Grenke: An exciting start as Carlsen and Caruana face off

by Alex Yermolinsky
4/1/2018 – The 5th Grenke Classic could not have come any sooner, as it features a preview of the upcoming World Championship match. By luck of the draw the two rivals Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana got to play each other in the opening round. While the engine jockeys screamed Carlsen had missed an 'easy win' as they drew, author and annotator GM Alex Yermolinsky shows that this was anything but true. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen

Scarcely any world champion has managed to captivate chess lovers to the extent Carlsen has. The enormously talented Norwegian hasn't been systematically trained within the structures of a major chess-playing nation such as Russia, the Ukraine or China.


Luck of the draw

Obviously, one should not have expected Fabiano to be at his best, as he was understandably fatigued and emotionally spent after accomplishing his lifelong dream of getting a shot at the title later this fall. All the same, Magnus is a notoriously slow starter, who rarely hits his stride until later in the tournament. As a number of pundits noted, this is actually the fourth consecutive time the two are paired against each other in the opening round of a round-robin. The laws of probability can make one’s head spin.

The game, despite some errors, surely did not disappoint. After a shaky opening Caruana scratched and clawed his way to a draw, while Magnus failed to produce his trademark endgame magic.

Fabiano Caruana ½-½ Magnus Carlsen

[Event "5th GRENKE Chess Classic 2018"] [Site "Karlsruhe"] [Date "2018.03.31"] [Round "1"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E61"] [WhiteElo "2804"] [BlackElo "2843"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "117"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. e3 O-O 5. Be2 {The modern Anti-Grunfeld setup. } d6 $5 {A Kings Indian from Magnus!} 6. Nc3 Nc6 7. d5 Nb4 8. a3 $6 {Helping the black knight to re-route to c5 feels wrong.} (8. e4 {is the way to go.}) 8... Na6 {[#]} 9. Nd4 {This only invites action in the center.} ({It's already a bit uncomfortable for White to rely on trusted setups, e.g} 9. e4 e6 10. dxe6 (10. O-O Nc5 11. Qc2 exd5 12. cxd5 Re8 13. Nd2 c6 $1) 10... Bxe6 11. Nd4 Nc5 12. f3 {as the counterplay with} Nh5 {arrives too soon to his taste. Black has a direct threat of Bxd4, followed by Nb3, along with the Qh4 stuff.}) 9... e5 10. dxe6 ({Keeping the position closed with} 10. Nb3 $5 {is more in tune with White's normal play in the King's Indian.}) 10... fxe6 11. O-O e5 12. Nb3 (12. Nf3 c6 13. b4 {feels more natural, although with the time White has wasted it's hard to expect him to get any advantage.}) 12... c6 13. e4 Nc7 14. f4 $5 { Fabiano sends a message to Magnus by not backing down, even if the opening was far from perfect for him.} Ne6 15. f5 {[#]} Nd4 ({Carlsen rejected} 15... Qb6+ {likely on the grounds of} 16. c5 Nxc5 17. Bc4+ $1 (17. Be3 $2 Qxb3 18. Qxb3+ Nxb3 19. Bc4+ Kh8 20. Bxb3 gxf5 21. Rad1 Ne8 {and the two extra pawns ensure Black's victory.}) 17... d5 18. Be3 dxc4 19. Nxc5 Qc7 20. Qe2 Qf7 21. g4 { The resulting position is rather complex. White should have some compensation.} b6 22. N5a4 h6 23. h4 {etc.}) 16. Be3 $6 ({The line} 16. Nxd4 exd4 17. Qxd4 { would invite a repetition of moves:} Ng4 18. Qd3 Qb6+ 19. Kh1 Nf2+ 20. Rxf2 Qxf2 21. Be3 Qh4 22. g3 Qh3 23. Bf1 Qh5 24. Be2) ({Also,} 16. Bd3 Qb6 17. Nxd4 Qxd4+ 18. Kh1 gxf5 19. exf5 e4 {is quite playable for both sides.