Grenke Classic 2017: Surprise, surprise!

by Elshan Moradiabadi
4/15/2017 – After what seemed likely to be another hiatus of super tournaments, the Grenke Chess Classic is back after skipping 2016. This year’s edition has a great blend with massive opens, and an elite round-robin with the Magnus Carlsen no less! The first round saw many surprises such as Hou Yifan beating Fabiano Caruana! Enjoy this report flush grandmaster analysis and exciting chess.

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All photos by Georgios Souleidis

Round 1 (15.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
0 - 1
Naiditsch, Arkadij
Bluebaum, Matthias
½ - ½
Carlsen, Magnus
Aronian, Levon
½ - ½
Meier, Georg
Hou, Yifan
1 - 0
Caruana, Fabiano

World champion and No.1, Magnus Carlsen is back to the table, seeking to gain his first title in 2017 after losing the race to current world No.2 and US champion Wesley So at the Tata Steel event in Wijk aan Zee earlier this year. Along with him, World No.3, Fabiano Caruana is up for the challenge after two mediocre results at the Gibraltar Masters and the US championship. Given his busy schedule this year, much like the other top GMs (Grand Chess tour, FIDE Grand Prix, World Cup, etc.), Fabiano is seeking a nice ‘prologue’ for his forthcoming back-to-back events schedule.

 

Peter Leko give a quick recap of round one

The tournament also sees other super GMs, Levon Aronian, Maxime “MVL” Vachier-Lagrave, as well as German and Baden-Baden team top GMs Arkadij Naiditsch, George Meier, and Matthias Bluebaum. Finally, we have the world women No.1 Hou Yifan from China who just played a ‘warm-up’ match against legendary Vassily Ivanchuk in Shenzhen, China. The eight player round-robin kicked off today with three somewhat unexpected results.

 

Video impressions of the Opening Ceremony and the first round of the Open

Magnus Carlsen seems to be determined to win this tournament as he has equipped himself with better visual aid, showing up at the game with glasses at the board, which reminded one of Matt Damon when he played “Tom Ripley” in “The Talented Mr.Ripley”. It also made him the sixth indisputable world champion to show up at the board with glasses, after Euwe, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Kramnik, and Anand!

The Talented Mr. Carlsen

Video highlights of the first round of the Grenke Classic 

It seemed that the equipment is working perfectly as the world champion managed to turn his King’s Indian into a fine form of Hedgehog where his young opponent, Matthias Bluebaum had a hard time to handle. At some point Bluebaum simply started to stall by just maintaining his Maroczy bind.

Magnus found the right moment to breakthrough with d5 and it appeared as if he were going to pull out a huge advantage out of it. However, instead of keeping things more complicated he followed d5 with e5?! and decided to go for a “Magnusian” endgame where he hoped to torture his opponent for a long time. Unexpectedly, Carlsen had more problems maintaining his advantage than Bluebaum in holding the position. Toward the end of the game the German played accurately and delivered a nice technical draw against world champion. A great start for Mathias indeed!

Aronian and Meier played a well-known line in the Reti, where Meier’s expertise is beyond any doubt and the latter managed to comfortably hold against Aronian without any trouble

Fabiano Caruana played overly ambitious chess against Hou Yifan, and for his troubles got completely outplayed.  Once in the driving seat, the Chinese superstar had no problem converting her advantage into a full-point.

Hou Yifan made her mark by beating Fabiano Caruana in round one

Hou Yifan - Fabiano Caruana (annotated by Elshan Moradiabadi)

If my recollection of chess history is not failing me, this was the second time a woman beats a 2800-rated in classical chess. In fact, the only other instance dates back to 2006 when Judit Polgar (of course!) won against Topalov. Bear in mind that although Judit has won against both Carlsen and Kasparov in rapid games, she only beat one GM with more than 2800 Elo in classical chess.

 

Hou Yifan explains how her name is pronounced and shares comments on her win

Finally, Naiditsch proved that things work out well for him in Baden-Baden. In 2015 he tied foir first with Magnus Carlsen, only losing in the Armageddon tiebreaker, and now, in the opening round in 2017 Naiditsch starts off with a win with black against MVL from the black side of the French. In a messy position MVL overpressed and ended up a pawn down and could not prevent Black’s knight from occupying the key e4 square after which Naiditsch converted his advantage with ease.

