Caruana Wins Grenke Chess Classic
Carlsen congratulates Caruana at the end of the closing ceremony. | Maria Emelianova/

Caruana Wins Grenke Chess Classic

| 79 | Chess Event Coverage

"I wasn't really thinking about winning the tournament but I kept getting chances and I took them." After winning the FIDE Candidates' Tournament, Fabiano Caruana also clinched the Grenke Chess Classic today. The American grandmaster beat Nikita Vitiugov and finished a point ahead of Magnus Carlsen, who drew with Vishy Anand.

Caruana: “I just took this Candidates’ very seriously; we did a lot of work, and I think that the work and the form that I was in before, that kind of carried over here even though I was not really very fresh. I was still more or less calculating well. I was very impatient in a few games, which led to some careless moves but that was where the luck came in and my careless moves didn’t sort of doom me to any losses.”

Before the tournament, Fabiano Caruana didn't expect to have much energy, and he intended to play the Grenke Chess Classic "for fun." Few people expected him to win it, himself included. Caruana won the third of his last four tournaments: the 2017 London Chess Classic, the 2018 Candidates' and now Grenke.

Caruana Wins Grenke 2018

Caruana with the winner's trophy. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Only the Tata Steel Tournament, at the start of the year, was bad. "Rustam [Kasimdzhanov, his second -PD] is saying let’s not count Wijk but we kind of have to," Caruana said.

His tournament had remarkable similarities with the Candidates': He won with plus-four and he won as Black with the Petroff in the final round even though a draw was enough for clear first place.

His win against Nikita Vitiugov started with a novelty as early as move five: the odd-looking ...Qd7.

Caruana had taken on d2 in his game with Alexander Grischuk in the last round of the Candidates', and afterward he considered playing ...Qd7 next time. "I didn’t want to play 5...Qd7 as it looked really strange," he said, but then pointed out the "good psychological effect because your opponent isn’t really sure what it’s about."

Vitiugov vs Caruana at Grenke 2018

Caruana surprised his opponent as early as move five. | Maria Emelianova/

Vitiugov initially reacted well, but both Anand and Carlsen, who commented on this game after their post-mortem, were not sure about his Nf3-g5xe6 and his running with the a-pawn. "The position is screaming for c2-c3," Carlsen said, and that combined with f2-f4 shouldn't be too problematic for White, he thought.

Anand, with a smile: "Why does anyone take on e6 against Fabi in the Petroff?"

By move 18 Caruana was already very comfortable as Black, and things went from bad to worse when Vitiugov lost two tempi with a knight maneuver. Getting ...Rd3 in, Caruana felt he was already strategically winning.


Vitiugov stops the clock and resigns his game with Caruana. Grenke

After reaching move 40 and looking at the position for a bit, Vitiugov stops the clock and resigns his game with Caruana. | Maria Emelianova/

"My energy was pretty low throughout the event," Caruana told "Especially at the end, I didn't really have any energy, I was just gonna coast, but I kept having winning chances!"

The tournament winner revealed that he hardly prepared for his games, saving energy and relying on his work for Berlin.

"I can't say I played exceptionally well but I played pretty confident chess and when I had chances, I generally took them. Coupled with some luck, it was enough. I can't say I did anything extraordinary but still, winning two games as Black at the end is also something that happens very rarely. I did probably a lot of things pretty well but I have a feeling that my quality in the Candidates' was just much higher."

Caruana at Grenke 2018

Caruana remained realistic about his (winning) play at Grenke. | Maria Emelianova/

Interestingly, after losing his game to Sergey Karjakin at the Candidates', Caruana scored 4.5/5 with the black pieces.

Caruana: "Maybe it was a sign that I wasn't really trying very hard with White and somehow with Black my opponents were trying. It also it felt they were playing lines that they didn't know too well and that also helps usually. With White I was getting nothing from pretty much every opening and with Black somehow I was getting very playable positions and generally very comfortable ones."