}) 16... Nxe2+ 17. Qxe2 gxf5 18. exf5 d5 {Black emerges with a better game.} 19. cxd5 cxd5 20. Rad1 d4 21. Bg5 ({Computers entertain the idea of a piece sacrifice,} 21. Nxd4 exd4 22. Bxd4 {but it's rather insufficient.}) 21... Qb6 22. Qc4+ Rf7 23. Na4 Qc7 24. Qxc7 Rxc7 25. Nac5 b6 {[#]} 26. Bxf6 {Fabiano fights on from the worse position while low on time.} (26. Nd3 Ba6 27. Rfe1 Nd7 {is bad for White, just look at his Nb3.}) 26... bxc5 27. Bxg7 Kxg7 28. Nd2 Bb7 29. f6+ Kf8 $5 { Perhaps, a little too fancy.} ({Black had} 29... Kf7 30. Nc4 Ke6 31. Rfe1 e4 32. b4 Rd8 {as a perfectly acceptable alternative.}) 30. Rde1 Re8 31. Ne4 ({Now } 31. Nc4 {is answered by} Ba6) 31... Bxe4 32. Rxe4 c4 {[#] By all rules this endgame should be winning for Black, and we would expect Carlsen's technique to do the job.} 33. g4 Rb8 ({Possible was} 33... d3 34. h4 ({In four rooks endings the king sometimes is no help, as seen from} 34. Kf2 Rb8 35. Rxe5 Rxb2+ 36. Kg3 c3 $19) 34... Kf7 35. g5 Ke6 36. h5 Rg8 37. Rg4 {based on the counterintuitive idea of inviting the white pawns to go forward:} Rb7 38. g6 hxg6 39. hxg6 {and suddenly the black rook returns} Rf7 $3 {with decisive effect.}) 34. Rxe5 Rxb2 35. Rd5 c3 36. Rd8+ Kf7 37. Rh8 $1 Rbb7 38. Rxh7+ Kg6 39. Rxc7 Rxc7 40. Kf2 c2 41. Rc1 d3 42. Ke3 Rd7 43. Kd2 Kxf6 {[#] An unusual endgame. Black's more advanced pawns give him reasonable winning chances.} 44. h4 Ke5 45. Rf1 Kd4 46. h5 Re7 {This is where Carlsen began to go wrong.} (46... a5 $1 47. h6 Re7 48. Rf4+ Kd5 49. Rf1 Kc4 50. Rf4+ Kb3 {would have stopped White's defensive idea of Rb4+, but then Black had to see it through to the end:} 51. Rf1 Re2+ 52. Kxd3 Rh2 53. g5 Rh5 $1) 47. Rf4+ Kd5 48. Rf1 Kc4 49. Rf4+ Kd5 50. Rf1 Kc4 51. Rf4+ Kb3 {Having repeated moves once Magnus now goes for his main plan.} 52. Rb4+ Kxa3 53. Rc4 Kb3 54. Rc8 {[#]} a5 $2 (54... Rh7 $3 {wins, but how does one play a move like this? The rook goes passive and abandons its d-pawn. The point is, Black doesn't need that pawn, as he facilitates the race with his a-pawn being the main horse.} 55. Kxd3 {White cannot do anything else. His pawns are stopped and the a-pawn is ready to start its march.} (55. Rb8+ Ka2 56. Rc8 a5 57. Kxd3 Kb1 58. Rb8+ Kc1 59. Rc8 Kd1 {and it's over.}) 55... Rd7+ 56. Ke4 a5 $1 (56... Rd1 {is not good enough:} 57. h6 c1=Q 58. Rxc1 Rxc1 59. g5 Rh1 60. Kf5 a5 61. Kg6 a4 62. Kh7 a3 63. g6 a2 64. g7 {and White saves a draw by one tempo.}) 57. h6 a4 58. g5 a3 59. g6 {[#]} Rd8 $3 {The only move that wins!} (59... a2 60. g7 a1=Q 61. g8=Q+ {with check!} ) 60. Rxc2 Kxc2 61. g7 a2 62. h7 a1=Q 63. g8=Q Qa8+ {I'm far from blaming Magnus Carlsen for missing an"easy" win, as some commentators proclaimed. To me this winning line is anything but easy.}) 55. h6 Re2+ 56. Kxd3 Rh2 57. g5 Rh3+ 58. Kd2 Rh2+ 59. Kd3 1/2-1/2

Magnus Carlsen

It was a tense game for all the obvious reasons, and while Carlsen tried to capitalize on Caruana's fatigue, ultimately came up short as they drew. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

GM Daniel King also took a look at the headline game of the day

The rest

It is interesting to see two top players, Anand and Vachier-Lagrave, who were missing from the Candidates, returning to action. Both had very adventurous games in round one.

