Magnus Carlsen won the Croatia Grand Chess Tour with a score 8/11 after a final round victory over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. This marks the World Champion’s seventh consecutive tournament win this year, bringing his rating to 2882 - the peak rating he achieved in 2014. He collects $90,000 and 20 tour points for his efforts. Wesley So finished second after drawing Levon Aronian, earning $60,000 and 15 tour points. The next stop on the tour will be the Paris Rapid and Blitz starting on July 27.
Carlsen promised a fight yesterday and certainly delivered today. In his own words, what happened in the game was quite ideal. Vachier-Lagrave once again stayed loyal to his pet lines, this time essaying the Grunfeld. After his risky decision to give up the bishop pair, the World Champion grasped the advantage and did not let it go, making the conversion look effortless. With the performance of over 2940, Carlsen extends his undefeated streak to 79 games. His next Grand Chess Tour events will be the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz followed by the Sinquefield Cup.
Magnus Carlsen with his trophy
Levon Aronian vs Wesley So ½ - ½
Aronian was in a must win situation as he was a full point behind So. The Armenian was pleased with the outcome of the opening, whereas the commentators felt that So had equalized. The Giuoco Piano that was essayed followed the game between Anand and Aronian from 2014, where Aronian himself had the black pieces and didn’t face too many difficulties. Tides turned in the middlegame, when So got a lot of play on the kingside but Aronian felt as though he always had a lot of counterplay due to his opponent’s misplaced bishop. So was content with the draw as it secured the second place with him thus welcoming the piece exchanges that lead to a drawn endgame.
Sergey Karjakin vs Fabiano Caruana ½ - ½
The hard fought draw allowed Caruana to move up in the standings, tying for third with Aronian. He essayed the Benoni, a somewhat unsound but a double-edged opening. Karjakin had the advantage for most of the game, trying to grind down the win. The position was tricky and never offered a clear win. Caruana was very practical, remaining ahead on the clock and forcing his opponent to make decisions on each move. Once the advantage started slipping out of Karjakin’s hands, Caruana used the time advantage to start putting pressure on his opponent and searching for winning chances for himself. Sensing the danger, Karjakin quickly simplified into a drawn rook endgame.
Ian Nepomniachtchi vs Anish Giri 0-1
The quick victory with the black pieces allowed Giri to finish his tournament with a 50% score. The Dutchman credited his computer for the deep analysis of the position concluding that his opponent was simply poorly prepared. Nepomniachtchi sacrificed a pawn then a knight to launch an attack. After giving back a rook for a bishop, Giri remained up material and converted without any difficulties. This gamble was very costly for Nepomniachtchi as he allowed his opponent catch up to him for a fifth place tie.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs Ding Liren ½ - ½
This game was truly a miraculous save by Ding Liren. After playing the opening fast and sacrificing a pawn, the Chinese player missed a key move and found himself in a lost position. Mamedyarov’s play has been tumultuous this entire tournament and today was no exception. The Azeri star missed an opportunity after an opportunity in a pawn up bishop ending, until he allowed his opponent to create enough counterplay with his passed pawn. Ding Liren earned half a point with his resilient defense, thus tying for fifth place with Nepomniachtchi and Giri.
Hikaru Nakamura vs Viswanathan Anand ½ - ½
Nakamura was not ambitious with the white pieces. He repeated the same solid line So played against Carlsen yesterday in the Nimzo Indian, reaching a dry middle game position, showing that he just wanted the tournament to be done with. The game did not see any exciting action and the pieces were traded one by one after the pawn break in the center. The defending Grand Chess Tour champion finished last, collecting only 1 tour point.