Grenke Classic: Magnus grinds a second win

by Antonio Pereira
4/22/2019 – Another epic battle ended up with Magnus Carlsen on top at the 2019 GRENKE Chess Classic — his victim on Sunday was Francisco Vallejo Pons, who was not able to withhold the world champion's pressure in a complex endgame. Veterans Vishy Anand and Peter Svidler also won in round two to reach 1½/2 and stand half a point behind the leader. Vishy will have the black pieces against Magnus on Monday. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

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Decisively strong

We named the last report from this year's Shamkir supertournament "Magnus makes it five", referring to the amount of wins he had obtained in Azerbaijan. By that time, his last round win over Alexander Grischuk was his third straight victory. Now, after having won his first two encounters in Karlsruhe, Magnus has "made it five" again...despite having started the single round robin with two Blacks.

The games from Shamkir have not been officially reported yet, but his 9 out of 11 so far in April has resulted in him gaining exactly twenty rating points, reaching an exorbitant 2865 mark, twenty-four points short of his historical record. Norwegian journalist Tarjei J. Svensen keeps track of all relevant stats about Carlsen and, before the event began, he pointed out the score Magnus would need to surpass his rating record...which now seems slightly less unreachable, given the fact that the world champion has four games with White left.

The new — more ambitious — version of Magnus surely welcomed the fact that his record against Paco Vallejo in classical chess does not include any draws. Before their Sunday encounter, the world champion had defeated Vallejo four times and lost on two occasions. As you might have already noticed, his win in round two, again, "made it five" for Magnus...

After twelve moves of a Ruy Lopez, the Norwegian decided to challenge Paco's setup by harassing White's bishop with a somewhat surprising advance:

 

Typical manoeuvres like 12...♜e8 or 12...♝g4 are perfectly playable in this position, but Magnus decided to go for the more challenging 12...g5, weakening his king indefinitely. Vallejo gave up the bishop pair with 13.xd6 xd6 and the queens were immediately exchanged. Black had a shattered pawn structure, but the initiative was also on his side.

Francisco Vallejo Pons

No draws in this match-up | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Carlsen played actively, advancing his d-pawn as quickly as possible to get rid of his position's structural issues, while creating problems for his rival. Vallejo, meanwhile, was having trouble dealing with the complexities of the position, which pushed him to spend way too much time from his clock. Each side had a rook, a knight, a bishop and two pawns, when Paco made a slight yet costly mistake:

 

The computer gives 37.a3 as the most accurate. From a human point of view, this choice also would have given White counterplay on the queenside after capturing Black's b-pawn, which, in hindsight, would have been very helpful. Instead, after 37.e3 d2+ 38.h3 d3, Magnus has a free hand to put pressure on White's position.

Paco managed to get rid of all the pawns left on the board, increasing his drawing chances, but needed to give up an exchange in order to do so:

 

White's only choice is to give up the rook for the knight with 50.xf4+ xf4 and the tablebases dictate that, with perfect play, Black can give mate...in 54 moves! Defending such a position against an endgame virtuoso is not easy, however. Paco failed to find the most stubborn defensive resources and gave up the point after 73 moves. A second lengthy victory for the world champion. 


Endgame analysis with Magnus Carlsen and Jan Gustafsson


Anand and Svidler score

While Carlsen needed over six hours to get both his wins so far, Vishy Anand and Peter Svidler managed to score on Sunday in around forty moves each. Anand inflicted Vincent Keymer his second loss of the event and Svidler got the better off the always ambitious Arkadij Naiditsch.

Keymer bravely played the Najdorf against Vishy, despite the fact that the former world champion has always been one of the strongest practitioners of the Sicilian. Thus, the opening did not go well for the German youngster, as White was the one with all the positional trumps in the middlegame. In the post-game interview, Vishy pointed out that after 24...f4 he had a clear advantage:

 

After 25.xf4 exf4 Anand had 26.e6, a concrete manoeuvre that clearly showed who was on top. From that point on, it was all Vishy, who obtained a strong pawn phalanx on the queenside, which provoked Vincent to give up shortly after the time control:

 

There is no way anybody can survive this against Vishy.

