Leuven Day 3: Hard-fought blitz keeps Carlsen in lead

by Albert Silver
6/19/2016 – It was an incredibly hard-fought nine rounds of blitz in which only Levon Aronian managed squeak ahead of the rest by half a point with 5.5/9, allowing him to take clear third in the combined standings with 15.5 points. Carlsen, So, Nakamura and Kramnik all scored 5.0/9 leaving Magnus Carlsen still in clear first with 17 points, trailed by Wesley So with 16. Illustrated report.

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The greatest chess tournament ever staged in Belgium, Your Next Move Grand Chess Tour, is taking place in the historic Town Hall of Leuven from Friday 17 June to Monday 20 June. The best chess players in the world at the moment will take part in the tournament: World Champion Magnus Carlsen, former World Champions Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik, as well as Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura, Aronian Levon, Wesley So and Veselin Topalov.

The players will compete in a Rapid Chess and Blitz Chess tournament during the four days. The prize money for the tournament is $150.000 (€134.100). Chess fans will be able to enjoy the experience of seeing the greatest players compete live in Leuven or watch the streaming broadcast, complete with grandmaster commentary.

Follow the games live on playchess

All photos by Lennart Ootes

The start of the Blitz phase

The blitz event was one of the most anticipated parts of the Leuven Grand Chess Tour in no small part due to its importance and weight in the overall scores. Whereas on the one hand you have the rapid leg with a round-robin in which each of the nine games is worth double, the blitz games may only be worth normal values, but there are twice as many. That means that ultimately rapid and blitz are each worth exactly half the points in the combined scores.

The opening with two hands, an honor that can be shared

After an amazing surge in the second day of the rapid, Magnus Carlsen took the early lead in Leuven by winning it by one point ahead of Wesley So and the rest of the field. Still, the question as to how the blitz would go and how much it might swing was very much in the air. As the players have not stopped explaining: one of the very rough aspects of such an event is that in a normal classical tournament, if you have a bad day, at worst it will cost you a single point. In a rapid or blitz event, you are playing entire series of games and that one bad day at the office can sink you irrevocably before you get a hold of yourself.

Vijay Kumar films the action. See his highlights video below!

The opinions on who would take the blitz section were fairly evenly divided between Magnus and Nakamura for obvious reasons: they are the two strongest blitz players in the world and there were plenty of reasons to lean toward one or the other. This isn't to necessarily say they are the ones everyone was rooting for, just who everyone thought likely to take it.

Levon Aronian starting his game with Magnus Carlsen in round one

Magnus fought back, but it was a sign how balanced the field was
that he was far from unblemished

Carlsen - MVL

[Event "GCT Blitz YourNextMove"] [Site "Leuven BEL"] [Date "2016.06.19"] [Round "4.5"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B53"] [WhiteElo "2855"] [BlackElo "2789"] [PlyCount "74"] [EventDate "2016.06.19"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Qxd4 Nf6 5. Bb5+ Bd7 6. Bxd7+ Qxd7 7. c4 Nc6 8. Qd3 Qg4 9. Nc3 Qxg2 10. Rf1 Rc8 11. a3 g6 12. Bd2 Bg7 13. O-O-O O-O 14. Kb1 Qh3 15. Rg1 Rfe8 16. Rg3 Qe6 17. Ng5 Qd7 18. f4 Na5 19. c5 dxc5 20. Qf1 Nb3 21. Be3 Nd4 22. f5 Rf8 $6 {MVL is a renowned Najdorf player, so his instincts in these wild Sicilians are second to none as a rule. This however is a strange choice and one can only speculate whether he feared Nxf7 or possibly e5 and freed up a square for his knight.} 23. Qh3 Rfd8 {Black is waffling and it is cler that at this moment, under the pressure of blitz, the French man is unsure how to continue. One thing is clear: shuffling the rook around isn't it. } 24. Rf1 Nh5 25. Rgg1 Nb5 26. Nd5 {[#]} Nc7 $2 ({Black misses a spectacular continuation.} 26... Nxa3+ $1 27. bxa3 Qb5+ 28. Kc2 Qc4+ 29. Kd1 Rc6 $1 { and the idea is the ruthless ...Rxd5! followed by ...Rb6 to bring the rook into play.} 30. fxg6 hxg6 31. Bd2 Rxd5 32. exd5 Rb6 $19) 27. Nxf7 Nxd5 28. exd5 Qxd5 29. Bc1 $4 {A blunder that quickly costs the game.} Qxf7 30. fxg6 Qd5 31. Rg5 Qe4+ 32. Ka1 hxg6 33. Rfg1 Rc6 34. Qb3+ c4 35. Qxb7 c3 36. Rxg6 cxb2+ 37. Bxb2 Rc1+ 0-1

A delighted MVL scores a win over the World Champion with an exciting Sicilian

Vishy Anand was about par as he scored 50% in the first leg with 4.5/9

Anish Giri has been unable to shine in the two first events in Paris and Leuven

These frenetic days are exhausting

Levon Aronian was the winner of day one of the blitz with 5.5/9, the highest score of the
day. Watch his spectacular miniature over Wesley So.

