20 - 29 April 2019

Magnus Carlsen wins the GRENKE Chess Classic!

A little more than an hour after the final round of the GRENKE Chess Classic had begun, it had become clear that the tournament leader, Magnus Carlsen had won his third super tournament of the year. Going into the final round, the world champion was leading by a full point and after Fabiano Caruana, the only player to have any chance at the title, drew his game, it did not matter how Carlsen would fare in the finale. Nonetheless, like a true champion, Magnus fought until the end against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and won the game as well as the title with a staggering 7½/9, one-and-a-half points ahead of his nearest rival.


Yesterday, Fabiano Caruana had said after his game that he wasn’t expecting any disaster to happen to Carlsen. The former world championship challenger’s only chance at the title at GRENKE depended on Carlsen’s loss with white against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. At the same time, he himself would have to bring down Levon Aronian in the final round. In light of all of these conditions, Caruana’s pessimism was understandable.


In the game, Caruana went for a well-known line of the Marshall Gambit and the players followed one of Aronian’s earlier games against Radjabov well into the endgame. Needless to say, the game had remained balanced all the way through. A draw was agreed three moves after the first time control was reached.


Fabiano Caruana held Levon Aronian in the latter's pet Marshall Gambit | Photo: Georgios Souleidis


The world champion, in the meanwhile, was involved in a rather exciting battle against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The French number one, following an over-the-board inspiration, had given up a pawn in a Symmetrical English. Carlsen said after the game that he was too tired to go through all of the variations but he saw no reason not to accept the offered pawn. And once again, the world champion’s judgement was spot on.


Carlsen was quick to liquidate the position after this. By the 35th move, only queens remained on the board with Carlsen having the (extra) outside passed pawn. MVL halfheartedly tried to get something going with his ‘f’ pawn but only ended up worsening an already lost position.


Magnus Carlsen won his sixth game of the event after an incorrect pawn sacrifice by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave | Photo: Georgios Souleidis


Vincent Keymer had been using his time well in the first eight rounds of this tournament. But as his coach, GM Peter Leko pointed out, his play looked a bit fast in the final round. In a Modern Benoni, Keymer had reached a commanding position out of the opening with the white pieces.


Vallejo’s 14…h5 had severely compromised his king’s safety and very soon, it looked like Keymer was en route to his second win of the tournament. But Keymer, perhaps underestimating the attacking potential in his opponent’s position, allowed black’s ‘f’ pawn to advance. With this, ‘Paco’ gained a serious initiative against the white king. Keymer managed to exchange queens and limp on but the sequence had left him lagging in the material count. Vallejo did not have any problems converting the game after this.


Vincent Keymer had started off well but faltered and lost against Francisco Vallejo Pons | Photo: Georgios Souleidis


Another extremely exciting game from the round was the one between Arkadij Naiditsch and Georg Meier. The two had discussed an English Opening in which Naiditsch was on the front foot very early in the game. Planting his knights on b5 and e6, the grandmaster from Azerbaijan won the exchange on the 22nd move but the complications only grew as the game progressed. After a four hour long battle, it was Naiditsch who had managed to come out on top and win the game on the 40th move.

Arkadij Naiditsch's game against Georg Meier was the longest of the day | Photo: Georgios Souleidis


Viswanathan Anand tested Peter Svidler in a sharp line of the Ruy Lopez with the white pieces. Doubling rook and queen on the queen-rook’s file, Anand had caught a black knight in a terrible-looking pin on a7. In order to retain the pin, he even gave his own knight on the 22nd move. But Svidler returned the piece in time and the game fizzled out into an equal heavy piece endgame. A three-fold repetition followed soon afterwards.


Vishy Anand and Peter Svidler played a sharp but short draw | Photo: Georgios Souleidis


Standings after round 9
1. 1. Carlsen, Magnus 2845 ** ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 7.5 6
2. 2. Caruana, Fabiano 2819 ½ ** 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 6.0 3
3. 3. Naiditsch, Arkadij 2695 ½ 0 ** ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 1 1 5.0 3
4. 4. Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2773 0 ½ ½ ** ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 5.0 2
5. 5. Svidler, Peter 2735 0 ½ 1 ½ ** ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 4.5 2
5. 6. Anand, Viswanathan 2774 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ** ½ 1 0 1 4.5 2
7. 7. Aronian, Levon 2763 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ** ½ ½ ½ 4.5 1
8. 8. Vallejo Pons, Francisco 2693 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ** ½ 1 4.0 1
9. 9. Meier, Georg 2628 0 0 0 0 0 1 ½ ½ ** 0 2.0 1
10. 10. Keymer, Vincent 2516 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 1 ** 2.0 1

Text by Aditya Pai