Recap Article

2016 Your Next Move Recap Day 3

A full day of blitz passed by, leaving us with the same standings as we started with: Magnus Carlsen in first place with Wesley So one point behind. However, this consistency in the standings in no way reflects the tremulous day both men had. Going into the tournament, Wesley So’s strategy was not to lose any games but much to his dismay, his opponents had different plans. After his spectacular showing in the day 2 of the rapid, Magnus Carlsen did not impress today as he got quite a few lucky breaks. A big fan favorite and Armenian hero Levon Aronian found himself in the third place after stumbling in the last round of the rapid but winning the first day of the blitz with 5.5 points. Four players were only half a point behind in the blitz standings alone, two of whom found themselves on the bottom half of the standings.

In the first round Magnus Carlsen drew Levon Aronian increasing his lead by 1.5 points as his closest rival suffered his very first loss in Leuven against Vladimir Kramnik. In the second round So quickly rebounded when his compatriot, US champion Fabiano Caruana, ran out of time in already losing position. Carlsen beat Veselin Topalov, but his game was far from convincing. As brilliant as Carlsen was the day before, it was clear that something was wrong with his game today. The Bulgarian made an oversight in a better position and let the world champion get the full point. Levon Aronian and Vishy Anand drew, still fighting for the 3 rd and 4 th places. In round 3, the world champion once again struggled but managed to escape with half a point as Anand wasn’t able to finish him off. Aronian lost to Kramnik in a wild tactical game, letting falling half a point behind Anand. All the other games ended in a draw. The world champion’s bad form finally caught up with him as he got yet another bad position, this time against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The Frenchman was not as forgiving as his other opponents and took the full point home. Wesley So drew Anand and decreased the gap between him and Carlsen to only one point. Aronian beat Caruana and was once again tied for third with Anand.

What has truly separated Carlsen from the rest of the field is the fact that his losses didn’t turn into streaks and instead, came back with a vengeance. The same could be said about Wesley So, as the two man kept up with each other throughout the day, though Wesley never really got the chance to catch Carlsen. After a bad loss, Carlsen redeemed himself with a high level win over Kramnik, while So beat his other compatriot Hikaru Nakamura. At this point it became clear that it was going to be a race between Carlsen and So and the anticipation was building up around their round 8 encounter.

After a half an hour break, the chess world witnessed one of the rarest occurrences at the top level: an actual checkmate on the board! Carlsen was testing Caruana’s blitz skills and nerves as he kept the game going in a lost position until he blundered and let the US champion deliver a checkmate. Luckily for Carlsen, Wesley So was swept off the board by Aronian in less than 25 moves. In round 7, So quickly recovered by outplaying Topalov whilst Carlsen drew Giri withthe black pieces. The two men were only separated by half a point. Anand and Aronian were tied for 3 rd place again, two full points ahead of Vachier-Lagrave.

The penultimate round was the most critical one for the pairings, as Carlsen and So were facing off. In the words of Wesley So, Carlsen slowly beat him to death. The world champion played a smooth game and overwhelmed his opponent with his bishop pair and two extra pawns. With this win, Carlsen obtained a 1.5 point lead over the field with one round to go. Aronian and Anand were once again tied for 3 rd place, only half a point behind So.

Even though it was clear that no one could catch Carlsen, as Kramnik put it “every win is precious in this tournament”, and the last round was no exception. Carlsen missed a winning opportunity and only drew Nakamura, against whom he has an enormous score, discounting the fiasco in the rapid. The world champion overall was unhappy with his play but happy he still managed to finish ahead of the pack. Wesley So, once again, recovered with a win after a loss, this time against Vachier-Lagrave. Levon Aronian utilized his extra pawn and beat Topalov, finishing the day in clear third place, a full point ahead of Anand, who had to fold against the US champion.

The tournament still remains wide open, even with Carlsen’s commanding lead over the field. As we have witnessed anything can and does happen in blitz, and the question always remains who will be on form tomorrow. Reflecting on the Paris leg of the Grand Chess Tour, many players agree that the grueling blitz schedule does not leave them time to reflect and recover from their losses. As we saw today, both Carlsen and So handled their losses excellently and were able to come back with a win almost each time. Wesley So still remains somewhat inexperienced compared to the rest of the field, but he felt that he’s gaining more confidence and experience with each game. Tomorrow, the chess world will see who can handle their nerves the best as the winner of the Leuven leg of the Grand Chess Tour will emerge.


View All News
GM Gukesh D & GM Viswanathan Anand
The best have history here.View 2024 Tour

Welcome to Grand Chess Tour!

Please choose your language: