31 March - 9 April 2018
  • Georg Meier
    Georg Meier

    Name: Georg Meier
    Age: 30
    Country: Germany
    World rankinge: No. 109

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  • Matthias Bluebaum
    Matthias Bluebaum

    Name: Matthias Blübaum
    Age: 20
    Country: Germany
    World ranking: Nr. 138

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  • Viswanathan Anand
    Viswanathan Anand

    Name: Viswanathan Anand
    Age: 48
    Country: Indien
    World ranking: No. 9

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  • Magnus Carlsen
    Magnus Carlsen

    Name: Magnus Carlsen
    Age: 27
    Country: Norway
    World ranking: No. 1

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  • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

    Name: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
    Age: 27
    Country: France
    World ranking: No. 6

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  • Fabiano Caruana
    Fabiano Caruana

    Name: Fabiano Caruana
    Age: 25
    Country: USA
    World ranking: No. 7

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  • Nikita Vitiugov
    Nikita Vitiugov

    Name: Nikita Vitiugov
    Age: 31
    Country: Russland
    World ranking No. 26

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  • Arkadij Naiditsch
    Arkadij Naiditsch

    Name: Arkadij Naiditsch
    Age: 32
    Country: Azerbaijan
    World ranking: No. 41

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  • Levon Aronian
    Levon Aronian

    Name: Levon Aronian
    Age: 35
    Counry: Armenia
    World ranking: No. 5

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  • Hou Yifan
    Hou Yifan

    Name: Hou Yifan
    Age: 23
    Country: China
    World ranking: No. 96

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The calm before the last round storm?

It was another beautiful, sunny day in Baden-Baden and the peacefulness of the surroundings was reflected on the chessboard this afternoon. Three hours into the round four of the five games had ended in draws and Carlsen and Vitiugov were left to battle it out in the ‘Spiegelsaal’ on their own for almost twice as long.


Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa – the players’ hotel


The first game of the day to end was the clash between Caruana and Aronian, which had the subplot of Fabiano having beaten Levon twice at the recently concluded Candidates Tournament in Berlin. The American decided to avoid the Berlin mainlines by playing 5.Re1 and later temporarily gave up a pawn for piece activity. However, after Aronian returned the pawn with 17…d6 all the pieces were soon swapped off and a draw by repetition was agreed on move 32.Pretty much at the same time Naiditsch and Anand also repeated moves after what had been an interesting debate in the Giuoco Piano. The Azeri seemed to have gotten out of the opening with the initiative, but Vishy soon neutralised all threats with precise play and a dead drawn endgame was reached.


Carlsen was paying close attention to the opening stages of Caruana-Aronian


Georg Meier and Hou Yifan fought it out in a Catalan Opening, where queen came off the board on move 14. What ensued was a very practical ending where if anyone it was White who had a slight edge, but Hou Yifan never set a foot wrong and a draw was agreed on move 33. Both players are yet to score a win a full point in this year’s GRENKE Chess Classic, but tomorrow won’t get any easier as they face Vachier-Lagrave and Naiditsch respectively.


It hasn’t been the best of tournaments for Georg Meier and Hou Yifan


Vachier-Lagrave had the very unenviable task of beating Bluebaum with the black pieces if he wanted to have a chance of contesting tournament victory in the final round, but there was no toppling the young German player who has had an impressive showing since his first round defeat to Vitiugov. A few moves before the draw was agreed, Matthias offered to give up the exchange with 42.Rc3, but the resulting ending would have been a fortress as there was no way to infiltrate White’s position.


Matthias Bluebaum is unbeaten since his first round defeat


Magnus Carlsen came out fighting for his first ever game against Nikitia Vitiugov – incredibly these two players had never met before; not only in classical chess, but also in rapid or blitz. The World Champion got the slightest of advantages out of a topical Ruy Lopez and tried for many hours to convert what was a trademark Magnus edge in the ending. However, Vitiugov never showed a sign of weakness and held Carlsen to a 65-move draw without too much trouble. That is a sixth consecutive draw for the Russian after starting with two wins – a strong and solid performance on his GRENKE Classic debut.


Carlsen tried for a long time but there was no rattling the ‘Iceman’ Vitiugov


Five draws of course means the standings remain unchanged and Caruana goes into the final round as the sole leader, on 5.5/8. Carlsen and Vitiugov trail him by half a point, while Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave sit on 4.5/8. Since the all-decisive final round features the clash between Vitiugov and Caruana, only one of them or Carlsen can still win the event - in case of a tie there will be a playoff to determine the tournament winner. Carlsen meanwhile will be black against his predecessor, Vishy Anand, in a remake of the 2013 and 2014 World Championship Matches.Tomorrow’s last round kicks off at the usual starting time of 3pm CEST and you shouldn’t miss our live show with commentary by GMs Peter Leko and Jan Gustafsson.

Text and photos: Fiona Steil-Antoni


Player interviews on the official YouTube channel