World Champion Magnus Carlsen won the rapid portion of the Paris Grand Chess Tour with an impressive 14/18 score. Former Blitz World Champion Alexander Grischuk had a very strong showing in day three and is only a point behind Carlsen. Both players were impressive throughout the event, playing very high level chess even during the most tense moments and in time scramble. Hikaru Nakamura is also close behind with 12/18; Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave finished with 11 points each. With the upcoming 18 games of blitz in the next two days, the tournament is still wide open. If the blitz portion is anything like the rapid, then the audiences are in for a treat!
The day started with some explosive games and changes in the standings. Sergey Karjakin missed the computer’s top choice, which would have allowed him to punish Magnus Carlsen’s ambitious yet somewhat unnatural play. Instead, he played defensively and found himself in a lost position. Carlsen wasn’t able to convert and the game eventually ended in a draw. Hikaru Nakamura wasn’t able to keep pace with Carlsen as he suffered his first loss in the hands of the local hero Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov surpassed Nakamura by drawing Etienne Bacrot and was joined by Alexander Grischuk, who took advantage of Fabiano Caruana’s terrible form and delivered another blow to the suffering former U.S. Champion. Wesley So drew Veselin Topalov and fell down to sixth place in the standings.
Entering the round, Carlsen had a two point lead and facing the struggling Caruana. However, he was only able to draw the American, while Mamedyarov and Grischuk defeated Topalov and Bacrot respectively. Mamedyarov went for the throat by giving up his queen side to go after his opponent’s king, a strategy that paid off quite nicely. Vachier-Lagrave showed off his prowess in the Sicilian Najdorf by outplaying his opponent in the middlegame and finishing him off in the endgame. Nakamura yet again failed to keep up after drawing his compatriot Wesley So from a better position. Going into the last round, Carlsen was still in first place, with Grischuk and Mamedyarov chasing him by only one point.
The dramatic round remained tense until the very end as the games finished approximately at the same time. Grischuk and Mamedyarov were facing off, meaning that depending on Carlsen’s result, one of them could come out on top! Grischuk played an instructional positional game and won in style without giving his opponent any chances. Unfortunately for him, Etienne Bacrot did not find the correct plan after sacrificing a piece and allowed Carlsen to consolidate his position and win with the extra piece. Nakamura and Karjakin ended the tournament on a high note by defeating Topalov and So respectively. It seemed as though Caruana’s luck was turning around when he launched a mating attack, but Vachier-Lagrave found a study like miracle queen sacrifice to save the game.
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