Grenke Chess Classic

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

Grenke Chess Classic 2018
Karlsruhe/Baden Baden, Germany
March 31-April 9, 2018

Final Standings

1 . Fabiano Caruana USA 2784, 6.5/9

2. Magnus Carlsen NOR 2843, 5.5/9

3-5. Levon Aronian ARM 2794, Nikita Vitiugov RUS 2735, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA 2789, 5.0/9

6. Matthias Bluebaum GER 2631, 4.5/9

7-9. Viswanathan Anand IND 2776, Hou Yifan CHN 2654, Arkadij Naiditsch AZE 2701, 3.5/9

10. Georg Meier GER 2648, 3.0/9

Average ELO 2736 Category 20

Time Control: 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 50 minutes for the next 20 moves then 15 minutes play-to-finish with 30 seconds added after every move starting move 1

The 2018 Grenke Chess Classic is a 10-player round-robin held in Germany from March 31 to April 9. The first three rounds were in Karlsruhe alongside the Grenke Chess Open, then after a rest day the last six rounds are in the Kulturhaus LA8 in Baden-Baden. The spa city of Baden-Baden has been the venue of many great chess tournaments in the past and it is also the site of the world headquarters of Grenke Leasing (with special emphasis on IT Equipment), the major sponsor of the event.

As BW readers know the Berlin Candidates tournament, won by Fabiano Caruana, finished just last March 27, and from there he went straight to Karlsruhe to play in the Grenke Classic.

Useless Trivia: Did you know that “Karlsruhe,” which translates to “Charles’ Repose,” is named after Margrave (or “military commander”) Charles III William who founded this new city to get peace from his wife. The city was planned with the palace tower at the center and 32 streets radiating out from it like the spokes of a wheel. Almost all of these streets survived until today. Because of this city layout, in metric geometry, Karlsruhe metric refers to a measure of distance that assumes travel is only possible along radial streets and along circular avenues around the center.

But I digress. The field in Grenke Classic included the reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave who both did not play in the Candidates’ event, so surely both players wanted to measure themselves up against the world championship challenger. Let’s see how strong he really is!

Well, Caruana showed that at current form he was very strong indeed. Fabulous Fabi did not lose a single game and had four wins (against Vachier Lagrave, Naiditsch, Meier and Vitiugov) to sore 6.5/9, a full point ahead of second-placer Magnus Carlsen (who also did not lose a game but only had two wins).

Not only that but Fabiano proved that he had the strength and will to finish strongly when needed. Remember the London Chess Classic last December? He performed a magnificent feat by first squeezing out a six-hour victory over the hard-to-beat Michael Adams to tie Ian Nepomniachtchi for first place and then emerged victorious in the 4th game of a playoff against a well-rested Ian Nepomniachtchi.

In the Berlin Candidates Caruana was tied with Karjakin after the 12th round (total of 14 rounds) and had the worse tie-break, so he had to finish at least half a point ahead of Karjakin to win, but Fabi responded by defeating both Aronian and Grischuk (definitely not an easy thing to do) in the final two rounds and ended up one point ahead of his closest pursuer.

Now in Grenke Caruana did it again with a last round victory over GM Nikita Vitiugov. Fiona Steil-Antoni asked him where he was getting the energy from and his reply was “I can’t say I’ve had much energy throughout the tournament. I’ve felt a bit burnt out, but I haven’t really put any stress on myself. I guess it’s working out, and obviously I was lucky in a bunch of games, specifically my game against Magnus. I was very lucky to survive that, and my game against Hou Yifan, and also my wins were kind of random, but I guess I took my chances!”

Here is Fabi’s best game.

Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime (2789) — Caruana, Fabiano (2784) [A29]
GRENKE Chess Classic 2018 Karlsruhe/Baden Baden GER (7.3), 07.04.2018

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bb4

Caruana: “I thought he was surprised in the opening. I normally don’t play 4…Bb4 and he was very clearly unfamiliar with the line, and we were both on our own after 9.Qc2, I guess.”

5.Bg2 0–0 6.0–0 e4 7.Ng5 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Re8

This line was very much in vogue in the late ’80s in large part due to Kasparov weaponizing it for his world championship match with Karpov. He usually continued with 9.f3 though.


