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Carlsen First At Paris Rapid, Heated In Interview

Carlsen First At Paris Rapid, Heated In Interview

Magnus Carlsen came first in the rapid segment of the Paris Grand Chess Tour. He finished on 14 points, one more than Alexander Grischuk. Hikaru Nakamura is in third place, going into the blitz segment on Saturday and Sunday.

Magnus Carlsen, asking Maurice Ashley: "What do you want me to do?"
Photo: Lennart Ootes.

For the tournament leader, the situation didn't change much: also after three days of play, he is one point ahead of the pack. Whereas Nakamura dropped back somewhat, scoring 1.5/3 on the last day, Carlsen's new big rival is Grischuk, who scored 3/3 today. 

In round seven Sergey Karjakin lived up once again to his nickname Minister of Defense. He was awarded this decoration during his New York match with Magnus Carlsen, and it was against the same opponent that he managed to save another lost position.

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Another miraculous escape from Sergey Karjakin. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

Karjakin, about his 21st move: "It was a terrible blunder. I was lucky not to lose immediately, and then I was trying to do my best. My goal is to fight in every position till the end."

Afterward, Carlsen was very upset with spoiling this game. Like at the 2015 World Blitz, he made an arm gesture and said the word "faen," a Norwegian swear word meaning "devil."

The good news for Carlsen was that he actually increased his lead to two points. Runner-up Hikaru Nakamura suffered his first loss of the tournament at the expense of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

White was more comfortable after the opening, and then Nakamura decided to sacrifice a pawn on move 17. "I think Hikaru understood his position was unpleasant by now," said MVL. "He generally likes to go for active defense and he almost pulled it off."

Later Nakamura missed a chance to equalize, had to give up his queen for rook and knight, and almost created a fortress.

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Dejected about his play, Nakamura resigns his game with MVL. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

Fabiano Caruana is getting blow after blow here in Paris. He must be completely groggy by now, on the ropes, gasping for air. Here's another crushing defeat that's nice from an attacking point of view (executed by Alexander Grischuk), but at the same time painful to watch.

In round eight Magnus Carlsen decided to play without glasses but then started wearing them halfway his game with Fabiano Caruana. Whether that was of influence or not, Caruana finally played a very decent game and held the draw against the tournament leader.

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The rook ending was played until bare kings. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

Still, Caruana could only describe his tournament as "a nightmare" while talking with Maurice Ashley. "I've had bad results before, but this is the worst one I can remember." 

Going into the final round, Carlsen was leading with a point. His closest rivals, at just one point behind, were Shakhriyar Mamedarov and Alexander Grischuk.

Both won their games in the penultimate round, with Mamedyarov scoring another nice attacking victory.

This time it was rather easy for a player of his caliber, from the moment Topalov weakened his king's position with 27...g6. "I forgot about my pawns and went for the attack," said Mamedyarov.

Interestingly, these two players, on second and third place (and "only" wild cards for the Grand Chess Tour!) faced each other in the ninth round. It was Alexander Grischuk who reigned supreme in this game, and so he won the battle for second place, and became Carlsen's closest rival going into the blitz.

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Admittedly, this photo was taken before Mamedyarov's loss to Grischuk. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

Following a 1937 game between Alexander Alekhine and Max Euwe(!), Grischuk was better out of the opening. His positional advantage of good knight vs bad bishop was the theme of the game, and at some point his knight was like Pacman, eating so many black pawns.

In an interview with Chess.com Grischuk gave his view on playing with increment vs playing with delay (like in Paris).

Magnus Carlsen defeated Etienne Bacrot in what was quite an interesting game, where Bacrot sacrificed a piece for two pawns. He definitely got practical chances there, but his pawn push in the center didn't bring much and Carlsen found a series of accurate moves to consolidate his position.

After the game, Maurice Ashley's interview with Carlsen was awkward. Here is the transcript:

Ashley: Magnus, you seemed to have some hiccups earlier today; you didn't really have smooth performances. This game wasn't that smooth either. It was a little bit unclear. What's your feeling overall as the game was transpiring?

Carlsen: "What do you want me to do? I mean, I take the piece, of course, he hasn't done anything particularly wrong, of course, it's not going to be lost, I mean what do you want from me?"

A: "I don't want anything, I just wanna see just chess getting played..."

C: "You're talking about, I mean, that the game wasn't smooth... Again, what do you want me to do? Do you want me to get a huge advantage from the opening and then to push it all the way... Is that the only way you can win a smooth game? Is that your point?"

A: "Not at all Magnus, but certainly the game was tricky enough. Let me just get your thoughts on how you've done so..."

C: "I'm just feeling that the whole... the way you're approaching it is... trying to belittle the whole thing. That's my only issue."

A: "My apologies. We definitely have respect for you as a world champion so don't take any offense to what we're trying to say, we're just trying to do commentary."

C: "It's looking OK. Grischuk is doing extremely well but I'm hopeful that I can continue to win... not so smooth games."

What to think of this? Well, Carlsen definitely had a point. His game with Bacrot was actually quite good, and the fact that it was "a little bit unclear" was mostly because the French GM also played well. But Carlsen's way of dealing with the black pressure was excellent. 

However, his reaction was quite fierce. Some will like it, some will not.

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Paris Grand Chess Tour | Rapid, Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2851 2984 1 1 2 2 2 1 2 2 1 14.0
2 Grischuk,Alexander 2779 2940 1 0 1 2 1 2 2 2 2 13.0
3 Nakamura,Hikaru 2792 2893 1 2 0 1 1 1 2 2 2 12.0
4 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2783 2852 0 1 2 0 1 2 2 2 1 11.0 20.75
5 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2784 2852 0 0 1 2 1 2 2 1 2 11.0 19.75
6 So,Wesley 2789 2774 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 2 2 9.0
7 Karjakin,Sergey 2776 2737 1 0 1 0 0 2 1 2 1 8.0
8 Topalov,Veselin 2725 2615 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 2 5.0
9 Bacrot,Etienne 2688 2567 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 2 4.0
10 Caruana,Fabiano 2782 2495 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 3.0

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

Now the players will move to blitz, with nine games on both Saturday and Sunday. In this double round robin, the time control is five minutes plus a three-second delay starting from move one. The score will be back to normal, with half a point for a draw and one for a win, meaning that one blitz game counts half compared to a rapid game.

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