Grenke Classic: Carlsen mates Svidler

by Antonio Pereira
4/28/2019 – After scoring his fifth win of the tournament, Magnus Carlsen almost secured yet another super-tournament triumph. His round eight victim was Peter Svidler, who allowed the world champion to mate him on the board. The only player with chances to catch Magnus is Fabiano Caruana — the American remained one point behind the leader thanks to a win over Georg Meier. Sole third place was taken by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who defeated Vincent Keymer. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

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Win after win

Nothing seems to be able to stop Magnus. Praise keeps coming in from chess spectators and, more importantly, from his peers and expert analysts. In 2019, the world champion has won fourteen out of the twenty-nine games he has played — he lost a classical game for the last time at the end of July 2018. And that is just one of many astounding stats we could list. 

Carlsen's classical live rating (2871.2) has surpassed his rapid rating (2869). After his twelve draws in the classical portion of the London match were followed by a dominant performance in the rapid, his preparation for the match has also paid-off in his classical performances (as pointed out by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave). Vidit Gujrathi noted that this will (very likely) be Magnus' fourth straight super-tournament victory!

After Mamedyarov finished ahead of him in Biel 2018, his performances in individual tournaments with a classical time control included a tie for first at the Sinquefield Cup 2018, another tie in the twelve 'slow' games of the London match, and clear first places in Wijk aan Zee and Shamkir. 

Peter Svidler, Magnus Carlsen

Peter beat Magnus twice in classical chess | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Magnus had a negative score against Peter Svidler in classical chess before their round eight encounter in Baden-Baden. The player from Saint Petersubrg opened 1.e4 and faced the Sicilian Defence. The players left theory on move 13, when Svidler went 13.a3, to which Carlsen responded with 13...f5 after thinking long and hard:


With his king already safe on h8, Black is planning to use the f-file in his favour. The game continued 14.xf5 xc1 15.xc1 xf5 16.exf5 d5 17.a2 and White's light-squared bishop looks worse than Black's knight (at least less active in the short term):


Magnus captured with 17...xf5 and some moves later put his queen on f8 — Carlsen later declared that Svidler had missed his 20...f8. On move 22, the knight joined the action with decisive effect:


In the next three moves the knight made its way to d3 — 22...e5 23.e4 g4 24.ce1 e3. While Black's knight found a great post in Svidler's camp, White's rook from f1 went 25.f2, 27.fe2 and 28.f2 back, which goes to show how difficult it was for Peter to find a defensive plan against White's attack.

Carlsen kept pushing his f and g-pawns until mating White's king in the corner:


32...h2+ 33.h1 g2#. Obviously, Svidler could have resigned earlier...

During his match against Caruana last year, Magnus had declared that his favourite player from the past was...himself, some years ago. Naturally, the press team in Baden-Baden asked Magnus whether he feels he has reached a level of play comparable to the one he referred to in London. The world champion responded:

I don't want to particularly compare, but I'm very satisfied with the way it's going now, and I don't really think that I was better back then — it's just flowing so well now.

Post-game interview with Magnus Carlsen

Caruana prevents an early triumph

Had Fabiano Caruana not defeated Georg Meier in Saturday's round Magnus would have got the title with a round to spare for a second tournament in a row. Now, Fabiano needs to beat Levon Aronian in the last round and wait for Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to take down the leader in order to finish the event tied in points and force a play-off. 

Georg Meier, Fabiano Caruana

Georg came from beating Anand | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Meier played the Rossolimo with White and was the first one to leave theory on move 11:


Black had a number of choices here, including 11...cxb4 and the more aggressive 11...f5, but Caruana decided to re-route his knight with 11...f8, allowing White to gain a pawn after 12.bxc5 e6 13.cxb6 axb6.

Caruana's enterprising strategy allowed him to co-ordinate his pieces effectively, but the nature of the position called for a very precise treatment. Fabiano played inaccurately with 25...d8, which gave White a chance to get the upper hand with an astounding combination:


The computers show 26.♖xg6, with the idea of 26...♚xg6 27.♘xf4!, when White's domination over the long diagonal and the open g-file prevent Black from capturing the knight. It is hard to criticize Georg for not finding this difficult recourse though — after a little over three minutes the German grandmaster played 26.gd1 instead. 

Fabiano doubled his rooks on the queenside and was the one clearly in the driver's seat from that point on. Meier faltered by allowing his opponent to close the kingside and, after the time control, with his position already in tatters, the German incorrectly gave up his queen:


White attacked Black's queen with 44.a7 instead of saving his strongest piece with 44.a4 or 47.a7. The game continued 44...b5 45.xc8 xc8 46.xf7 g8 47.xg7 and Black went on to get the full point four moves later.

Fabiano Caruana

Fabiano still has a slim chance | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

MVL in sole third place

After round six, no less than six players were tied in second place a full point behind Carlsen. Two days later, Caruana is the only player with a chance to catch-up with the leader and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is in sole third place on 5/8. The Frenchman defeated the two German players at the event — in round four, he had taken down Meier with the black pieces.

According to MVL, Keymer handled the opening correctly, equalizing with the black pieces out of a Sicilian...until he went 17...b5:


Although this manoeuvre does not lead to any sort of direct win, the Frenchman explained that, from a practical point of view, the advance clearly favours White. Vachier-Lagrave simply has an easier task ahead.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Vincent Keymer

The youngster fought hard but could not avoid another defeat | Photo: Eric van Reem

Nonetheless, Keymer kept the balance in the struggle that ensued, until he faltered two moves before the time control:


After 37...c8, Black exchanged pawns and knights on f5 and went on to prove that his queen and rook are able to co-ordinate an attack against the opposite king more quickly than White's pieces.

Post-game interview with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Meanwhile, Francisco Vallejo Pons obtained a very favourable position against Arkadij Naiditsch. He was close to getting his first win of the event, but the Azeri player defended tenaciously in a rook+knight v rook+bishop endgame two pawns down. This was the position that Paco could not convert into a full point:


The Spaniard tried during 35 moves but was not capable of breaking Arkadij's defences.

Francisco Vallejo Pons, Akadij Naiditsch

Paco showed strong chess but could not win | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Viswanathan Anand

Vishy drew with Levon Aronian in 33 moves | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Round-up show

GM Daniel King analysed the games from Round 8

Standings after Round 8


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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badibadibadi badibadibadi 4/29/2019 12:20
2900 seems impossible, but maybe if he can play two more tournaments like that in a row it might happen.

Also Caruana is a solid #2 now, Carlsen-Caruana rematch would be nice after the unfinished bisness in the first fight.

But Caruana will need to do his sinquefield Cup 2014 thing at some point, otherwise, Carlsen is just too far ahead.
calvinamari calvinamari 4/29/2019 09:53
Of course, Svidler’s allowance of mate on the board was simply a sportman applauding his opponent’s performance.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 4/29/2019 06:28
Excellent job covering the Grenke Classic.

A bit more coverage of the Open tournament would also be nice.

May be hard do do too many things at the same time.