Vishy tried an unusual (for him) approach in the opening, some kind of a reversed setup, effectively used against him by Ian Nepomniatchi in the London Classic last December. However, it failed to surprise Hou Yifan, who came out well-prepared.

Hou Yifan Anand

Hou Yifan showed excellent preparation against Vishy Anand, but still had to contend with the Indian's great imagination. See his amazing exchange sac idea with 13. Qe2!! | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

The game was quickly thrown into a tactical spin, which must have been a surprise for Anand. Yet, the old tiger kept his head on and managed to stabilize the position by offering an exchange sacrifice eerily resembling the now famous Karjakin-Carlsen game from the Candidates.

Vishy Anand ½-½ Hou Yifan

[Event "5th GRENKE Chess Classic 2018"] [Site "Karlsruhe"] [Date "2018.03.31"] [Round "1"] [White "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Black "Hou, Yifan"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A17"] [WhiteElo "2776"] [BlackElo "2657"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "95"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. e3 $5 {The modern move order. White plans on spicing it up with a mix of ideas, some of which involve an early g2-g4.} Bd6 ( {Nepomniatchi-Anand, London Classic 2017 saw} 4... a6 5. b3 Bd6 6. Bb2 O-O 7. g4 $5 {That game may have inspired Vishy to try this whole thing with White!}) ({In a similar vein Grischuk-Kramnik, Tal Memorial Blitz 2018 featured} 4... Be7 5. b3 O-O 6. Bb2 dxc4 7. bxc4 c5 8. Rg1 $5 Nc6 9. g4) ({Black also has a couple of solid options:} 4... c5 5. cxd5 exd5 6. d4 Nc6 7. Bb5 {is a reverse Nimzo-Indian,}) ({while} 4... c6 5. b3 Nbd7 6. Bb2 Be7 {may lead to a Semi-Slav should White finally settle on} 7. d4) 5. b3 O-O 6. Bb2 c5 {Hou chooses the most principled continuation as she had a surprise prepared.} ({ Again,} 6... b6 {leads to a more standard pawn formation:} 7. Qc2 c6 8. Be2 Bb7 9. cxd5 exd5 {So-Caruana, GCT Paris Blitz 2017}) 7. g4 d4 $5 {[#] Played for the first time in Loxine-Santos Ruiz, Bundesliga 2017-18, this sharp move poses a set of interesting problems for White to solve. At the very least White doesn't just get to push Black back for free, as happened in some of the games mentioned above.} 8. exd4 cxd4 9. Nxd4 e5 10. Nf5 Bxf5 11. gxf5 Nc6 { A new move. Clearly, Hou was well-prepared.} ({Santos Ruiz chose} 11... e4) 12. Bg2 Nb4 13. Qe2 $3 {An absolutely amazing concept from Anand. He's willing to give up the exchange and lose the right to castle, all in return for long-term positional compensation.} ({The main line runs as follows:} 13. d3 Bc5 14. Be4 Nxe4 ({Should they find themselves in a more adventurous mood Black can even think of} 14... Bd4 $5) 15. Nxe4 Nxd3+ 16. Ke2 Nxb2 17. Qxd8 Rfxd8 18. Nxc5 b6 19. Na6 Rd4 $11) 13... Nc2+ 14. Kd1 Nxa1 15. Bxa1 Qd7 ({Possibly that b-pawn could have been retained with} 15... Rb8 {and then put into good use in case of } 16. Nd5 b5 $1) 16. Ne4 Qxf5 17. Nxf6+ Qxf6 18. Bxb7 Rad8 19. Kc2 Rfe8 20. Bc3 Bc5 (20... Bb4 {would have accomplished the same goal of trading bishops a bit faster.}) 21. f3 Bd4 22. Re1 g6 23. Qe4 Kg7 24. Bd5 {[#] No doubt Anand was inspired by Karjakin's win over Caruana at the Candidates. Is Bd5 really worth a rook?} Qb6 $2 {Ineffective.} ({Instead,} 24... Bxc3 25. dxc3 Qf4 {seemed the right plan.} 26. Qxf4 ({Better is} 26. Qe2 $1) 26... exf4 27. Rxe8 Rxe8 28. c5 (28. b4 Re2+ 29. Kb3 (29. Kd3 Rxa2 30. c5 Kf6 {and the king can stop the c-pawn.}) 29... Rxh2 {is a dangerous situation for White, whose bishop is unable to stop the h-pawn.} 30. c5 Re2 31. b5 h5) 28... g5 29. b4 h5 30. a4 g4 31. fxg4 hxg4 {[#] Black appears to be ahead in the race, as the White king remains a non-factor.} 32. b5 Kf6 33. c4 Ke5 34. Kc3 $1 {but he saves the day at the last moment!} (34. a5 $2 Kd4 35. c6 f3 36. c7 f2 37. Bg2 Kc5) 34... f3 35. b6 Rg8 $3 36. Kb4 $1 (36. a5 g3 37. hxg3 f2 38. Bg2 Rxg3+) 36... f2 37. Bg2 Ke6 38. Kb5 {etc. I admit my analysis is grossly inconclusive. The fact is, Hou should have gone for this line.}) 25. b4 f5 26. Qd3 Bxc3 27. dxc3 Qd6 28. a4 a5 29. Kb3 Rb8 30. b5 Qc5 {[#] Having wasted some time Hou Yifan finds the strength to admit her mistake and return to the correct plan of welcoming a queen trade. Black can no longer win the game, but at least she won't lose.} 31. h4 Rbd8 32. h5 Kf6 33. hxg6 hxg6 34. Qe3 Qxe3 35. Rxe3 $11 Rd6 36. Re1 Rc8 {No path for the white king to support the pawns.} 37. Rh1 Kg7 38. Kc2 g5 39. Rd1 Kf6 {Same thing here: Black has to stay put and prevent the white rook from getting through.} 40. Kd3 Rb6 41. Rh1 Kg7 42. Rg1 Kf6 43. Ke3 Rd6 44. Rb1 Rb6 45. Ke2 Kg6 46. Kf2 Kf6 47. Rh1 Kg7 48. Re1 1/2-1/2

