Carlsen Beats MVL In Playoff, Wins Paris Grand Chess Tour

Carlsen Beats MVL In Playoff, Wins Paris Grand Chess Tour

| 116 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen defeated Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a playoff to clinch the Paris Grand Chess Tour. Both players had finished on 24 points out of a possible 36, and shared the first two prizes to earn $31,250 each. Hikaru Nakamura came third on 23 points and made $20,000.

Carlsen holding his trophy in front of the Château d'Asnières. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.'s interview with the winner in Paris.

Whereas everything was quiet around the multiple Canal+ buildings along the Seine, with all regular employees enjoying their (sunny!) free day, the fireworks appeared right from the start inside the studio. Unlike any round before in Paris, "Championship Sunday" started with five decisive results.

All the more surprising was that both tournament leader Magnus Carlsen and runner-up Hikaru Nakamura lost their games. The latter went down against local star Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the inception of another splendid blitz day for the French number one.

Nakamura managed to get his opponent out of his comfortable Grünfeld zone, but Vachier-Lagrave clearly knows his way in Benoni structures too.

In our interview yesterday Carlsen mentioned the crazy time scrambles, and that he was playing too slow. In that first game on Sunday he failed to avoid both.

Fabiano Caruana: "I had no idea what was going on. It got so complicated so quickly I didn't know if I was winning or losing. We were playing on increment, not increment, on the delay. To navigate this position with seconds is impossible so I'm sure we both made some serious blunders." 


Caruana-Carlsen was probably the craziest tactical slugfest of this tournament. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

"At least I can have an influence on who wins, which is always a nice feeling. In any case playing good chess is a reward in itself," said Caruana.

Besides MVL, Alexander Grischuk also profited from the stumbling at the top. He defeated Veselin Topalov and was only half a point behind Nakamura, and half a point ahead of MVL. The way Topalov dropped the pawn was clearly a case of making sure you get another cup of coffee.

The next round saw one of the key clashes in this tournament, between Nakamura and Grischuk. It was an amazing 84-move fight until bare kings.


Grischuk and Nakamura watching the digital screen with games. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

That was good news for Carlsen, who bounced back with a hard-fought win over Bacrot, increasing his lead to 1.5 points. Look at the world champion's technique in this double knight endgame.

But MVL was still much in contention as well, having only two points behind the leader. He crushed Wesley So, who was having a blitz tournament about as bad as Caruana's rapid.

And then So suddenly woke up. Even with only three draws on the scoreboard, you can haven an influence on who wins! He took down one of Carlsen's main rivals: Nakamura. And it went really fast somehow.


So scored only 6/18 but defeated Nakamura. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

MVL drew his game with Caruana and Grischuk lost to Mamedyarov, so this round was just excellent for Carlsen as he beat Topalov, again rather effortlessly. Carlsen was now two and a half points ahead of Vachier-Lagrave and Nakamura, with six rounds to go.

After this game Carlsen told Maurice Ashley: "I've been very lucky with the results in the other games so far. Also the game with Bacrot was a bit of a crazy scramble but at least in this game it didn't get to that because he made one very bad move."

His strategy for this day? "I'm playing most of the big guns at the end so I just need to keep up my energy and focus on those games. That's what I couldn't do yesterday so that will be the main thing."

Wesley So continued to play a major role on this day as he now also defeated Grischuk. He even checkmated him! "Fortunately I didn't play 45.Kh3 here," So said, as he pointed out another beautiful mate.

So: "To me it doesn't really matter who I win a game against. Of course Grischuk and Nakamura are two of the favorites in fast chess but at the same time I am very happy to get a win. This has been one of the worst tournaments in my life. Yesterday I simply couldn't see the pieces, I couldn't see the good moves. For example yesterday in my game with Magnus I didn't even see that the queen could go all the way to the back rank."


So: "The mind is a funny thing. Sometimes it just stops working." | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Carlsen then only drew with Mamedyarov, but Nakamura didn't profit, drawing Caruana. Vachier-Lagrave grabbed his chance and took over second place as he beat his compatriot Bacrot, again.

Then another big pairing was up, with Grischuk playing Carlsen. The Russian player had won their mutual game on Saturday, and again he was the one with winning chances. Carlsen agreed with interviewer Almira Skripchenko that starting at noon isn't ideal for him. "I am a bit sluggish."

MVL also drew, so he remained at two points behind the leader. Nakamura fell further back as he suffered an unexpected loss against Bacrot.

In the game between the two comeback kids, Caruana outcalculated So:

Carlsen's sluggishness wasn't gone yet in his game with Karjakin, who is never an easy opponent for him. An early positional pawn push to a5 got his pieces a bit miscoordinated, and with active moves Karjakin got a promising position.


