Grenke Classic 2017: Aronian misses win in exciting finale

by Elshan Moradiabadi
4/23/2017 – It was a thrilling end to a great tournament. In spite of the four draws that might suggest less than exhilarating chess, one game stood out far more than the others: Caruana vs Aronian. Any dreams he had of being the spoilsport, Caruana was forced to set aside as he found himself fighting for his life, a piece down in the endgame. There wouldn't be much to say if he didn't actually pull it off. See all, read all, in this final report with analysis by GM Moradiabadi.

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Grenke Classic 2017: Levon Aronian misses win in exciting finale

All photos by Georgios Souleidis

Round 7 (22.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Hou, Yifan
½ - ½
Naiditsch, Arkadij
Caruana, Fabiano
½ - ½
Aronian, Levon
Meier, Georg
½ - ½
Bluebaum, Matthias
Carlsen, Magnus
½ - ½
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime

4th Grenke chess classic came to an end today in Baden-Baden, Germany. The seven-round super-GM tournament nearly ended with chess fans and lovers leaving with one thing in mind: Levon Aronian won it all! Today Caruana and Aronian stole the show while the other games finished in a more or less dull draw, though a lot of high-level nuances and rich outcomes could be learned from them.

Video impressions of the last round 

Tied for second, Fabiano Caruana was determined to break the winning streak of the Armenian to secure second place for himself and score an important prestigious victory against the tournament winner. On the other hand, relaxed after his 4th consecutive victory Levon Aronian had the title in his pocket coming to this game and had no intention of letting Caruana spoil his fantastic run. Not today!

Determined to rock the boat, Fabiano Caruana nearly forgot to bring his own lifesaver

The players played an ‘expected’ 1.e4 e5 and soon Fabiano went for an Italian where he chose a fashionable line with a4.  Aronian responded in a flamboyant style and went for an old fashioned Hungarian set-up by retreating his bishop to e7 and then maneuvered his knight to d7 and put his king to h8 to prepare for f5. At least that was the idea, but none of these plans materialized as Fabiano, naturally tried to open up the game in reaction to Aronian’s somewhat passive though ambitious set up. Aronian handled matters well and a queenless middle game ensued where Aronian was up a pawn but his pawns were doubled on e-file and exposed to white’s attack. At this point a quick draw would have been in order had Caruana not ventured with his knight into Black’s camp with 22.Nxe6? followed by 23.b3?? Suddenly his knight was trapped, and he had no choice but to give it up for two pawns.

 

Picture this scenario: Caruana was down a knight for two pawns in an endgame against Aronian who had converted four consecutive endgames in the previous four rounds. One could expect nothing but another brilliant win for Aronian and a dreamlike finish for the Armenian with a 3000+ performance for the champion. However, Caissa can be a fickle mistress and once again, the royal game was displayed as a sport and not a science as human stress and drama took over!

