Grand Chess Tour - Leuven: Wesley So storms first day

by Alex Yermolinsky
6/29/2017 – Day One of the Leuven stage of the Grand Chess Tour, held in Leuven, Belgium, was already a significant departure from Paris, which ended just days before. Whereas World Champion Magnus Carlsen had run away with the Rapid stage, while Wesley So, the world no. 2, had displayed tepid form, things took an about face on Day One in Belgium. Wesley So was in superb form, scoring 2.5/3, including a convincing win over Magnus Carlsen himself. Report and analysis by GM Alex Yermolinsky.

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The Leuven tournament of the Grand Chess Tour is running from June 28 to July 2 in Leuven, Belgium. It is a combination of Rapid and Blitz games. The ten participants are Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Viswanathan Anand, Wesley So, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian, Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Vassily Ivanchuk, and Baadur Jobava. They will play nine rapid games, three a day, from June 28–30. Each day the games will start at 14:00h, 15:30h and 17:00h European Standard Summer Time. The Blitz tournament is on July 1-2, with nine rounds on each day, starting at 14:00h. The total prize fund is $150,000!

Note that the event is using the Bronstein mode: the players have 25 minutes for all the moves of a rapid game, and a ten second delay per move. This means that the clock does not run for ten seconds – the point is that you cannot accumulate time by playing very quickly in the Bronstein Mode.

Day one

All photos by Lennart Ootes

The opening round of the the 2nd Grand Chess Tour stage gave a quick answer to the question of fatigue affecting some of the players. On the contrary, all three guys who played in Paris, Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrace and Wesley So, won their games, and the same went for Ian "Nepo" Nepomniachtchi who came to Leuven all the way from Khanty-Mansiysk.

Round one

Magnus Carlsen-Levon Aronian was the most anticipated encounter, given Levon 's recent victories at the Grenke Classic and Norway Chess, and both times ahead of Magnus, who was participating. To answer the call, Magnus once again showed who's the boss in the factory.

Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian meet the VIP guests as the games get ready to start

Magnus Carlsen - Levon Aronian

[Event "Your Next Move GCT 2017-Rapid"] [Site "Leuven"] [Date "2017.06.28"] [Round "1"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E49"] [WhiteElo "2832"] [BlackElo "2793"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "97"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3 d5 6. a3 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3 dxc4 8. Bxc4 c5 9. Ne2 Qc7 10. Ba2 b6 11. O-O Ba6 12. Bb2 ({More commonly seen is} 12. Re1 Nc6 13. Ng3 Rad8 14. Bb2 {and now Black chooses between} Na5 ({and} 14... e5)) 12... Nc6 13. Rc1 Rfd8 ({Interesting was} 13... Ng4 $5 {trying to provoke some weakening moves. After} 14. g3 Rad8 15. c4 Nge5 16. f4 Ng4 {White's position looks a bit shaky.}) 14. c4 $1 {This was Carlsen's plan all along, that's why he didn't bother with escaping the pin on the a6-f1 diagonal.} cxd4 15. exd4 Ng4 {A bit late for this idea to be successful.} ({The most principled answer was} 15... b5 $1 {as} 16. d5 bxc4 17. Bxc4 Bxc4 18. Rxc4 exd5 19. Rc2 Qd6 {led White nowhere in Tregubov-Gharamian, 2017}) 16. Ng3 Qf4 {[#]} 17. h3 $1 {No fear.} ({The same idea can be re-packaged in} 17. d5 exd5 18. h3) 17... Nf6 (17... Nxf2 18. Rxf2 Qxg3 19. d5 $1 {A typical break in the hanging pawns formations, known since Keres's and Taimanov's games in the 1950's. The power of the white bishops is unleashed, e.g.} Ne7 20. Qh5 Rf8 21. Rf3 Qd6 22. c5 $1 bxc5 23. dxe6 fxe6 24. Qg4 $16) 18. Ne2 Qh4 19. d5 $1 exd5 20. cxd5 Ne7 21. Re1 $1 {It took Magnus over 5 minutes to settle on this move, and it's a good one.} (21. d6 Nf5) 21... Nexd5 22. Nd4 Bb7 23. Nf3 (23. Nf5 Qf4 24. Re5 { threatening g2-g3, was also quite promising for White, who anticipates} Ne3 25. Qb3 Nxf5 26. Qxf7+ Kh8 27. Qxb7) 23... Qh6 24. Ne5 {[#] Picturesque. White is down a pawn and makes no threats, but it is Black who finds this position difficult to handle.} Rf8 25. Nc6 Bxc6 ({There was a tactical solution to Black's problems,} 25... Nf4 26. Re7 Rae8 $1 27. Rxb7 Qg5 28. g3 Nxh3+ 29. Kf1 Nxf2 {but Levon missed it.}) 26. Rxc6 Rad8 27. Qf3 Qd2 28. Re2 {[#]} Qf4 $2 { Blunder.} (28... Qd1+ 29. Kh2 Nf4 $1 {would help Black to get the queens off} 30. Re3 ({White gets no more than a draw out of} 30. Qxf4 Qxe2 31. Bxf6 gxf6 32. Qxf6 Qxa2 33. Rc3 Qb1 34. Rg3+ Qg6) 30... Qxf3 31. Rxf3 N6d5 {reaching a tenable position.}) 29. Rxf6 $1 gxf6 30. Bxd5 Qxf3 31. Bxf3 $18 Rfe8 32. Rc2 Rc8 33. Rxc8 Rxc8 34. Bxf6 b5 35. Kf1 a5 36. Ke2 b4 37. axb4 axb4 38. Bd5 Rc5 39. Bb3 Rc6 40. Bd4 Kf8 41. Kd3 Ke7 42. Ke4 Rc1 43. Kd5 Kd7 44. h4 Re1 45. g3 f5 46. Be3 Ke7 47. Kc4 Kf6 48. Kxb4 Ke5 49. Bc2 1-0

