GCT Leuven: So with a solid start

by André Schulz
6/13/2018 – Wesley So had the best start on the first day of the rapid tournament in Leuven and leads after wins over Caruana and Mamedyarov and a draw netting him 2½ points, using traditional scoring. Sergey Karjakin and Levon Aronian trail with 2 points. Rapid game point tallies will, however, count double in the final standings. | Photos: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

My Black Secrets in the Modern Italian My Black Secrets in the Modern Italian

The Italian Game is considered a sound but quiet opening without early trades, giving rise to rich positions where plans are more important than forced variations. So shows black's plans on this DVD.


Grand Chess Tour 2018

The GCT started in the magnificent town hall of the Belgian city of Leuven on Tuesday with three rapid games. The tournament series, which started in 2015 as an initiative of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis advised by Garry Kasparov, aims to pit the best ten players against one another in a series of tournaments following the example of the Grand Slam tennis series. The latest incarnation of an idea which has been tried several times over the years was originally seen as a competing series for the FIDE Grand Prix, following the unsuccessful run by Kasparov for President of FIDE in 2014. The FIDE Grand Prix has persisted through periods of uncertainty and underwent a format change in the last edition, which was not necessarily an improvement in terms of the excitement of the tournaments. The Grand Chess Tour, by comparison, has never suffered from that criticism.

Originally, three classical tournaments in Stavanger, St. Louis and London formed the backbone of the Grand Chess Tour for its first year, which hoped to expand to a fourth country or even continent. But the Norwegians decided to go their own way the following year, continuing Norway Chess as an independent tournament, and in its place, rapid chess and blitz tournaments in Paris and Leuven were added in 2016. A third rapid and blitz event in St. Louis was included last year, along with the debut of a new rating system, so shorter time-controls currently make up the majority of events in the series.

The merit of the basic idea of always inviting players of roughly equal strength is debatable. The Tata Steel Chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee, for example, thrives on the fact that its field is more eclectic. That makes for more decisive games — including upsets. Instead, the Grand Chess Tour (like Norway Chess) aims to invite only the best players in the world.

playing hall

The venue is the City Hall of Leuven

The elephant not in the room 

Speaking of the best, if you look at the list of participants of the Grand Chess Tour 2018, then, of course, one name is missing: Magnus Carlsen. Without the World Champion, the 2018 field lacks a bit of the radiance of past years, even if the other players are nevertheless world class. But the World Champion is the World Champion and his dominance over his peers in shorter time-controls even greater than in classical chess. (Just look at the rating list.)

The tournaments played in Leuven and Paris are scheduled in quick succession (though the opposite order from past years), and begin with three days of rapid chess, followed by two games of blitz games. The results are combined to a total score, with the rapid games counting double. The whole tournament will also be part of the overall ranking in the Grand Chess Tour.

The first day's winner was Wesley So. The US grandmaster, who just days ago suffered a bad mishap against Caruana in Stavanger, started with a first-round win over the US number one and followed it up by beating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and drawing with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Against Caruana, in a long and interesting Ruy Lopez game, So, playing black, gradually gained the upper hand on the queenside and before shifting to a crushing attack on the kingside.


Wesley So speaks to Maurice Ashley after his first-round win | STLChessClub YouTube

Sergey Karjakin and Levon Aronian are close behind with one victory and two draws apiece. Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Alexander Grischuk, Anish Giri and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov form the broad middle of the field with 1½ points. With the exception of Vachier-Lagrave, all these players have won a game, lost one and played a draw. The Frenchman has played all three games to a draw.

With a draw and two defeats, Viswanathan Anand and Fabiano Caruana are currently at the bottom of the table.


With 40 ... c5 Black forced the exchange of queens and thereby increased his advantage.

Mamedyarov could have come away with two wins but missed a change in his game against Anish Giri.


With 27.Rxh7! Kxh7 28.Rh1 Kg8 29.Rh6 White could have won easily. He instead played 27.Rc5 and the game ended in a quick move repetition.

Standings after three rounds (with double point-scoring)


Round-up show

Games of Day 1


Commentary webcast

Commentary by Yasser Seirawan, Jovanka Houska, Alejandro Ramirez (St. Louis)
Maurice Ashley and Nigel Short (Leuven)

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson



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


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