Caruana Grenke Gustafsson Leko

Caruana in between Jan Gustafsson and Peter Leko after the final game. | Maria Emelianova/

Caruana eventually finished a full point ahead of Magnus Carlsen, who won two games and drew seven, including his last encounter with Viswanathan Anand

Anand vs Carlsen Grenke 2018

Another fight between Anand and Carlsen, who fought two world championship matches. | Maria Emelianova/

Both players had reason to be disappointed (Anand for scoring badly, Carlsen for not winning the tournament), but both were satisfied with their play in the last round.

The world champion went for the Classical Sicilian (2...d6 and 5...Nc6), which Anand hadn't taken into account at all. "I was surprised when his hand went to the knight." But it wasn't a huge deal, because Anand has a lot of experience with the Rauzer (6.Bg5) positions.

Anand vs Carlsen Grenke 2018

Instead of the expected 5...a6 Carlsen goes 5...Nc6, the same as Caruana chose against Karjakin in his must-win game at the 2016 Moscow Candidates'. | Maria Emelianova/

He felt he kept his opening advantage, but wasn't sure how big it was. “I can’t tell how big my anything is," said Anand. 

Carlsen then castled queenside "manually" by going Rc8-c7 and Ke8-d8-c8, which, his second Peter Heine Nielsen afterward told him, is "a well-known maneuver from the sixties."

After the slightly careless 24.f4, Carlsen could break in the center, and he seemed to get what he needed in a must-win situation: "a mess."

But after both players continued with a series of accurate moves, the game suddenly fizzled out to a draw. It had been a good fight, on a high level.

Anand: "I've already forgotten the rest of the tournament. A self-defense mechanism...Horrible. Today was a decent game."

Carlsen: “I kind of liked the game today, it was interesting. But in general I’m not happy with the quality of my play or the content of the games. It’s definitely a step down from my previous couple of tournaments. The results itself is not a disaster. (…) I’m not thrilled but I’m looking forward to the next one.”

Anand vs Carlsen Grenke 2018

Carlsen finished in second place with plus-two.

Here's a brief interview with Carlsen, which includes his comment on facing Caruana in November:

The other three games also ended in draws. An interesting battle was Levon Aronian vs Matthias Bluebaum, mostly because of the time usage. The Armenian GM kept on blitzing his moves, relying on preparation, whereas Bluebaum needed to avoid all the pitfalls. He managed to do it, and thus ended this tournament on a 50 percent score. Aronian scored plus-one (just like Vitiugov and MVL) and remained undefeated, which was quite decent after his disaster at the Candidates'.

Aronian vs Bluebaum at Grenke 2018

Aronian vs Bluebaum with Anand watching. | Maria Emelianova/

Georg Meier finished in last place, but definitely could have done better. There were some missed chances for the German player, including his last-round game with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. At the post-mortem MVL admitted that he was in trouble for most of the game.

Meier vs Vachier-Lagrave, Grenke 2018

MVL was not doing great today vs Meier. | Maria Emelianova/

Hou Yifan vs Arkadij Naiditsch was the last game of the tournament to finish and it was the Chinese grandmaster who had serious winning chances. In an knight endgame she was a pawn up, and it probably was winning somewhere.

Hou Yifan Grenke 2018

A focused Hou Yifan came close to a win today. | Maria Emelianova/

2018 Grenke Chess Classic | Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Caruana,F 2784 2896 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 6.5/9
2 Carlsen,M 2843 2803 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 5.5/9
3 Aronian,L 2794 2768 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 5.0/9 21.75
4 Vitiugov,N 2735 2774 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 5.0/9 20.5
5 Vachier Lagrave,M 2789 2769 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 5.0/9 20.25
6 Bluebaum,M 2631 2747 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 4.5/9
7 Anand,V 2776 2653 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 3.5/9 16
8 Hou Yifan 2654 2666 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.5/9 15.5
9 Naiditsch,A 2701 2661 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 3.5/9 13.75
10 Meier,G 2648 2625 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 3.0/9

Group photo Grenke 2018

A group photo with organizers and sponsors. | Maria Emelianova/

The Grenke Chess Classic was a 10-player round robin held in Karlsruhe (rounds 1-3) and Baden-Baden (rounds 4-9), Germany. The time control was 100 minutes for 40 moves, then 50 minutes for 20 moves and then 15 minutes to finish the game, with a 30-second increment from move 1. Draw offers before move 40 were not allowed.

Previous reports:

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.

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