GCT Paris: Three lead after three rounds

by André Schulz
6/21/2018 – The second leg of the Grand Chess Tour has begun, with three rapid chess rounds played in Paris today. After the first third of the rapid round-robin, Viswanathan Anand, Levon Aronian and Wesley So are in the lead with 4 points each. Paris, like the tournament in Leuven last week, uses double-points scoring for the rapid games, which will be combined with the scores in the blitz tournament this weekend to produce an overall winner. Photos: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

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Chess is on TV

The idea of the Grand Chess Tour is to let the ten best players, if available, play against each other in a series of round-robin tournaments. Now you might think that it would create a certain monotony if the same players compete against each other time and time again, but so far this has not been the case. In the first leg in Leuven, the ten participants in the combined rapid chess and blitz tournament showed themselves in the best fighting moods and often set off fireworks of challenging chess in their rapid chess and blitz games.

As a spectator, you are almost in the middle of it. The Grand Chess Tour has set standards in terms of presentation and commentary. In the studio in St. Louis, the eloquent Yasser Seirawan, grand seigneur of the tour commentary, and the charming and knowledgeable Jovanka Houska are supported by lightning fast analyses of Alejandro Ramirez. On site, Maurice Ashley talks to the players to learn first-hand what went through their minds during the games. Top quality video from the playing hall / TV studio, makes the tension palpable.

The French television channel Canal Plus is a partner of the Grand Chess Tour and both hosts the tournament and shows a daily one-hour highlight show condensing the rounds of the day. Here you can see that chess is quite suitable for TV if you present it in a TV-friendly manner.

French commentary

IM Almira Skripchenko and GM Yannick Pelletier are among the hosts of the French broadcast | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Wesley So travelled from Leuven as the winner of that tournament, and after a few days off, the identical format awaits viewers over the next several days. A European double-feature, so to speak, before the tour moves to the USA for the third and fourth events in Saint Louis including the classical time control of the Sinquefield Cup, which will finally allow the commentators can take a deep breath between moves. At the end of the year, some of the players will return to London. The London Chess Classic forms the final event — a mini-knockout — in December. As you will have noticed, Magnus Carlsen is missing from the tour, but the World Champion will of course also be in London in advance of the Classic, along with Fabiano Caruana.

The players in Paris are the same as in Leuven — almost — there is a single "wildcard". In Leuven, Belgium, that was the Dutch number one Anish Giri. In Paris, the "local" player is the Russian Vladimir Kramnik, who is married to a French journalist and lived in Paris for ten years, although now resides in Geneva, Switzerland.

Round 1

Wesley So has obviously been able to preserve his good form from Leuven: In the first round, he defeated Fabiano Caruana.

 

So put Caruana's kingside under pressure out of a London system. The World Championship challenger salvaged a rook ending with a pawn down but drawing chances. In the diagram position, both rooks are attacked. Caruana on move needed to play 61...Rh2, White then draws with 62.Rc3. But Caruana moved 61...Rb2, after which 62.c6 wins. The pawn is unstoppable.

Also earning himself two points in the opening round (remember the rapid chess games count double) was Levon Aronian who prevailed against Alexander Grischuk.

 

Black reacted with 31...Re7 to handle the attack on his rook, but the piece was lost in the crowd after 32.Rd8+ Kh7 33.Bd6.

Grischuk

Ugh! | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Results of Round 1

 

Click or tap any result to jump directly to the game


Round 2

In a rematch of the 2008 World Championship encounter, Viswanathan Anand defeated Vladimir Kramnik. The 14th world champion had offered his successor a Spanish Berlin defence (which was thankfully declined) and then turned into a middlegame with castling on opposite sides.

Anand and Kramnik

Former World Champions know each other well | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

But soon the game slipped out of Kramnik's hands.

 

In the chart position, Anand advanced 36.c5 and reached an already-winning position. After taking on c5 followed by 37.Qc4 (threatening a nasty check on e6 not to mention a rook) there followed 38.Rgb1. White won in a few moves.

At the next table, the So-express train was thwarted by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. 

 

So played here 41...Re2 and the opposite-coloured bishops ending proved to be inadequate for So to hold. White got the black h-pawn and his own h-pawn was very, very fast.

Results of Round 2

 

Click or tap any result to jump directly to the game


Round 3

Wesley So was well recovered from his loss to Mamedyarov in the third round and won his game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Wesley So

Wesley So | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

With 1.Nf3 c5 2.b3 So avoided a Najdorf variation, and later in a somewhat curious game, the US grandmaster gave his queen for rook and bishop and then gained still more material thanks to pressure.

 

The pawn on c5 is dropping. Black to move, gave up. 

Meanwhile, Vladimir Kramnik took Shakhriyar Mamedyarov to the mat.

 

This rook endgame is not one you would like to be defending against Kramnik. The game ended seven moves later.

The third victory of the round was scored by Alexander Grischuk with black against Fabiano Caruana.

 

White just captured a pawn on d5. Black replied with the startling 27...Rxf3! After 28.gxf3 Qxf3 he threatened 29...Nxf2 and the rook hangs on d5.

Results of Round 3

 

Click or tap any result to jump directly to the game


Standings after three rounds

 

Round-up show

GM Erwin l'Ami looks at the highlights of the first day.

All games of rounds one to three

 

Commentary webcast

Commentary by Yasser Seirawan, Jovanka Houska, Alejandro Ramirez (St. Louis)
Maurice Ashley and Romain Edouard (Paris)

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson

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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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