When I play this game over I visualize Carlsen leaning back in his chair with his feet up on his desk and a fat stogie stuck in his mouth.

The playing hall is a sight to behold

Wesley So took full advantage of Vladimir Kramnik's cavalier approach to the problem of defending a somewhat inferior endgame. The double pawn sac attempted by Vlad was thwarted by Wesley's calm and collected play.

Wesley So - Vladimir Kramnik

[Event "Your Next Move GCT 2017-Rapid"] [Site "Leuven"] [Date "2017.06.28"] [Round "1"] [White "So, Wesley"] [Black "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2812"] [BlackElo "2808"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "123"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 d5 6. Nbd2 dxe4 7. dxe4 O-O 8. O-O a5 9. Bxc6 bxc6 10. Nxe5 Re8 11. Nxc6 Qd7 12. Nd4 Bxd4 13. cxd4 Qxd4 14. Nb3 Qxd1 15. Rxd1 Nxe4 16. f3 a4 17. Nd4 Nc5 18. Nb5 Ne6 19. Nc3 Bb7 20. Kf2 c5 21. Be3 f5 22. f4 Bc6 23. Rd6 Rac8 24. Rc1 Kf7 25. Ne2 Bb5 26. Nc3 Bc6 27. Ne2 Bb5 28. Ng1 {[#]The knight is headed for e5, and Kramnik just lost his cool.} g5 $6 ({Both} 28... Bc6 29. Nf3 Bxf3 30. Kxf3 Rb8 31. Rd2 Rb4) ({and} 28... Red8 29. Rxd8 Rxd8 30. Nf3 Rd5 31. Ne5+ Kf6 {were sufficient to continue on equal terms.}) 29. fxg5 a3 $2 {It's just too much.} 30. bxa3 Ra8 (30... f4 31. Bxf4 Nxf4 32. Rf6+ Kg7 33. Rxf4) 31. Rc3 Ra4 32. Rb6 $6 (32. Nf3 {would leave Black no chance.}) 32... f4 33. Rxb5 Nxg5 34. Rb7+ Kg8 $2 ({After the correct} 34... Kf6 35. Rb6+ (35. Rxc5 fxe3+ 36. Ke1 Rxa3) 35... Kf7 36. Kf1 fxe3 37. Ne2 Ne4 {Black can put up stiff resistance.}) 35. Rxc5 fxe3+ 36. Ke1 {The king finds shelter behind the enemy pawn.} Rg4 37. g3 Ne4 38. Rc4 Rg6 39. Rbb4 Nd6 40. Rc6 Nf5 41. Rc5 Nd6 42. Nf3 Ne4 43. Re5 Nf6 44. Rxe8+ Nxe8 45. Re4 Nc7 46. Rxe3 Ra6 47. Nd4 Nd5 48. Rf3 Nf6 49. Kd2 Kf7 50. Nb5 Kg6 51. Rf4 h5 52. a4 Ng4 53. h3 Ne5 54. Kc3 Rc6+ 55. Kd4 Nf7 56. Kd5 Rc2 57. a3 Rd2+ 58. Rd4 Rb2 59. Rb4 Rd2+ 60. Nd4 Ng5 61. a5 Nf3 62. a6 1-0