Arkadij Naiditsch (right) played a rich and powerful game against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Thorough analyses of this game are available by GM Lenderman which pinpoints where exactly MVL went wrong.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave - Arkadij Naidistch (annotated by Aleksandr Lenderman)

[Event "Grenke Chess Classic 2017"] [Site "Karlruhe"] [Date "2017.04.15"] [Round "1"] [White "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Black "Naiditsch, Arkadij"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C11"] [Annotator "Aleksandr Lenderman"] [PlyCount "86"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] {Welcome everyone! This is GM Aleksandr Lenderman presenting to you round one game of the day. I chose this game between Vachier-Lagrave and Naiditsch as I found it to be a very rich game in no small part thanks to the material imbalance. Games like this always interest me quite a bit, since I'm always fascinated with the fight of material against initiative and other positional factors.} 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 a6 $5 {The first mini-surprise. The most common move here as far as I know is 6... Nc6, although 6... Be7 or 6...b6 are also quite common. 6.Be7 and 6.Nc6 I've played myself more than once in tournament practice.} (6... Nc6) (6... Be7) (6... b6) 7. Ne2 {Of course 7.Be3 is also a serious alternative, in which case Black has a choice of either transposing into the main line with 7...Nc6 or trying to play without committing the knight to c6, by playing 7....b5!? or 7. ..Qb6!?} (7. Be3) 7... Nc6 {By far the most common move here.} 8. c3 {A very logical way of following up the move Ne2, by solidifying the center.} b5 $5 { This move is already quite rare. Much more frequent in practice has been 8... Qb6 or 8...Be7. Radjabov has also once tried 8...f6. Also it's important to note that based on the clocks, it's clear that Naiditsch is still in his home preparation, while Vachier-Lagrave already had around a 10-minute think on move 7.Ne2, meaning that he was probably surprised by Naditsch's choice of lines, in particular 6...a6. After 8...b5, Vachier-Lagrave thought for about 7 more minutes before choosing...} 9. a3 {The idea of this move is prophylaxy against the move b4. However it's also has a drawback, since after Black plays ...c4, he can get quicker play with a5 and b4, since the a3 pawn serves as a hook for quick queenside play. However, it seems that if Black does get b4 in, he might be already doing quite well, so most likely the move b5!? was the just very good preparation on Naiditsch's part.} (9. Be3 b4 $1 {I think this was Black's plan in case of 9.Be3. At first the computer doesn't like the move 9...b4 but then it starts to realize it's quite a good move.} 10. cxb4 (10. dxc5 bxc3 11. Nxc3 Bxc5 12. Bxc5 Nxc5 13. Rc1 O-O $1 14. Nxd5 exd5 15. Rxc5 Qb6 16. Qc1 Bd7 17. Rxd5 Rac8 $36 {Also offers quite good counterplay for Black thanks to the significant initiative for two pawns.}) (10. g3 bxc3 11. Nxc3 Rb8 $11) 10... cxd4 11. Nexd4 Bxb4+ 12. Kf2 (12. Bd2 Bxd2+ 13. Qxd2 Nxd4 $1 (13... Bb7 14. Nxc6 Bxc6 15. Nd4 $14) 14. Qxd4 (14. Nxd4 Nc5 15. Bd3 a5 $11) 14... a5 $1 $11 {And it seems that this plan of trying to trade off the light squared bishops should equalize for Black.}) 12... Nxd4 13. Bxd4 (13. Nxd4 Bc5 $1 $11) 13... O-O $132 {Black gets decent counterplay here with ideas like f6 and/or Nc5.}) 9... c4 {This move is already almost a novelty, it has been played only in one game according to my database in a game between two 2000 rated players.} 10. g4 {This move is officially a novelty according to my database, and a very logical one. Since the structure is fixed, it becomes clear. Black's space is on the queenside, so he should play on the queenside, while White's only play is on the kingside, therefore g4 is the only move that makes sense. In the other game, 10.f5 was played right away.} (10. f5 $6 exf5 {is probably a bit too optimistic for White and should just be good for Black.}) 10... h5 $1 {This is again the only logical move, since otherwise White's plan becomes too strong. It disturbs White's plans and makes it harder for White to get in his f5.} (10... a5 $6 {would be too slow since...} 11. f5 $1 Bb7 12. Nf4 Qe7 13. Bh3 $16 {And White is way ahead in the race here.}) 11. gxh5 Rxh5 12. f5 $5 {A very interesting pawn sacrifice.} (12. Ng3 {Doesn't help White get the f5 break right away because...} Rh8 13. f5 {This move is still a pawn sacrifice.} exf5 14. Nxf5 $2 (14. Qc2 $5 g6 15. h4 {Maybe deserves attention.}) 14... Ndxe5 $1 $17) 12... exf5 (12... Rxf5 $2 {Of course not Rxf5 because of} 13. Ng3 $16) 13.Nf4 Rh8 14. Qe2 $5 {Played after a very long think and probably a good move.} ( 14. Nxd5 {was of course possible, and would lead to interesting play as well. One sample line might be...