All-Action First Round in Croatia GCT

Turns out the death of classical chess may have been "greatly exaggerated" after all. The Zagreb stop of the 2019 Grand Chess Tour got underway yesterday with Round 1’s non-stop action. Four of the six games were decisively decided, and even the draws were interesting! ROUND 1 RESULTS World Champion Magnus Carlsen ushered in the bloodletting with a relatively quick 23 move win over his frequent Twitter “banter pal” Anish Giri. Carlsen took a chance on move seven, playing something he felt would tilt his unflappable opponent, and after inaccuracies on Giri’s sixteenth and nineteenth moves, Carlsen cashed in the full point.


[Event "Croatia GCT 2019"]
[Site "Zagreb CRO"]
[Date "2019.06.26"]
[Round "1.1"]
[White "Giri, Anish"]
[Black "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B30"]
[WhiteElo "2779"]
[BlackElo "2875"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "46"]
[EventDate "2019.06.26"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 e6 4. Bxc6 bxc6 5. d3 Ne7 6. h4 h5 7. e5 d6 $5 {
"A case of playing the man instead of the position... I thought ...d6 was such
a stupid move that he wouldn't have looked at it, and the resulting positions
were just completely unclear." (Carlsen)} (7... f6 {is the 'standard' move,
although there's not a lot of games with it.}) 8. exd6 Ng6 9. Nfd2 Bxd6 10. Nc4
Be7 11. Nc3 Ba6 $1 12. Qf3 ({Giri had wanted to develop with} 12. g3 {followed
by 13.Qe2, but he realized that he'd be unhappy with the positions after} Bxc4
13. dxc4 Qxd1+) 12... Bxc4 13. Qxc6+ Kf8 14. dxc4 Nxh4 15. O-O Nf5 16. Ne2 $2 {
For Carlsen this was the key mistake. The idea is to prevent ...Nd4, but
perhaps Giri needed to develop his pieces.} (16. Be3) (16. Bf4) ({The computer
likes} 16. Rd1 Nd4 17. Qe4 f5 18. Qd3 h4 {with a razor-sharp position}) 16...
Rc8 17. Qa4 (17. Qe4 $5) 17... Rc7 18. Bf4 Rd7 19. c3 $2 (19. Ng3 $142 Nxg3 20.
fxg3 h4 $36) 19... g5 $1 20. Rad1 Rxd1 21. Rxd1 Qa8 $1 {The move Giri missed,
and what a move it is!} 22. Bc7 (22. Be5 Qe4 $1 23. Bxh8 Nh4 $19) 22... h4 23.
f3 h3 0-1


Carlsen’s play was lauded up and down by his former coach, Garry Kasparov, who was on hand for most of the day’s action. He praised Carlsen’s practical instincts, and compared his current run of form with Fischer’s in the run-up to the 1972 Championship and with his (Kasparov’s) best days.   Carlsen’s 2018 Challenger, Fabiano Caruana, also started well, defeating his countryman Hikaru Nakamura in a theoretical Queen’s Gambit. Nakamura essayed his favored variation beginning with 10. … Re8, but something went wrong after Caruana offered a new idea with 19.Qf5. Nakamura’s decision to grab the a-pawn with 24. … Qxa3? was (per their post-game conversation) in his preparation, but White is much the better after 25.Rh4! and Caruana converted his advantage without much difficulty.


