Carlsen Takes Big Lead At Grenke Chess Classic
Magnus Carlsen leads Grenke by a point. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen Takes Big Lead At Grenke Chess Classic

| 26 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen is suddenly leading the Grenke Chess Classic by a full point. The Norwegian grandmaster defeated Georg Meier and saw co-leader Viswanathan Anand lose to Arkadij Naiditsch.

"It was just a mess…I think I misplayed it and then I got lucky," said Carlsen after yet another six-hour game that he managed to eventually win.

Although he seemed pretty exhausted, Carlsen nonetheless joined the commentary afterward, where he confirmed that the many long games he has played are taking their toll.

"I was so tired and I couldn’t calculate anymore," he said. "My play has deteriorated completely for the last few rounds. It’s definitely getting to me. It’s just the way it is…Today I cannot finish it off, so then it gets to be a long game again. It’s a bit frustrating but I have plus-three; I am in the lead so I shouldn’t complain. It’s just that the quality doesn’t by any means reflect the score at this point."

Meier Carlsen 2019 Grenke Chess Classic
Meier and Carlsen shaking hands, now in the Baden-Baden playing hall. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen started the game, played in Baden-Baden where the tournament has moved on to the rest day, with a setup that's hard to name. First a bunch of King's Indian moves, and then suddenly making it a double fianchetto with not ...b6, but ...b5. The Dutch legend Jan Timman also played like this recently.

"I thought I was fine out of the opening," said Carlsen. "I didn’t particularly like his plan of Na3-b5. I felt the knight is not as great on b5 as it looked."

He sacrificed his a-pawn, got a strong center in return and started to dominate the position with active pieces, and a remarkably well-placed queen on a8. But the finishing touch wasn't coming, even after Meier's 31.e3, a "suicidal" move according to Carlsen.

Confronted with the question why he didn't take on b4 here with the bishop, the world champion was flabbergasted for a moment.

"I considered 34...Bg7 but not 34...Bxb4, which is pretty insane. Wow. That is extremely stupid."

Carlsen 2019 Grenke Chess Classic
Carlsen was also surprised about something in the opening, but it's unclear about what exactly. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

It was only because of another mistake by Meier that Carlsen managed to win the game. "If he stays passive it’s probably drawish but it’s a pretty hellish position to defend for a long time, especially when it gets low on time," Carlsen said.

“As they say, centralization is the most effective attacking method,” Carlsen then noted about the final position. In the physical state he was in, playing on general principles was all he could do. And then he called it “just an absolute mess today.”

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

Carlsen had appeared with a beard at the start of the tournament, but during this round it was gone. Commentator Jan Gustafsson made a reference to the following tweet by Anish Giri, which Carlsen hadn't seen yet.

Carlsen countered by commenting on Giri playing in Shenzhen: “I was extremely worried after yesterday, I thought this is it, he’s gonna get his tournament victory!”

Asked whether he counts Shenzhen as a super-tournament, Carlsen replied:

“Kinda. It’s a bit of a soft super-tournament but still it is, I think. I mean, Ding is there, and he is world number-three. I don’t know what the tiebreaks are like and such, but I am really nervous for that one tomorrow!”

Carlsen 2019 Grenke Chess Classic
Carlsen checking on Svidler's position. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The tournament leader is now a point ahead of a group of no fewer than six players. Among them is Arkadij Naiditsch, who defeated Viswanathan Anand with remarkable ease. Somehow his Spanish Four Knights was a big success, as Black was without any counterplay in the middlegame with knight vs bad bishop. It's rare to see the five-time world champion go down like this.

Naiditsch 2019 Grenke Chess Classic
A powerful and thematic game by Naiditsch. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Remarkably, the round saw another Spanish Four Knights. That game was over very quickly.

Paco Vallejo admitted he felt “a bit guilty” for making such a quick draw against Fabiano Caruana

“It’s the kind of line that if you don’t remember it with Black you get into trouble and if you do remember, then it’s a draw,” said Vallejo.

Peter Leko argued that the Four Knights is part of the repertoire of most Petroff players, so it was likely that Caruana knew the line.

Vallejo noted that if he knew that Caruana would remember, he might have tried something else.

Vallejo Caruana 2019 Grenke Chess Classic
Vallejo apologized for the quick draw he played today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Vincent Keymer had an excellent follow-up to his first win on Wednesday. The German IM held Levon Aronian to a draw, and was even better in the final phase of the game. In fact, Aronian had to be really careful not to lose in the knight endgame.

Keymer said it’s now easier to play, after he won his first game in round five: “It’s easier because there is not so much pressure. You don’t want to lose every game, although you feel you play good, but anyway the result is always important too for the feeling.”

Keymer Aronian 2019 Grenke Chess Classic
Another good game by Keymer today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Peter Svidler invited Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to enter a well-known and slightly worse endgame for Black in the Symmetrical English, but at the same time didn't expect his opponent to go for it:

"The thing we all like about Maxime is that he is also not very much in favor of boring, ever-so-slightly-worse endgames," said Svidler. "So we were banking on Maxime to play 6…Qc7."

The Frenchman followed up with the excellent idea 8...Bd7, which worked out well in the game. Svidler was impressed with it, and acknowledged that his own play was somewhat risky: playing seven out of the first 15 moves with only the queen and the bishop.

"I would be expelled from the Pioneer’s Palace for this game!" said Svidler.

Svidler 2019 Grenke Chess Classic
Svidler: "I would be expelled from the Pioneer’s Palace for this game!"

2019 Grenke Chess Classic | Round 6 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2845 2881 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 4.5/6
2 Naiditsch,Arkadij 2710 2792 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 1 3.5/6 10.75
3 Caruana,Fabiano 2828 2783 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 3.5/6 10
4 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2775 2797 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 3.5/6 9.75
5 Anand,Viswanathan 2779 2785 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 1 3.5/6 9.25
6 Aronian,Levon 2761 2734 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 3.5/6 9.25
7 Svidler,Peter 2737 2790 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 3.5/6 9
8 Vallejo Pons,Francisco 2698 2642 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 2.0/6
9 Keymer,Vincent 2509 2566 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 1.5/6
10 Meier,Georg 2621 2442 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 1.0/6

Pairings round seven, Saturday, April 27:

Vachier-Lagrave vs Vallejo Pons
Keymer vs Svidler
Carlsen vs Aronian
Anand vs Meier
Caruana vs Naiditsch

The tournament has moved away from Karlsruhe and rounds six to nine (April 26-29) are taking place in the Kulturhaus LA8 museum in Baden-Baden.

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.

Earlier posts:

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

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