The first leg of 2019 Grand Chess Tour kicked off in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire today. After three rounds of rapid, Magnus Carlsen and Wei Yi are leading with 5/6, while Hikaru Nakamura is in third place with 4/6. The World Champion continues to show the excellent form he has displayed since the beginning of the year by continuing to play enterprising chess. While the World Champion continues to shine, he does not have first all to himself, as Wei Yi also racked up a couple impressive wins in the first few rounds.The young Chinese grandmaster joined Carlsen in the lead with a last round win over his compatriot Ding Liren.
Standings after round 3. In the rapid a win is worth 2 points, a draw is 1 point and a loss is 0
Magnus Carlsen started the day with a win over Wesley So, one he achieved by using his bishop to overpower the American’s knight, forcing So to resign on move 40. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave made a positional pawn sacrifice against Hikaru Nakamura, but ended up down a pawn in a rook endgame, which the American converted easily. Bassem Amin, the wildcard of the tournament, made his debut in the Grand Chess Tour against Ding Liren and achieved a good position out of the opening with his preparation. Unfortunately for the Egyptian GM, the complications in the middlegame favored the Chinese player, who eventually prevailed and joined the leader. Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi played a wild line in the Sicilian, featuring numerous piece sacrifices, but in the end the sharp play only yielded a draw by perpetual. The quiet affair between Veselin Topalov and Wei Yi ended in a draw in 33 moves.
Magnus Carlsen won a brilliant game against Ian Nepomniachtchi, thus taking the sole lead in the tournament. The World Champion sacrificed a pawn in order to further advance his connected passed pawns, one of which later became a queen. It is quite an unusual sight to see three queens on the board at such a high level! Bassem Amin suffered his second loss in a row, this time against Wei Yi, due to his king not being able to find a safe home without suffering material loss. Hikaru Nakamura tried until move 103 to win with his extra pawn in a knight ending, but Sergey Karjakin defended relentlessly. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Wesley So drew Ding Liren and Veselin Topalov respectively in very balanced games.
The big match-up of the day was between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura. There was one moment in the game when Nakamura had to calculate a complicated piece sacrifice which would have given him a big advantage. The US Champion opted for a safer choice, which would have lead to trouble for him had Magnus found the precise continuation. The back and forth battle eventually ended in a draw. In the longest game of the round, Wei Yi was able to defeat Ding Liren in a minor piece endgame, thus joining Carlsen in the lead. Bassem Amin failed to retrieve the pawn he sacrificed against Wesley So, thus ending the day with three losses. Ian Nepomniachtchi had a great opportunity to bounce back from his round 2 loss, but blundered into a perpetual against Veselin Topalov. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave’s pet opening, the Najdorf, once again proved to be a great choice, as he drew Sergey Karjakin without any difficulties.