Fabiano Caruana vs Levon Aronian

[Event "4th GRENKE Chess Classic 2017"] [Site "Baden-Baden"] [Date "2017.04.22"] [Round "7"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C50"] [WhiteElo "2817"] [BlackElo "2774"] [Annotator "Elshan Moradiabadi "] [PlyCount "121"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventCountry "GER"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] [TimeControl "40/6000+30:20/3000+30:900+30"] 1. e4 {0} e5 {4} 2. Nf3 {0} Nc6 {5} 3. Bc4 {0 Not surprised at all! It is no fun playing against the Berlin!} Bc5 {6} 4. d3 {0} Nf6 {4} 5. O-O {0} O-O {6} 6. a4 $5 {10 A line that is becoming fashionable thanks to Anand. In general Aronian plays actively against the Italian, setting up an immediate castle, and preparing d5. Had he gone for a6, planning Ba7, instead of a5, he would have ended up in one of those 'timid' positions, though the line is losing popularity in light of recent theoretical developments.} a5 {32} (6... a6 {leads to the main lines but Aronian is not interested in a mainline theoretical battle today!} 7. c3 d6 8. Nbd2 (8. h3 h6 9. Re1 Ba7 10. Na3 (10. Nbd2)) (8. Bg5 h6 9. Bh4 g5 10. Bg3 {with complicated play.}) 8... Ba7 9. Re1 Ng4 10. Re2 Kh8 11. h3 Nh6 (11... f5 $5) 12. Nf1) 7. Bg5 $146 {7 A novelty according to the Online Database!} h6 {31} 8. Bh4 {6} Be7 $1 {6 I like this manuever! Black loses a tempo but unpins his knight and plans to exchange his then to be bad bishop soon!} 9. Bg3 {10} d6 {6} 10. h3 {4 Nh5 was a threat.} Nd7 {50} 11. Nc3 {1190} Nb6 {19} 12. Bb3 {7} Kh8 $5 {51 Aronian opts for f5. This set-up is risky. I am sure he would not have played like this if he hadn't already won the tournament.} 13. d4 {93 A natural reaction.} Nxd4 {189} 14. Nxd4 {18} exd4 {4} 15. Qxd4 {8} Bf6 {587} 16. e5 $1 {2067 The best reaction!} (16. Qe3 Be6 17. Bxe6 fxe6 18. b3 (18. e5 $2 {runs into} Nc4) 18... Nd7 {should be ok for Black.}) 16... dxe5 {49} (16... Bxe5 $2 17. Bxe5 dxe5 18. Qxe5 {is extremely dangerous. White is way ahead in development and Black's pieces are awkwardly placed!}) 17. Qxd8 {5} Rxd8 {125} 18. Rfe1 {235} (18. Bxf7 Bf5 19. Bb3 c5 {is not advantageous for White at all!}) 18... Be6 {628} 19. Bxe6 {680} fxe6 {10} 20. Ne4 {33} (20. Bxe5 Bxe5 21. Rxe5 Rd2 22. Rc1 Nc4 23. Rc5 Nxb2 24. Rxc7 Rb8 25. Ne4 Rd4 26. Ng3 (26. Nc5 Rc4 27. Rxb7 Rxb7 28. Nxb7 Rxa4 29. Kf1 Kg8 {and this endgame should be a draw.}) 26... Nxa4 27. Re1 Nb6 28. Rxe6 Nd5 29. Rd7 Rd1+ 30. Kh2 Ne3 31. Rf7 Nf1+ 32. Nxf1 Rxf1 33. Ree7 a4 $1 34. Rxg7 a3 {and White does not have more than a perpetual.}) 20... Kg8 {217} 21. Nc5 {443} Rd5 { 139 Ok, draw?} 22. Nxe6 $2 {776 isn't this knight going to feel uncomfortable?} Rc8 {6} 23. b3 $4 {4 And trapped?} c5 $1 {142 Black wants to win the knight with either Kf7, Rd6 or Rc6!} 24. c4 {360} Rd6 {39} 25. Nxg7 {3 The best practical chance!} Kxg7 {56} 26. Bxe5 {10} Rd3 {6} 27. Bxf6+ {287} Kxf6 {5 Black is a piece up! In an endgame!} 28. Re4 $1 {3 Fabiano does not defend the pawn on b3. He realizes that his only chance is to create some play and pray for a blunder from Levon's side.} Rc7 {239} 29. Rae1 {155} Rxb3 {11} 30. Rf4+ {106} Kg7 {14} 31. Re6 {17} Nxa4 {21 Suddenly, the two extra pawns are gone! The problem now is that the rook and knight are a bit distant from the king.} 32. Rg4+ {51} Kf8 {282} (32... Kh7 {would have been my choice probably. White needs to spend some tempi winning the h6 pawn.} 33. Rgg6 Nc3 34. Rxh6+ Kg8 35. Reg6+ Rg7 36. Rd6 Re7 ( 36... a4 $4 37. Rd8+ Kf7 38. Rd7+ Kg8 39. Rd8+ $11) 37. Rd8+ Kg7 38. Rhh8 a4 39. h4 a3 40. h5 a2 41. h6+ Kf6 {This is winning but it is impossible to check every possible line to this point. I just love it when the rooks control a rank in vain, and for that reason alone I would have opted for this line!}) 33. Rxh6 {6} Rf7 {19} (33... Rg7 34. Rh8+ Kf7 35. Rf4+ Ke7 36. h4 Nc3 37. Kh2 a4 38. h5 a3 39. h6 Rg6) 34. Rh8+ {155} Ke7 {89} 35. h4 {13} Nc3 {100} 36. h5 a4 {347} 37. h6 {238} a3 {121} 38. h7 {6} a2 {147} 39. Re8+ {31} Kxe8 {6} 40. h8=Q+ {0} Kd7 {7} 41. Kh2 {476} a1=Q {10} 42. Rg8 {1048 Aronian might have given up too much counter-play but Black is winning anyways! [#]} Qa5 $4 {2970 After 50 minutes of thinking Aronian plays this unfortunate move to let go of the win! It was not easy to see the win especially when it involves giving up your queen!} (42... Qe1 $1 43. Qh3+ Qe6 44. Rd8+ Kxd8 45. Qxe6 Rh7+ 46. Kg3 Nd5+ 47. f3 Rg7+ 48. Kh4 Ne7 {And Komodo claims a win on depth 40!} 49. Kh3 (49. Qd6+ Ke8 50. Qxc5 Rxg2) 49... Rg6 50. Qe5 Rh6+ 51. Kg3 b6 {And material advantage is enough to win!}) 43. Qh3+ $1 {78 Now it is Black who needs to play accurately to ensure the draw!} Kc7 { 113} 44. Qg3+ {100} Kd7 {120} 45. Qd3+ {159} Ke7 {30} 46. Qe3+ {6} Kd6 {65} 47. Rg6+ {455} Kc7 {8} 48. Qe5+ {63} Kc8 {19} 49. Rg8+ {173} Qd8 {7} 50. Qxc5+ {71} Rc7 {71} 51. Rxd8+ {130} Kxd8 {7} 52. Qf8+ {9} Kd7 {5} 53. g4 {179 This is very different than what we saw in the analysis of move 42.} Rb2 {1047} 54. Qf3 {275} Ke8 $1 {125 Well played by Aronian, and ensures the draw.} 55. Qxc3 {73} Rxf2+ {8} 56. Kg3 {3} Rff7 {15 This position is a fortress!} 57. g5 {20} Rg7 {58} 58. Kg4 {14} Kf8 {120} 59. Qf6+ {159} Kg8 {6} 60. g6 {0} Rxg6+ {24} 61. Qxg6+ { 146 An exciting draw!} (61. Qxg6+ Rg7 62. Kg5 Rxg6+ 63. Kxg6 Kf8 64. Kf6 Ke8 65. Ke6 Kd8 66. Kd6 Kc8 $11) 1/2-1/2

A topsy-turvy game indeed!

