20 - 29 April 2019

Round 6: Carlsen races a full point ahead!

The sixth round of the GRENKE Chess Classic saw a drastic change at the top of the leaderboard. Magnus Carlsen took sole lead in the tournament after beating local GM Georg Meier. After this win, Magnus is a full point ahead of the field as his co-leader, GM Vishy Anand suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of GM Arkadij Naiditsch. In another important result of the day, 14-year-old Vincent Keymer bridged a rating gap of 247 points to hold world number 10, GM Levon Aronian to a draw.


Carlsen is now a full point ahead of his nearest rival | Photo: Georgios Souleidis


For Carlsen, it seems to have become a habit to play marathon games. This time again, his was the last game to conclude after five-and-a-half hours. Meier’s non-committal 1.Nf3 was met by an ambitious pawn plunge, 6…b5, by the world champion. He continued energetically lifting his rook and setting up a queen and bishop battery along the h1-a8 diagonal over the subsequent moves.


On his 25th turn, Carlsen found an enterprising pawn sacrifice and got his central passed pawns rolling. Within a few moves, he was clearly winning. After the game, Carlsen pointed out that Meier’s 31.e3 was “pretty suicidal”. However, Carlsen also mentioned that his own play wasn’t the most accurate. Nonetheless, he managed to force resignation by move 58 and get a full point ahead of the field.


Vishy Anand suffered a crushing loss to Arkadij Naiditsch in a Four Knights Defence game | Photo: Georgios Souleidis


Tournament’s co-leader, GM Vishy Anand suffered a major loss in the meanwhile and slipped down from the top spot. Playing black in a Four Knights Defence against GM Arkadij Naiditsch, Anand sacrificed a pawn early in the game and sought to generate play against the white king. With the white king’s position compromised as a consequence of the opening, Anand’s compensation seemed sufficient.


However, as the game progressed, white’s play turned out to be a lot easier in comparison to black’s. While Anand’s attack led nowhere, Naiditsch had made the most of the open ‘g’ file – which was at one point considered a positional weakness – and activated all of his pieces and won a second pawn. With his pieces entangled and his position on the brink of collapse, the Indian ace had to throw in the towel on the 30th move.


Fabiano Caruana was tested in a sharp but drawn variation of the Four Knights by Francisco Vallejo Pons | Photo: Georgios Souleidis


Francisco Vallejo Pons and Fabiano Caruana had a very short day at the office in round 6. Within an hour and fifteen minutes the game had concluded in a draw in another Four Knights Defence game. In the words of the Spanish number one, “I prepared more than I played!”


Vallejo decided to test his American opponent’s memory in a sharp but forcefully drawn variation. After the game, Vallejo said his intent was clear: if Fabiano remembered all the niceties of the line, the worst that could happen was a draw; if not, he would score his first full point.


Vincent Keymer bridged a 247 point rating gap to hold GM Levon Aronian to a draw | Photo: Georgios Souleidis


Following his win over Georg Meier in the previous round, Vincent Keymer had another happy result in the sixth round. This time, he managed to hold ground against the strongest Armenian player, Levon Aronian.


After one of his previous games in GRENKE, Aronian was quoted saying chess should be slow and beautiful. Perhaps, today he was looking to play one such masterpiece. He had chosen to exchange queens very early in a Sicilian Scheveningen with the white pieces and had avoided a theoretical discussion. As a result, an insipid endgame was reached where the Armenian superstar had a microscopic edge.


Position after 19.c3


Worth noting was the way Keymer found his way through some ensuing complications. With his 19.c3, Aronian planned to trap the rook on d1 with Nb2. Keymer confidently responded 19…Rc8, having foreseen that after 20.Nb2, he had the defensive resource 20…Nxc3. And after 21.Rc2 Bf6 22.Nxd1, Black can repeat the position with 22…Nxd1 23.Rb1 Nc3.


Aronian avoided this line with 20.Re4 but soon the position liquidated into a rook and knight endgame where it was the German lad who had the active pieces and it was his super-Grandmaster opponent who had to fight for a draw. The highly exciting battle went on for 52 moves before peace was signed.


Peter Svidler making the first move of his game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave | Photo: Georgios Souleidis


Peter Svidler essayed a rather innocuous variation of the Symmetrical English wherein a queen exchange was offered just six moves into the game. After the game, though, Svidler clarified that he was “banking on Maxime to play 6…Qc7”.


And indeed, the Frenchman did not shy away from a fight. An important moment came on the 18th move, when Svidler castled on the kingside, where it looked like ‘MVL’ had a ready attack. The computers evaluated the position to be better for black but following some exchanges, equality was restored. All the rooks were off the board by the 24th move and players agreed to a draw soon afterwards.


The seventh round will begin at 15:00 CEST at the Kulturhaus LA8 in Baden Baden tomorrow, April 27, 2018.


Round 7 (27.04.2019 / 15:00)
1 4. Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime - 10. Vallejo Pons, Francisco  - 
2 5. Keymer, Vincent - 3. Svidler, Peter  - 
3 6. Carlsen, Magnus - 2. Aronian, Levon  - 
4 7. Anand, Viswanathan - 1. Meier, Georg  - 
5 8. Caruana, Fabiano - 9. Naiditsch, Arkadij  - 


Text by Aditya Pai