The best game of the round belonged to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who downed Vassily Ivanchuk in an instructive endgame.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - Vassily Ivanchuk

[Event "Your Next Move GCT 2017-Rapid"] [Site "Leuven"] [Date "2017.06.28"] [Round "1"] [White "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Ivanchuk, Vassily"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C41"] [WhiteElo "2795"] [BlackElo "2738"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "75"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5. Bc4 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. a4 a5 { Somewhat old-fashioned.} ({Modern games often see} 7... c6 8. Re1 b6 9. Bg5 a6 10. d5 {Karjakin-Eljanov, 2010}) 8. Re1 c6 9. Ba2 Re8 10. h3 Bf8 11. Be3 h6 12. Nh4 (12. Nd2 exd4 13. Bxd4 Ne5 14. f4 Ng6 15. Qf3 Be6) 12... exd4 (12... d5 $1 {is critical, as in Yakovich-Bortnik, 2014}) 13. Bxd4 Nc5 {[#]} 14. Bxc5 $1 { That simple?} dxc5 15. e5 Qxd1 16. Raxd1 Nh5 17. Ng6 $1 {The key to success. White wants the d6-square.} Be6 18. Nxf8 Kxf8 19. Bxe6 Rxe6 20. Rd7 Rb8 21. Re3 $1 g6 22. Rf3 Re7 23. Rxe7 Kxe7 24. Ne4 b6 25. g4 Ng7 26. Nd6 Rf8 {[#]} 27. Rf6 ({Maxime eschewes a clear pawn gaim, available in} 27. Rb3 Rb8 28. Nc4 b5 29. Nxa5) 27... Ne6 28. f4 g5 $2 (28... Nc7 29. c4 Ne6 30. Kf2 {and Black is suffocating.}) ({Perhaps,} 28... b5 {was the only try.}) 29. f5 Nd4 30. Kf2 Nxc2 31. Rxh6 Nb4 32. Ke3 Nd5+ 33. Ke4 Rd8 34. h4 $1 gxh4 35. g5 Rg8 36. Rh7 Rxg5 37. Rxf7+ Kd8 38. e6 1-0

Baadur Jobava's attack against Nepo never took shape as Baadur was shedding pawns left and right. A solid game between Vishy Anand and Anish Giri was the only draw in the opening round.

Round two

Round Two saw a classic battle Kramnik-Anand. Vladimir was able to get the better of his old rival once he engineered his trademark pawn breakthrough in the center.

