Nepomniachtchi Leads Croatia Grand Chess Tour As Anand Miraculously Escapes
Nepomniachtchi and Caruana doing a post-mortem of their topsy-turvy game. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Nepomniachtchi Leads Croatia Grand Chess Tour As Anand Miraculously Escapes

Rakesh
IM Rakesh
|
18 | Chess Event Coverage

After a bloody affair on day one, round two at the Croatia Grand Chess Tour returned to normal, with five out of the six games ending in draws. Most of them were fighting games, while only Ian Nepomniachtchi managed to defeat Fabiano Caruana and the Russian now enjoys the sole lead.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen once again played in his trademark style and had Viswanathan Anand on the ropes before the latter survived miraculously. 

Nepomniachtchi vs Caruana was by far the most exciting game of the round. It featured a Sveshnikov; Caruana seems to prefer this over the Petroff nowadays and has employed it with reasonable success. He was doing well, but it was Nepomniachtchi who took his chance while always having a huge time advantage on the clock. 

Nepomniachtchi was focussed and now leads with 2/2. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Nepomniachtchi was focused and now leads with 2/2. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

Caruana looked calm but burnt way too much time on his clock. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Caruana looked calm but burned way too much time on his clock. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

Carlsen played his former world championship opponent Anand in a game that resembles a storyline that has occurred in several Carlsen vs Anand games from the past:

  • Carlsen doesn't get much out of the opening.
  • Anand seems to be holding his own before Carlsen starts the grind.
  • Carlsen puts some pressure and then some more to get a strong initiative.

The world number-one then generally puts the ball in the back of the net, but not this time, as Anand put up a tenacious defense and hung on by a thread to save the game.

The world champion at work. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
The world champion at work. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.
Anand came prepared for a long fight as Anish Giri looks on. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Anand came prepared for a long fight as Giri looks on. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

Anand summed up it beautifully by saying: "[Carlsen] won harder positions than this and I've lost easier ones."

The chess world, including fellow tour participant Anish Giri, applauded Anand's defense.

Spain's number-one player Francisco Vallejo Pons went a step further and called it a Houdini escape by Anand.

Even if the world champion wasn't happy with the outcome of this game, he will surely be happy with the news that was discussed widely in the chess world yesterday that his country won't be hosting the 2020 world chess championship on Norwegian soil next year.

Carlsen keeping a watchful eye on the Norwegian bid for the 2020 World Chess Championship. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Carlsen was in the news this week for his opposition to the Norwegian bid for the 2020 world chess championship. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

World number-three Ding Liren of China was the one who put Sergey Karjakin under pressure throughout the game but the "Minister of Defense" once again proved his credentials. 

Ding was looking forward to a victory. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Ding was looking forward to a victory. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.
A visibly dejected Ding after Karjakin's staunch defence.. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
A visibly dejected Ding after Karjakin's staunch defense. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

Levon Aronian and Giri played a Catalan in a game that didn't offer big chances to either player. Interestingly, these players played the same variation but with the colors reversed a few years ago. Aronian tried to apply the pressure but Giri equalized easily and then was never in any trouble.

Aronian tried his best to pose some problems. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Aronian tried his best to pose some problems. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.
Giri equalized comfortably with Black. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Giri equalized comfortably as Black. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

Wesley So and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had a symmetrical position for seven moves. Black struck the center with 8...d5, which allowed massive exchanges. Vachier-Lagrave was happy to repeat his old game that he played against his compatriot Sebastian Feller four years ago.

Both sides were left with two rooks and a knight in the middlegame when So played the first new move of the game. Black equalized completely in what was the first game to finish in round two.

Vachier-Lagrave was happy with a draw as he repeated an old game. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Vachier-Lagrave was happy with a draw as he repeated an old game. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

Hikaru Nakamura tried to bounce back after yesterday's loss by trying to pose some problems to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the latter's Gruenfeld. Nakamura tried pushing his h-pawn down the board but Mamedyarov kept offering a bishop trade that White couldn't avoid, so they ended up repeating moves.

Nakamura tried to push but Mamedyarov held comfortably. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
Nakamura tried to push but Mamedyarov held comfortably. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour.

2019 Croatia Grand Chess Tour | Round 2 Standings

Graphic: Spectrum Studios

The 2019 Croatia Grand Chess Tour takes place June 26 to July 8 at the Novinarski Dom in Zagreb, Croatia. This is one of two classical events of 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.

Round two coverage by GM Robert Hess


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