Grenke Chess Classic: Carlsen Checkmates Svidler; Caruana Still In the Race
Svidler, Carlsen and Leko in the commentary booth after the game. | Photo: Eric van Reem/Grenke Chess Classic.

Grenke Chess Classic: Carlsen Checkmates Svidler; Caruana Still In the Race

| 95 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen goes into the final round of the Grenke Chess Classic with a one-point lead. He checkmated Peter Svidler on Sunday but Fabiano Caruana also won his game and so the American GM still has a chance to tie for first and force a playoff.

The final position in Svidler-Carlsen today.

We know that it's rare to see a checkmate on the board at the highest level. But how rare?

Well, in the whole year 2018, in games where both players were rated higher than 2700, it happened only three times (if we don't count online play) and only once in a classical game: Duda-Nakamura in Gibraltar.

The other examples were Anand-Grischuk, Tal memorial rapid and Carlsen-Svidler (!) at the World Blitz in St. Petersburg.

Weirdly, the only time it happened thus far in 2019 (before today) was... another Nakamura-Duda (!) at the Champions Showdown in February in St. Louis.

It must have been a combination of courtesy and feeling for aesthetics that made Peter Svidler refrain from resigning. And indeed, Magnus Carlsen's two pawns checkmate looked nice, didn't it?

"Magnus played very well, but I could have played it better. It's possible to ask more questions than I have asked today," said Svidler, who had avoided Carlsen's Sveshnikov with 3.Nc3.

"The opening was an attempt to acknowledge basically that at least in calculations I blunder a full piece every day here. I thought, this at least gives me a chance to get a solid position to start with," said Svidler.

Things got interesting when Carlsen went for the plan ...Kh8 and ...f5, which brought "a whole new dynamic" into the game, as Peter Leko put it. A big calculation lapse by Svidler (he missed 20...Qf8) then got him into trouble.

Svidler-Carlsen Grenke Chess Classic 2019
Svidler going for the solid 3.Nc3 line vs Carlsen. | Photo: Eric van Reem/Grenke Chess Classic.

"It was a very nice game for me," said Carlsen. "I think he sort of misplayed it early on and then he missed this 20...Qf8 move, and after that play just flows; I get ...Ne3, ...g5. It was certainly a fun game today but I don't expect to win like this every game. But the last few rounds have been great!"

Carlsen's live rating is now 2871.2, only 10.8 points below his highest ever published rating of 2882 from May 2014. Asked how he compares to his favorite player (which he famously described as "myself, three or four years ago" at the November world championship), he replied:

"I don't want to particularly compare but I am very satisfied with the way it's going now and I don't really think that I was better back then; it's flowing so well now."

A point behind the leader with one round to go, Fabiano Caruana is still in the running. If he wins tomorrow and Carlsen loses, there will be a playoff (two games with 10 minutes + 2 seconds per move; then if needed two games with 5+2 and finally an Armageddon game).

Today the American grandmaster beat Georg Meier as Black in a "really tough" and somewhat "messy" game, as Caruana put it. Dejan Bojkov tried to make sense of it all in his annotations (see below), but let's look at one moment pointed out by Caruana afterward.

In this position, Meyer could have played 26. Rxg6!! Kxg6 27. Nxf4+ Kf7 (27...exf4 28.Rg1+ is crushing) and here Caruana stopped his calculations but after the game he was told that 28. Rg1! Bf6 29. Nxe6 Kxe6 30. Qb5 (or the immediate 30. f4) 30... Raa8 31. f4 is somehow winning for White!

White is a rook down, but the longer you let the engine run, the higher it will go. Amazing.

Caruana was reasonably satisfied with his play so far, calling it a "solid performance," and adding: "I should have started a bit faster. I have this tendency to start slow at tournaments and then I pick up the pace, but then it's too late."

Meier Caruana Grenke Chess Classic 2019
A tough and messy game that Caruana managed to win in the end. | Photo: Eric van Reem/Grenke Chess Classic.

Vincent Keymer today lost his last chance to score a grandmaster norm, for which he needed to make 3.5 points in this tournament. He lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, despite reaching a comfortable position out of the opening and playing a fine game, until he got into timetrouble again.

"Vincent equalized quite convincingly in the opening but made one very inaccurate move, at least in practical terms, when he played 17...b5, allowing me this free attack on his king," said Vachier-Lagrave. "Then he managed to sort of get out but I had long-term play on his king and at the end in the timetrouble he erred and it was then too difficult to save."

Vachier-Lagrave Keymer Grenke Chess Classic 2019
No grandmaster title for Keymer just yet, but he'll surely get there soon. | Photo: Eric van Reem/Grenke Chess Classic.

The other two games were drawn, of which Paco Vallejo vs Arkadij Naiditsch was by far the most interesting. Vallejo was doing well throughout the game and was two pawns up in the endgame, but to convert it proved too difficult.

Vallejo Naiditsch Grenke Chess Classic 2019
Vallejo-Naiditsch, the longest game of the round. | Photo: Eric van Reem/Grenke Chess Classic.

Still playing 1.e4, Levon Aronian went for an Anti-Berlin against Vishy Anand but didn't get any advantage whatsoever. Black had fully equalized by move 20 and the rest of the game had no meaning. 

Aronian Anand Grenke Chess Classic 2019
Aronian was once again looking at the Ruy Lopez from the white side. | Photo: Eric van Reem/Grenke Chess Classic.

2019 Grenke Chess Classic | Round 8 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2845 2960 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 1 6.5/8
2 Caruana,Fabiano 2828 2846 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 5.5/8
3 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2775 2794 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 5.0/8
4 Anand,Viswanathan 2779 2719 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 0 1 4.0/8 15.5
5 Naiditsch,Arkadij 2710 2741 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 4.0/8 15.25
6 Aronian,Levon 2761 2710 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 4.0/8 14
7 Svidler,Peter 2737 2719 0 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ 1 ½ 4.0/8 13.75
8 Vallejo Pons,Francisco 2698 2669 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.0/8
9 Meier,Georg 2621 2551 0 0 0 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 2.0/8 7.5
10 Keymer,Vincent 2509 2566 0 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ 1 2.0/8 6

Pairings final round, Monday, April 29:

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

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:

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