Vladimir Kramnik - Viswanathan Anand

[Event "Your Next Move GCT 2017-Rapid"] [Site "Leuven"] [Date "2017.06.28"] [Round "2"] [White "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Black "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C54"] [WhiteElo "2789"] [BlackElo "2775"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "77"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. O-O Nf6 5. d3 O-O 6. h3 d6 7. c3 a5 8. Re1 h6 9. Nbd2 Be6 10. a4 Re8 11. Bb5 Bd7 12. Nc4 Nb8 13. Bxd7 Nbxd7 14. Bd2 Nb6 15. b3 c6 16. Rb1 Qc7 17. d4 {[#]} Nxc4 $6 {The double pawns are not going to be there for long.} (17... exd4 18. cxd4 Bb4 19. Bxb4 axb4 20. e5 dxe5 21. dxe5 Red8 22. Qc2 Nfd5 23. Rbd1 $14) 18. bxc4 exd4 (18... Ba7 19. c5 dxc5 20. dxe5 Nd7 21. Bf4 Nf8 22. Nh4 Ne6 23. Bg3 $16) 19. cxd4 Bb4 20. Qc2 c5 21. d5 { It is probably not a very good idea to give Vladimir Kramnik a better pawn structure.} Re7 22. Re3 Rae8 23. Rbe1 Qd8 24. R1e2 Nh5 25. g3 Bxd2 26. Qxd2 Qd7 {[#]} 27. e5 $1 Qxh3 $2 ({The long, semi-forced line,} 27... dxe5 28. Nxe5 Qxa4 29. d6 Re6 30. d7 Rd8 31. Qd5 Nf6 32. Qxb7 Qb4 33. Qc8 Qb8 34. Qxc5 Nxd7 35. Nxd7 Rxd7 36. Rxe6 fxe6 37. Qxa5 {ends in White's advantage.}) 28. exd6 Rxe3 29. Rxe3 Qd7 (29... Rxe3 30. Qxe3 Nxg3 {is refuted by} 31. Nh2 $1) 30. Rxe8+ Qxe8 31. Qxa5 Nf6 32. Qxc5 Qxa4 33. Qc8+ Kh7 34. Qf5+ Kg8 35. Ne5 Qb4 36. d7 Qd6 37. Qf3 b6 38. Kg2 h5 39. Kg1 1-0

Ivanchuk-Carlsen was drawn in a theoretical Marshall, as the players hardly made any new moves.

Levon Aronian won a rather one-sided game against Baadur Jobava, who seems to be looking into a long tournament if things continue this way. It is hard to face the best players in the world, particularly in faster time controls where they are particularly adept.

Wesley So had a sizable edge over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but made a wrong trade at the critical moment.

Wesley So ended up with great winning chances against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Wesley So - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

[Event "Your Next Move GCT 2017-Rapid"] [Site "Leuven"] [Date "2017.06.28"] [Round "2"] [White "So, Wesley"] [Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D85"] [WhiteElo "2789"] [BlackElo "2783"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "120"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Be3 c5 8. Rc1 O-O 9. Qd2 e5 10. d5 Qd6 11. Bd3 f5 12. f3 Nd7 13. Ne2 Nf6 14. c4 fxe4 15. Bxe4 Nxe4 16. fxe4 b6 17. Bf2 Ba6 18. O-O b5 19. cxb5 Bxb5 20. Bxc5 Rxf1+ 21. Kxf1 Qa6 22. Ke1 Bc4 23. Be7 Bf8 24. d6 Bxe7 25. dxe7 Re8 26. Ng1 Bf7 27. Nf3 Rxe7 28. Qb4 Re8 29. a3 Qf6 30. Kf2 g5 31. h3 Bh5 32. Rc7 g4 33. hxg4 Bxg4 34. Qc4+ Be6 35. Qb5 Rf8 36. Kg1 Bg4 37. Qd5+ Kh8 38. Rc6 Qg7 39. Nxe5 Be2 {[#]} 40. Qd4 ({Wesley needed to get the rooks off, therefore} 40. Rc8 $1 Rxc8 41. Nf7+ Kg8 42. Nd6+ Kh8 43. Nxc8 Qa1+ 44. Kf2 $1 (44. Kh2 Qf6 {and Black is threatening perpetual check.}) 44... Qf1+ 45. Ke3 Qc1+ 46. Kxe2 Qxc8 47. Qd6 $1 Kg7 (47... Qg4+ 48. Kf2) 48. Kf3 Qc3+ 49. Kg4 {with big winning chances.}) 40... Kg8 41. Qd5+ Kh8 42. Qc5 Rg8 $1 43. Qf2 Qxe5 44. Qxe2 Re8 {Not bad,} ({ but} 44... Qd4+ 45. Kh2 Qe5+ 46. Kh1 Qa1+ 47. Kh2 $11 {was also there}) 45. Qf3 Qxe4 46. Qxe4 Rxe4 47. Rc8+ Kg7 48. Rc7+ Kg6 49. Rxa7 Re2 $11 50. a4 Ra2 51. a5 h5 52. Kh2 Ra3 53. g3 Ra2+ 54. Kh3 Ra4 55. Ra8 Kg7 56. a6 Kh7 57. Kg2 Ra3 58. Kf2 Kg7 59. Kg2 Kh7 60. Kh3 Ra4 1/2-1/2

Finally, Nepo, fresh off his impressive 2821 performance at the FIDE World Team Championship, won a  really crazy game against Anish Giri, and took an early lead with 2.0/2.

