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Grenke Classic: Caruana, MVL Drop Below 2800

Grenke Classic: Caruana, MVL Drop Below 2800

Both Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave dropped below 2800 in the live ratings today. In round one of the Grenke Chess Classic Caruana lost to Hou Yifan, while Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was defeated by Arkadij Naiditsch. Sporting glasses, Magnus Carlsen spoilt a "dream position" and drew with Matthias Bleubaum.

An excellent win for Hou Yifan to start with. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis.

It was a very early novelty at the start of the first round, in the Schwarzwaldhalle in Karlsruhe, Germany. Recently he shared on Facebook that he has a girlfriend, and now something else changed in Carlsen's life: he is wearing glasses.

Carlsen explained that he recently took a test, and  "all sorts of things were wrong." He said that he has always been a little bit near-sighted, but was getting "some kind of headaches" recently. "I didn't really have a choice anymore."

While people on Twitter were making fun of the fact that he was doing a pretty decent Jon Ludvig Hammer impersonation, Carlsen was held to a draw today, in the opening round.

20-year-old Bleubaum from Lemgo last year won the first Grenke Chess Open in Karlsruhe, and today he held the world champ to a draw after the latter had a "complete brain fart" as he described it, with playing a pawn push on move 23. Carlsen ended up spoiling what he called "a dream position."

According to Peter Leko, who is again showing himself to be one of the finest commentators around, Carlsen wouldn't have made this mistake if his opponent hadn't been low on time there. "Probably Magnus got carried away by the time of Matthias."


Carlsen and Bluebaum start with a draw. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis.

Hou Yifan had a fantastic start in Karlsruhe as she beat Caruana. "I didn't win in a super tournament for quite some time," she pointed out herself. And indeed, if we only look at (strong) round robins, her last win seems to be her game against David Navara in Wijk aan Zee 2016.

Hou played a fine game, but Caruana certainly didn't. Especially his 11th and 17th move were criticised afterward by commentators Leko and Lawrence Trent, who praised White's 15th and 21st moves. Leko called it a "shocking" loss for Caruana.


With this loss Caruana dropped below 2800 in the live ratings. The last time he was there in a FIDE rating list was exactly one year ago. It's just the first round of the tournament, but the U.S. grandmaster certainly needs to try and do better than today.


Another top 10 player started with a loss, and he also dropped below 2800! Vachier-Lagrave went down against Naiditsch in a very complicated French game. "In positions like this, it can happen. Kudos to Arkadij for playing the way he did," MVL said.

Naiditsch is not an absolute super grandmaster, but when in good shape he can beat anyone. For instance, two years ago in the same tournament he defeated Carlsen. That was a year after he also won against the Norwegian at the Tromsø Olympiad.


Hundreds of spectators saw the first round in Karlsruhe today. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis.

The one game not mentioned yet is Levon Aronian vs Georg Meier. Not much happened there but it's nice to see that Meier took his good form online (he won the second Speed Chess Qualifier last Tuesday!) to the physical chess board. He was just very solid today.

The Grenke Classic is an 8-player single round robin. Rounds 1-3 take place in the Schwarzwaldhallte Karlsruhe, and for the last four rounds the tournament will move to the Event-Akademie in Baden-Baden.

The time control is 100 minutes for 40 moves, then 50 minutes for 20 moves and 15 minutes to finish the game with a 30-second increment from move one. Draw offers before move 40 are not allowed.

Here's a highlight video of the first round by the organizers:

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