The giant playing hall with the open in the foreground, from which the winner will qualify for the elite Grenke Classic on the stage in the rear | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave didn't wait long before launching his pawns forward, a rather dangerous strategy against the capable tactician Arkadij Naiditsch. The German player obliged by offering a piece sacrifice that put MVL's troops in a bind. Maxime spurned a couple of drawish lines in favour of counterattack, which, perhaps, would not have been sufficient had Arkadij found the best response.

Arkadij Naiditsch ½-½ Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

[Event "5th GRENKE Chess Classic 2018"] [Site "Karlsruhe"] [Date "2018.03.31"] [Round "1"] [White "Naiditsch, Arkadij"] [Black "Vachier Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A48"] [WhiteElo "2701"] [BlackElo "2789"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bg5 Bg7 4. c3 h6 5. Bh4 d6 6. Nbd2 g5 7. Bg3 Nh5 8. e4 e6 9. Nc4 f5 $5 ({Most people preferred slower plans beginning with} 9... Qe7 { but MVL is itching for a fight.}) 10. Nfd2 Nxg3 11. hxg3 O-O 12. Ne3 d5 $5 { [#]A risky decision, but otherwise Black just stands worse.} 13. exf5 exf5 14. Nxd5 $5 {Arkady picks up the gauntlet.} ({Getting his queen all tangled up after} 14. Qb3 c6 15. Bd3 f4 16. gxf4 gxf4 17. Nc2 a5 {didn't appeal to him, and understandably so.}) ({A safer choice certainly was} 14. Bd3 Be6 15. Qc2 ({ Here} 15. Qb3 $6 f4 16. gxf4 gxf4 17. Nc2 c5 18. Qxb7 Nd7 {would hand over the initiative to Black.}) 15... Qf6 16. O-O-O Nd7 17. f4 c5 18. Nf3 {but then Black can close the position with} c4 19. Be2 g4 20. Ne5 b5 $13) 14... Re8+ 15. Ne3 f4 16. Bc4+ Be6 {The only defense.} ({White crashes through after} 16... Kh8 17. Rxh6+ $3 Bxh6 18. Qh5) 17. Bxe6+ Rxe6 18. Qb3 Qe8 (18... Qd6 {may have been good enough to force repetition:} 19. Ne4 Qb6 20. Qc4 Qa6 21. Qb3 Qb6) 19. Ne4 {[#]} Nd7 $6 {A bit too much.} ({A forced line} 19... Kf8 20. gxf4 gxf4 21. Nc5 Rb6 22. Qd5 fxe3 23. O-O {leaves White with attacking chances, but I don't think he has more than a draw after} e2 $1 24. Rfe1 Qf7 25. Qd8+ Qe8 26. Qd5 Qf7) 20. gxf4 gxf4 21. Ng4 Kh8 22. f3 {Now Black is forced to sacrifice.} Rxe4+ 23. fxe4 Qxe4+ 24. Kf2 f3 25. gxf3 Rf8 26. Nh2 Qh4+ 27. Kg2 Qg5+ 28. Kf1 Qh5 29. Qc2 $1 {The queen must come back to bolster White's defenses.} c5 {[#]} 30. Qg2 $2 {In time trouble Arkady inadvertently occupies with his queen the very square needed for his king.} (30. Kg2 Qg5+ (30... Nf6 31. Rhg1 Nd5 32. Kh1 cxd4 33. cxd4 Bxd4 34. Qg6) 31. Ng4 Nf6 32. Qc1 Qg6 33. Rxh6+ Bxh6 34. Qxh6+ Qxh6 35. Nxh6 cxd4 36. cxd4 Rc8 37. Rf1 {with good chances to convert the extra pawns into victory.