the studio after a tense struggle ended in a draw on move 52, where Magnus commented that he felt 16…Rad8 had been a key moment: ‘I had several options here, but couldn’t figure out which one to go for’. When asked about spending 40 minutes on 19…Bxe2 when he had blitzed out all his previous moves, Levon explained: ‘I remembered that I have analysed this position, but I didn’t remember what my intention was.’

He went on to say he thought he was pressing after 22…b5, but had then made some inaccurate moves. As so often with Carlsen and Aronian, both players felt they had had chances at some point as Magnus concluded the post-mortem with the following words: ‘I should have played 30.Qxa3 immediately, but I was still trying to provoke you into something – with Qxa3 I force you to make a draw which I was not so thrilled about, but objectively it’s the right result’.

Carlsen and Aronian never fail to entertain – be it during their games or after

The second decisive game of the round saw Arkadij Naiditsch bounce back from what he later described as one of the worst games of his life [yesterday’s missed chance against Bluebaum] to beat a luckless Georg Meier. It was an interesting game where the Azeri once again chose a very direct approach by launching his h-pawn up the board. What ensued was a position with chances on both sides but Meier eventually blundered with 33.cxb6?, when 33…Qb7 forced immediate resignation.

Naiditsch bounced back to score his first victory of the tournament

Vitiugov continued displaying very strong chess on what is his GRENKE Classic debut as he pressed for a win in a better endgame against Vachier-Lagrave for a long time. The Frenchman however defended resiliently and a draw was eventually agreed on move 68. After the game Maxime lamented that he had made a lot of unnecessary decisions and that he could have cut his suffering short by three hours had he played 14…Nbc4 instead of 14…Rfd8.

MVL had to suffer for a long time for his draw against Vitiugov (Photo: Georgios Souleidis)

In the longest game of the day (and the tournament), Hou Yifan came very close to beating Fabiano Caruana for a second year in a row – with his pet Petrov defence coincidentally. The Chinese had played the middle game perfectly to get an endgame with a slight edge. As early as move 28, the players got into an ending with a knight and a bishop each but with Hou having the better pawn structure. On move 51 she exchanged her bishop for Caruana’s knight and proceeded to win the pawn on b2, but still even the biggest experts at the venue were unable to say whether the ensuing position was winning or a draw.

The turning point came on move 64, when Fabiano played the blunder 64.Bb7?? after only 5 seconds of thought, but Yifan immediately returned the favour as she took only 3 seconds to play 64…a5. The stunning winning line both players missed was 64…Kd2! 65.Bxa6 Nd3+! 66.cxd3 (66.Kb1 Ne1!) d4! and there is no stopping the pawns. Hou tried every possibility for the remainder of the game but it was to no avail and a draw was eventually agreed on move 98, after more than 7 hours of play.

Hou Yifan came very close to beating Caruana for a second consecutive year

Today’s two decisive results only brought changes to the middle and bottom of the standings, as Vachier-Lagrave, Caruana and Vitiugov continue to lead on 4/6. Therefore the game of the day of Saturday’s round 7 is without the shadow of a doubt the clash between leaders Vachier-Lagrave and Caruana. Vitiugov meanwhile will be black against Aronian and Carlsen black against Naiditsch, who beat him here in Baden-Baden two years ago. As usual the round will get underway at 3pm CEST and you shouldn’t miss our live show with commentary by GMs Peter Leko and Jan Gustafsson.

Text and photos: Fiona Steil-Antoni

Player interviews on the official YouTube channel