Carlsen stops the clock after a loss vs Karjakin. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Carlsen hoped for a fortress even though he famously said that he doesn't believe in them. Eventually Karjakin got two queens and it took some effort to win the game, but it was an excellent game throughout by the Russian player.

MVL neared Carlsen to just a point with an instructive win over Mamedyarov. That bishop pair was strong!

In another round with five decisive games, both Nakamura (two points behind the leader) and Grischuk (two and a half) won, so they were still not fully out of contention.

And the third huge pairing was there: Carlsen vs MVL. "It should be fun—I don't expect him to back off from a fight!" said the French player.

Carlsen blundered a piece in the opening, but it was far from over yet. After a long fight the position with Q vs RN was probably dynamically equal, but then Carlsen blundered again to suffer his second blitz loss against MVL.


Carlsen lost a piece early in the opening but only gave away
the game at the very end. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

The same round saw an incredible loss for Nakamura vs Mamedyarov. It was one of the craziest finishes in top level blitz games seen in a long time, with the American player reaching a won textbook rook endgame, only to lose it, while playing a most remarkable underpromotion.  Don't miss this comedy of errors.


A little joke completely backfired for Nakamura. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Carlsen then even lost his third game in a row, to Nakamura. It was a total collapse of the world champion.


Nakamura couldn't repeat last year's success in Paris, but at least he

won his mini-match with Carlsen 2-1. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

MVL drew quickly, but not because he played it safe. He actually mixed up the opening with 10.Qd2, as he told "After that there is no way back, I have to go for the draw." But it was still enough to go into the final round with a half point lead.

Magnus then easily defeated So, while Vachier-Lagrave held Grischuk to a draw as Black. After 27 games, they had finished on exactly the same amount of points.

Paris Grand Chess Tour | Blitz, Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Vachier-Lagrave 2783 2939 ½1 11 ½½ 11 11 11 13.0/18
2 Nakamura 2792 2851 ½0 11 ½1 ½½ 10 ½1 10 10 11.0/18 96.25
3 Caruana 2782 2852 11 1 ½0 10 10 11 ½1 11.0/18 93.75
4 Karjakin 2776 2813 00 00 ½1 ½1 ½½ 11 10 10.0/18 84.50
5 Carlsen 2851 2806 00 ½0 10 ½0 11 11 11 10.0/18 73.50
6 Grischuk 2779 2775 ½½ ½½ ½1 ½0 01 ½0 9.0/18 81.25
7 Mamedyarov 2784 2774 00 01 01 ½0 ½1 ½1 ½½ 11 9.0/18 70.25
8 Topalov 2725 2682 ½0 01 ½½ 00 10 ½0 ½0 ½1 6.5/18
9 So 2789 2653 00 01 00 00 00 ½1 ½½ ½1 01 6.0/18
10 Bacrot 2688 2594 00 01 ½0 01 00 00 ½0 10 4.5/18

Paris Grand Chess Tour | Overall Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf Pts
1-2 Carlsen,Magnus 2858 2932 24
1-2 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2783 2909 24
3 Nakamura,Hikaru 2792 2865 23
4 Grischuk,Alexander 2826 2852 22
5 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2799 2755 20
6 Karjakin,Sergey 2787 2794 18
7 So,Wesley 2695 2653 15
8 Caruana,Fabiano 2749 2716 14
9 Topalov,Veselin 2661 2661 11,5
10 Bacrot,Etienne 2586 2567 8,5

Note that for these tables the ratings of the Grand Chess Tour's
Universal Rating System have been used.

Per regulations, the players had to play two playoff games with 10 minutes plus a 5-second delay on the clock. Carlsen won the first, outplaying his opponent in a difficult endgame:


Carlsen, after his win, interviewed by Almira Skripchenko for Canal+. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

MVL then didn't get anything with White in a Marshall Ruy Lopez, and had to accept a move repetition to avoid getting much worse.

Vachier-Lagrave was very disappointed, and rightly so. Not only had he also lost to Carlsen in the London 2015 playoff, but this one was quite tough for several reasons as well. He had played a fantastic blitz tournament where he finished two points ahead of the rest. And, he had actually beaten Carlsen 2-1 in their mutual games in Paris (a loss in the rapid but two wins in the blitz).

Obviously it looked like I lost it, but fortunately I managed to pull myself together," said Carlsen to


Kudos to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who played a brilliant blitz tournament. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.


Afterward Carlsen was interviewed "semi-live" for the Canal+ show. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.


A group photo in front of the Château d'Asnières. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

Now three of these players will travel to Leuven, Belgium where on Wednesday an identical tournament (rapid & blitz) will start. They are Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Wesley So. In Leuven they will be joined by Viswanathan Anand, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian, Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Vassily Ivanchuk, and Baadur Jobava.

Previous reports:

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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