final day of the Paris Grand Chess Tour brought all the drama and
excitement that one could have hoped for. World Champion Magnus Carlsen
started and finished the day ahead of the field, but the final standings
can’t do justice to the roller coaster ride that was today. French
chess fans were in for a treat as they watched the local hero, Parisian
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, rip through the field to join Carlsen in the
playoffs. Unfortunately, the Frenchman came up short but he is still in a
good position in the tour and has proved himself to be a remarkable
blitz player. The next stop will be Your Next Move in Leuven, Belgium
starting June 28 where Carlsen, Vachier-Lagrave, and So will be joined
by Levon Aronian, Viswanathan Anand, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Vladimir
Kramnik, Anish Giri, Vassily Ivanchuk and Baadur Jobava.
off the bat, Magnus Carlsen stumbled by losing his first round game to
Fabiano Caruana, who had a very poor showing in the rapid but started to
find his form in the blitz portion. Carlsen went on to win several
games in a row, but the most shocking part of his performance was losing
three games in a row. This was unprecedented for the World Champion who
is known for doing quite the opposite. He ended the tournament with a
win over Wesley So, which in his own words, allowed him to “find some
Vachier-Lagrave saw Carlsen’s poor performance as an opportunity to
pounce and surpassed him after round seventeen. Had he won his final
round game against Grischuk, he would have won the event outright.
Vachier-Lagrave scored an impressive result of 7/9 without any losses,
which was only enough to tie for first with Carlsen.
and Carlsen met in the playoffs to determine who will get the 12 Grand
Chess Tour points. The format of the playoffs was two games of 10
minutes each with a 5 second delay. If that also ended in a tie, the
next stage was a 5 minute game with a 3 second delay followed by
Armageddon in case that also ended in a tie. The playoff was a quick one
as Carlsen showed off his endgame skills by taking advantage of his
opponent’s weaknesses and converting his extra pawn. In the second, he
had the black pieces but all the pressure was on his opponent to win the
game. Carlsen had the better position but decided to repeat the
position and take the draw, winning the event.
third place finisher was Hikaru Nakamura, who kept pace with Magnus and
Vachier-Lagrave for most of the event. His decision in round 16 to
under promote to a knight instead of promoting to a queen and forcing a
draw cost him the tournament. He came back in the very next round to
beat Carlsen, but he was already out of the contention for first place.
Grischuk and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov started the day in third and fifth
place respectively and finished in fourth and fifth. Grischuk started
the day strong but was unable to keep up with Vachier-Lagrave’s
phenomenal performance. Since both players are wildcards, they are
unable to compete for overall Grand Chess Tour standings.
other notable performance of the tournament was Fabiano Caruana’s
strong showing in the blitz. After having the worst performance of his
life with 1.5/9 in the rapid, he scored an impressive 11/18, which would
have put in contention had he found his form in the first half of the
All information is available on GrandChessTour.org.
Live commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Cristian Chirila, and IM
Jovanka Houska will give online spectators even more opportunity to
experience the tournaments. As last year, GM Maurice Ashley will be
on-site in Paris to interview players and will be joined by
GM Romain Edouard. Watch live.
Photo credits: Chess Club and Scholastic Center/Kevin Duggin/Spectrum Studios/Lennart Ootes