Ian Nepomniachtchi was one of the stars of the World Team Championship and scored the highest performance of any player there. Just a day after it ended in Khanty-Mansiysk, he was in Leuven ready at the Openng ceremony, and gearing to play.

Ian Nepomniachtchi - Anish Giri

[Event "Your Next Move GCT 2017-Rapid"] [Site "Leuven"] [Date "2017.06.28"] [Round "2"] [White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Black "Giri, Anish"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2766"] [BlackElo "2764"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "99"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bd3 g6 7. O-O Bg7 8. Kh1 O-O 9. f4 Nc6 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. f5 a5 {An improvement} ({over Nepo-Duda, World team Ch 2017, played just a few days ago.} 11... Bb7 {etc.}) 12. Qe1 Ba6 13. Qh4 a4 14. Bh6 Bxd3 $1 {Not giving White the time to bring his rook to d1.} 15. cxd3 Qb6 16. fxg6 hxg6 17. Rab1 ({One may suggest} 17. Bxg7 Kxg7 18. Qf2 $15 { as the lesser evil, but Nepo never plays like this.}) 17... a3 $1 {White's position begins to fall apart at the seams.} 18. b4 Qd4 $1 19. Ne2 Qxd3 20. Ng3 Bxh6 21. Qxh6 Nxe4 22. Nxe4 Qxe4 23. Rb3 Qc4 24. Rbf3 Rab8 25. Rf4 {[#]} Qc3 { Giri knew he was winning and decided to play it safe.} ({More decisive was to continue to harass White with queen moves.} 25... Qe2 $1 {Black just needs to make sure he doesn't blunder into mate after} 26. h4 (26. h3 Rxb4) 26... Rxb4 $4 (26... Qh5 $19) 27. Qxg6+ $1 fxg6 28. Rxf8+ Kg7 29. R1f7+ Kh6 30. Rh8#) 26. Rh4 Qg7 27. Qe3 e5 28. Qxa3 d5 29. Qc1 d4 ({Much stronger was} 29... e4 $1 {as} 30. Qxc6 Rxb4 31. Qxd5 {gets hit by} Qf6 $3 $19) 30. a3 Rbc8 31. Qc4 Rfe8 32. Re4 Qf8 33. h4 {Suddenly White managed to make it back into the game.} Kg7 ( 33... c5 34. b5 Qe7 35. h5 Qe6 36. Qc1 Kg7) 34. h5 f5 $2 {[#]} (34... Qe7) 35. hxg6 ({White already had} 35. Rg4 fxg4 36. Rxf8 Rxf8 37. Qe6 gxh5 38. Qxe5+ Kh6 39. Qxd4 $11 {I wonder if Ian saw it and turned it down in favor of continuing tactical play.}) 35... Qf6 36. Kg1 Re6 $2 {Anish lost the handle completely.} ( {It was high time to recall he had the passed d-pawn.} 36... Rcd8 $19) 37. Rh4 Qxg6 38. b5 $1 Rb8 39. a4 Rb7 40. Qc5 Qg5 41. Rh3 Rbe7 $2 42. bxc6 ({Instead,} 42. b6 Rg6 43. Rf2 {would soon queen the a- and b-pawns.}) 42... Rc7 43. Qd5 $2 (43. Rb1 Qe7 44. Qc2 e4 45. Qf2 Rexc6 46. Qxf5 Rg6 47. Qh5 {would quickly put finishing touches on Anish's collapse.}) 43... Rcxc6 44. Kh2 f4 45. Rb1 Qe7 46. Rb8 Rcd6 $2 (46... Qd6 47. Qe4 Rh6 48. Rb7+ Rc7) 47. Qb5 (47. Qb3 $1) 47... Rc6 $2 (47... d3 48. Rb7 d2 49. Rd3 d1=Q $11) 48. Qb3 Qf7 49. Rbh8 Kf6 50. R3h7 { Nepo's fast and loose play is tremendously difficult to deal with. Poor Giri is left scratching his head: how could this game go wrong?} 1-0

It is always tough playing a quick unpredictable player such as Nepomniachtchi. Just ask Anish Giri (above), who was unable to weather the storm in round two.