Here is one such Kasparov game which made a huge impression on me. 9.f3 exf3 10.Nxf3 d5 11.d4! Kasparov remarked here that this was a novelty prepared for his Seville world championship match which he never got to use. 11…Ne4 12.Qc2 dxc4 13.Rb1 (Garry Kasparov: ‘The key move: by attacking the b7–pawn, the rook hinders the development of the bishop on c8, and in some cases it is threatening via b5 to support the action in the center or on the kingside.’) 13…f5 (13…f6! is the move to play) 14.g4! (Garry Kasparov: ‘On seeing this unexpected move, Vassily nervously flinched and sank into agonising thought. What I had played was obviously not in his analysis! It suddenly transpired that Black faced serious dangers, and Ivanchuk’s ardent expression somehow immediately faded.’) 14…Qe7 (14…fxg4 15.Ne5!) 15.gxf5 Nd6 (15…Bxf5) 16.Ng5 Qxe2 17.Bd5+ Kh8 18.Qxe2 Rxe2 19.Bf4 Nd8 20.Bxd6 cxd6 21.Rbe1! Rxe1 22.Rxe1 Bd7 23.Re7 Bc6 (23…h6 24.f6!) 24.f6 1–0 Kasparov,G (2760)-Ivanchuk,V (2625) Moscow 1988. The conclusion will be 24…Bxd5 25.Re8+ Bg8 26.f7 Nxf7 27.Nxf7# Wow.

9…d5 10.cxd5 Qxd5 11.d3 Bf5 12.Bf4 h6 13.Nxe4

“I just made sure that after” 13.dxe4 Nxe4 14.c4 Qd4 15.Rad1 Qc3 “and here I thought I am already much better” (Caruana)

13…Nxe4 14.Qb2 b6 15.Rfd1

Caruana expected MVL to take the c7–pawn: 15.Bxc7 Rac8 16.Bf4 Na5 17.Rad1 Qe6 18.Bxe4 Bxe4 19.dxe4 Qxe4 but then he will have “very good compensation” (Caruana) for it.

15…Qc5 16.dxe4 Bxe4 17.Bf1?!

This was a surprise to Caruana. He had expected 17.Bxe4 Rxe4 Caruana expected 18.Bxc7 Na5 19.Bf4 Rae8 with Black having full compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

17…Re7 18.a4

After the game Caruana remarked that “the whole concept of a2–a4 followed by Ra1–c1 feels wrong.”

18…Rae8 19.Rac1 g5! 20.Bd2

[20.Be3 is met by 20…Qf5 and Ne5.]

20…Qf5 21.f3 Qc5+ <D>



Caruana speculated that MVL might have missed that 22.Kg2? is refuted by 22…Bxf3+! and now 23.Kxf3 (23.exf3 Re2+ 24.Bxe2 Rxe2+ 25.Kh3 (25.Kh1 Qf2) 25…Qf5+ followed by mate) 23…Qg1! and I do not see any defense to 24. — Re3+ 25.Bxe3 Rxe3+ 26.Kg4 Ne5+ 27.Kh3 Rxg3+ 28.hxg3 Qh1#


With the idea of Rxe2


No choice:

23.c4 Rxe2 24.Bxe2 Rxe2 25.Rf1 Bxf3+ 26.Rxf3 Ne5 27.Rcf1 Qc6 28.Qa3 Rxd2 29.Qe3 (otherwise Black will follow-up with …g5–g4) 29…Nxf3 30.Qxf3 Qxc4 with an easily winning endgame;

23.e4 Rxe4! 24.fxe4 Bxe4+ 25.Bg2 Bxg2+ 26.Kxg2 Re2+ 27.Kh1 Qd5+ 28.Kg1 Qg2#

23…Bc4 24.e4 Bxf1 25.Bf2 Qc4 26.Rxf1 Qxa4 27.c4 Ne5 28.Bd4 g4 29.fxg4

Or 29.f4 Nf3 30.Bh8 f5 31.exf5 Qc6 Caruana: Black mates first

29…Qd7 30.Qc3 c5

Black starts harvesting pawns.

31.Bxe5 Rxe5 32.Qf3 Rxe4 33.Rcd1 Qe6 34.g5 hxg5 35.Rd5 g4 36.Qc3 Re5 0–1

After this tournament the live ratings of the players are as follows:

1. Magnus Carlsen NOR 2839

2. Fabiano Caruana USA 2818

3. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov AZE 2814

4. Vladimir Kramnik RUS 2792

5. Maxime Vachier Lagrave FRA 2789

6. Hikaru Nakamura USA 2787

7. Wesley So USA 2786

8. Ding Liren 2783

9. Sergey Karjakin RUS 2778

10. Anish Giri NED 2777

As you can see Caruana is back in the no. 2 spot, exactly where the world championship challenger should be.

We will continue on Thursday.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant, he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.