Carlsen Strikes Back; Naiditsch Leads After Grenke Round 4

Carlsen Strikes Back; Naiditsch Leads After Grenke Round 4

There must be something in the water in Baden-Baden, as today's round of the Grenke Chess Classic once again featured some fascinating struggles and daring play.

Without a doubt the most anticipated matchup of the round was the reprise of the 2013 and 2014 world championships between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand.

Carlsen, playing Black, decided to take a dip on the other side of the opening spectrum today and chose the super-solid yet strategically risky Stonewall Dutch against what must have been a surprised Anand.

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov:

Although the a-pawn ended up winning Carlsen the game, he referred to his move 13...a3 as "overzealous," suggesting he should have instead played 13...Nxe5 14.Nxe5 Bd7, with a reasonable position "for a Stonewall."

The critical point of the game started after Carlsen played 25...Bb2!, finding an unusual outpost for the bishop and setting up 26...Qxa2 on the next move, almost daring Anand to checkmate him on the kingside.

Asked about the move 29...Ng4!? (allowing Rg6+), Carlsen said, "I thought about it for a long time, I realized that there's a huge chance I would be embarrassingly mated here, but I couldn't see it, so, you know I had to go for it."

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All photos: Georgios Souleidis.

In the end, Vishy was unable to find the best continuation (32.Re6 gave White enough counterplay to secure a draw according to Carlsen), and after the nice simplification tactic 33...Qd1+! it was simply all over.

Carlsen also commented on his loss against Naiditsch in the previous round, saying "it just goes to show that when you play riskily, when you sacrifice material, you should follow it up by playing well. Whatever you do in the opening doesn't matter if you don't play well." 

The other decisive game of the round was filled with fireworks, as GM David Baramidze sacrificed a full rook and then a knight trying to land an attack against his compatriot GM Arkadij Naidtisch:

Once again, Naiditsch stayed humble after his second win in a row, praising Baramidze's play in the opening as very strong, and offered 11.Ne1 as an improvement (followed by Nc2 and b3-b4), after which he thought Black might be in trouble.

Instead followed the energetic 11.d4!?, which according to Naiditsch and the commentators should have been followed up with 13.a4!, securing the knight on b5 before capturing on d4. In the game, Naiditsch felt quite confident after being able to establish his knight on d5.

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Being strategically worse, Baramidze decided to go all out with 18.f31?, with the intent of sacrificing the rook on b1. He could have posed more problems for Black with the move 23.Bd2!, after which, despite the extra rook, Black would have to play very precisely to get an advantage.

23.Ng6? was simply a blunder. Naiditsch guessed his opponent must have missed the retreat 24...Ne7, which kills all of White's hopes for an attack and leaves Black with a decisive amount of extra material.

The other two games of the round were drawn, though not without an interesting fight.

GM Etienne Bacrot and GM Levon Aronian played an interesting Ragozin, with both sides losing quite a few tempi before reaching a structure that normally arises from the Orthodox Queen's Gambit Declined:

Levon at first questioned his move 10...b6, suggesting 11.c6!? a6 12.Qa4, where it seems like White has a serious queenside bind. But then he quickly spotted the problem with 12...Ne8! 13.0-0 Nd6 14.Be2 Nxc6!, the point being that after 15.Qxc6 Bd7 White's queen is simply trapped.

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Instead the players played quite solidly, with Bacrot once again being unable to pose any real problems to his opponent with the white pieces. A logical three-move repetition then took place by move 30. 

In the last game of the round to finish, world number-two Fabiano Caruana tried to make the most out of his space advantage against GM Michael Adams' Slav Defense:


In the post-game press conference, Caruana and Adams considered 15.f4 as a very serious alternative for White. After 15...Nxe5 16.Qxb4 Bxb4 17.dxe5 Bxd2 18.exf6 Bxc1 19.Raxc1 h6 20.Rfd1, Black's position is quite unpleasant, seeing as how 20...gxf6 runs into 21.f5!, shutting Black's light-squared bishop out of the game entirely.

Caruana underestimated the positional danger of this possibility: "Seeing this now for Black, it looks pretty bad," he said, smiling. 

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As the game went on, Caruana retained his space advantage, until Adams lashed out with the move 17...f5!?, giving White a protected passed pawn and a seemingly favorable endgame. The move also came with an intended sacrifice of the b7-pawn.

"At first I thought I was completely winning," said Caruana, "but it's not so easy. I completely underestimated this pawn sacrifice."

Indeed, after just a few moves it looked like Black had good chances of holding, despite White's extra pawn and pair of bishops. The activity of Black's knight (especially after 32...Ne4) eventually allowed Adams to reach a drawn rook ending. 

After four rounds, Naiditsch continues to lead with 3.0/4, followed closely by the two best chess players in the world, Carlsen and Caruana.

2015 Grenke Classic | Round 4 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Naiditsch,Arkadij 2706 2939 phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ ½ 1 3.0/4
2 Carlsen,Magnus 2865 2844 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 1 ½ 2.5/4 4.25
3 Caruana,Fabiano 2811 2844 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ ½ 1 2.5/4 4.25
4 Adams,Michael 2738 2744 ½ 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 2.0/4 3.75
5 Bacrot,Etienne 2711 2744 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ ½ 2.0/4 3.25
6 Anand,Viswanathan 2797 2685 ½ 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1.5/4 3.75
7 Aronian,Levon 2777 2657 ½ 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1.5/4 2.75
8 Baramidze,David 2594 2543 0 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1.0/4

Round five is tomorrow, February 7, with the following pairings:

Aronian-Anand
Adams-Bacrot
Naiditsch-Caruana
Carlsen-Baramidze

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