Grenke Classic: A first win for Keymer

by Antonio Pereira
4/25/2019 – Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen drew games of very different nature to maintain the lead at the 2019 GRENKE Chess Classic; Peter Svidler could not make the most of an opening edge against Paco Vallejo; while Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian repeated the position three times in the early middlegame. In the meantime, after having lost four games in a row, Vincent Keymer got his first super-tournament victory, a welcomed reward for his uncompromising play so far in Karlsruhe. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Three queens on the board

With so many chess prodigies coming up in the chess world, we sometimes forget how difficult it must be for the youngsters to sit in front of experienced, toughened up opponents on a big stage. Vincent Keymer, for example, certainly showed — by getting enviable positions — that he arrived in Karlsruhe well-prepared and ready to battle against the best players in the world...but he lost his first four encounters all the same.

Luckily for him, he managed to turn the tables in the last round prior to the rest day, as four more grandmasters — hungry for victories — await to face him in Baden-Baden starting Friday. Being out-rated by more than a hundred points by every single player in the event, getting a couple of points in the second half will be a good result for the 14-year-old.  

Georg Meier, Vincent Keymer

The local players crossed swords on Wednesday | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Vincent had the white pieces against his compatriot Georg Meier, who apparently saw this as his big chance to bounce back after losing two in a row — against Svidler and Vachier-Lagrave. Meier showed his intentions by pushing his kingside pawns early in the game:


Georg followed 12...h6 13.d1 g5, an ambitious manoeuvre reproved by the computers — had he won the game, however, we would be calling this a "well-timed risky strategy". After this sequence of moves, Keymer grabbed the initiative with a precise handling of the position, pushing his opponent to limit himself to defensive tasks. On move 25, however, the youngster could have increased the pressure more poignantly:


White gained a pawn with 25.f5+ b8 (25...♚d8 would lead to a quick defeat after 26.♗xb6!) 26.d7 c5 27.xd5 and the queens were exchanged: 27...xd5 28.xd5. However, Meier confessed after the game that he was afraid of 25.b4, with the idea of b6-Rc6, getting a strong bind on the queenside.  

Georg Meier

Georg Meier got hopeful nearing the time control | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Keymer kept pushing while up material, but Meier seemed to be well on his way to save the half point thanks to his meticulous defensive technique...until disaster struck:


Georg blundered with 42...h4?, allowing 43.c3, when Black s forced to exchange bishops and go into a losing difficult pawn endgame [as GM Daniel King shows below, the endgame was technically still holdable -Ed.]: 43...xc3 44.xc3 xf5. The correct way to go was the simpler 42...♚xf5, when Black can defend his pawns on the dark squares from c8.

The task of winning that pawn endgame — which always meant calculating different scenarios with queens on the board — was not so simple though. Just to give an example, Keymer could have fallen for a stalemate trick on move 60:


Vincent correctly pushed his pawn with 60.b4, instead of playing 60.bxc4?, when Black can force a draw with 60...g1♛+ 61.♕xg1 stalemate. The young German kept playing carefully, and by move 75 he had two queens on the board:


Meier kept looking for some kind of perpetual until move 81, but by then it was clear Keymer was going to get his first win in a super-tournament.

Post-game interview with Vincent Keymer

Endgame analysis by GM Daniel King

GM Daniel King took a closer look at this endgame on his PowerPlay channel

Fighting draws

Magnus Carlsen's games averaged exactly 72 moves until round four, and he only lost the "privilege" of being the last one on stage on Tuesday, when Vachier-Lagrave and Meier were left alone playing until move 94. In round five, however, Magnus went back to playing the longest game of the day — a 60-move draw with the white pieces against Arkadij Naiditsch.

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus has been working hard this week | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

In his second game with White in Karlsruhe, the world champion once again opened with 1.c4, and Naiditsch showed he was well-prepared to face the English, as he got a decent advantage on the clock.  By move 24, the d-pawns alternated in the centre of the board, creating a peculiar setup:


A dynamically balanced struggle ensued and, when the queens had left the board, Black was a pawn up, but it was not clear who was playing for a win — in fact, the commentators had a split of opinion regarding whether it was better to have the material or the initiative:


In the final phase of the game, Magnus was the one pushing after capturing one of Black's pawns. However, Naiditsch handled the pressure with competence and managed to secure the half point.

Arkadij Naiditsch

It is never easy against the world champion | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

When Francisco Vallejo Pons is participating in an event, fighting games are guaranteed to take place, and his round five encounter against Peter Svidler was no exception. The players started taking their time as early as move 9, after Black had decided to fianchetto his dark-squared bishop and advance his kingside pawns out of an Italian setup. Shortly afterwards, a battle in the centre unfolded:


Svidler thought for nine minutes before pushing 11.d4, and after 11...exd4 the Russian chose the dynamic 12.f5, creating a sharp struggle in the early middlegame. Both players needed to calculate long sharp lines in order to avoid putting a foot wrong. But this is precisely what both fighters are known for. 

White had only a nominal advantage throughout, and the game finished with Svidler two pawns up — nevertheless, due to the presence of opposite-coloured bishops, it was clear that none of the contenders would leave the stage with a full point.


Francisco Vallejo Pons

Vallejo's fighting spirit is always welcomed | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Perhaps the most anticipated match-up of round five was Vishy Anand v Fabiano Caruana, with the former world champion in the lead and the American in position to surpass him. However, the Berlin Defence put forth by Caruana — notice that he did not play the Petroff — indicated a high likelihood of a draw. By move 21, most pieces had been traded, but the players continued until move 40, when the peace treaty was finally signed.

Levon Aronian

Aronian drew Vachier-Lagrave with Black in 25 moves | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Round-up show

GM Yannick Pelletier analysed the action from Round 5

Standings after Round 5


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.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register