Vishy Anand

A Sicilian expert from Madras | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Meanwhile, Svidler was facing Naiditsch's Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez. As noted by Peter afterwards, Arkadij does not play this — or any other — opening looking for a quick way to split the point, but instead as an attempt to get a game and go all in for the win. This time, however, the Azeri did not handle his position precisely and faced a ruthless Svidler, who kept putting pressure on his opponent's weak e4-pawn:

 

The player from Saint Petersburg calmly rerouted his knight to d6 with 30...d8, 31...b7 and 32...d6, creating more threats against White's vulnerable central structure. With all the positional advantages on his side, Black went on to push his h-pawn and calculate a precise way to break his opponent's defences. 

 

Black's knight and queen are attacked, but 37...b5 is enough to keep all the material advantage, and some more. Naiditsch resigned after 38.c2 c4 39.e6 xe3.

Peter Svidler

Peter Svidler | Photo: Georgios Souleidis


Round-up show

GM Yannick Pelletier takes a look at the highlights of Round 2
(Due to a technical hiccup, this video breaks after 26 minutes)


All games

 

Links




Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.
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Álvaro Pereira Álvaro Pereira 4/23/2019 04:31
If the tablebases say there is a mate in 54 moves, it doesn't mean that there is not a win (even against the most correct defence) under the 50-moves rule, as my homonymous A. Pereira and D. King seem to think. In fact, those 54 moves probably will occur after some capture on the latter stages (for instance, White can sacrifice a piece to postpone the mate).
Álvaro Pereira Álvaro Pereira 4/23/2019 04:29
If the tablebases say there is a mate in 54 moves, it doesn't mean that there is not a win (even against the most correct defence) under the 50-moves rule, as my homonymous A. Pereira and D. King seems to think. In fact, those 54 moves probably will occur after some capture on the latter stages (for instance, White can sacrifice a piece to postpone the mate).
TommyCB TommyCB 4/22/2019 11:04
Yannick Pelletier at 15:20/26:51

"This should normally be a draw, but there are 2 factors here."

Actually, as Magnus said after the game, with this endgame and opposite colored bishops, it is always a win, and as he also said, it sometimes requires more than 50 moves.

"If the king was in the center and the Bishop somewhere and the Knight safe, we could probably sign a draw agreement." -YP

I went to another web site and entered the following:



And it says "Win with DTZ 138", meaning 138 ply, so more than 50 moves. So Magnus was correct! It is ALWAYS a win, but sometimes it is a "cursed win".
Lilloso Lilloso 4/22/2019 04:47
Young V. Keymer will suffer a lot in this tournament. I wonder if it was such a great idea for him to take part in.
thirteen thirteen 4/22/2019 12:58
You are correct, upon restart, embarrassed I AM!
thirteen thirteen 4/22/2019 12:51
Oh boy! Am I WRONG here? If so I apologise with HUGE embarrassment and humiliation. But don't I see a misplaced queen which should be on the d file and on another game a knight takes on e3, when it should have been a3? I am just some REALLY old and REALLY amateur 2100 ELO guy, but offer ME a [well paying] job doing this. I could do BETTER! SACK the writer! Sorry for the rant.
macauley macauley 4/22/2019 12:36
@thirteen - There was evidently some kind of glitch inputting the diagram FEN which shifted the king and rook by a file. Now fixed.
thirteen thirteen 4/22/2019 12:22
12... a rook move to the e file, or 12... a bishop move to the g file? Doesn't anyone proof read these moves? Accuracy in chess move reporting is far more essential and expected, than other types of reading. Don't you THINK? Come on you guys, this is as poor as some chess board positioned WITHOUT the WHITE square in the right hand corner. How can I even begin to explain it away, to any lesser amateur? On a Magnus Carlsen World Champion game too. LAUGHABLE!
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