Grenke: Three on three

by Klaus Besenthal
4/4/2018 – The GRENKE Chess Classic continued today in Baden-Baden with round four. For a long time, it looked like this was going to be a game day where all players would struggle to play the 40 moves required before draw offers are allowed. However, Fabiano Caruana exploited an opening left by Arkadij Naiditsch, and showed that his brilliant form from Berlin persists. With only a queen and knight each left on the board, the American was able to produce dangerous threats against Naiditsch who ultimately collapsed under the pressure. As a result, Caruana joins the leaders, Nikita Vitiugov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

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Caruana joins the lead

From Karlsruhe, Baden-Baden is about 20 minutes by car or 30 kilometres as the crow flies. It's a picturesque and wealthy town with pretty pedestrian streets, upscale shops and hotels and casinos. It's also a place with a fair bit of chess history, starting with one of the first elite chess tournaments back in 1870, which was won by Adolf Anderssen over Wilhelm Steinitz.

Here in 2018, at the start of the Baden-Baden leg, the day after a rest day looked destined to be a peaceful one. But Fabiano Caruana livened things up with a late attack in the time trouble of Arkad.

Carlsen ½-½ Vachier-Lagrave

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave offered the World Champion a pawn in the opening, which was declined. Presumably, the Frenchman would have received enough compensation in the form of the initiative — and he would know since no one has played this variation in the past as often as he has.


Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave

Magnus Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave kept it close to equal throughout | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Vitiugov ½-½ Anand

The transition from Caro-Kann Defence to French Defence put Anand down a tempo, but it was not a problem, as the Indian managed to confidently keep the co-leader, Vitiugov, from developing any significant initiative:


Vitiugov vs Anand

Nikita Vitiugov and Viswanathan Anand | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Bluebaum ½-½ Meier

The match between the two German top players was not exactly a barn burner — basically, the draw was foreseeable after only 15 moves. That's a pity, because this result is of no use to either. Both players remain stuck in the lower half of the table. 

Bluebaum vs Meier

Matthias Bluebaum took his time against Georg Meier | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Caruana 1-0 Naiditsch

This game too looked at first to be headed for a draw. But with reduced material — an endgame of queen and knight against queen and knight — Caruana suddenly created dangerous threats against his opponent's king position. The basic problem for Naiditsch was perhaps the fact that he had led his knight too far into enemy territory. He grabbed a pawn, but it resulted in nothing but grief. Still, Caruana's play in this phase was enviable, beginning with the precise move 36.Ne3.


Caruana Naiditsch

Fabiano Caruana: This man is currently in the shape of his life

Aronian ½-½ Hou Yifan

The game ended before the 40th move, due to a three-fold repetition with queen and bishop versus queen and knight. Hou could have tried to play on for an attack at this point, she probably concluded that she could not pose her opponent any great problems.

Levon Aronian remains unbeaten in this year's tournament, and still has chances to defend his 2017 title if he can post a couple of wins.

Hou Yifan

Hou Yifan remains at the bottom of the table after today | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Standings after four rounds


All games


Commentary webcast

GMs Jan Gustafsson and Peter Leko

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson


Klaus Besenthal is computer scientist, has followed and still follows the chess scene avidly since 1972 and since then has also regularly played in tournaments.
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coral292 coral292 4/5/2018 09:31
Faby is in a very good shape. He produces fresh and clean chess, constantly showing the will to win. I'm looking forward to this year's world championship. It will surely be an interesting confrontation. Congratulations for his performance from the candidates' tournament. He fully deserves the role of Challenger for the big crown.