Carlsen Wins Grenke Classic, Beating Naiditsch In Playoff

Carlsen Wins Grenke Classic, Beating Naiditsch In Playoff

| 88 | Chess Event Coverage

It wasn't the most convincing victory but it counts: GM Magnus Carlsen won the Grenke Chess Classic on Monday after beating GM Arkadij Naiditsch in a blitz playoff.

The playoff was necessary after both players drew their games in the final round, and finished on 4.5/7. GM Fabiano Caruana missed a chance deep in the ending against GM David Baramidze; otherwise he would have qualified for the playoff as well.

GM Viswanathan Anand ended with an unncessary loss, blundering in a drawn rook ending against GM Michael Adams.

The final round in action. | Photo Georgios Souleidis.

The Grenke Classic saw a long and exciting final day. The reason was the following clause in the regulations: 

In case of a tie for first place: 2 games with 10 min + 2 sec a move; then if needed 2 games with 5 min + 2 sec a move; finally a game with 6 min for White and 5 min for Black + 2 sec a move (in case of a draw Black wins).

Would we be seeing a playoff? That was the big question.

A few hours into the round the answer was yes, because both tournament leaders, Carlsen and Naiditsch, seemed to be winning!

The world champion played a typical club player's opening, the Torre Attack, and got a nice position out of the opening. Commentator Nigel Short at some point said that Black chose “completely the wrong plan.”

It wasn't that bad, because Bacrot was still doing OK if he had followed another suggestion by Short, and put a knight on f4. He didn't, and some moves later Carlsen was heading towards a win:

Meanwhile, Naiditsch was also in “safe and solid” modus. He played the Four Knights, but didn't get a chance to reach the popular 10.h3 / 11.Qf3 line. Aronian played the offbeat 8...Re8 / 9...Bd6, which he had tried once before against the Ukrainian GM Alexander Areschenko.

This is quite playable of course, but then Aronian went for a double-edged queen maneuver. The commentators actually praised it (“We liked your jojo chess!” — Short), but the Armenian GM was critical: “I thought I was just playing too profoundly, with this double Qd8 business. I just got too excited.”

With some fine maneuvers Naiditsch reached a promising rook ending:

Two good positions for the players on top of the leaderboard!

However, Carlsen was the first to lose his advantage. Somehow he didn't calculate accurately (“It looks like he's completely botched it up! — Short), and Bacrot could escape with a draw — the seventh for the Frenchman!

Carlsen's own comment: “Taking on a7 was insane.”

But then Naiditsch also failed to win. His rook ending was in fact much harder to win than Carlsen's ending, and so the 29-year-old German GM didn't repeat his 2005 Dortmund success in Baden-Baden — at least not yet.

Naiditsch got close, but was it ever winning? | Photo Georgios Souleidis.

Meanwhile two other endgames were in progress on the other boards. Both should have ended in draws, but only one did.

GM Vishy Anand finished his tournament with a loss. He was doing absolutely fine out of the opening against GM Mickey Adams, and was even a bit better in the middlegame. That was probably the reason for his inaccurate play later on: the Indian must have been annoyed with himself.

The rook ending became more and more unpleasant (it was well played by Adams), but it still needed a big mistake from Anand to become lost.

A tournament to forget quickly for Anand. | Photo Georgios Souleidis.
Adams: rewarded for his patience. | Photo Georgios Souleidis.

Caruana then drew his endgame with Baramidze and so he missed a chance to join Carlsen and Naiditsch in the playoff. The Italian GM had been a pawn up for a long time, but Baramidze defended very well — until one moment. Right at the end both players missed a winning idea for Black.

A missed chance for Caruana. | Photo Georgios Souleidis.

2015 Grenke Classic | Final Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Naiditsch,A 2706 2858 phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 4.5/7 14.75
2 Carlsen,M 2865 2836 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 4.5/7 13.50
3 Caruana,F 2811 2792 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 4.0/7 13.75
4 Adams,M 2738 2801 ½ 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1 1 4.0/7 11.75
5 Bacrot,E 2711 2755 ½ ½ ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ ½ 3.5/7 12.25
6 Aronian,L 2777 2746 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ 3.5/7 11.50
7 Anand,V 2797 2642 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 2.5/7
8 Baramidze,D 2594 2547 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1.5/7

And so it was time for a playoff! It wasn't the first time these two players played speed chess to decide on a winner.

Everyone expected Carlsen to win this playoff, and he started very convincingly. Naditisch was outplayed completely in the first game:

 In the second game things also went Carlsen's way. He got a better position as Black in a Spanish Four Knights, but suddenly things went crazy, as so many blitz games  do, and Naditisch managed to level the score!

The following two blitz games ended in draws:

And so the tournament was to be decided in an armageddon game! Carlsen got to play White with 6 minutes plus 2 seconds increment on the clock; Naiditsch got 5 minutes, the black pieces and draw odds.

It wasn't a great game, but it surely provided drama:

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