Round 3 is History in Zagreb

Ian Nepomniachtchi leads the 2019 Croatia Grand Chess Tour by a full point as Saturday’s Round 4 action gets underway. Wesley So and Magnus Carlsen share second place with 2/3.

courtesy STLCC

They say that fortune favors the bold, and “Nepo” has had to ride his luck a bit to jump out to his early lead. He was much worse against Fabiano Caruana in round 2, but some uncharacteristic errors by the 2018 Challenger allowed him to snatch the full point. Nepo’s knowledge of chess history paid off in round 3, when he defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov by dusting off some classic attacking ideas.

ROUND 2

courtesy STLCC

Fabiano Caruana appeared to be well on his way to converting a healthy advantage out of the Sveshnikov against Nepomniachtchi, but after a slip on move 34, followed by his missing an “only move” on move 38, Nepo turned the tables and grabbed his second win of the event.

Carlsen-Anand (photo Lennart Ootes)

The Carlsen-Anand pairing was perhaps the marquee matchup of the day, and it did not disappoint! After a perhaps risky pawn grab on move 13, Anand had to suffer through a typical Carlsen grind. But tiny inaccuracies by Carlsen on moves 45-47 gave Anand a lifeline, one that he did not waste. The endgame is absolutely stunning, particularly the finale, and Anand’s technique should be studied here.

Hikaru Nakamura had a relatively quick draw against Mamedyarov, while Wesley So and Vachier-Lagrave repeated moves in a completely equal rook ending.

ROUND 3

courtesy STLCC

Ian Nepomniachtchi earned his third win of the tournament in three tries, defeating Mamedyarov in a memorable game.

Ian Nepomniachtchi (photo Lennart Ootes)

Their game began along the same lines as their contest in Wijk aan Zee earlier this year, but Mamedyarov’s 9.h3 gave Nepo a target on the kingside. The position quickly came to resemble a reversed King’s Indian Attack – not the same thing as a ‘normal’ King’s Indian! – and Nepo felt like he was in his element. By move 18, Mamedyarov was already beginning to struggle for decent ideas, and his 18.Qxc7? handed Nepo all the initiative he would need to claim the full point.

Well-known GM and internet “gadfly” Suat Atalik called into the livestream to talk about “the change in the game,” saying that when “we were all young” everyone understood that Black was better (after 19.Bf1). Why, he wondered, would White voluntarily head for such a position? Atalik cited Fischer-Myagmarsuren and a Bronstein game (perhaps Bronstein-Kochyev) as known examples of how to play Black’s attack. Both are worth replaying.

The five remaining games of the round were drawn. Magnus Carlsen surprised Fabiano Caruana by trying a sideline of the Open Ruy instead of his now-standard Sveshnikov. This led “one sly wag” to opine:

The game was drawn in 68 moves, with Caruana pushing unsuccessfully for the win for the final 30 moves.

Wesley So navigated an interesting opening idea (14.d4!?) from Anish Giri, and drew without much difficulty. Hikaru Nakamura had to work longer – 77 moves in all – to hold a 3 vs 2 same-side rook ending against Sergey Karjakin.


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:

English language: GMs Alejandro Ramirez, Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley, and IM Jovanka Houska.

Russian language: GMs Evegnij Mironhnichenko and Melik Khachiyan.

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