Round three

The whirlwind continued in Round Three. Once again, only one game was draw, and what a game it was.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - Vladimir Kramnik

[Event "Your Next Move GCT 2017-Rapid"] [Site "Leuven"] [Date "2017.06.28"] [Round "3"] [White "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C54"] [WhiteElo "2783"] [BlackElo "2789"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 O-O 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bh4 Be7 8. Nbd2 d6 9. a4 Nh5 10. Bg3 Nxg3 11. hxg3 {Already, a fresh, unexplored position.} Nb8 12. Nf1 c6 13. Ne3 Na6 $5 {An unorthodox plan of development, designed to support d6-d5.} 14. g4 Nc7 15. Nf5 d5 16. Bb3 Bf6 17. Qe2 Ne6 18. g3 Re8 19. Kf1 b6 20. Kg2 Bb7 21. Rh2 c5 22. Bc2 Rc8 {Vlad is planning a classic strike in the center.} ({Initiating some trades with} 22... Ng5 23. Rah1 Nxf3 24. Qxf3 Bg5 25. Ne3 Bxe3 26. Qxe3 {seemed safer, but Black would still have to worry about g4-g5.}) 23. Rah1 {[#]} c4 $5 24. dxc4 ({In reply to} 24. Qe3 $1 { Kramnik would have to be content with} Bg5 (24... cxd3 {gets busted by} 25. Rxh6 $1 gxh6 26. Qxh6 {threatening Qh7-h8 and mate.}) 25. Nxg5 Qxg5 (25... Nxg5 26. Nxh6+ gxh6 27. Rxh6 {is pretty dangerous for Black.}) 26. Nd6 cxd3 27. Bb3 $1 (27. Bxd3 dxe4 28. Be2 Nf4+ 29. Kf1 Qg6) 27... Qxe3 28. fxe3 Rb8 29. Nxe8 Rxe8 30. Bxd5 Bxd5 31. exd5 Ng5 {with chances to hold in the endgame.}) 24... Rxc4 25. Rd1 Nc5 $6 {Consistent, but not entirely sound tactically.} ({Seeing one of the white rooks leave the h-file Black could have done well with just} 25... Rc5) 26. Nd2 $1 Rxa4 27. b4 $2 ({Maxime wasn't sure about} 27. Bxa4 Nxa4 {but there was} 28. Qb5 Nc5 29. Nd6 $1 $18) 27... Ra2 28. Bb1 Nxe4 $1 {Now Black is winning.} 29. Bxa2 Nxc3 {[#]Having correctly judged his position as lost Maxime embarks on a suicidal mission.} 30. Qf3 e4 31. Nxe4 dxe4 32. Nxh6+ gxh6 33. Qf5 {All hopes hinge on Qg6+} e3+ 34. f3 Bxf3+ $1 35. Qxf3 Nxd1 36. Qf5 Kg7 {It's over, right?} 37. Qh5 Bg5 $4 ({Just one more effort,} 37... Qe7 38. Qxh6+ Kg8 39. Qg6+ Kf8 {was needed to put this game away.}) 38. Qxf7+ Kh8 39. Qg6 {[#] Suddenly Black cannot stop the rook sac on h6.} Re7 (39... Qd2+ 40. Kh3 Qd7 41. Kg2 {is no improvement.}) 40. Rxh6+ Bxh6 41. Qf6+ Bg7 42. Qh4+ Bh6 43. Qf6+ Bg7 44. Qh4+ 1/2-1/2

A big miss for Big Vlad, but I'm sure his fighting spirit will not fade away.

Anish Giri redeemed himself in style by taking down Levon Aronian in the not-so-quiet English Opening.

