Grenke: Shakeup! Caruana and Carlsen to the top

by Klaus Besenthal
4/8/2018 – In the GRENKE Chess Classic, standings shuffled dramatically after the seventh round. Fabiano Caruana managed a convincing win against his former co-leader Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with the black pieces, to take the sole lead in the standings. World Champion Magnus Carlsen also won with Black, against Arkadij Naiditsch, and moved up to second place. Georg Meier missed chances to add to Viswanathan Anand woes. GM Daniel Fernandez annotates all five games | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

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"Bad game, good point"

Timely black wins from both contenders of the next World Championship were the story of round seven on Saturday. Caruana dominated Vachier-Lagrave's English in an impressive show, while Carlsen was dissatisfied with his play, calling his win over Naiditsch a "bad game, good point". Carlsen is now nipping at the heels of Caruana, the new sole leader, but faces an important test in his next game with white against Vitiugov, with whom he shares second place.


Caruana looks over his shoulder — Magnus Carlsen is lurking | Photo: Frederic Friedel

Vachier-Lagrave 0-1 Caruana

The experience of being smashed to pieces by the opponent's overpowering bishop pair is shared by every chess player. The antidote was demonstrated by Fabiano Caruana in his game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Caruana maintained a rock on the e4-square in the way of Vachier-Lagrave's Fianchettoed light-squared bishop: first a pawn, then knight and a bishop. It spoke volumes that the once proud bishop finally gave up and went back to f1, where he subsequently found a rather sad existence. A simple but well thought-out opening concept, against which "MVL" found no solution today. Caruana made it look effortless, as he gained space and was able to collect a weak pawn. Instead of going into a winning but protracted endgame, he then systematically created further weaknesses in his opponent's camp.

Annotations by GM Daniel Fernandez

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Aronian ½-½ Vitiugov

The Russian grandmaster Nikita Vitiugov is not as well known, locally, as the other protagonists of the GRENKE Chess Classic, but his class was again on display in the game against Levon Aronian. With black, Vitiugov had everything under control at all times and has remained solidly at the top of the table, though now sharing second place with Carlsen.



31-year-old Nikita Vitiugov | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Naiditsch 0-1 Carlsen

One reason Magnus Carlsen is World Champion is that he rarely loses a game — so far in this tournament, none at all. Sprinkle in a few wins here and there and you have all it takes to keep your leading position in the world. In this tournament, Carlsen has shown patience in this sense, which was rewarded today: Against Arkadij Naiditsch the World Champion took full advantage of the cards he was dealt.


Naiditsch vs Carlsen

After beating Naiditsch with black, Carlsen can fight for first, if he gets past Vitiugov | Photo: Frederic Friedel

Hou Yifan ½-½ Bluebaum

At no time did the match move outside the range of a draw, although Matthias Bluebaum had a long-lasting initiative in the rook and bishop endgame. The Chinese defused the situation eventually — and peace was inevitable.


Hou Yifan

Hou Yifan | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Anand ½-½ Meier

This might have been Viswanathan Anand's second consecutive loss against a German player after yesterday if Meier had grabbed his chances in the endgame.



Anand languishes at the bottom of the standings | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Standings after seven rounds


All games


Peter Leko's round seven recap

Commentary webcast

Commentary by GM Peter Leko and GM Jan Gustafsson

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson
Game annotations: GM Daniel Fernandez


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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TomE57ach TomE57ach 4/8/2018 01:47
Fabiano is once again showing that he is such a class act, playing outstandingly but remaining humble almost to a fault. I'm sure that Magnus won't fear him in their upcoming match - even though I believe that Fabiano can win it - but I have to believe that Magnus is at least paying very close attention, no matter how casually he talks.