20 - 29 April 2019

Carlsen takes early lead, breaking through Keymer's stiff resistance

For the second time in a row, the GRENKE Chess Classic caught the fancy of the world by featuring a highly anticipated matchup in its very opening round. While last year the Classic had given a prelude to the World Championship match by clashing Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana in the inaugural round last year, this edition featured a mouthwatering duel between the reigning world champion and the 14-year-old prodigy, Vincent Keymer.

The symbolic first move to officially open the tournament was made by FIDE President, Arkady Dvorkovich | Photo: Maria Emelianova


Prior to this, Dvorkovich addressed the audience and officially announced the commencement of the Chess960 World Championship. The tournament will be open to all players, regardless of their titles or rating.

The first stage of the event will be an online qualification. Chess.com will be hosting the online qualification which commences on April 28 while the finale will be held in Oslo, this autumn. The total prize fund for the event will be a whopping $375,000, thanks to the Norwegian sponsor Dund AS.

Interview with the FIDE President, Arkady Dvorkovich

As the games began, Magnus Carlsen was seen essaying the Benoni against Keymer’s 1.d4 but the game soon veered into the waters of a King’s Indian Defence. Given that he was playing a young International Master, Carlsen’s choice seemed logical. Soon after the center was closed, the world champion thrust his kingside pawns forward. Keymer stood strong against the attack and even responded in kind, rolling his own kingside pawns, around move 30.

Position after 28.g5

While Keymer had gone toe to toe with the world champ thus far, time trouble soon began to loom over his head. By the time he had reached the first time control, he had lost a pawn and given Carlsen the command over the position. Over the next forty moves both players exchanged errors but, unfortunately for Keymer, he was the last to commit one. After six hours, forty-five minutes and eighty-one moves, Carlsen had managed to bring down his 14-year-old opponent.

Post-game interview with Magnus Carlsen

After all the stiff resistance he put up, Keymer has every reason to be praised. In his post-game interview, Carlsen praised his opponent for putting up a great fight before adding that both his and Keymer’s play could have been vastly improved. “It’s not really a memorable game for me in terms of quality. In terms of quality, for sure,” Carlsen concluded.

Vishy versus MVL was the first game to finish | Photo: Maria Emelianova

All of the other games of the day ended in draws, with some being more interesting than the others. The first game to finish was the one between Viswanathan Anand and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. As black, Anand opened with the Caro-Kann defence. Sacrificing a pawn, ‘MVL’ went into a sharp, forced line of the opening, which eventually led to a repetition by the 20th move.

Fabiano Caruana's game against Peter Svidler was a long, theoretical battle | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Fabiano Caruana took a page of his archrival, Magnus Carlsen’s book this time as he essayed the Sicilian Sveshnikov with Black. Svidler was also extremely well prepared for the line and the game turned out to be a long theoretical battle. Once the position had been liquidated, an equal endgame was reached and the players signed peace after reaching the first time control.

Naiditsch essayed a sharp Sicilian Najdorf against Levon Aronian | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Levon Aronian against Arkadij Naiditsch began as a sharp Sicilian Najdorf with the latter on the black side. Aronian flung his ‘a’ pawn far up to a5 in order to stymie Black’s queenside pawns and soon this side of the board became the battleground. After several exchanges had been induced, the players decided to call it a day and agreed to a draw on move 41.

Georg Meier against Francisco Vallejo Pons began interestingly but ended in a short draw | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

An advancing ‘a’ pawn was spotted in the matchup between Georg Meier and Francisco Vallejo Pons too. But here, it was played in response to black’s unusual looking b5 on the third move. After the ‘b’ file had been opened Black doubled his rooks along the file and drew by repetition on move 24.

With Magnus Carlsen’s victory over Vincent Keymer, the tournament has already found itself a sole leader. For Keymer, more tough tests lie ahead as he faces Carlsen’s immediate world championship predecessor, GM Viswanathan Anand, in round 2. As for the other pairings you can check the table below.

Pairings of Round 2 (21.04.2019 / 15:00)
1 10. Vallejo Pons, Francisco - 6. Carlsen, Magnus  - 
2 7. Anand, Viswanathan - 5. Keymer, Vincent  - 
3 8. Caruana, Fabiano - 4. Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime  - 
4 9. Naiditsch, Arkadij - 3. Svidler, Peter  - 
5 1. Meier, Georg - 2. Aronian, Levon  - 

Text by Aditya Pai