 

An interview with the winner, Levon Aronian

It was the opposite side of the spectrum, the battle to see who did not finish last

George Meier tried his best not to tie for last by surprising Matthias Bluebaum  and it seemed at some point that the former had already created something but it probably required machine-like precision to extract something out of white’s position and Bluebaum eventually forced a draw with a perpetual.

Hou Yifan and Naidtisch played an interesting line in the French Defense where the queens came off the board and things seemed dull. However, then material became unbalanced where Hou Yifan was an exchange up for a pawn but Black’s pieces were solid and Naiditsch was never in any danger.

Hou Yifan finished with 50% against an elite field, and has to consider this a successful mission 

Wild Man Magnus faced MVL and made a go for it, but anxious to score a win, he missed his window

The World champion caused a lot of trouble for MVL and the engines showed a tangible advantage for white around move 30. However, this could be due to his bishop vs. knight, plus a strong passer on d5. Nevertheless, Magnus Carlsen rushed to convert his advantage and instead things fizzled out and the game ended in a draw.

Final standings

Pairings and schedule

Round 1 (15.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
0 - 1
Naiditsch, Arkadij
Bluebaum, Matthias
½ - ½
Carlsen, Magnus
Aronian, Levon
½ - ½
Meier, Georg
Hou, Yifan
1 - 0
Caruana, Fabiano
 
Round 2 (16.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Naiditsch, Arkadij
0 - 1
Caruana, Fabiano
Meier, Georg
0 - 1
Hou, Yifan
Carlsen, Magnus
½ - ½
Aronian, Levon
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
1 - 0
Bluebaum, Matthias
 
Round 3 (17.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Bluebaum, Matthias
0 - 1
Naiditsch, Arkadij
Aronian, Levon
1 - 0
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
Hou, Yifan
½ - ½
Carlsen, Magnus
Caruana, Fabiano
1 - 0
Meier, Georg
 
Round 4 (19.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Naiditsch, Arkadij
½ - ½
Meier, Georg
Carlsen, Magnus
½ - ½
Caruana, Fabiano
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
1 - 0
Hou, Yifan
Bluebaum, Matthias
0 - 1
Aronian, Levon
 
Round 5 (20.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Aronian, Levon
1 - 0
Naiditsch, Arkadij
Hou, Yifan
½ - ½
Bluebaum, Matthias
Caruana, Fabiano
½ - ½
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
Meier, Georg
0 - 1
Carlsen, Magnus
 
Round 6 (21.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Naiditsch, Arkadij
½ - ½
Carlsen, Magnus
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
½ - ½
Meier, Georg
Bluebaum, Matthias
½ - ½
Caruana, Fabiano
Aronian, Levon
1 - 0
Hou, Yifan
 
Round 7 (22.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Hou, Yifan
½ - ½
Naiditsch, Arkadij
Caruana, Fabiano
½ - ½
Aronian, Levon
Meier, Georg
½ - ½
Bluebaum, Matthias
Carlsen, Magnus
½ - ½
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime

Links

You can use ChessBase 14 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs to replay the games in PGN. You can also download our free Playchess client, which will in addition give you immediate access to the chess server Playchess.com.



Elshan Moradiabadi is a GM born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He moved to the US in 2012. Ever since, he has been active in US college chess scenes and in US chess. is a veteran instructor and teaches chess to every level, with students ranging from beginners to IM. He can be contacted for projects or teaching.
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lajosarpad lajosarpad 4/24/2017 09:46
@Fmeca, thank you very much, I was searching for a while for the title I heard until I gave up.
The_Tenant The_Tenant 4/24/2017 02:05
Magnus should try a man bun next time. Google "putin man bun" for an example.
joshuar joshuar 4/23/2017 08:17
Poor Magnus. Another second place finish with a positive score; another loss of ELO.
fmeca fmeca 4/23/2017 02:37
@lajosarpad ahah! good one! Anyway, it's "Boost your chess"
Augusta2022 Augusta2022 4/23/2017 01:13
Magnus should get a haircut, his afro-style wanna be doesn't suit him.
Oxygen33 Oxygen33 4/23/2017 12:49
Naiditsch, Arkadij is playing for Azerbaican. Standing flag is not correct
lajosarpad lajosarpad 4/23/2017 11:59
Is the book of Yusupov called Pussy or chess, or did I mishear it or Hou Yifan did not recall the name of the book correctly?
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