Carlsen Cruises to GCT Croatia Win; So Second

Bobby Fischer stunned the world when he won the 1963/64 US Championship with 11 wins in 11 games. So shocking was Fischer’s feat that it is said that runner-up Larry Evans, who scored a respectable 7.5/11, was congratulated after the final round for “winning the tournament” while Fischer had “won the exhibition.” Wesley So consciously evoked this famous bit of Fischer lore during today’s post-game interview with Maurice Ashley: Perhaps this is So’s trademark modesty at work, as he had an excellent result in Zagreb, scoring 7/11 and taking clear second place. But there can be no doubt that Magnus Carlsen is playing astounding chess these days, and his +5 score (8/11) against a field of this calibre must go down as one of the best tournament perfomances since Karpov in Linares 1994.

Here’s a look back at how the final rounds shook out. ROUND 9

Carlsen continued to dole out surprises from his store of World Championship inspired novelties in his game against Levon Aronian. 15. 0-0-0 surprised both Aronian and the commentators, and the resulting game was “one of the best played draws [I’ve] ever seen,” as Alejandro Ramirez described it.

[pgn] [Event "Croatia GCT 2019"] [Site "Zagreb CRO"] [Date "2019.07.05"] [Round "9"] [White "Carlsen, M."] [Black "Aronian, L."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "D39"] [WhiteElo "2875"] [BlackElo "2752"] [PlyCount "97"] [EventDate "2019.06.26"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Bg5 dxc4 6. e4 c5 7. e5 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Qa5 10. exf6 Qxg5 11. fxg7 Qxg7 12. Qd2 O-O 13. Bxc4 Rd8 14. Qe3 Bd7 15. O-O-O Nc6 16. Bb3 Be8 17. Nxc6 Bxc6 18. h4 Qf6 19. Rh3 b5 20. Rg3+ Kh8 21. Rg4 a5 22. Rf4 Qg7 23. Rxd8+ Rxd8 24. g4 b4 25. g5 bxc3 26. Bc2 Bd5 27. Rf6 Qf8 28. Qxc3 Rc8 29. Qd3 Qg7 30. f4 Kg8 31. Kd2 h6 32. a3 hxg5 33. fxg5 Rc4 34. Qg3 Be4 35. Bb3 Rd4+ 36. Ke1 Bf5 37. h5 Rd3 38. Qb8+ Qf8 39. Qxf8+ Kxf8 40. Bc2 Rh3 41. Bxf5 exf5 42. h6 Kg8 43. a4 Rh4 44. Rxf5 Rxa4 45. Kf2 Rg4 46. Kf3 Rg1 47. Kf2 Rg4 48. Kf3 Rg1 49. Kf2 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
Wesley So had to ride his luck against Ian Nepomniachtchi to hold his opponent to a draw and stay half a point behind Carlsen. So was prepared to resign as soon as his opponent found the crushing 36.Qd5!, but after 36.Qe2 there was just enough in the position to give So the perpetual and the shared point.
[pgn] [Event "Croatia GCT 2019"] [Site "Zagreb CRO"] [Date "2019.07.05"] [Round "9.2"] [White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Black "So, Wesley"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2775"] [BlackElo "2754"] [PlyCount "83"] [EventDate "2019.06.26"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Nbd2 Nd4 6. Nxd4 Bxd4 7. c3 Bb6 8. d4 c6 9. dxe5 cxb5 10. exf6 Qxf6 11. O-O O-O 12. a4 bxa4 13. Nc4 d5 14. exd5 Bd7 15. Be3 Bxe3 16. fxe3 Qe7 17. Qd4 Rfe8 18. e4 f6 19. Rfe1 b5 20. Nd2 a5 21. Nf3 Bg4 22. d6 Qd7 23. e5 Bxf3 24. gxf3 fxe5 25. Rxe5 Rxe5 26. Qxe5 Re8 27. Qd5+ Kh8 28. Rd1 h6 29. Rd4 Re6 30. Kf2 Rf6 31. h4 b4 32. c4 a3 33. bxa3 bxa3 34. c5 a2 35. Qxa2 Qh3 36. Qe2 $2 (36. Qd5 $1) 36... Qh2+ 37. Ke3 Qg1+ 38. Kd3 Qb1+ 39. Ke3 Qg1+ 40. Kd3 Qb1+ 41. Kd2 Qb2+ 42. Kd3 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
This set up the Round 10 matchup between first place Carlsen and second place So, a game that Carlsen told Maurice he was looking forward to. In other results, Caruana drew with Ding Liren, Karjakin drew Giri, and Nakamura split the point with Vachier-Lagrave. Mamedyarov had the only win of the round, defeating Viswanathan Anand in a 5.Bf4 QGD. ROUND 10

Trailing Carlsen by half a point, and playing with the advantage of the White pieces, fans and commentators were wondering how So would try and catch the leader. He passed up a chance at the Catalan, preferring a very solid variation of the 4. Qc2 Nimzo-Indian instead. The game followed Mamedyarov-Carlsen (Wijk aan Zee, 2018) through 14. Rxc2, but Carlsen’s new idea 14. … Bd7 was not sufficient to change the evaluation of the position, and the players drew in 36 moves.

