So Still Atop Leuven Grand Chess Tour

So Still Atop Leuven Grand Chess Tour

| 50 | Chess Event Coverage

Also after two days of play, Wesley So is leading the Your Next Move Grand Chess Tour in Leuven, Belgium. As "the most consistent player" according to Nigel Short, So scored 10 points out of a possible 12. The other two Paris participants are right behind him, with eight points for both: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Magnus Carlsen.

So in his game with Anand today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

The start of day two in Leuven was marked by another blunder. Vassily Ivanchuk lost his game early on when a dangerous queen sortie contained a tactical flaw.

Anish Giri: "It's typical, you know, when on Facebook you say: Dear all, thank you for the wonderful congratulations [and] after that you get like 50 more because people are like ah, yeah, he had a birthday. This was kind of a post-mortem birthday congratulation as well."

About the fatal move on the queenside by Ivanchuk, Giri said: "If you have no plans and are still ambitious like my opponent was, you start inventing things."


Ivanchuk handed Giri a belated birthday gift. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Wesley So kept his lead with a win over luckless Baadur Jobava. The game started with a really sharp idea of So involving Harry the h-pawn but then the queens were traded and actually Black was OK in the endgame.

Sending his knight on a big journey through enemy territory, Jobava was the one playing for a win, but in reality, he made things difficult for himself. Nonetheless, it was still a draw shortly before the end.

So understood his opponent's play: "You wanna get back with a win. There's always extra pressure. It's not nice to be at the bottom, as I can say from experience." 


Despite his three losses on Wednesday Jobava entered the arena in good spirits. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Levon Aronian fought himself back to 50 percent with a good win over Vishy Anand. The tactical phase, which included some brilliant moves from both players, took a bit too much time on the clock for the five-time world champion. In the endgame, he really needed that time, as he failed to find the best moves to draw the game.


Spoiler: Aronian still hasn't drawn a game yet in Leuven. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Round five saw one chair remaining empty for 3.5 minutes as Baadur Jobava simply arrived late! He would eventually lose to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and score his fifth loss in a row. Short: "Jobava is shell-shocked. You don't put shell-shocked men in the front line anymore."

Magnus Carlsen keeps on varying with glasses on and glasses off during play, and also with his openings. He played the Bird (1.f4) against Vladimir Kramnik, without glasses, but it definitely wasn't an oversight.

In fact, local commentator Nigel Short provided a possible explanation for this first move. He told a story about the closing dinner in Norway, where Short was on the same table as Carlsen and Kramnik.

There, Carlsen told that one of the players from the past who has influenced him is the great Danish grandmaster Bent Larsen. Kramnik then said that Larsen isn't taken that seriously in Russia, where he is considered to be a coffeehouse player!

To play 1.f4 (as Larsen sometimes did) and win was a great way to end that conversation.


Carlsen beating Kramnik in Bent Larsen style. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

25.Kg1 was a nice move that expressed satisfaction with how the game developed. "I felt like I was getting more and more control of the position," said Carlsen about that phase. "Then... I didn't think I was winning or anything but it looked nicer. Of course, when I got 37.a5, that pawn is probably gonna be unstoppable."

Asked whether this game was in Carlsen style, exploiting a small advantage and then winning with endgame technique, the Norwegian replied: "I don't think it had anything to do with endgame technique; this was all middlegame. Once I got to the endgame I was winning."

Carlsen smiled when he said that. "It was nice to get a win and also one that had some quality to it. I am optimistic about the rest." 

In between games, Carlsen tweeted about his first move and in doing so he seemed to be making a Family Guy reference.

Levon Aronian didn't bring to Leuven the great form that he has been showing at the Grenke and Norway Chess tournaments. He dropped back to minus-one with a loss against Ian Nepomniachtchi, who played an excellent game and held his opponent under pressure throughout the game. How Black could hold the draw was hard to see.


Aronian and Nepomniachtchi discussing their game (or thinkof your own caption.  ) | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

In the clash of players closer to 50 than 40 years old (or rather: chess legends who continue to play at the highest level) Vishy Anand bounced back with a smooth win over Vassily Ivanchuk.

In fact, the game looked like a masterclass on how to play against the Pirc, using the Austrian Attack. It was instructive to see how the Indian dealt with Black's queenside activity and then decided matters on the other side of the board.


A most convincing win for Anand. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

The tournament became a true disaster for Baadur Jobava, who also lost his sixth game. It's a bad sign when Europe's vice champion misses moves like 14.e5, and, honestly speaking, you don't need to be Magnus Carlsen to win from there.


The world champ's glasses went back on for the game with Jobava. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

The start of the encounter between Vassily Ivanchuk and Ian Nepomniachtchi was just fascinating. Speaking of coffeehouse chess!

"OK I have h4 or h3, but that seemed normal. I wanted to create something original," Ivanchuk said about his remarkable decision to allow ...h3 and put the bishop on e4.

The Ukrainian GM then explained to Maurice Ashley that, during that phase, he was thinking about an online game he once played against Alexander Morozevich. After describing his thoughts on that, in a bizarre way Ashley then cut him off and ended the interview, leaving both Ivanchuk and the spectators bewildered.


Vassily Ivanchuk in the middle of a wonderful monologue. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

In any case, Ivanchuk's idea kind of worked out in the game, although it was unclear for quite a while. 29.Qb6 was a wonderful assessment of the (little) risk the white king was in while running towards to queenside. From there, Ivanchuk was in the driver's seat.


Ivanchuk scored his second win of the tournament. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Wesley So made sure he goes into the last day of rapid with a two-point lead. He managed to win a rook ending a pawn up against Vishy Anand and is clearly playing better chess than in Paris.

"It's time to move on," said So. "I think we forgot already about the Paris tournament. And I've learned some lessons from my losses there."

Let's start the game when a most remarkable bishop move by Anand was answered by a rather nice tactic.


The tournament leader after two days of play. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

To describe Levon Aronian's tournament as topsy-turvy would be an understatement. After beating Vladimir Kramnik in a wild game his score looks like 0, 1, 0, 1, 0, 1! 

"We were both blundering continuously and I think he was the last to blunder. This was an achievement for both of us," he said about his win in round six. It wasn't that bad actually; Aronian himself only made one oversight.

Aronian, who is recovering from a flu ("When you get lucky this is the best motivation!"), said that the time control, and especially delay instead of increment, influences the tournament—but the players will just have to cope with it. "We're big boys. We'll slowly adjust to it. You can make chess players play any kind of game, as long as the pieces move the same way."


Kramnik was in terrible time trouble. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Your Next Move (Leuven) Grand Chess Tour | Rapid, Round 6 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 So,Wesley 2789 3057 1 2 1 2 2 2 10.0/12
2 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2783 2895 1 1 1 2 1 2 8.0/12 9.75
3 Carlsen,Magnus 2851 2887 0 1 2 1 2 2 8.0/12 8.25
4 Giri,Anish 2764 2833 1 1 0 2 1 2 7.0/12 11.25
5 Nepomniachtchi,Ian 2766 2819 2 2 0 0 1 2 7.0/12 7.50
6 Aronian,Levon 2780 2775 0 0 0 2 2 2 6.0/12
7 Anand,Viswanathan 2775 2716 0 1 2 0 2 0 5.0/12 7.75
8 Ivanchuk,Vassily 2757 2716 0 1 0 2 0 2 5.0/12 5.50
9 Kramnik,Vladimir 2789 2671 0 1 0 1 0 2 4.0/12
10 Jobava,Baadur 2703 1988 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0/12

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. The 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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Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

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