Anish Giri - Levon Aronian

[Event "Your Next Move GCT 2017-Rapid"] [Site "Leuven"] [Date "2017.06.28"] [Round "3"] [White "Giri, Anish"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A29"] [WhiteElo "2764"] [BlackElo "2780"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "59"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 Bb4 5. Nd5 e4 6. Nh4 O-O 7. Bg2 d6 8. b3 $5 {A new move, but Anish was clearly following up on the ideas from Nakamura-Anand, Candidates 2016} ({that saw} 8. a3 Bc5 9. O-O Re8 10. e3 $3 g5 11. b4 Bb6 12. Bb2) 8... g5 $5 {Levon takes up the gauntlet.} ({If anything,} 8... Bc5 9. Bb2 Bd4 10. Bxd4 Nxd4 11. e3 Nxd5 12. cxd5 Nf5 {was much safer.}) 9. Bb2 Nxd5 10. cxd5 Nb8 $2 {Taking a piece out of action just cannot be right. } (10... Ne5 11. f4 Ng4 $1 (11... e3 12. O-O $1 gxh4 13. fxe5 dxe5 14. Bxe5 $14 ) 12. fxg5 Qxg5 13. Bxe4 Re8 14. Bf3 {would provide Black with counterplay and an option to force a draw afer} Nxh2 15. Rxh2 Qxg3+ 16. Rf2 Qg1+ 17. Rf1 Qg3+) 11. Qc2 $1 {[#]} gxh4 ({On} 11... f5 12. g4 $1 {gives White a crushing attack, e.g.} gxh4 13. gxf5 Bxf5 14. Rg1 Qg5 15. O-O-O) 12. Bxe4 Re8 (12... f5 13. gxh4 Rf6 14. Rg1+ Kf7 15. Bd3 c6 (15... Nd7 16. Bxf5) 16. e3 $1 cxd5 17. Qd1 Rg6 18. Qh5 Qg8 19. Bxf5 $18) (12... f6 13. Bxh7+ Kh8 14. gxh4 Qe7 15. Bg6 {with three pawns for a piece and great attacking prospects White is very happy here.}) 13. Bxh7+ Kf8 14. Qc4 Na6 15. gxh4 Re5 16. Qf4 Qe7 17. Rg1 $1 {One last precise move. For the rest of the game Anish was just collecting bounty.} Rxe2+ 18. Kd1 Rxd2+ 19. Qxd2 Qxh4 20. Rg8+ Ke7 21. Qe3+ Be6 22. dxe6 Qh5+ 23. Kc1 Rxg8 24. exf7+ Kxf7 25. Qf4+ Ke8 26. Bxg8 Nc5 27. Bc4 d5 28. Bb5+ c6 29. Qxb4 Qg5+ 30. Qd2 1-0

Anish Giri present his win over Levon Aronian to Maurice Ashley after, explaining what he saw

I feel bad for Baadur Jobava, but he needs to get a grip on himself.

Baadur Jobava - Vassily Ivanchuk

[Event "Your Next Move GCT 2017-Rapid"] [Site "Leuven"] [Date "2017.06.28"] [Round "3"] [White "Jobava, Baadur"] [Black "Ivanchuk, Vassily"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C15"] [WhiteElo "2703"] [BlackElo "2757"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nge2 dxe4 5. a3 Be7 6. Nxe4 Nf6 7. Nxf6+ Bxf6 8. Be3 O-O 9. Qd2 b6 10. O-O-O Bb7 11. h4 Nd7 12. Nf4 Be7 13. h5 Nf6 14. f3 Qc8 15. Qf2 Rd8 16. Rh3 $2 (16. h6 $142 g6 17. Be2) 16... c5 {[#] Ivanchuk just follows a Caro-Kann counterplay in the center template against Jobava's misplaced K-side ambitions.} 17. Rg3 Qb8 18. Bd3 cxd4 19. Bd2 Bd6 20. Rxg7+ $5 {as good a try as any left in White's disposal.} Kxg7 21. Qh4 h6 (21... Be7 22. Bb4 Rd6 23. h6+ Kf8 24. Qg5) 22. Re1 Re8 23. Nxe6+ (23. Qg3+ Kh8 24. Ng6+ fxg6 25. Qxg6 Qc7 26. Qxf6+ Qg7 $19) 23... fxe6 24. Bxh6+ Kf7 25. Kb1 Rg8 $2 ({ There was nothing wrong with the materialistic} 25... Bg3 26. Qg5 Rg8 27. Bg6+ Ke7 28. Rd1 Qe5) 26. Bg6+ Ke7 27. Bg5 Qf8 {[#]} 28. Qxd4 (28. Qg4 e5 29. Qxd4 { would offer significantly better chances to further muddy the waters.}) 28... Rd8 29. f4 Bc5 30. Qa4 Rd4 31. Qb3 Bd5 32. Qc3 Kd7 33. b4 0-1

Vassily Ivanchuk is always a force to reckon with

Finally, the big game: World no. 1 Magnus Carlsen versus World no. 2 Welsey So. Just a few days ago, Magnus won the Paris stage thanks (among other factors, of course) to his perfect score against Wesley.