[pgn] [Event "Croatia GCT 2019"] [Site "Zagreb CRO"] [Date "2019.07.06"] [Round "10"] [White "So, W."] [Black "Carlsen, M."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E34"] [WhiteElo "2754"] [BlackElo "2875"] [PlyCount "71"] [EventDate "2019.06.26"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d5 5. cxd5 Qxd5 6. e3 c5 7. Bd2 Bxc3 8. Bxc3 cxd4 9. Bxd4 Nc6 10. Bc3 O-O 11. Nf3 Rd8 12. Be2 Qe4 13. Rc1 Qxc2 14. Rxc2 Bd7 15. Ne5 Nxe5 16. Bxe5 Rac8 17. Rxc8 Rxc8 18. O-O Nd5 19. Rd1 f6 20. Bd4 Ba4 21. b3 Be8 22. Bc4 b5 23. Bxd5 exd5 24. Bxa7 Ra8 25. Bc5 Rxa2 26. h4 Bf7 27. e4 Ra8 28. exd5 Rd8 29. b4 Rxd5 30. Rxd5 Bxd5 31. f3 h5 32. Bd4 Bc6 33. Bc3 Bd5 34. Bd4 Bc6 35. Bc3 Bd5 36. Bd4 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]
Some Twitterati criticized So for playing so solidly, effectively handing Carlsen a effortless draw. But the players themselves, including Anand and Carlsen, were more understanding. So, for his part, did not shy away from the practical reasons for his decision. In some ways the So-Carlsen draw set the tone for the round. All five remaining games – Caruana-Mamedyarov, Giri-Nakamura, Ding-Aronian, Anand-Karjakin, and MVL-Nepomniachtchi – were also drawn, with Caruana’s game against Mamedyarov being the most fighting of the bunch.
[pgn] [Event "Croatia GCT 2019"] [Site "Zagreb CRO"] [Date "2019.07.06"] [Round "10"] [White "Caruana, F."] [Black "Mamedyarov, S."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B01"] [WhiteElo "2819"] [BlackElo "2774"] [PlyCount "104"] [EventDate "2019.06.26"] 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 Bf5 6. Bc4 e6 7. Bd2 Bb4 8. a3 Bxc3 9. Bxc3 Qb6 10. O-O O-O 11. b3 Rd8 12. Re1 Nbd7 13. Bb2 c6 14. Qc1 h6 15. h3 Rac8 16. Bf1 Bh7 17. Nd2 Qc7 18. c4 b5 19. cxb5 cxb5 20. Qxc7 Rxc7 21. Rac1 Rb7 22. Bc3 Nf8 23. Bb4 g5 24. Rc5 a6 25. Rec1 Kg7 26. Rc6 Ra7 27. Ba5 Rdd7 28. a4 Ng6 29. axb5 axb5 30. b4 Nf4 31. Nb3 Bd3 32. Rd1 Bxf1 33. Kxf1 e5 34. Rc5 exd4 35. Rxb5 Ne6 36. Re5 Kg6 37. g3 Nd5 38. Rd2 Rab7 39. Nc5 Nxc5 40. bxc5 Rb1+ 41. Re1 Rb5 42. c6 Ra7 43. Bd8 Rb8 44. c7 Nxc7 45. Bxc7 Rxc7 46. Rxd4 Rcb7 47. Rd2 Rb1 48. Rxb1 Rxb1+ 49. Kg2 Rb6 50. Kf1 Rb1+ 51. Kg2 Rb6 52. Kf1 Rb1+ 1/2-1/2 [/pgn]

Coaches always exhort their players to “finish strong,” and that’s exactly what Magnus Carlsen did, impressively defeating Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in 37 moves. Carlsen challenged MVL in his favored Grünfeld Defense, and after a questionable exchange of bishop for knight on move 14, MVL was inexorably ground down by Carlsen’s steady hand.