Aronian - So

[Event "GCT Blitz YourNextMove"] [Site "Leuven BEL"] [Date "2016.06.19"] [Round "6.2"] [White "Aronian, Levon"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A09"] [WhiteElo "2792"] [BlackElo "2770"] [PlyCount "43"] [EventDate "2016.06.19"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 c6 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 dxc4 5. O-O Nbd7 6. Qc2 Nb6 7. Na3 Be6 8. Ne5 h5 9. Naxc4 Nxc4 10. Nxc4 h4 11. Ne5 hxg3 12. hxg3 Rc8 13. d4 Bd5 14. e4 Bxe4 15. Bxe4 Qxd4 {[#]} 16. Nxf7 $3 {A bolt from the blue!} Kxf7 17. Bg6+ Kg8 18. Rd1 {The idea here is to harry the queen so that White can set up his mating net. Right now Black needs to worry about Qb3+ ideas.} Qe5 19. Bf4 Qa5 20. Bf5 $1 {Black is lost. The lone rook is attacked and Be6 mate is threatened.} g5 21. Bxc8 Kg7 {Forced.} (21... gxf4 22. Qg6+ Bg7 23. Be6+ Kf8 24. Qf7#) 22. Be3 1-0

Not that Wesley had anything to complain about. He is clear second
in the combined standings behind Carlsen so far.

Fabiano Caruana isn't exactly known as the best blitz player in the elite, but he is definitely underrated

He did mate Magnus after all. Literally.

A favorite of fans and pundits, Nakamura played well, and was in the pack of players with
5.0/9, but was unable to take off and leave everyone in the dust as he would have liked

In the last round of the day, the two best blitz players squared off

Nakamura - Carlsen

[Event "GCT Blitz YourNextMove"] [Site "Leuven BEL"] [Date "2016.06.19"] [Round "9.4"] [White "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E11"] [WhiteElo "2787"] [BlackElo "2855"] [PlyCount "123"] [EventDate "2016.06.19"] [EventType "blitz"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Bd2 Bxd2+ 5. Qxd2 d5 6. Nc3 O-O 7. e3 Qe7 8. Rc1 Rd8 9. Qc2 dxc4 10. Bxc4 c5 11. O-O cxd4 12. Nxd4 Bd7 13. Rfd1 Nc6 14. Nxc6 Bxc6 15. Bb5 Rac8 16. Rxd8+ Qxd8 17. Rd1 Qe7 18. Bxc6 Rxc6 19. Qd2 Rc8 20. Qd4 a6 21. h3 h6 22. Qd6 Qxd6 23. Rxd6 Kf8 24. Kf1 Ke7 25. Rd4 Nd7 26. Ke2 Ne5 27. Kd1 f5 28. a4 g5 29. Kc2 Rc7 30. Rd1 Nc4 31. b3 Nd6 32. Kb2 Rc8 33. f3 h5 34. Ne2 h4 35. Nc3 Rc5 36. Ne2 Ne8 37. Nc1 Nf6 38. Nd3 Rc7 39. Re1 Nd5 40. e4 fxe4 41. fxe4 Nf6 42. Ne5 Nh5 43. Nd3 Rc8 44. Rf1 Ng3 45. Re1 Kd6 46. a5 Rc7 47. Rd1 Ke7 48. Re1 Kf6 49. Re3 e5 50. Re1 Nh5 51. Rc1 $6 {A mistake that allows Black to take control of the endgame. This oversight might have cost the game. It isn't that it loses, but it makes White's defense so much harder, requiring some extremely precise moves. The rooks on the board would have made his task much easier.} Rxc1 52. Kxc1 Nf4 53. Nxf4 exf4 54. Kd2 Ke5 55. Kd3 $4 {Short of time, White blunders.} (55. Ke1 $1 {is the somewhat counterintuitive defense.} Kxe4 56. Kf2 {and Black cannot win. Ex:} f3 (56... Ke5 57. Ke2 $1 $11) 57. gxf3+ Kf4 (57... Kd4 58. Ke2 Kc3 59. Ke3 Kxb3 60. Ke4 Ka4 61. Kf5 Kxa5 62. Kxg5 b5 63. f4 b4 64. f5 b3 65. f6 b2 66. f7 $11) 58. b4) 55... g4 56. hxg4 f3 $1 57. Ke3 (57. gxf3 h3) 57... fxg2 58. Kf2 h3 $4 {Black returns the favor.} ( 58... Kf4 $1 {was winning.} 59. e5 Kxg4 60. e6 Kh3 $1 61. e7 (61. Kg1 Kg3 $1 62. e7 h3 63. e8=Q h2#) 61... Kh2 62. e8=Q g1=Q+ 63. Kf3 Qg3+ 64. Ke2 Qg4+ 65. Ke3 Kg2 {and the h-pawn will decide.}) 59. g5 Ke6 60. Kg1 Ke5 61. Kh2 Ke6 62. Kg1 1/2-1/2


Video highlights of day one of the blitz (courtesy of Vijay Kumar)

Replay games of Blitz Rd1-9

Final rapid standings

Blitz standings after nine (of eighteen) rounds

Note: In the overall standings, rapid games are worth 2 points for a win, one point for a draw and zero for a loss.
Thus each score above is worth double. Blitz games are worth the usual one for a win and half a point for a draw.

Combined standings


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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