Magnus Carlsen ground three former World Champions into dust and outwitted Anish Giri in the opening to win all four games on Day 2 of the Your Next Move Grand Chess Tour. That spectacular run undid all the damage done on the first day to make the current World Champion the sole leader after the rapid section in Leuven. Wesley So is only a point behind, though, and with no player entirely collapsing the tournament remains wide open with no less than 18 blitz games to go.
All about Magnus
At first there was nothing too remarkable. Carlsen gradually outplayed Veselin Topalov in an ending to win his first game of the day, but although it was a good start he was matched by Vishy Anand, who increased his lead over the field with a sharp victory over Anish Giri. 26.e6! was a nice final touch
Anish resigned, since 26…Rxe6 runs into 27.Rxe6 Qxe6 28.Re1! and the threat of mate on e8 will cost Black the queen.
In Round 2, though, Vladimir Kramnik ground out a win against Anand while Giri misplayed the opening and resigned on move 23 against Carlsen. The Norwegian was only a point behind and had some time to rest, though he first came to talk to Jan and Anna, explaining how he’d got over his terrible end to the previous day:
Well, I was really pissed for about an hour, and then I stopped caring, a little bit. I don’t really care today either, but it doesn’t seem to affect my play so far! Sometimes that’s just what you need – to loosen up a bit.
The icing on the cake was beating another ex-World Champion and great rival, Vladimir Kramnik, in the day’s final round. Carlsen was rewarded for keeping the position highly unbalanced, with Kramnik missing nuances until he found himself in a clearly lost endgame.
Kramnik had to play 47.Ne4!, but instead was tempted by the “fortress” after 47.Nxd5? Bxd5 48.g5. Alas, he’d missed something simple and was soon forced to resign.
The longest rapid
This was the final day of rapid chess for the 2016 Grand Chess Tour, and the players were drawing conclusions. Although we witnessed almost none of the outright blunders we’d seen on Day 1, the players were united in the opinion that the schedule, with four or five 25 min + 30 sec games a day, is hard to deal with.
Yesterday I started out with two pretty hard-fought draws. I spent a lot of energy on my games and towards the end I was pretty tired. Of course that’s not an excuse for dropping pieces here and there, but I think for everybody playing five rapid games - that’s tough! I’d say much tougher than a day of classical chess.
It’s harder to recover from losses, or missed opportunities, so you kind of get emotionally tired, not physically, and I guess the low quality of certain games, including many of mine, has shown that the players are not recovering so well.
[In blitz] you care much less. You know it's blitz - you're going to blunder! Rapid is kind of halfway. You're still upset, as would happen after losing a classical game, but as in blitz you have very little time to recover.
Playing five rapid games, especially at this time control, requires much more energy. There are many more critical points, much more excitement, which is not good for your body… It’s fine, but I'd rather either have three days of play in the rapid, or a faster time control like 15+10 or even 15+5.
Certainly commentators and news writers feel the same , but what do you think as chess fans? Would you prefer an accelerated format rather than the 6-7.5 hours days we’ve had in the last two weeks?
Now let’s get back to the actual chess!
Something for everyone
It was a curious day in Leuven, since all but one of the players had at least one win to boast about.
Nakamura has just taken the pawn on d6, but it could have been very costly, since 26…Rd8!, with the threat of Rxd3, is lethal. Instead Maxime played 26…Rfc8 and after 27.Rae1 Rxa2 28.hxg6 hxg6 he was unpleasantly surprised by 29.Qd7!, with the threat of 30.Rh7+.
MVL drew that game and two more, but then found himself improving Giri’s mood and health by losing a rook ending in the final round.
In any case, after his rapid performance in Paris and Belgium he won't need to worry so much about opponents targeting him due to his low rating:
So the standings look as follows before we switch to 18 rounds of blitz:
As you can see, four players are within two points of Magnus, while even Kramnik and Nakamura are still within striking distance if they can go on a winning streak – something that you certainly wouldn’t rule out Hikaru doing after his performance in Paris.
It was put to Carlsen that he’d suffered one bad day during the Paris blitz:
"I’m really hoping that I already did away with my bad day here in Leuven!"