Grenke Classic: Wins for Carlsen, Caruana and Meier

by Antonio Pereira
4/28/2019 – A full point still separates Magnus Carlsen from his closest chaser, after the world champion beat Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana took down Arkadij Naiditsch in round seven of the GRENKE Chess Classic. Georg Meier also won — the German grandmaster recovered from a four-game losing streak to defeat Vishy Anand with the black pieces. Paco Vallejo and Vincent Keymer got good positions against higher-rated opponents but could not convert. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

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An 'innocuous' novelty

Magnus Carlsen's run of good form continued in Baden-Baden — the world champion has won nine of the seventeen games he has played at the last two super-tournaments, gaining 22.7 rating points. Such an incredible string of good results resulted in people talking about the possibility of him climbing over his all-time peak. Will this be the year that sees a player surpass the 2900 mark? Realistically, it is quite unlikely, but Magnus has surprised us in the past...

Carlsen talked to Peter Leko and Jan Gustafsson after his win over Levon Aronian. Leko pointed out that if a tired Magnus is capable of playing at this level, "it is quite scary". The Norwegian explained:

It was much better today, to be honest. It's much easier to play those guys that I've played so many times before. It feels like there is less pressure and you can just go with the flow — I mean, with the other guys I'm overthinking everything; here I'm playing much more fluidly.

He confessed that he was slightly worried before his round six game, as he was not sure about how to beat Meier, but after winning that game and getting a one-point lead it was much easier on Saturday.

Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian

A chess derby is about to kick off | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Early in the game, it was already clear that Magnus was the one calling the shots, as he played a surprising novelty in the Vienna, one that looked rather harmless at first sight:


Of course, Levon knew that 10.d2 probably had been prepared by a high-quality team of experts prior to the 2018 World Championship match, so, after thinking for over eight minutes, decided to play the safe 10...0-0 instead of the more challenging 10...♞xe4, when a very complicated struggle would arise after 11.g4. To be able to use this novelty was clearly a small victory from Magnus. 

White started putting pressure on Black's weakness on b6. Aronian felt the pressure and inaccurately advanced his f-pawn on move 26:


26...f5 created more targets for White, who immediately transferred his rook to the centre with 27.e1. Levon felt he needed to continue looking for counterplay with 27...e4, but that only resulted in Magnus gaining a pawn after 28.fxe4 fxe4 29.xc5 xc5 30.xe4

Carlsen showed good technique from this point on, until Aronian resigned in the following position:


Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen is a point ahead with two rounds to go | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Caruana's second win

Defending champion Fabiano Caruana is the only player a point behind the leader, after his win over Arkadij Naiditsch in round seven. The American has solidified his second spot in the world ranking, thanks to his undefeated performances in the US Championship and in the ongoing GRENKE Classic. 

Against Naiditsch, Caruana gobbled up a pawn in the opening, but allowed his opponent to get a lot of play against his queen in the centre of the board. The compensation seemed to be sufficient for Black, until he played an inaccurate bishop move.


It seems quite logical to continue 17...c3 here, but Black had a couple of more active options to keep disturbing White's co-ordination: 1) the forcing 17...♞xb3 18.♘xb3 ♜d5 and White can give back the pawn with 19.♘c5 ♝xc5 20.♕b3, with a sharp struggle ahead, or 2) 17...a6 18.♕e5 ♜d5, when there might follow 19.♕c7 ♜d7 or 19.♕e3, when Black has good chances.

White was not completely winning after the text, but he did have comfortable play and the slightest of material advantages. Naiditsch could not find the most challenging continuations in the struggle that followed, and Caruana simply consolidated his advantage. When Fabiano eliminated Black's h3 pawn, all hopes were lost for Black:


Resignation came after 32.xh3 a8 33.b5, and White's pawn is heading to b8.

Fabiano Caruana

Fabi won this tournament in 2018 | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Meier bounces back

After losing four games in a row and finding himself alone in the cellar of the standings table, Georg Meier got a big win against none other than former world champion Vishy Anand. So far, Vishy has won two and lost two in this event, much like what he achieved in Shamkir, when he defeated Mamedyarov and Giri, but lost against Carlsen and Karjakin. Evidently, the Indian legend is still capable of beating anyone in the elite — and, at 49, he is still part of the world's top ten!

Vishy Anand, Georg Meier

Anand facing Meier's favourite defence | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Georg played his pet Rubinstein Variation of the French Defence with Black, and Vishy went for a setup with opposite-side castling (the same one Caruana had used to take down the German two years ago in this same tournament). With both sides looking for chances to create a direct attack against the opposite king, Meier found himself with better prospects to keep advancing his army forward. He missed a first chance to strike, though:


Black could have played 25...b4, creating big problems for his opponent. Meier went 25...c5 instead, and pushed his b-pawn to the fourth rank four moves later. White was on the defensive and could not find the most accurate moves with the time control dangerously approaching. Eventually, the queens left the board and Black was the one pushing in a double-rook endgame. 

On move 36, Anand blundered and the game was over:


In order to continue fighting, Vishy needed to play 36.d1 — his 36.c2 loses a rook by force, for example, after 36...gb1 (played by Meier) 37.xc4 7b2+ 38.d3 d1+ 39.e3 e1+ 40.d4 d2+ 41.c5 xe5. White resigned after move 36.

Post-game interview with Georg Meier

Francisco Vallejo Pons and Vincent Keymer were heavily under-rated in his games against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Peter Svidler, respectively, but were on the better side of a draw, after getting good chances in the middlegame. 

Two days of action are still left in Baden-Baden. In Sunday's round eight, Svidler will have the white pieces against Carlsen (the Russian still has a positive score against the Norwegian in classical chess), while Fabiano Caruana will try to make the most of his game with Black against Meier. Aronian v Anand will also be one to watch.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Will Vachier-Lagrave finish strongly? | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Round-up show

Merijn van Delft recapped the action from Round 7

Standings after Round 7


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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