The game everyone was waiting for: Carlsen-So

Magnus Carlsen - Wesley So

[Event "Your Next Move GCT 2017-Rapid"] [Site "Leuven"] [Date "2017.06.28"] [Round "3"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E53"] [WhiteElo "2851"] [BlackElo "2789"] [Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"] [PlyCount "102"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventType "rapid"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Nf3 c5 6. Bd3 d5 7. cxd5 exd5 8. dxc5 Bg4 9. O-O Nbd7 10. Bd2 Bxf3 11. Qxf3 Nxc5 12. Bc2 Nce4 13. Bxe4 Nxe4 14. Rfd1 Qa5 15. Nxe4 dxe4 16. Bxb4 Qxb4 17. Qe2 Rfd8 18. h3 g6 19. Rac1 Rxd1+ 20. Rxd1 Rc8 21. b3 h5 22. g4 Qc5 23. Kg2 Qe5 24. Rd4 Kg7 {Not much is happening here.} 25. Qd1 hxg4 26. Qxg4 Rc2 27. Qxe4 (27. Rxe4 Qd5 28. Qf3 Rxa2 29. Rf4 { should be drawn in short order.}) 27... Qg5+ {Suddenly, things begin to heat up.} 28. Kf1 Rxa2 29. Ra4 Rd2 {[#]} 30. Ke1 $6 (30. Rxa7 {looks daring, but Black gets no more than a draw out of} Rd1+ 31. Ke2 Qg1 32. Qe5+ Kh7 33. Ra8 Qf1+ 34. Kf3 Qxh3+ 35. Ke2) ({If anything,} 30. Rd4 {was here to stop all threats.}) 30... Rd5 31. Rd4 Rb5 32. b4 a5 $1 33. h4 $2 {Carlsen was low on time.} (33. bxa5 {and once again, Black's attack on the back rank is not so dangerous.}) 33... Qg1+ 34. Ke2 Rf5 $1 35. f4 {Forcing this weakening move is a big step forward for Black.} Qg4+ 36. Kd3 Qd1+ 37. Kc3 Qc1+ 38. Kd3 {[#]} a4 {In time trouble Wesley wanted to introduce more ideas, now with the passed pawn, to make Magnus's task harder.} ({However, there was a simpler solution.} 38... axb4 39. Rxb4 Rc5 {would threaten mate and force a winning pawn ending:} 40. Qd4+ Kh7 41. Rc4 Rxc4 42. Qxc4 Qf1+ 43. Kd4 Qxc4+ 44. Kxc4 Kh6 45. Kc5 Kh5 46. Kb6 Kxh4 47. Kxb7 Kg4 48. Kc6 Kf3 49. Kd6 Kxe3) 39. Ke2 a3 40. Rd2 $2 (40. Rd8 a2 41. Qd4+ Rf6 42. Ra8 {would have saved the day for Carlsen.}) 40... Qg1 41. Qc4 (41. Rd8 {again.}) 41... Rf6 42. Qd4 a2 43. Rd1 Qg2+ 44. Kd3 Qc6 45. h5 Kh7 $19 46. hxg6+ Rxg6 47. b5 Qxb5+ 48. Kc2 Rg2+ 49. Kc3 Qb2+ 50. Kc4 Rc2+ 51. Kd5 Qb3+ 0-1

This goes to show how quickly one's luck can change.

There will be chances for Carlsen to turn it around, but for now So leads the race with 5.0/6, followed by MVL and Nepo, half-point behind. Remember that the nine Rapid games count double, after which there will be 18 Blitz games worth a point each. In the end, the winner will be the player with the highest combined score.

Rapid crosstable after three rounds

(Click for full size)

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.



Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.
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