Magnus Carlsen dominated the first leg of Grand Chess Tour, scoring a total of 26.5 points out of 36 possible and clinching the title with two rounds to spare. He collected $37,500 and 13 GCT points for his efforts. Côte d’Ivoire is his fifth consecutive tournament win of the year. There was a tie for second place between Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who will share the prize money and the GCT points, earning $22,000 and 9 points each. The next stop will be a classical event in Zagreb, Croatia beginning June 26.
Magnus Carlsen’s results today were more convincing than during day one of blitz. Just as yesterday, he lost to one his closest rivals, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in round two. Today, the World Champion bounced back quickly, scoring 5.5 points in the remaining seven games. His draw with Wesley So was enough to clinch the win with two rounds to spare, but he still went on to win the remaining two games. The World Champion was not content with his play in the blitz portion, but his big lead after the rapid was difficult to overcome. The World Champion acknowledged the enthusiasm from local people and neighboring countries and was impressed by the love of chess from the locals, noting that the country will have a bright future.
Magnus Carlsen with Paulin Danho, Minister of Sports of Côte d’Ivoire
After it became clear that there is no catching Carlsen, there was a tight battle for the second place. Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave were neck and neck, leapfrogging each other several times throughout the day. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was unable to repeat his powerful result from yesterday and actually started the day off with a loss. His hopes of catching Carlsen after defeating the World Champion in the second game of the day were squandered by the loss to Nakamura in the very next round. Entering the last round, Nakamura had a point lead but was facing Carlsen. He chose a safe variation, but in his own words, he fell asleep at the board and let the game progress in an unpleasant way. Nakamura eventually lost the game. A win over Ian Nepomniachtchi gave the Frenchman a tie for the second place.
Hikaru Nakamura vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Wesley So started and ended the day in fourth place. He had a solid showing today, scoring five points and only losing one game to his countryman, Hikaru Nakamura. He picked up 7 tour points and $15,000.
World No. 3 Ding Liren is known for his solid play and the 100 game undefeated streak, so it was surprising to see him start the day with two loses. His total score of 3.5 points today was enough to guarantee him the fifth spot. His country man, Wei Yi, finished in sixth place, but as a wildcard he does not collect any GCT points as he is not fighting for one of the top four qualifying spots to London.
The two Russian players, Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi, scored 5.5 and 5 points respectively and finished in a tie for seventh place. Former World Champion Veselin Topalov completely collapsed today, walking into checkmate in several of his games. He only managed to make four draws, losing the rest of his games.
The local favorite, Bassem Amin, scored 2.5 by defeating Ding Liren and drawing Nakamura, Topalov and So. He received enormous support throughout the event and seemed content to have an opportunity to participate in such a high level event.