GCT Paris: So steps up the scoreboard

by André Schulz
6/21/2018 – After the second day of the GCT rapid tournament in Paris, as in Leuven last week, Wesley So has taken the lead again. Today, the US Grandmaster won two games and played one draw. In the live Rapid Elo list So has now gained 86 points and is second behind Magnus Carlsen. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Opening package: 1.b3 and Black Secrets in the Modern Italian Opening package: 1.b3 and Black Secrets in the Modern Italian

Wesley So published two new opening DVDs: 1.b3, the so called Nimzo-Larsen-Attack, for White and his black secrets in the modern Italian. Get them in a package and save money!


Wesley So scores more

Today's action in Paris started early at 12:00 Noon local time because at 17:00 the game France against Peru got underway at the World Cup and, well, football (soccer) takes priority over chess for the official partner Canal Plus.

France won the game 1-0, incidentally, while the Frenchman in the field — Maxime Vachier-Lagrave — by contrast is winless through six games, tied for places 7-9. Bringing up the rear, however, is Fabiano Caruana, who can't say he's been distracted by patriotic fervour for the action on the pitch — the USA didn't even qualify this time around.

Football aside, the second day of the Grand Chess Tour in Paris was chock full of rounds four to six of the rapid tournament. The first three rounds left three leaders: Anand, Aronian and So.


MVL was the favourite of the American commentary team going into Paris | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Round 4

The fourth round began in a lively fashion and brought forth four decisive games. Wesley So continued his triumphal march and scored the full (two) point(s) against Vladimir Kramnik (the rapid chess games count double). In a symmetrical English variation, the game quickly picked up in the middlegame, with complications favouring So:


Here followed 22...Qe2, which threatens 23...Ne3. After 23.Bc1 Bf8 the b5-knight found itself in distress.

The game between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Levon Aronian was balanced for a long time. But then Mamedyarov was either too optimistic or too careless.


Move the pieces on the live diagram!

On the 31st move, it was essential for Mamedyarov to find the devilish line 31.Qxa6 Rxa6 32.Rxe6! (of course not 32.Rxa6 Qxf3 when White can't take on e6 due to Qg4+) Rxe6 33.Ng5+ Kh6 34.Rc8! when black is forced to give up his queen for the knight or else go for a beautiful stalemate trick with 34...Re8 35.Rxe8 and, for instance, 35...Qxf2+ draw!

Instead, he played 31.Qd7 and after swapping the rooks on d6 followed by an exchange of minor pieces, his king fell under attack from the two black heavy pieces. After that the traffic was all going Aronian's way.

Hardly anyone wants to play the Grünfeld defence against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave these days. The French GM is just too good at it. A popular current fashion to circumvent the line is to play with e3 and Be2. Against Alexander Grischuk, Vachier-Lagrave could probably never fully gain compensation in a Benoni structure, but he had some counterplay. Then, however, the Frenchman slipped up:


Vachier-Lagrave played 28...d4 and lost a point after 29.Rxg7 Qxg7 30.Rxe6.

The most surprising reversal of the tournament, probably the entire Grand Chess Tour 2018, came in the game of Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana. After 50 moves, the pair reached this endgame position.


Looks like a draw, right? But the game continued and on the 81st move, Caruana lost a pawn.


82.Bxh5 wins a pawn. Black can not take h5 because of the fork on f5. Finally, Nakamura won a second pawn and then the game, but it wasn't until move 123 that Caruana gave up.


Is Fabiano Caruana daydreaming? | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Results of Round 4


Round 5

Looking at the results of round five, it's almost unbelievable to find a number 1 beside the name of Wesley So — it was his fourth win in the five games. The victim this time was Alexander Grischuk. The game was played on the terrain of a rather complicated variation of the Gruenfeld defence. After ten moves this position was reached:


From the complications that followed So emerged up an exchange in a better endgame, over which fans will enjoy exploring the exploitation of his material advantage:


There followed 35.e4 fxe4 36.Rxe4 etc.


Mamedyarov suffered two losses today | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

The second victory of the round was celebrated by Sergey Karjakin, who got some revenge of sorts for his last round loss in Leuven against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, that cost the former the tournament victory.


White played 29.Rg3, after which 30.Qe5, but also 30.Bd3 was threatened and he profited from the initiative against the weak black kingside.

The remaining three games ended in a draw.

Results of Round 5


TV studio

The French commentary set looks pretty slick | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Round 6

In the final round, Levon Aronian and Wesley So drew, allowing So to keep his lead, while Aronian is second. 

Karjakin defeated Vladimir Kramnik and for the former's second successive victory.


With 35...Qg6 Karjakin mounted an irresistible attack: The next moves after 36.Bxf8 were 36...Rxg4 (threatening Rxg3) 37.Qe1 Rh4 and the game did not last long.

Results of Round 6


Wesley So leads the tournament and has moved to number two in the world rankings after netting 86 Elo points in the live rapid rating list so far!

Live rating list

So far, so good for Wesley, although Anand is in the red | Source: 2700chess.com

Standings after six rounds


Round-up show

Note: We're aware of some technical issues with the video, so you may wish to resize the board/video windows

Commentary webcast

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

All games rounds 1-6


Translation from German: Macauley Peterson


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


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