3 Winners At Grenke Chess Classic; Carlsen Maintains Lead
Carlsen surrounded by fans after grinding down Vallejo to reach 2/2. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

3 Winners At Grenke Chess Classic; Carlsen Maintains Lead

| 35 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen ground down Paco Vallejo in an endgame to keep a perfect score after two rounds at the Grenke Chess Classic in Karlsruhe, Germany. The other winners were Viswanathan Anand, who beat Vincent Keymer, and Peter Svidler, who defeated Arkadij Naiditsch.

For the second day in a row Carlsen was involved in the longest game of the round. This time it took him five hours and 58 minutes, 44 minutes less than yesterday, to force resignation by Vallejo in what was a rather unique endgame RB vs NB. 

"I guess you get this once in your life and this is mine," Carlsen said.

Carlsen Vallejo 2019 Grenke Chess Classic
Carlsen vs Vallejo lasted almost six hours. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In his game against the Spaniard, the world champion had chosen a line from the Møller Ruy Lopez that he had also played against Karjakin last year at Norway Chess. The game quickly became rather unbalanced with a better structure for white, but the bishop pair for black.

It's the kind of fighting position that Carlsen likes, but Vallejo was doing fine as well; more than fine in fact. By move 30 he was just better, but also getting into timetrouble.

Here Vallejo played 31.f4+ which Carlsen had "completely missed." He admitted that he was just lucky that after 31...exf3 en passant the move 32.h4+ wasn't possible because of 32...Nxh4 33.gxh4 Kf4! followed by 34...Rg8.

Carlsen Vallejo 2019 Grenke Chess Classic
Vallejo and Carlsen after almost six hours. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Eventually the RB vs NB endgame came on the board, which Carlsen thought to be always winning in the case of opposite-colored bishops (like in the game). However, he wasn't sure if the 50-move rule would apply here.

"I actually asked the arbiter: 'How many moves do I have?' I thought there are some exceptions where you have 75."

Carlsen Grenke Chess Classic 2019
Carlsen revealed that during the game he had asked the arbiter how many moves he had to win the endgame. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen was in fact referring to a situation from some years ago, when there were indeed a few positions where people could try for 75 moves without pawn moves or captures, but these days it's 50 moves max for all endgames.

Carlsen correctly noted that he was sure that against good defense, the win would take more than 50 moves. According to the tablebase, against perfect defense it would have taken 54 moves to checkmate. (It should be noted that this means a capture happens earlier, and probably within 50 moves.)

However, for a human it's almost impossible to play the best defense. Vallejo failed to do so, even after Carlsen missed a quicker win and had to go for a suboptimal plan. It's just too hard to defend this as the weaker side.

Vallejo resigns vs Carlsen Grenke Chess Classic 2019
Vallejo resigns the game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

It was an exciting round today with two more decisive games. Especially Peter Svidler will be looking back with satisfaction for having very nicely outplayed Arkadij Naiditsch with the black pieces from an Exchange Ruy Lopez.

The game is a wonderful, instructive example of how to play as Black in such a structure. Svidler definitely used some ideas from the Berlin endgame with his queenside play but it was the knight maneuver Nd8-b7-d6 that made this one memorable.

Peter Svidler Grenke Chess Classic 2019
An excellent game with the black pieces for Peter Svidler. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

After his heroic but ultimately unsuccessful defense against Carlsen, 14-year-old Vincent Keymer got to play his second world champion the very next day. In the game between the youngest and oldest participant of the tournament (Vishy Anand will turn 50 in December), this time it was a bit of a one-way affair where Anand outplayed his opponent with lots of healthy and logical moves.

Anand Keymer 2019 Grenke Chess Classic
Keymer facing his second world champion in a row, who plays his new pet line vs the Najdorf: 6.Bd3. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Fabiano Caruana played an early Qxd4 line against Maxime Vachier-Lagave, the same variation Carlsen had used to beat Radek Wojtaszek at the Gashimov Memorial last year. In fact, that was a bit of an ode to Gashimov perhaps, who had used the variation himself several times in his short career.

The players felt that Black was under some pressure after 18.Rde2 and 19.Kd1, when there was little compensation left for the isolated queen's pawn. Slow play against that plan was more promising in hindsight than Caruana's active 24.c4 which traded Black's d-pawn. It gave a lot of activity, but no clear advantage.

Caruana Vachier-Lagrave 2019 Grenke Chess Classic
Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave greet each other with a smile. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Georg Meier vs Levon Aronian was a Bb5 Sicilian. The biggest news there was that Aronian moved away from his almost exclusive 1...e5.

Meier kept a slight edge into the middlegame with some extra space, but then he decided that he didn't want to try and play for a win.

Aronian vs Meier 2019 Grenke Chess Classic
Aronian vs Meier. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

2019 Grenke Chess Classic | Round 2 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2845 3403 1 1 2.0/2
2 Svidler,Peter 2737 2959 ½ 1 1.5/2 1
3 Anand,Viswanathan 2779 2832 ½ 1 1.5/2 0.5
4 Caruana,Fabiano 2828 2756 ½ ½ 1.0/2 1.25
5 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2775 2803 ½ ½ 1.0/2 1.25
6 Aronian,Levon 2761 2666 ½ ½ 1.0/2 0.75
7 Meier,Georg 2621 2729 ½ ½ 1.0/2 0.75
8 Naiditsch,Arkadij 2710 2559 0 ½ 0.5/2 0.5
9 Vallejo Pons,Francisco 2698 2543 0 ½ 0.5/2 0.5
10 Keymer,Vincent 2509 2012 0 0 0.0/2

Pairings round three, Monday April 22: Aronian vs Vallejo Pons, Svidler vs Meier, Vachier-Lagrave vs Naiditsch, Keymer vs Caruana, Carlsen vs Anand.

The first five rounds (April 20-24) of the Grenke Chess Classic take place in the Schwarzwaldhalle in Karlsruhe. After a rest day, the tournament moves to the Kulturhaus LA8 museum in Baden-Baden for rounds six to nine (April 26-29).

The time control is 100 minutes for 40 moves, then 50 minutes for 20 moves followed by 15 minutes to finish the game, with a 30-second increment from move one. Draw offers before move 40 are not allowed.

The games start at 15:00 CEST (14:00 London, 9 a.m. Eastern, 6 a.m. Pacific). You can follow the tournament here, as part of our events portal. The games will also be relayed in Live Chess.

IM Levy Rozman is covering the tournament on his Twitch channel, GothamChess.

Keymer Leko signatures 2019 Grenke Chess Classic
Keymer arriving with his second Leko and giving signatures... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Svidler signatures 2019 Grenke Chess Classic
...and Svidler doing the same. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

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