Caruana Holds Vs Carlsen As Grenke Chess Classic Takes Off
It was Caruana-Carlsen in round 1 of the Grenke tournament. | Photo: Eric van Reem/Grenke Chess Classic.

Caruana Holds Vs Carlsen As Grenke Chess Classic Takes Off

| 44 | Chess Event Coverage

In the first round of the Grenke Chess Classic in Karlsruhe Magnus Carlsen missed a win and drew with Fabiano Caruana, his opponent in the upcoming world title match. Nikita Vitiugov beat Matthias Bluebaum with a brilliant combination.

"There's no pressure on this tournament obviously, it's just a training tournament and for fun," said Caruana about the Grenke Chess Classic in his interview with after the Candidates'. One can hardly blame Caruana for not putting all his energy into the Grenke tournament this year, and even if he wanted to, there might not be much energy available anyway, a few days after the tough Candidates' Tournament.

(And if you're wondering how much a Candidates' takes from you, it might be worth noting that Caruana's second Rustam Kasimzdhanov started the open tournament in Karlsruhe with a loss to a 2100-player, missing a simple tactic.)

Carlsen had more to lose today. Obviously he wants to win this tournament—you could say that in his case, as a world champion and world number one, any tournament is a bit like a Candidates' tournament in that only the first place counts. Besides, a black win against his opponent in the next world championship would have been a nice little psychological blow.

Photo: Eric van Reem/Grenke Chess Classic.

Carlsen could have won, but it was never easy. He had Caruana on the ropes if we blindly follow the engines' evaluations, but spoilt the win in a complicated rook endgame in what was a spectacular opening round for the Grenke organizers. Eventually, Caruana had just enough energy to save a game that lasted 59 moves and close to six hours.

"It's the thing you learn as a child, not to play too quick at critical moments," Carlsen lamented after the game. He was referring to this moment,

where he was almost sure that 38...Kg8 (instead of 38...Kg6 which he played) would have won. "I think the game is over," he said, supporting it with 39.Rxc7 Rxc7 40.Kf2 Rd7.

However, when a computer engine showed him that 41.g5! draws here for White, Carlsen sighed: "What do I know?"

The actual win for Carlsen came much later, on move 54, but it was a very tough move to find. Both had missed the key idea for Black which is to give up the d3 pawn and walk to b1 with the king.

Carlsen's "I had pretty much given up by this point," was similar to what Caruana said about his missed win vs Ding Liren in Berlin: "I think it's only if you already think you've messed the game up."


Photo: Eric van Reem/Grenke Chess Classic.

Caruana does have some ambition here: "I wanna play well; winning [the Candidates'] doesn't change the fact that I wanna play a good tournament." He didn't seem too happy with his play in the first round. "Today, at some point I was pretty sure I was going to lose this rook ending, but OK."

Carlsen liked facing Caruana as early as round one. "I thought it was a good thing for me that he might have a bit of a hangover from Berlin. I mean not literally, but..."
Caruana: "Maybe literally too!"
Carlsen: "What do I know."

The world champ said he wanted a fighting game, suggesting that making it a long game would benefit him. "I came pretty close but... rook endings are difficult!"

About the Candidates', Carlsen said: "Already after five, six rounds mentally I was already preparing for the match. Then obviously things got a bit messy, as they usually do, but I always thought that he'd win."

The only decisive game in the round was quite a gem. Nikita Vitiugov found a brilliant combination in his game with Matthias Bluebaum, who seemed to be lacking a sense of danger today and took several poisoned pawns.

Nikita Vitiugov at Grenke 2018

Nikita Vitiugov. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis/Grenke Chess Classic.

The round saw two more very exciting games. First of all there was Arkadij Naditisch, always good for some sharp stuff, getting some chances against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave out of a London System. He kind of refuted his opponent's tactical play, and forced MVL to sac an exchange. White was better somewhere, but with an unsafe king it was difficult to avoid counterplay.

Grenke 2018 playing hall

For the first three rounds, the top GMs are playing alongside a huge open tournament in the Schwarzwaldhalle in Karlsruhe. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis/Grenke Chess Classic.

Vishy Anand vs Hou Yifan, a game between two ex-world champions, was fun as well. The Chinese GM responded well to Anand's early g2-g4, and the latter decided to give an exchange for positional compensation. For the remainder, the game was dynamically balanced.

Viswanathan Anand vs Hou Yifan Grenke 2018

Viswanathan Anand vs Hou Yifan. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis/Grenke Chess Classic.

The game between Georg Meier and Levon Aronian can be found in the PGN file.

2018 Grenke Chess Classic | Round 1 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Vitiugov,Nikita 2735 3431 1 1.0/1
2 Carlsen,Magnus 2843 2784 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
3 Aronian,Levon 2794 2648 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
4 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2789 2701 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
5 Caruana,Fabiano 2784 2843 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
6 Anand,Viswanathan 2776 2654 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
7 Naiditsch,Arkadij 2701 2789 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
8 Hou,Yifan 2654 2776 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
9 Meier,Georg 2648 2794 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
10 Bluebaum,Matthias 2631 1935 0 0.0/1

The Grenke Chess Classic is a 10-player round robin held in Karlsruhe (rounds 1-3) and Baden-Baden (rounds 4-9), Germany, The time control is 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 are not allowed.

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