Carlsen Leads Paris Grand Chess Tour After Day 2

Carlsen Leads Paris Grand Chess Tour After Day 2

| 48 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen is the sole leader after two days of play at the Paris Grand Chess Tour. He is still one point ahead of Hikaru Nakamura, after both players scored two wins and then drew each other on Thursday.

The start of round five in Paris. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Day two in Paris started where it had left: exciting chess, drama, and no less than four decisive games in round four. One of those was the top clash between Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So, a.k.a. the world champion against the Grand Chess Tour title holder.

Carlsen equalized without problems in a Giuoco Piano, and So couldn't prevent him from getting a space advantage similar to some lines of the g3-King's Indian. So decided to take positional risks with 23.c4 and then created a tactical mayhem, but it all worked against him.

It may have looked like a smooth victory for Carlsen, but in fact there was one moment where both players missed an important detail. The score could have been the opposite...


Despite a one-move slip Carlsen still outplayed
So rather convincingly. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

For Fabiano Caruana the nightmare still wasn't over yet. He started with 0/3 on the first day (despite getting several good positions), and the next day it was just more of the same.

Just look at this position, and join Caruana in his horror.


Defending a seemingly hopeless position—you can leave
that to Sergey Karjakin. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov made his move in the standings with a devastating win over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Afterward the fresh 2800 club member said he had used home preparation for MVL in the FIDE Grand Prix.

Mamedyarov: "After the opening White has a very good position. It's hard to play for Black, easier to play for White." And that makes a difference in rapid chess.

The fans had little to complain about as the fifth round saw four more decisive games. This is a wild tournament!

Magnus Carlsen won again, in similar fashion as his game with So. Veselin Topalov was worse after the opening and lost without a fight, right? Well no. Also here, Carlsen missed some things.

"I wasn't at all sure what was going on there," Carlsen said after Topalov's 18...g5. "I was very happy he played 19...Qe7 on the next move as it allowed me to consolidate my position." He had missed that 19.Rcd1 Qf6 20.Bxb7! is very good for White.

Carlsen said that he played 26.Bxd5 to make the game easier. "There were no tactical possibilities for him." However, there was one possibility, missed by both the players and commentator Maurice Ashley.


"Maybe I should have given a check on e1 first...?" | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Perhaps ignorance is bliss for Carlsen? "I think I'm calculating well; I am missing things but who doesn't in rapid," he said. "In general it's flowing nicely."

It looked like the tournament leader was going to increase his lead as Alexander Grischuk was putting Hikaru Nakamura under serious pressure right from the opening. However, Grischuk yet again got into his famous time trouble. In this game it played a major role.

Grischuk blew his advantage and even lost a piece, but reached a RB-R ending. There he initially showed a perfect second-rank defense but, playing on increment, eventually he lost anyway. Nakamura: "It was a bit silly what happened in that game. I got a bit lucky."


Resilience and persistence kept Nakamura in striking distance of Carlsen. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Caruana's suffering continued as he lost to Mamedyarov. MVL and So drew a Berlin Ruy Lopez (the endgame) with the latter suddenly appearing in the playing hall with sunglasses. (He took them off at some point towards the end of the game.)

Etienne Bacrot lost the tactical thread completely in a Hedgehog middlegame against Sergey Karjakin. White's position collapsed surprisingly quickly.

The sixth round saw Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen drawing a Slav game without much firework, and so Carlsen goes into the third day with a slim lead.


The start of another clash between two kings of speed chess. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

His 7...Bf5 was speculative (in fact a novelty), when Black remained slightly worse throughout the game. "I think my position is solid enough to hold but it's not everybody's idea of fun," said Carlsen.


Will this tournament be a two-horse race between Nakamura and Carlsen? | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

When it rains it pours. In round six Caruana was involved in yet another disastrous game. First a puzzle: what should White have played here?

Here's the full game, with the dramatic end that led to another loss for Caruana. He has now scored half a point out of six games.


A horrible start for Caruana. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

Classical chess purists will shiver at blunders like this, as well as Sergey Karjakin's final move in his game with Alexander Grischuk:

But it is what it is: rapid chess, with more mistakes, more drama and, for many fans, more excitement. Grischuk said today: "This time control very much gravitates to bad games. When you get down to seconds terrible things happen."

After two days we saw 11 draws, six wins for White and 13 wins for Black. Let's see what the last day of rapid will bring. 

Carlsen, about going into the third day of rapid: "Finally I am having a couple of white games tomorrow, so yippee! I think that I'm playing well but there are a couple of people hot on my heels so I cannot let up."

Paris Grand Chess Tour | Rapid, Round 6 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2851 3054 1 2 1 2 2 2 10.0
2 Nakamura,Hikaru 2792 2967 1 1 2 1 2 2 9.0
3 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2784 2915 0 1 1 2 2 2 8.0
4 Grischuk,Alexander 2779 2844 1 0 1 1 2 2 7.0 10.25
5 So,Wesley 2789 2836 0 1 1 1 2 2 7.0 7.25
6 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2783 2770 0 0 1 1 2 2 6.0
7 Karjakin,Sergey 2776 2700 1 0 0 1 2 1 5.0
8 Topalov,Veselin 2725 2657 0 0 0 1 1 2 4.0
9 Bacrot,Etienne 2688 2584 0 0 0 0 1 2 3.0
10 Caruana,Fabiano 2782 2343 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.0

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


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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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