} Nb6 (14... Nf6 $5) (14... Ndb8 $5) 15. Nxb6 Qxb6 16. Qe2 (16. d5 $6 Na5 $17) 16... Bb7 17. Be3 Na5 18. Bg2 Be7 19. Nd2 O-O-O { With very complex play.}) (14. Qc2 {was also possible but I doubt this move is best.} Na5 {And it's not clear what White should do here.}) 14... Nb6 $6 { As tempting as this move is, solidifying the position, it might not be the most accurate.} (14... Be7 $3 {Seems stronger since it seems to help Black more in building harmony, while preventing White from achieving his ideal. First of all, the obvious...} 15. Nxd5 {fails because of} (15. Qg2 {The move that would've been excellent after Nb6 would now fail to g5!} g5 16. Nxd5 g4 $17 17. Nxe7 Qxe7 18. Nd2 Bb7) (15. Rg1 g5 $5 16. Nxd5 g4 17. Bg2 $1 gxf3 18. Bxf3 Bb7 19. e6 {would lead to a crazy mess.}) (15. h4 Nf8 16. Qg2 Ne6 17. Nxe6 (17. h5 Kd7 18. Nxd5 Bb7) 17... Bxe6 18. Qxg7 Kd7 19. Qg3 Qa5 {would lead to a more stable but also very complex position.}) 15... Nc5 $1 16. Nxe7 Nd3+ 17. Kd1 (17. Qxd3 $2 cxd3 18. Nxc6 Qd5 $19) 17... Nxe7 $36) 15. Rg1 $6 {This move was probably the best in case of 14)...Be7 but in this case it seems not quite the best.} (15. Qg2 $3 {This would've been a very strong move, but it's probably very difficult to find. The purpose of this move is both to disturb the opponent's harmony (not allowing Black easy development with ideas like Be7, and potentially g5, and also, helps White build up his own harmony in the best way.} Qe7 (15... Ra7 16. Be2) (15... Na5 16. Be3 Rg8 17. h4 $44) 16. Be2 Nd8 17. h4 Ne6 18. h5 $36 {and White has very strong initiative here with ideas like Bd1-c2 and Nh4, and has no bad pieces. Black in the meantime is struggling.}) 15... Ra7 $5 {Played after a 30-minute think by Naiditsch and it certainly deserves a lot of attention since it seems to build up harmony in a very unconventional way. There doesn't seem to be any way for White to crash through Black's position.} (15... Qe7 {with idea of Nd8-e6 was also possible here.} 16. h4 Nd8 17. h5 Ne6 {with complex play.}) 16. h4 (16. Rg3 $1 {was probably the best way to take advantage of Black's slightly slow plan. Now Black can't follow up with Na8 right away anymore.} Qe7 {And now Black probably has to revert to the plan which was possible in the previous move.} (16... Na8 $6 17. Qg2 $1 Nc7 18. Rxg7 $1 Bxg7 $6 19. Qxg7 $16) 17. Ng5 Nd8 {And Black seems to be solid enough even though White has obvious compensation.}) 16... Na8 $1 17. e6 {Otherwise Black will blockade the e6 square. Maybe this idea wasn't objectively the most sound, but it was probably worth a try at least in a practical game.} (17. Bh3 Nc7 18. Qc2 Ne6 19. Bxf5 Nxf4 20. Bxf4 Bxf5 21. Qxf5 Qd7 {would lead to a more balanced position.}) 17... Bxe6 $1 {The only move in the position but Naiditsch spent around half his remaining time here, probably trying to make sure he's not losing by force. However, Black seems to be doing very well.} 18. Nxe6 fxe6 { Seems like White doesn't quite have enough compensation, since the key squares for Black are well defended.} 19. Rg6 Nc7 20. Bf4 Bd6 21. Qh2 Bxf4 22. Qxf4 Kd7 (22... Kf8 {It was also possible to try to hold on to both pawns. Understandably though Black decides to sacrifice his weak pawn on g7 in order to get his king to safety.}) 23. Rxg7+ Kc8 24. O-O-O (24. Be2 {Perhaps it was better to put the king on f2 since in the endgame it will be better served closer to the passed pawn.} Qf6 25. Qg5 Qxg5 26. hxg5) 24... Qf6 25. Qg5 $1 {Otherwise Black will be the one to start the attack with a5 and b4. White is now banking his hopes on the passed pawn.} (25. Qg3 a5 $17) 25... Qxg5+ 26. hxg5 Ne8 $1 $17 {A nice defensive move stabilizing everything.} 27. Rg6 Re7 28. Re1 Kd7 29. Rh6 Rg8 30. Bh3 $6 {The last inaccuracy. Now White is lost. White should've tried to prevent the idea Nd6-e4.} (30. Nh4 $1 Nd6 $6 (30... Nd8 31. Ng6 Reg7 32. Nf4 Rxg5 33. Nxe6 Nxe6 34. Rhxe6 $17 {with some saving chances.}) 31. Ng6 {And here White gets some activity.} Ree8 32. Rh7+ Kc8 33. Nf4 Rxg5 34. Rxe6 Rxe6 35. Nxe6 Rg1 36. Rc7+ Kb8 37. Rxc6 Rxf1+ 38. Kc2 $132) 30... Nd6 $19 {The rest is a matter of technique for Black, especially after he makes the time control.} 31. Rg1 Ne4 32. Kd1 Reg7 33. Rh5 Nd8 34. Ke2 Nf7 {White is about to lose his only hope of the position and will be down two pawns for no compensation.} 35. g6 Rxg6 36. Rxf5 {The last chance to muddy the waters.} Rxg1 37. Rxf7+ Ke8 38. Ra7 Rb1 39. Bxe6 Rxb2+ 40. Ke3 Rg3 41. Bxd5 Nxc3 42. Bc6+ Kf8 43. d5 $6 (43. Kf4 {would prolong the game a little bit but probably not for long.}) 43... Rg4 {White is losing more material here. A very nice battle where Arkadij Naiditsch used some excellent preparation to get a very good 3-result battle against a top player such as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave who is always well-prepared. Then he boldly took the challenge, accepted the material and found some very nice defensive resources to neutralize White's initiative. Great game!} 0-1

