Grenke Classic: Anand escapes, Svidler and Caruana win

by Antonio Pereira
4/23/2019 – A day full of excitement in Karlsruhe left Magnus Carlsen and Peter Svidler as co-leaders at the GRENKE Chess Classic. Carlsen got the upper hand but could not defeat Vishy Anand, while Svidler defeated Georg Meier from the white side of a French Defence. Meanwhile, Vincent Keymer lost for a third day in a row — against Fabiano Caruana — and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave put forth a striking attack but could not get the full point against Arkadij Naiditsch. Levon Aronian and Paco Vallejo drew. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

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Fool me thrice?

In 2013, Magnus Carlsen challenged Vishy Anand for the World Championship crown in Chennai. The Norwegian won the match 6½:3½ and never let go of the title. The sixteenth undisputed world champion and his predecessor have exchanged wins in the following years, though Magnus has been the one getting the full points lately — Vishy beat Magnus in a classical game for the last time at the 2015 Norway Chess tournament.

This year, the players faced each other twice, and both times Magnus had the white pieces. On both occasions — in Wijk aan Zee and Shamkir — the current world champion beat his older colleague and went on to win the event. Would he manage to repeat the trick for a third time? After all, he was given the white pieces once again.

Magnus Carlsen

Will I keep getting White against Vishy? | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

In Karlsruhe, they played seven moves of a line seen for the last time in Svidler v Tomashevsky from this year's German League. Anand was still moving rather quickly, but he must have mixed something up from his preparation, as it did not take long before he faltered:


Given the fact that he pushed the pawn again two moves later, Anand surely must have felt awful about his 10...c6. The tame advance allowed 11.f4, which was followed by 14.f5, 15.g4 and 16.h4, when White seems to be ready to overwhelm Black on the kingside:


Anand castled long, aware of the fact that a long defensive effort was in store. Carlsen kept improving his pieces, but the Indian showed great resilience. When the time control was reached, Magnus' advantage had diminished, and soon afterwards it seemed like Anand was well on his way to save the half point.

Viswanathan Anand

As serene as ever | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

But then came another mistake:


Try your own variations on the diagram above

52...c7 gave White a couple of tempi to build up the offensive, when an immediate 52...♝xb5 was called for. Carlsen did not take long before implementing the logical plan with 53.f2 and 54.g3, but a couple of moves later he could not find the correct continuation and let his advantage slip:


After 56.e2, Black can play 56...e6 and recapture with the queen after 57.xe6, getting a tenable setup — better tries were 56.♔f1 or 56.c4. The draw was signed after 63 moves. Once again, Magnus had played the longest game of the round. For the first time in this tournament, however, his fighting attitude was not enough to break his opponent.

Annotations by IM Sagar Shah

Anand vs Carlsen

For the third time in 2019: Carlsen vs Anand | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

An exciting draw

It cannot come as a surprise that the game between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Arkadij Naiditsch turned into a fierce battle...despite the fact that it featured a Berlin Defence. Uncompromising play by both sides invited White to sacrifice a knight on move 25:


The computer does not fully approve of MVL's 25.f6+, although, from a human point of view, the check is screaming to be played. After 25...gxf6 26.exf6 d6 27.xe6+ Black needs to be accurate if he wants to avoid his opponent's attack to bear fruit. White also needed to be precise, though, and he erred in the very next move:


Vachier-Lagrave doubled on the e-file with 28.de1, when 28.♖e3 was a better try (planning to transfer the rook to the g-file). The computer now gives Black a big edge, but time trouble was rearing its head and Naiditsch did not find the narrow path to consolidate his material edge. In the end, the Frenchman — a full rook down — found a perpetual check and signed his third draw of the event.  

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Vachier-Lagrave is on 1½/3 | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Svidler and Caruana win

Peter Svidler arrived in Germany as the sixth seed and is now sharing the lead with the world champion after taking down Georg Meier in the third round. The ever-solid Meier remained loyal to his French Defence and pretty much blitzed out his first 17 moves. At that point, however, the players took their time to sort out the complexities of the position:


Svidler thought for 22 minutes before playing 18.c3, while Meier used no less than 46 minutes to respond with 18...a5. After 19.c7+ xc7 20.xc7 d8, Georg had lost the right to castle and had little time to deal with White's initiative. 

For a second day in a row, Svidler showed his strength while on the attack and pressed his opponent until pushing him to crack under pressure. White was threatening to mate from h8 when Meier gave up:


The material is equal, but Black's king is completely asphyxiated.

Georg Meier, Peter Svidler

Predictably, a French Defence | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Vincent Keymer's debut in a super-tournament could not have started with tougher opposition — in the first three rounds, he faced two world champions and the current number two in the world. However, much like against Carlsen in round one, on Monday, he managed to get the upper hand against Fabiano Caruana in an intricate middlegame. He missed the right continuation at critical points though — the following position is just one of a number of examples:


35.xc6 came a move too early, as the computer suggests 35.♔g3 is the right way to improve White's position. And once again Vincent found himself pushed to make critical decisions with his clock dangerously ticking down. His more experienced rival handled the complications better and got the upper hand a few moves before the time control:


Keymer blundered with 38.h1, allowing Black to go 38...c2, with a decisive advantage — White cannot capture with 39.♕xc2, as 39...♛xe3+ is mate-in-seven after 40.♔h4 ♛f4+ 41.♗g4 ♚g7, etc. Now the c-pawn is too strong. Vincent played until move 42, before accepting the inevitable defeat.

Post-game interview with Fabiano Caruana

Caruana's victory came right before his clash with Magnus Carlsen in round four (the American will have the white pieces). Co-leader Svidler will be Black against Levon Aronian, while Keymer will try to stop the bleeding against Naiditsch.

Round-up show

GM Simon Williams recapped the action from Round 3

Standings after Round 3


All games



Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


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