Caruana Wins, Now 3-Way Tie Atop Grenke
GM Fabiano Caruana had fewer pawns but more initiative against GM Arkadij Naiditsch. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis/Grenke Chess Classic.

Caruana Wins, Now 3-Way Tie Atop Grenke

Deep into round four of the 2018 Grenke Chess Classic, it seemed the players were destined for the first "do-nothing" round. All five games seemed headed to draws, and the players would regroup in the same position for another battle the following day.

That's when just before the time control, GM Fabiano Caruana drew blood from stone and squeezed out the full point against GM Arkadij Naiditsch. Hmm, finding a way to win equal positions despite having very few pieces remaining—does that remind you of some useful training he will be doing for the fall?

Caruana

GM Fabiano Caruana can't stop playing chess. | Photo: Eric van Reem/Grenke Chess Classic.

Surely he's second-guessing scheduling these back-to-back-to-back events (he came from the Candidates' shortly before Grenke and will go to the U.S. Championship shortly after). On the contrary, he's enjoying the training and the good surge.

"The tournament's going well so far, so I wouldn't say it's a regret," Caruana said. "I'm kind of used to playing a lot...I thought if I win the Candidates' I won't mind playing [Grenke], and if I don't win the Candidates' I'll probably want to forget the tournament, and in that case it's good to play another one."

Caruana's win came despite Black having the outside passer—usually a death knell in endings. The a-pawn was completely extra for Naiditsch, but it languished on home base while the weaknesses around Black's king proved far more pressing.

White got a knight to f5, and if Kasparov claims that's worth a pawn in middlegames, then in this ending, it was worth far more. It kept hopping back and forth to f5, you know, for added impact:

Caruana is now nearly cresting 2810 again. He has very quickly erased his post-Tata mini-slump, having gained back in a month nearly all the 35 points lost.

Of the four other draws, the GM Magnus Carlsen-GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave matchup proved the most interesting. After some dueling desperado pawns, the world champion offered another one in order to open the way for his bishops.

Carlsen

GM Magnus Carlsen, 2015 Grenke Chess winner. | Photo: Eric van Reem/Grenke Chess Classic.

The pawn then recovered with ease, and the question became what kind of minor-piece ending would Carlsen want? Or rather, what kind would his opponent allow? The Frenchman wouldn't let him get a favorable bishop-vs-knight position.

As GM Dejan Bojkov points out below, the "cost" of Carlsen's bishops gaining activity was trading pawns, but he needed those pawns to have some targets.

Eventually Black forced opposite-colored bishops. Handshakes all around.

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The hold kept Vachier-Lagrave with a share of first, although it did end his win streak at two. Beating the champ with the black pieces wouldn't have been unheard of; Vachier-Lagrave did just do it at last year's Sinquefield Cup. But today, there were no chances for that.

GM Nikita Vitiugov, the fast starter of the event, drew again (today with GM Viswanathan Anand) to also get to 3.0/4 and become the third player still atop the standings.

Vitiugov

Sixth-seeded GM Nikita Vitiugov trying to become a dark horse winner. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis/Grenke Chess Classic.

GM Levon Aronian and GM Hou Yifan drew, as did the German tandem GM Matthias Bluebaum and GM Georg Meier.

For the record, all four past winners of Grenke are playing this year (Anand, Naiditsch, Carlsen, Aronian) but at the moment, none of them is among the leaders.

Caruana is trailing in one area though.

Number of phones for the other players: 1. Caruana: 0. His is still broken from during the Candidates'. He's yet to find a chance to get a new one.

2018 Grenke Chess Classic | Round 4 Standings

No. Players Elo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Points
1 Caruana, Fabiano 2784 ** ½ ½ 1 1 3
2 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 2789 ** ½ 1 ½ 1 3
3 Vitiugov, Nikita 2735 ** 1 ½ 1 ½ 3
4 Aronian, Levon 2794 ** ½ ½ 1 ½ 2.5
5 Carlsen, Magnus 2843 ½ ½ ** ½ 1 2.5
6 Bluebaum, Matthias 2631 ½ 0 ½ ** ½ 1.5
7 Anand, Viswanathan 2776 0 ½ ½ ** ½ 1.5
8 Meier, Georg 2648 0 0 ½ ½ ** 1
9 Naiditsch, Arkadij 2701 0 ½ ½ 0 ** 1
10 Hou, Yifan 2654 0 ½ 0 ½ ** 1

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