Pairings and schedule

Round 1 (15.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
0 - 1
Naiditsch, Arkadij
Bluebaum, Matthias
½ - ½
Carlsen, Magnus
Aronian, Levon
½ - ½
Meier, Georg
Hou, Yifan
1 - 0
Caruana, Fabiano
 
Round 2 (16.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Naiditsch, Arkadij   Caruana, Fabiano
Meier, Georg   Hou, Yifan
Carlsen, Magnus   Aronian, Levon
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime   Bluebaum, Matthias
 
Round 3 (17.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Bluebaum, Matthias   Naiditsch, Arkadij
Aronian, Levon   Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
Hou, Yifan   Carlsen, Magnus
Caruana, Fabiano   Meier, Georg
 
Round 4 (19.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Naiditsch, Arkadij   Meier, Georg
Carlsen, Magnus   Caruana, Fabiano
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime   Hou, Yifan
Bluebaum, Matthias   Aronian, Levon
 
Round 5 (20.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Aronian, Levon   Naiditsch, Arkadij
Hou, Yifan   Bluebaum, Matthias
Caruana, Fabiano   Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
Meier, Georg   Carlsen, Magnus
 
Round 6 (21.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Naiditsch, Arkadij   Carlsen, Magnus
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime   Meier, Georg
Bluebaum, Matthias   Caruana, Fabiano
Aronian, Levon   Hou, Yifan
 
Round 7 (22.04.2017 / 15:00)
Player
Res.
Player
Hou, Yifan   Naiditsch, Arkadij
Caruana, Fabiano   Aronian, Levon
Meier, Georg   Bluebaum, Matthias
Carlsen, Magnus   Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime

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.



Elshan Moradiabadi is a GM born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He moved to the US in 2012. Ever since, he has been active in US college chess scenes and in US chess. is a veteran instructor and teaches chess to every level, with students ranging from beginners to IM. He can be contacted for projects or teaching.
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floyd Boudeaux j floyd Boudeaux j 4/17/2017 03:01
I think the author forgot about the bespectacled Emmanuel Lasker and Alexander Alekhine.
fons fons 4/17/2017 01:52
The glasses aren't that new. In the documentary 'Magnus' (released 2016) there's a scene where he's also wearing (different) glasses.
libyantiger libyantiger 4/16/2017 09:57
miss hu from china seems to recover quickly from her match with the vastly strong ..vasly ivanchuk...or she maybe spelling her anger and retaliation over the poor-harry- potter - like - fabio who seems to forget his magic wand at home
RoselleDragon RoselleDragon 4/16/2017 02:56
That's funny benedict. Remember, the don't make girls like they used to. All kidding aside, she did play a good game.
benedictralph benedictralph 4/16/2017 12:19
Fabi got beat by a girl! Nya nya nya nya nyaa nyaaaa. (Just kidding!)
vladivaclav vladivaclav 4/16/2017 10:26
caruana brutalized! payback for lara stock's game hehehe... well done hou yifan!
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