}) 30... cxd4 31. Ng4 Qb5+ 32. Kg1 ({White could have tried } 32. c4 Qxc4+ 33. Kg1 Qe6 {but his advantage can be disputed, particularly in a practical game when low on time.}) 32... dxc3 33. bxc3 Qc5+ 34. Qf2 Qxc3 35. Kg2 Ne5 $1 {Well-calculated by Maxime. Despite his open king, Black has enough threats to force a draw.} 36. Nxe5 Bxe5 37. Rxh6+ Kg7 38. Rhh1 (38. Rah1 Rxf3 39. Qxf3 Qd2+ 40. Qf2 Qd5+ 41. Kf1 Qd1+ {is perpetual.}) 38... Rf6 39. Rag1 Bd4 40. Kf1+ Kf7 41. Rh7+ Kf8 42. Rh8+ Kf7 43. Rh7+ Kf8 44. Rh8+ 1/2-1/2

Levon Aronian just suffered a heavy blow at the Candidates. Not only did his hopes of getting to play for the World Championship disappear once again, but to add injury to insult this time Levon had the worst tournament result of his entire career. Frankly, I would have found it a reasonable request if Aronian had asked to be excused from coming to play here, but he did not. I can only hope that Levon plays well here. His start wasn't so bad: a draw with Black.

Levon Aronian started his extraordinary 2017 campaign precisely in the Grenke Classic which he won, and well. No doubt he has good memories and is hoping for some of that magic to rub off this year. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Georg Meier ½-½ Levon Aronian

[Event "5th GRENKE Chess Classic 2018"] [Site "Karlsruhe"] [Date "2018.03.31"] [Round "1"] [White "Meier, Georg"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C67"] [WhiteElo "2636"] [BlackElo "2767"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "83"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. Re1 Nd6 6. Nxe5 Be7 7. Bf1 Nxe5 8. Rxe5 O-O 9. Nc3 Ne8 10. Nd5 Bd6 11. Re2 c6 12. Ne3 Be7 13. Nf5 Bf6 14. Qe1 d5 15. Ne7+ Kh8 16. Nxc8 Rxc8 17. d3 (17. g3 {Nakamura-Aronian,2014}) 17... Nd6 18. Qb4 a5 19. Qg4 b5 20. c3 d4 $5 {Very energetic play.} 21. cxd4 b4 22. d5 { A reasonable decision from Georg, otherwise White my end up worse.} cxd5 23. Bf4 g6 24. Be5 Bxe5 25. Rxe5 Qf6 26. Qd4 Rc2 27. Rb1 {[#]} Rfc8 ({Levon must have rejected the logical} 27... Nb5 28. Qe3 d4 {on account of} 29. Qh6 { but then} (29. Qe1 Nd6 30. Re2 Rfc8) 29... Qxf2+ 30. Kh1 Kg8 31. Rxb5 Rxb2 32. Rd1 Rxa2 {and Black may actually be even somewhat better.}) 28. Rxd5 Qxd4 29. Rxd4 Nf5 30. Rc4 {Now it all boils down to an ending where White has no chance to convert his extra pawn because of Black's piece activity.} R8xc4 31. dxc4 Nd4 32. Rd1 Ne6 33. Rd5 a4 34. Ra5 Rxb2 35. Rxa4 Kg7 {There it is.} 36. Ra5 Kf6 37. h4 Nd4 38. c5 Rc2 39. Ra6+ Ke5 40. Rb6 Rxa2 41. Rxb4 Ra1 42. g3 1/2-1/2

