So Beats Carlsen, Leads In Leuven

So Beats Carlsen, Leads In Leuven

| 32 | Chess Event Coverage

He had a bad tournament in Paris, but his start in Leuven was excellent. Wesley So leads the rapid segment of the Grand Chess Tour with 2.5/3, after beating Magnus Carlsen in round three.

So won after Carlsen played for a win too long. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

The weather in central Europe changed dramatically on Wednesday. Also in Leuven, which is about 20 km east of Brussels, there was more rain than sunshine today. It was good weather for playing chess.

Nonetheless, the tournament in Leuven seemed to start where the one in Paris had finished: with quite a few errors. "Blunderfest" might be too strong, although one non-playing top GM called it just that.


The wonderful Leuven Town Hall is again the location for this event. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

A blunder occurred for instance in Magnus Carlsen vs Levon Aronian, and it was a pity because up till then it was actually a great game from both sides. 

This Nimzo-Indian, the world champion explained, is a slightly unusual line where White gets the two bishops but Black gets serious counterplay in the center. "I need to open up at some point," said Carlsen, who sacrificed a pawn with the d4-d5 push.

"When he blundered, the position is a draw. In such a complicated position it's... considering that, I think the game was relatively well played until 28...Qf4. If he had played Qd1 it would have concluded in a more or less logical draw."


Carlsen was the first and the last to laugh! | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Vassily Ivanchuk didn't really blunder, but the way he handled the Philidor against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave wasn't great. He got a terrible endgame with a doubled pawn on the queenside, so it was kind of a Berlin endgame gone wrong for Black.

MVL on beating a player he didn't have a good score against: "My mood these days is when I play someone against whom I don't manage so well, to fire back!"

And, reflecting more generally: "My play was not convincing since the beginning of the year, and maybe even earlier. I was just happy in Paris to somehow connect my neurons back. It's a state of mind that I need to be careful with yet, because it doesn't mean that I feel it quite yet but it gives me some confidence that I'm trying to use."


Not a great start for the reigning world rapid champion. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

In round two Vladimir Kramnik defeated Vishy Anand, and that was the third time in a row since the Russian player had also won both their games in the Norway Chess blitz and main tournaments. Somehow Anand couldn't prevent his opponent from creating a huge pawn center.


Is Kramnik, after all those years, turning Anand into his "client?" | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Birthday boy dad Anish Giri, who turned 23 today (and came to Leuven with his wife Sopiko and son Daniel), seemed to be receiving an early birthday gift from Ian Nepomniachtchi. However, although the Russian GM got absolutely nothing out of the opening and was two pawns down at some point, he still managed to win.

"I thought at least I can try to threaten him [with] mate in one a couple of times, here and there," said Nepomniachtchi. "After I put my queen on c4 and I was able to bring my rook back to e4 maybe it's not that clear already.

"In time trouble I found out that it's extremely easy for me to play with this b5 stuff, and my king is placed much better than his. And then those pawns e5 and d4 became a beautiful cover for my king."


Nepomniachtchi: "I thought at least I can try to threaten him [with] mate in one a couple of times, here and there." | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

But that present came for Anish Giri after all. In the very next round he crushed Levon Aronian using home-cooked analysis in a line Aronian normally doesn't play. "He decided to grab a piece. If he were White he would see that it is an awful decision," said Giri. 


Aronian graciously offers his hand to Giri. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Here's Giri talking about this game, the one against Nepomniachtchi but also about a game you might not have seen yet. It was played by his regular second Erwin l'Ami in the second round of the Dutch championship, and is given below the video. Don't miss it.

The third round also saw the top clash between Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So, and it didn't end well for the world champion. He simply overpressed, and suffered his first rapid loss of the Grand Chess Tour so far.

Nigel Short: "It seems Magnus can't just push in any position. Sometimes he is losing his objectivity."


Carlsen hadn't lost a single rapid game in Paris. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

An absolutely incredible game was Vachier-Lagrave vs Vladimir Kramnik. How is it possible that Black didn't win this one? Well, time trouble of course. As Short said today: "With engines we're all geniuses." Or Anand: "At the board crazy things happen."


An incredible draw between Kramnik and Vachier-Lagrave. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.


Luckily Kramnik could see the humor of it all! | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Speaking of spectacular games, we should also include Baadur Jobava vs Vassily Ivanchuk. The Georgian GM lost his three games on the first day, but at least he's good for some entertainment!

nullJobava threw everything but the kitchen sink to Ivanchuk. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Your Next Move (Leuven) Grand Chess Tour | Rapid, Round 3 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 So,Wesley 2789 3087 1 2 2 5.0/6
2 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2783 2898 1 1 2 4.0/6 3.50
3 Nepomniachtchi,Ian 2766 2867 0 2 2 4.0/6 1.50
4 Anand,Viswanathan 2775 2773 2 0 1 3.0/6 2.75
5 Kramnik,Vladimir 2789 2783 0 1 2 3.0/6 2.50
6 Carlsen,Magnus 2851 2776 0 1 2 3.0/6 1.75
7 Giri,Anish 2764 2773 0 1 2 3.0/6 1.75
8 Ivanchuk,Vassily 2757 2779 0 1 2 3.0/6 0.75
9 Aronian,Levon 2780 2653 0 0 2 2.0/6
10 Jobava,Baadur 2703 1968 0 0 0 0.0/6

You can watch the Grand Chess Tour on, and the games at starting daily from 2 p.m. CET, 8 a.m. New York or 5 a.m. Pacific. Commentary is provided by GM Maurice Ashley and GM Nigel Short in Leuven, and GM Yasser Seirawan, IM Jovanka Houska & GM Christian Chirilla from St Louis.

The rapid tournament is a round-robin with games played at 25 minutes with a 10-second delay from move one. The blitz tournament is a double round-robin with games played at five minutes with a three-second delay from move one. The prize fund is $150,000, with the first prize of $37,500.

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