Carlsen Perfect On Day 2, Wins Leuven Rapid

Carlsen Perfect On Day 2, Wins Leuven Rapid

| 29 | Chess Event Coverage

A perfect streak of four wins was enough for Magnus Carlsen to finish clear first in the rapid segment of the Your Next Move Grand Chess Tour. Wesley So finished in second place as the only undefeated player.

After that crazy first day, things were as unpredictable as the weather in Leuven. Would we see more blunders? Would the stars in Paris, now down in the leaderboard, manage to climb up? What about the oldest player in the field, Anand? Would he continue his strong start?

Round 6: Anand Again; Carlsen Counters

Well, Viswanathan Anand (46) started his second day just like he started the first: with a nice and quick win. “We're just shuffling around. In fact, Anish mentioned that I walked into a Nh5 trick somewhere.” That was on move 17, but Giri missed it and walked into a surprisingly strong pawn push himself. 

Anand, again quoting his opponent, said “Anish said it was kind of a study. Black would have to play three moves in a row to make b4 very effective.” That's exactly what happened. Black lost a pawn, and then he made a few helpful moves that made a quick checkmate possible!

“In this tournament, every win is precious,” said Anand. “I'm certainly not complaining!”

Not reason to complain for Vishy Anand.

The round saw one more win, by Magnus Carlsen, who arrived a bit late for the round. At the end of the day, he revealed that he had slept in and didn't even have time to eat before the round.  Still, he defeated Veselin Topalov. “I thought I didn't have much at the start, but perhaps he played a bit too passively, and then everything went wrong for him in time pressure,” said Carlsen.

The world champion also commented on his blunder(s) the other day. “I was more disappointed with the game with Caruana actually. I found really the only constellation in which I'd allow him to trick me and win. [The blunder vs Nakamura] was a complete breakdown of course. There's nothing I can do about that now; I just have to keep going.” That's exactly what he did today!

“There's definitely something wrong with that clock.”

A crazy seventh round

Meanwhile Belgium vs Ireland, a football match of Euro 2016, had started and was put on a big screen in the players room. Just when Romelu Lukaku scored 1-0, and the cheering from the big market square could be heard in the building, Carlsen claimed his own cheers as he beat Giri.

“This is the best start I could have asked for today,” said the world champ. “Obviously Anish is in a bit of a shaky form, so I wanted complicated game. I played something that is a little bit unusual, and it worked out perfectly. It was a complete strategic victory for Black.”

Not a great game by Giri.

Two more goals were scored by Belgium and three more decisive games were seen in this round. Caruana vs Aronian was a topsy-turvy one eventually won by Aronian. More important for the standings was the game between Kramnik and Anand. These two players are good friends and tend to draw their mutual games. This time peace was not to be had. Kramnik won a slightly better rook endgame that resembled his first round win against Nakamura.

“Of course, it was holdable for Black, but there are some practical problems,” said Kramnik. “Vishy didn't manage somehow, and I had a study-like win at the end.” Well, as it turned out Black could still have drawn this game in a study-like way as well!

”Without those blunders I would have been among the leaders by now,” added Kramnik. “It's quite disappointing for me that such big blunders are affecting my tournament.”

Great technique by Kramnik versus Anand.

Meanwhile, Wesley So was sneaking his way up the standings and was now tied for first place with Anand. In this round, he sacrificed some pawns, got good compensation, and beat Topalov as Black. The game was a great example of development sometimes being much more important than material.

An excellent game by So.

Round 8: Aronian joins the party

In today's penultimate round, co-leader So drew his game with Giri at lightning speed. The two players got a Semi-Slav on the board, and the Dutchman used a tactical idea that steers the game to a draw. The exact same thing had recently been played by Czech grandmaster David Navara against GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan.

In Paris, we saw two players dominating, but in Leuven so far it was anyone's game. Aronian now moved to the top with a smooth win over Nakamura, who was clearly lacking form.

The American's opening choice was questionable, and his defense could have been better too. “It's well known that it is not a good line for Black, but it is not easy to lure Black into it,” said Aronian who also pointed out that Carlsen himself lost like this as Black nine years ago.

Aronian was tied for first after his victory in the penultimate round.

Carlsen won his third game straight and gave Anand his second loss in a row. The Norwegian used his opponent's idea of an early Nb1-a3 in the Giuoco Piano and got a slight edge. He just never let go of that, and said: “It felt like the trend in the game was positive for me at some point. He just made a couple of bad moves. It's not an easy game to play for him; he has very little counterplay, and my position is easier to play.”

The post-mortem between Carlsen and Anand. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

Suddenly Carlsen was a real contender for the tournament. “Getting a good start today helped. I needed a coupled of positive experiences, and of course, today has been a dream so far.”

Caruana won a nice game against Kramnik, and said: “It's still a bit up and down, but I have played at least a few good moves at this tournament as opposed to the other one!”

Caruana making some good moves in Leuven. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

Round 9: So undefeated, but Carlsen takes it

With Aronian, Carlsen, and So tied for first place and Anand and Caruana only trailing by a point, the tournament was incredibly close entering the final round. One of those leaders finished his rapid tournament with a quick draw. Again So was the culprit. He had not troubles in the opening against Anand and soonfound a funny way to repeat the moves.

Here's a video with So, who finished the rapid tournament undefeated.

Just when he had reached the top, Aronian fell behind again. His opponent, Topalov, wasn't really playing an important role in the standings (just as in Paris), but the Bulgarian played an excellent game here. 

Carlsen then completed a perfect day with a fourth straight win and won the rapid segment alone! Who would have expected such a comeback after his terrible blunder yesterday?! His win over Kramnik contained some errors by both players, but a point is a point. “This is too good to be true,” said the champ.

A perfect day for Magnus Carlsen.

The rapid tournament also saw a clash between Nakamura and Caruana. It was already an extremely interesting game when the latter sacrificed not one, but two exchanges. Commentator Maurice Ashley remembered an old game of his that led to the exact same material distribution which is included in the game below. The result was a great fight eventually won by Nakamura.

Now the blitz portion starts with nine rounds both on Sunday and on Monday. Carlsen is the clear favorite, but So is doing well, and the two A's, Aronian and Anand, are there too. Nakamura has seemingly fallen too far behind to play a role, but who knows. 

Image courtesy of Spectrum Studios.

The Leuven Grand Chess Tour takes place June 17-20 in the Town Hall in Leuven, Belgium. First, there are two days of rapid (Friday and Saturday, nine rounds), then two days of blitz (Sunday and Monday, 18 rounds). In the rapid, a win yields 2 points and a draw 1; whereas in the blitz, it is the regular 1 for a win and ½ for a draw. The Tour also includes the Sinquefield Cup in August and the London Chess Classic in December.

You can watch the action in Leuven at with live commentary by grandmasters Yasser Seirawan, Eric Hansen and WGM Jennifer Shahade streaming from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis with Grandmasters Maurice Ashley and Alejandro Ramirez reporting directly from Leuven. chesspawn.png

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.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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