One nice thing about the Grenke tournaments is that the organizers don't go the old tired road of trying for the highest category event, but, instead, leave spots open for local talent. The appearance of Matthias Bluebaum for the second year in a row bodes well for the future of German chess. Granted he had a rough time last year, and started this year's campaign with a horrible blunder today, but things should improve!

Matthias Bluebaum 0-1 Nikita Vitiugov

[Event "5th GRENKE Chess Classic 2018"] [Site "Karlsruhe"] [Date "2018.03.31"] [Round "1"] [White "Bluebaum, Matthias"] [Black "Vitiugov, Nikita"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D12"] [WhiteElo "2616"] [BlackElo "2735"] [Annotator "AlexYermo"] [PlyCount "50"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bf5 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nh4 Bg6 7. Bd2 Nbd7 8. Nxg6 hxg6 9. c5 e5 10. b4 {[#]} Be7 {Quite provocative.} ({The inclusion of the moves} 10... a6 11. a4 {would have protected Black from the immediate attack on the c6-pawn, but after} Be7 12. b5 O-O 13. bxc6 bxc6 14. Be2 Re8 15. O-O { White manages to get his king out of the center.}) 11. b5 O-O 12. Qa4 $6 { That's what Nikita counted on.} Re8 $1 13. bxc6 bxc6 14. Be2 exd4 15. exd4 Nxc5 $1 {The point.} 16. dxc5 d4 17. O-O dxc3 18. Bxc3 Bxc5 19. Bf3 Rc8 20. Bxc6 { [#] Seemingly Matthias had found a way out, but the activity of the black pieces leaves White with no time to enjoy his bishop pair.} Re2 $1 21. Bf3 (21. Be1 {would have been a very sad choice, although White may be able to hold.}) 21... Rxf2 22. Rxf2 Bxf2+ 23. Kxf2 Rxc3 24. Qxa7 Ne4+ $1 {[#] Another energetic move from Vitiugov.} 25. Kg1 $4 ({Bluebaum had to go for} 25. Bxe4 Rc7 (25... Qh4+ 26. Kg1 Qxe4 27. Rf1 f6 28. Qb8+ Kh7 29. Qf4 {is easily defensible for White.}) 26. Qa8 Rc8 27. Qxc8 Qxc8 28. Re1 Qc7 29. g3 Qa7+ 30. Kf3 Qxa2 31. Re2 Qc4 32. Kf2 {and hang in there fighting for a draw. I understand nobody wants a position like this to come out of the opening with White, but sometimes tough choices have to be made.}) 25... Ra3 $1 {It is embarrassing to fall victim to a basic smothered mate pattern, but I hope Matthias doesn't let it bother him too long. We all blunder, if it's any consolation.} 0-1

Winning against the Classical Slav

The videos on this DVD give White a repertoire with concrete variations against all main lines Black can play and also show the typical strategic and tactical ideas of the Slav and the hidden subtleties of the position.

Watch out for Vitiugov. Despite keeping his rating above 2700 for many years, Nikita hasn't had a chance to compete in elite tournaments since the 2013 Alekhine Memorial. Vitiugov earned the right to be here by winning the Grenke Open last year, and has more experience now, so he may not be in the mood to waste this opportunity to make a statement about the quality of his chess.

Altogether, it was an electrifying start, and I'm hopeful for a great tournament this year at the Grenke Classic.


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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