[Event "Croatia GCT 2019"]
[Site "Zagreb CRO"]
[Date "2019.06.26"]
[Round "1.2"]
[White "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D37"]
[WhiteElo "2819"]
[BlackElo "2754"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "79"]
[EventDate "2019.06.26"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. a3
Nc6 9. Qc2 Qa5 10. Rd1 Re8 {Nakamura's pet move. He has played it at least
eight times in high-level competition.} 11. Nd2 e5 12. Bg5 Nd4 13. Qb1 Bf5 14.
Bd3 Bxd3 15. Qxd3 Ne4 16. Nxd5 Nxg5 17. b4 Qd8 18. bxc5 Nde6 19. Qf5 $5 {
Caruana's new idea.} (19. O-O Nxc5 20. Qb1 Nge6 (20... Rc8 21. f4 exf4 22. exf4
Nge4 23. Nxe4 Rxe4 24. Rde1 Rxe1 25. Rxe1 {1/2-1/2 (45) Aronian,L (2805)
-Nakamura,H (2781) London 2017}) 21. Nf3 Nf8 22. Rd2 Rc8 23. Rfd1 Qd6 24. Nc3
Qg6 25. Rd5 Qxb1 26. Rxb1 f6 {½-½ (42) Aronian,L (2764)-Nakamura,H (2769)
Stavanger 2018}) 19... Nxc5 20. h4 Nge6 21. Nf3 Qa5+ 22. Ke2 f6 23. h5 e4 24.
Nd2 Qxa3 $2 {Afterwards Nakamura told Caruana that this move, a blunder, was
in his home preparation. Fabiano speculated that perhaps Hikaru had mixed up
positions as a lot of the lines look similar.} (24... Ng5 $13 {is required.})
25. Rh4 $1 (25. h6 g6 26. Qxf6 Qd3+) 25... Rad8 ({If} 25... Ng5 {Caruana
calculated the amazing} 26. h6 Re5 27. Nxf6+ gxf6 28. Qxf6 Qd3+ 29. Ke1 Qd7 {
and now} 30. Nxe4 $1 Qc7 31. Nxg5 Rf8 32. Rd8 $1 Rxd8 33. Rg4 $18) 26. Nxe4 $18
Qa2+ 27. Ke1 Qa5+ 28. Kf1 Nxe4 29. Rxe4 Qa4 30. Rb1 Ng5 31. Rd4 Nf7 32. Rxb7
Qa6 33. Qb1 Rf8 34. Kg1 Kh8 35. c5 Rc8 36. Nf4 Ne5 37. h6 g6 38. Rd6 Qc4 39.
Re6 Rxc5 40. Ree7 1-0


The third American in the field, Wesley So, managed to squeeze out a victory after the usually-solid Ding Liren allowed his bishop to become trapped.

[Event "Croatia GCT 2019"]
[Site "Zagreb CRO"]
[Date "2019.06.26"]
[Round "1.3"]
[White "So, Wesley"]
[Black "Ding, Liren"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A20"]
[WhiteElo "2754"]
[BlackElo "2805"]
[Annotator "Hartmann,John"]
[PlyCount "99"]
[EventDate "2019.06.26"]

1. c4 e5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 Bc5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 O-O 6. Nge2 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. d4
exd4 9. Nxd5 cxd5 10. exd4 Bb6 11. Nc3 Nc6 12. Be3 Be6 13. O-O Qd7 14. Na4 Rfd8
15. Nxb6 axb6 16. Qb3 Ra6 17. Rfc1 Bh3 18. Bf3 Bg4 19. Bg2 Bh3 20. Bf3 Bg4 21.
Bh1 h5 22. h4 Be2 23. Kh2 Qf5 24. Bg2 Na5 $6 (24... Bc4) 25. Qc3 Nc6 26. b3 b5
27. Qd2 Bf3 28. Bf1 Rb6 29. Bf4 Rc8 $2 30. Rc3 {Trapping the bishop.} Bg4 31.
f3 b4 32. Rd3 Bxf3 33. Rxf3 Ne5 34. dxe5 Rc2 35. Rf2 Rxd2 36. Rxd2 Rc6 37. Bh3
Qg6 38. Rad1 Ra6 39. Bg2 d4 40. Bxb7 Ra5 41. Rxd4 Rxa2+ 42. R1d2 Qb6 43. Rxa2
Qxd4 44. Rd2 Qc3 45. Bd5 Kf8 46. Bc4 Ke7 47. Bg5+ f6 48. exf6+ gxf6 49. Re2+
Kd7 50. Bd2 1-0

In other results, Ian Nepomniachtchi defated Viswanathan Anand in a sharp line of the Italian Game, while the Mamedyarov-Karjakin and MVL-Aronian games were drawn. CURRENT STANDINGS
courtesy STLCC
The Croatia Grand Chess Tour will be contested from June 26th-July 8th, with rounds played at 4:30 local time / 10:30 EDT. There is one rest day on July 2nd. Live round-by-round streaming coverage is available on the Saint Louis Chess Club YouTube channel, featuring GMs Alejandro Ramirez, Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley, and IM Jovanka Houska.

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