So Leads By 2 Points Before Leuven Blitz

So Leads By 2 Points Before Leuven Blitz

| 31 | Chess Event Coverage

Wesley So came first in the rapid segment of the Your Next Move Grand Chess Tour in Leuven, Belgium. He will go into the blitz with a two-point lead over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and a three-point lead over Magnus Carlsen, who drew all his games today.

Wesley So definitely found his mojo back in Leuven. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

The seventh rapid round in Leuven saw one of the most dramatic losses for Vishy Anand in recent years. He was in the process of winning another very nice 6.h3 Najdorf like he did against Ian Nepomniachtchi in round three, but this time he couldn't deliver the knockout blow.

There were several possibilities to do so, but the computer evaluations will cloud your idea of how difficult it is to win a game like this at the board.


The spectators in Leuven saw another very entertaining day of chess. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

"I kept on fighting because this is what we do," said Maxime Vachier-Lagrave after winning a completely lost game. "My point was to find moves in which at least I didn't see an obvious clear-cut way to win. And little by little I found out that my position wasn't that bad."

Nigel Short gave a similar idea of how you should play in such as situation: "Avoid moves that lose instantly. Push the defeat slightly further away is all you're hoping to do."


Who would have bet against Anand winning this game, after the opening? | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Also on the third day of play, things weren't working for Baadur Jobava. The Georgian grandmaster was looking forward to the blitz so much, after yet another loss. And it really wasn't such a bad game against Vladimir Kramnik (it looked worse than it was). Only on move 34 things started to go downhill.


Leuven Rapid: A tournament to forget for Jobava. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

In round eight two not very stable world champions faced each other. For Vishy Anand the reason was clear: he came to the board right after that dramatic game with MVL. And Magnus Carlsen, well, somehow he still hasn't found what he's been looking for: his good old top form. 

Carlsen built up a nice advantage, although it was never really clear. But he let it slip away, and was even lost at some point. "There's something not quite right with the world champion," said Short.


Sometimes missed moves can lead to a few smiles. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Because of this result Carlsen lost the theoretical chance to win the rapid segment since Wesley So did win. He beat Levon Aronian in an excellent technical game.

"He tried to create complications and keep his pawn, but then he got really low on time figuring out how to keep his pawn," said So. "In the end, he simply blundered more than once."

About his play so far, So said: "The quality of my play here is much higher than the one in Paris. That's the good thing about being a chess professional: there is always another game. Life is not over even after losing some games."


Wesley So is quickly getting better at a fast time control. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave also continued to do well as he beat Ian Nepomniachtchi. The French GM was just a bit more alert when things got really tactical.


Round eight in action. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Baadur Jobava was finally on the scoreboard after this round. Anish Giri was the first player who failed to beat the Georgian player.

"I am [a]waiting champagne from the organizer," Jobava said. "What to say. My bad line is finished with this draw, I hope, and tomorrow is blitz."

He didn't give a clear reason for his bad score. "Many things affect my play, but I'm not gonna cry now. The field is very tough. When opponents see that you have a weakness they are like bulls; they see a weak animal and they attack."


Finally "weak animal" Jobava didn't lose a game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Vladimir Kramnik defeated Vassily Ivanchuk to win his second game in a row. However, in the players' room he said: "Shared fifth place! I cannot believe my eyes. I am playing so badly." The game wasn't bad at all, so GM Christian Chirila had a point with this tweet:


Kramnik wasn't too happy with his play. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

In the ninth round So drew with Ivanchuk to finish his rapid tournament undefeated, with a score of 7/9 (or rather, 14/18). It was exactly the same score as Carlsen achieved in Paris.

So, in an interview with "You know, this is my third tournament in a row. I have to remain fresh; I have to keep my level of energy, the same the first day as the last day. I have to be consistent.

"I am used now to playing the fast time control. Because really, a rapid and blitz tournament only happens once or twice a year. In fact before the Grand Chess Tour last year I really haven't played a rated rapid tournament in my life. It's a very new thing to me. Getting used to the time control takes some time.

"I haven't won a blitz tournament in my life, really! The main thing really in blitz is not to blunder all my pieces."

World champion Magnus Carlsen ended up drawing all three games today, and only finished third, on 11 points. That was one less than Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who came second despite suffering his only loss in the last round of rapid against Levon Aronian.


MVL suffered his first loss in the last round. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

There was no such thing yet as a comeback for Baadur Jobava, who also lost to Vishy Anand. And again it was a tough one because although he didn't get a great position with this Fort Knox French with ...g6 (one of his specialities), he was initially fine when Anand made a mistake on move 31. But then Jobava missed a breakthrough tactic.


Anand and Jobava right after their game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

After this game, Maurice Ashley wondered if Anand was "a little bit off" in his first two games today. Anand: "It's very nice of you to say 'a little bit off.' I thought that was just mental. I think I shouldn't bother playing chess like this. There's just no sense."

Luckily for Jobava, the blitz starts tomorrow, where he can hardly do worse.

Your Next Move (Leuven) Grand Chess Tour | Rapid, Round 9 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 So,Wesley 2789 2991 1 2 1 1 2 2 2 1 2 14.0/18
2 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2783 2895 1 1 1 2 0 1 2 2 2 12.0/18
3 Carlsen,Magnus 2851 2846 0 1 1 1 2 2 1 1 2 11.0/18
4 Giri,Anish 2764 2815 1 1 1 0 2 1 1 2 1 10.0/18
5 Nepomniachtchi,Ian 2766 2776 1 0 1 2 2 1 0 0 2 9.0/18 18.50
6 Aronian,Levon 2780 2776 0 2 0 0 0 2 2 1 2 9.0/18 16.75
7 Kramnik,Vladimir 2789 2775 0 1 0 1 1 0 2 2 2 9.0/18 15.75
8 Anand,Viswanathan 2775 2738 0 0 1 1 2 0 0 2 2 8.0/18
9 Ivanchuk,Vassily 2757 2700 1 0 1 0 2 1 0 0 2 7.0/18
10 Jobava,Baadur 2703 2292 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.0/18

Note that for this table the ratings of the Grand Chess Tour's
Universal Rating System have been used.

Now the players will move to blitz, with nine games on both Saturday and Sunday. In this double round-robin, the time control is five minutes plus a three-second delay starting from move one. The score will be back to normal, with half a point for a draw and one for a win, meaning that one blitz game counts half compared to a rapid game.


Garry Kasparov, here interviewed by Maurice Ashley, briefly attended the tournament today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

You can watch the Grand Chess Tour on and the games at starting daily from 2 p.m. CET, 8 a.m. New York or 5 a.m. Pacific. The commentary is provided by GM Maurice Ashley and GM Nigel Short in Leuven, and GM Yasser Seirawan, IM Jovanka Houska & GM Christian Chirilla from St Louis.

The rapid tournament is a round-robin with games played at 25 minutes with a 10-second delay from move one. The blitz tournament is a double round-robin with games played at five minutes with a three-second delay from move one. The prize fund is $150,000, with the first prize of $37,500.

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