Grenke Classic: Carlsen widens the gap

by Antonio Pereira
4/27/2019 – The standings table at the 2019 GRENKE Chess Classic was seriously shaken up after Magnus Carlsen defeated Georg Meier and Vishy Anand lost against Arkadij Naiditsch in round six. Vishy gave up a pawn in the early middlegame and could never get enough compensation, while Magnus got a winning advantage before the time control but needed close to six hours to finally get the point. The rest of the games were drawn. | 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.


"I know I should be happy"

Magnus Carlsen has not lost a single one of his last 56 classical games and stands a full point ahead of the field at the GRENKE Chess Classic, but after getting his third win of the event he confessed his concern about the deterioration of his play. It might sound exaggerated, but for those who followed the round live it actually sounds understandable — after showing great play in the opening and middlegame, the world champion struggled to find a way to finish Meier off efficiently.

In the end, Carlsen got the point after 58 moves and almost six hours of play. Once again, the Norwegian was part of the longest game of the round, something that "it's definitely getting to me", as he stated in his post-game interview with Jan Gustafsson. Although he knows he should be happy for the result, he also added:

I misplayed it but I got lucky. [...] I was so tired, I couldn't calculate any more.

GRENKE Chess Classic 2019

Round six underway in Baden-Baden | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

In the game, Magnus got a better position right out of the opening. The world champion was critical of Georg's plan to put his knight on b5, a manoeuvre that cost the German two tempi but that only left him with a good-looking piece on the queenside:


The computer does not consider Meier's plan after 15.a3 a8 16.b5 to be incorrect. And in the next ten moves the knight jumped around three times until capturing the black pawn from a5, via a7-c6. By that time, however, Black had correctly assessed that expanding on the centre and co-ordinating his pieces gave him more than enough compensation for the lost soldier on the side of the board. White's retreating 27th move illustrated Black's dominance:


Meier saw it necessary to play 27.e1, already down on time and aware of the fact that, despite the material advantage, he would need to defend an inferior position against the strongest player in the world. 

Georg Meier

Meier is having a tough time in the event | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Carlsen kept improving his pieces, but on move 31 gave Meier a chance to untangle:


The Norwegian described Meier's 31.e3 as "pretty suicidal", and precisely at that moment the computers evaluated 31.♘e3 as an equalizing attempt, with the idea of 32.♘ex4 the next move, finally harmonizing White's pieces. After this missed chance, it seemed like a matter of time before the German player would resign, but Carlsen did not find the most accurate continuation shortly afterwards:


The game continued 34...xc1+ 35.xc1 xa4, but Magnus could have played 34...♝xb4 instead (or even 35...♝xb4 after the exchange of rooks), a manoeuvre that he confessed he had not even considered, which in his words "is pretty insane", especially given the fact that he had analysed 34...♝g7. 

When the time control was reached, Black had a pawn on d2 and White's defensive task looked daunting, but it was not all that clear how to break through...Magnus did not seem to find the right setup and Georg kept using time on his clock to find the most resourceful manoeuvres. 

But in the end, Black managed:


Meier resigned, as Black's knight is going to f3 and the mating threats are impossible to parry.

Full interview with Magnus Carlsen

Winning with the Four Knights

Arkadij Naiditsch won the second edition of the GRENKE Classic, an eight-player single round robin with an all-German line-up. The following year, in 2015, he tied for first with Carlsen after defeating the world champion in their classical encounter — Arkadij lost the rapid/blitz/Armageddon tie-break, however. This year, the Azeri representative was on an even score before the sixth round — after losing against Svidler and beating Keymer — and went on to defeat co-leader Vishy Anand with the white pieces.

Naiditsch played the Four Knights Opening but Anand was the first one to leave theory:


Vishy deviated from a 2015 game between Rublevsky and Bacrot with 11...c7 and provoked Arkadij to think for over 17 minutes before responding with 12.g5. Black gave up a pawn but seemed to have enough compensation to fight on. However, Naiditsch was ruthless in avoiding his opponent to get play and got the point when his knight had infiltrated into enemy camp:


Here Vishy resigned.

Arkadij Naiditsch

Naiditsch is now sharing second place with five other players | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

The three remaining games finished drawn, with Levon Aronian and Vincent Keymer fighting the longest to split the point. Out of a Sicilian, a rather quiet setup was established on the board. For a while, it seemed like Aronian was going to be the one pressing, but soon enough the Armenian overestimated his chances and found himself on the defending side. Sadly for Keymer, however, he could not get his second win of the event.

Meanwhile, Peter Svidler and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave seemed to be heading towards a big fight, until they got to a standstill that resulted in a 35-move draw. Finally, Francisco Vallejo Pons had the white pieces against Fabiano Caruana and went into a line that allowed Black to force a draw after giving up a rook. Paco talked about how hard it is to prepare against such strong opposition:

Round-up show

Merijn van Delft recapped the action from Round 6

Standings after Round 6


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