Carlsen Wins In 23 Moves As Grand Chess Tour Resumes
Anish Giri tries to be clever as Kasparov looks on. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Carlsen Wins In 23 Moves As Grand Chess Tour Resumes

Rakesh
IM Rakesh
|
45 | Chess Event Coverage

The 2019 Grand Chess Tour resumed in Zagreb, Croatia on Wednesday with its second event of the year after the season opener in Abidjan with the Cote d'Ivoire Rapid and Blitz. The Croatia leg is the first of two classical events on this tour.

This 11 game round-robin event features all the 12 full tour participants, headed by the world champion Magnus Carlsen.

Nine of the top 10 players in the world have descended to Croatia for the second stop on this year's tour (only world number-six Alexander Grischuk is absent). A total prize fund of $325,000 plus precious GCT points are up for grabs with 20 points and $90,000 reserved for the winner.

Carlsen had dominated the Cote d'Ivoire Rapid & Blitz, where he also became the first world champion to play an event in Africa. He crushed the rapid segment and finished second behind Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the blitz.

Graphic: Spectrum Studios.

Here is the full calendar for the Grand Chess Tour 2019:

  • Cote d'Ivoire Rapid & Blitz, May 6-13, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire
  • Croatia GCT (Classical), June 24-July 9, Zagreb, Croatia
  • Paris Rapid & Blitz , July 26-August 2, Paris
  • St. Louis Rapid & Blitz, August 8-15, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Sinquefield Cup (Classical), August, 15-30, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Superbet Rapid & Blitz, November 4-11, Bucharest, Romania
  • Tata Steel India Rapid & Blitz, November 20-27, Kolkata, India

The beautiful playing hall in Zagreb. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
The beautiful playing hall in Zagreb. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The Croatia Grand Chess Tour is being held at the Novinarski Dom in Zagreb from June 24 till July 9. One of the architects of the tour, the former world champion Garry Kasparov, has been the driving force for this event being held in Croatia.

Kasparov has been a citizen of Croatia since 2014 after he found it increasingly difficult to live in Russia. He is heavily involved with the event as he is providing commentary, giving interviews and also making the ceremonial first move in the game Anish Giri vs Carlsen, which happened to be the first decisive game of the day and the tournament.

Garry Kasparov makes the ceremonial first move on the top board. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Garry Kasparov makes the ceremonial first move on the top board. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Carlsen has been in a league of his own this year. He played a dubious opening but managed to crush Giri in 23 moves with the black pieces. It started off with Carlsen's current favorite reply to 1.e4, the Sicilian. Giri had come prepared with the Rossolimo but Carlsen's seventh move left everyone puzzled.

Carlsen just loves playing the Sicilian these days. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Carlsen just loves playing the Sicilian these days. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Carlsen later admitted that he didn't know the position very well. He only knew that 7...f6 was the main move and he felt Anish was well prepared. So, 7...d6 was more about playing the man than playing the position!

He remarked: "7...d6 was such a stupid move that he wouldn't have looked at it. He also felt that the resulting position [was] just completely unclear and it wouldn't be so bad for me."

In the post-match interview, Giri was brutally honest and said, "he's a little bit of a mirror. He's showing you your stupidity."

Kasparov, in his interview with the host Maurice Ashley, showered praise on his former protege, with whom he worked extensively almost 10 years ago in Croatia.

When asked whether Carlsen will break 2900, Kasparov replied: "Most likely."

He added: "The way he dominates chess, it reminds us of the three years of Bobby Fischer in 1970-1972 and of my best years—and what's most beautiful, it's not over!"

Kasparov with his former protegee. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Kasparov with his former protegee. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The American star Wesley So came very well prepared against the world number-three, Ding Liren of China. So proved that he had done his homework and had some fresh ideas in the English. He showed an improvement over the world champion who had played the same line against Ding in Stavanger last year.

So is applying the finishing touches to a great game against Ding. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
So is applying the finishing touches to a great game against Ding. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The second decisive game was between the Indian legend Viswanathan Anand and Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia. Anand played the white side and, as always, started with 1.e4.

His interesting move 10.h4 started complications right from the opening. Anand went all in for an attack against the black king. But his attack fizzled out when the queens were traded. Nepomniachtchi quickly took over the initiative and won in fewer than 10 moves after the queen trade.

The start of Anand vs Nepomniachtchi. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
The start of Anand vs Nepomniachtchi. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The all-American clash between Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura was also a decisive game with the world number-two scoring a thumping win over Nakamura, when the latter lost the thread in an unclear position.

Caruana and Nakamura sharing their thoughts. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Caruana and Nakamura sharing their thoughts. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The players seem to be in a fighting mood as round one saw four decisive games and two draws. Even the two draws were full of action and not dull draws.

MVL was pushing but Aronian was never in trouble. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
MVL was pushing but Aronian was never in trouble. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

The first game to end in a draw was between two players who have had their share of spectacular draws. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Sergey Karjakin are known to be very good friends off the board and often work together. Even though this was the first game to finish, it was a spectacle.

This game caught the attention of everyone. So and Carlsen were also seen kibitzing. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
This game caught the attention of everyone. So and Carlsen were also seen kibitzing. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

2019 Croatia Grand Chess Tour | Round 1 Standings

The 2019 Croatia Grand Chess Tour takes place June 26 to July 8 at the Novinarski Dom in Zagreb, Croatia. This is one of the two classical events on the tour this year. The time control is a new one, with 130 minutes for each player with a 30-second delay from move one.

The games start at 4:30 pm local time (CEST) which is 10:30 am Eastern and 7:30 am Pacific. You can follow the games here as part of our live portal with daily commentary by GM Robert Hess.

Watch GCT Croatia Round 1 Commentary from GMHess on www.twitch.tv

Round one coverage by GM Robert Hess.

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