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Hou Yifan Pressures Carlsen, Maintains Lead At Grenke

Hou Yifan Pressures Carlsen, Maintains Lead At Grenke

Hou Yifan had the better chances but drew with Magnus Carlsen to keep her lead at the Grenke Chess Classic today. Again there were three winners: Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana and Arkadij Naiditsch.

Hou Yifan vs Carlsen in round three today. | Photo: Eric van Reem.

In tennis or some other physical sport it would be a huge deal, but not so much in chess: the best active female player in the world "holding" a draw against the best male player. In fact if anyone was holding, it was Magnus Carlsen. He was in trouble today.

Hou Yifan's approach wasn't that much different from how the Norwegian often plays: going for a solid sideline that leads to only a small but solid plus. This is what the Chinese player got by choosing Gata Kamsky's 6.a4 against the Najdorf.

And so, with a clear intention to play for a win, Carlsen only got a middlegame position that was about equal. He didn't complain, though. "If you're getting a nice position like this without any worries you shouldn't be too unhappy," he said.

But then the world champion got a bit careless, missed his opponent's miniplan of Rd2-d5 and Nf3-d2-c4, and then he was in a position where "it's about surviving one move at a time," as he said.

Hou said that she felt there should be some way to keep pressure, but she couldn't find it and went for liquidations. Against any other player she might have tried something else, argued commentator Peter Leko.

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So far Carlsen hasn't been looking like a tournament winner, but Hou has! | Photo: Georgios Souleidis.

After suffering an early loss, Fabiano Caruana came back with a vengeance and scored two wins in a row. Today he defeated Georg Meier in an excellent game from both players.

A Rubinstein French with opposite castling became very tactical, and it was Meier who spent more time on the clock. This seems to have been the decisive factor later on.

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Two wins brought Caruana in shared second place. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis.

Levon Aronian defeated Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in an endgame from a Symmetrical English, which had similarities with the Ruy Lopez Exchange variation in terms of pawn structure. Aronian explained that computers assess it as fine for Black, but that it simply "looks better" for White.

He called Black's pawn of pushing his b-pawn to b4 "suspicious," but it was probably still holdable after that. Only when White got f4-f5 in at a good moment, it was over for the Frenchman.

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A good win for Levon Aronian today. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis.

At the end of the day Arkadij Naiditsch joined Caruana in scoring his second win, with zero draws. He defeated Matthias Bluebaum from an open Catalan that left theory at a very early stage. 

Bluebaum's positional pawn sacrifice was rather standard, and around move 24 his compensation looked very nice. However, he couldn't find a sensible plan on the queenside, while Naiditsch started to become active on the other side of the board but ironically Black decided things on the queenside after all.

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Two wins as well for Arkadij Naiditsch. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis.

Tuesday is a rest day, when the tournament moves away from Karlsruhe. The last four rounds will be played in the Event-Akademie in Baden-Baden.

2017 Grenke Chess Classic | Round 3 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Hou,Yifan 2649 3038 1 ½ 1 2.5/3
2 Caruana,Fabiano 2817 2778 0 1 1 2.0/3 2.50
3 Aronian,Levon 2774 2874 ½ 1 ½ 2.0/3 2.00
4 Naiditsch,Arkadij 2702 2871 0 1 1 2.0/3 1.50
5 Carlsen,Magnus 2838 2686 ½ ½ ½ 1.5/3
6 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2803 2583 0 0 1 1.0/3
7 Meier,Georg 2621 2468 0 0 ½ 0.5/3 1.00
8 Bluebaum,Matthias 2634 2502 0 ½ 0 0.5/3 0.75

The Grenke Classic is an eight-player single round robin. 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.

Download Tournament PGN

Games from TWIC.

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


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