[pgn] [Event "Croatia GCT 2019"] [Site "Zagreb CRO"] [Date "2019.07.07"] [Round "11"] [White "Carlsen, M."] [Black "Vachier Lagrave, M."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D85"] [WhiteElo "2875"] [BlackElo "2779"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "73"] [EventDate "2019.06.26"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 c5 8. Be3 Qa5 9. Qd2 Nc6 10. Rb1 cxd4 11. cxd4 O-O 12. Qxa5 Nxa5 13. Bd3 Bg4 14. O-O Bxf3 $6 {"When you give up the bishop like this, you really need to have a good plan, otherwise it's going to be very, very dangerous." (Carlsen)} (14... b6 {was the choice of Dominguez and Sutovsky, and has also been tested in high level correspondence play.} 15. Rfc1 Rfd8 16. d5 e6 17. Bf4 exd5 18. exd5 Rac8 {1/2-1/2 (34) Wiedenkeller,M (2453)-Dominguez Perez,L (2732) Skopje 2015}) 15. gxf3 e6 16. Rfd1 Rfd8 17. Bf1 b6 18. Ba6 {Grabbing control of c8 and the c-file.} Rd6 19. Rbc1 Rad8 20. Bg5 f6 21. Be3 h6 (21... Nc6 22. d5 exd5 23. Rxd5 Rxd5 24. exd5 Ne7 25. Bf4 {is very promising for White.}) 22. Bb5 (22. Rc7 $5) 22... f5 ({Perhaps} 22... g5 {first? If} 23. d5 (23. h4 $142 f5 {(Carlsen)} ) 23... exd5 24. Rc7 f5 {with the idea} 25. exf5 d4 {but after} 26. Bd2 { White is still heavily for choice.}) 23. d5 g5 (23... fxe4 24. fxe4 g5 25. Bd2 a6 26. Ba4 {transposes}) 24. Bd2 fxe4 25. fxe4 a6 26. Ba4 (26. Bxa6 $6 exd5 27. Bb4 Rc6) 26... exd5 27. Bb4 $1 Re6 28. Rxd5 Rxd5 ({The computer prefers} 28... Rb8 {but it won't save Black.}) 29. exd5 Re4 30. Rc8+ Kf7 31. a3 Be5 32. Be8+ Kg7 33. d6 Rd4 34. d7 Nb7 35. Be7 Re4 36. Rc6 Bd4 37. Rc7 1-0 [/pgn]

Nepo-Giri (photo Lennart Ootes)

Anish Giri continued his second-half resurgence with a win over the slumping Ian Nepomniachtchi. Nepo went for a speculative attack with 13.Nxh7, but it turns out that the well-prepared Giri already knew the move and its refutation. By move 20 it was clear that Nepo had miscalculated, and Giri collected the full point without much difficulty.

[pgn] [Event "Croatia GCT 2019"] [Site "Zagreb CRO"] [Date "2019.07.07"] [Round "11.3"] [White "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"] [Black "Giri, Anish"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B51"] [WhiteElo "2775"] [BlackElo "2779"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "72"] [EventDate "2019.06.26"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Nd7 4. c3 Ngf6 5. Bd3 g6 6. Bc2 Bg7 7. d4 O-O 8. O-O b5 9. e5 Ne8 10. e6 fxe6 11. Ng5 Nc7 12. dxc5 Nxc5 {[#] And here Nepo uncorked a move that looked rather dangerous, but it turns out that Giri's "hard-working friend," his personal computer, had checked it and deemed it a mistake.} 13. Nxh7 Kxh7 14. Qh5+ Kg8 15. Bxg6 Rf6 16. Qh7+ Kf8 17. Bh6 Rxg6 18. Qxg6 (18. Qh8+ {appears to win the queen, but Giri pointed out that after} Kf7 19. Qxd8 Rxg2+ 20. Kh1 (20. Kxg2 $2 Bb7+) 20... Bb7 21. Qxc7 Rg6+ {White is losing.}) 18... Bxh6 19. Qxh6+ Ke8 {Here Giri assumed that he was simply winning, with a safe king and a superior material configuration.} 20. b4 Na4 21. Na3 Kd7 22. c4 bxc4 23. Nxc4 Ba6 24. Rac1 Nb6 25. Nxb6+ axb6 26. Rfe1 Bb7 27. Qe3 (27. Rxc7+ Kxc7 28. Qxe6 {is perhaps the "best practical chance" per Giri, but the position is a clear win for Black.}) 27... b5 28. a3 Bd5 29. Rc3 Qg8 30. Qh3 Qg7 31. Rec1 Bc4 32. Re1 Qd4 33. Rf3 Qd2 34. Rb1 Nd5 35. Qg3 Be2 36. Rfb3 Bd1 0-1 [/pgn]
The four remaining games – Aronian-So, Karjakin-Caruana, Mamedyarov-Ding, and Nakamura-Anand – were drawn.

courtesy STLCC

Carlsen receives $90,000 and 20 Grand Prix Points for his first place finish in Zagreb, while So went away with $60,000 for his efforts. Aronian and Caruana each earned $35,000. The next stop on the 2019 Grand Prix Tour will be the Paris Rapid & Blitz, played in Paris, France, from July 26th-August 2nd. After that it’s back to Saint Louis for the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz (August 8-15) and the Sinquefield Cup (August 15-30). The 2019 Tour wraps up with the Superbet Rapid & Blitz (Bucharest, Romania, November 4-11) and the Tata Steel India Rapid & Blitz (Kolkata, India, November 20-27). Four players will advance to the GCT Finals, held as part of the London Chess Classic (London, UK, November 30-December 10). CLO will have coverage of all these events.


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Fabulous unheard of US chess international coverage from Hartmann. There is a news sheriff in town. A wonder. Jude Acers/ New Orleans

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[…] off their appearance in the Croatia stop of the Grand Chess Tour, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So are in Latvia for the FIDE Riga Grand Prix. […]

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