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Gukesh sizzles at the Grenke Open 2019 with a 2700+ performance

by Sagar Shah - 25/04/2019

In 2018, a 13-year-old boy stunned the chess world by winning the Grenke Open and qualified for the Grenke Chess Classic 2019. That youngster is IM Vincent Keymer, who is currently fighting against the best players in the world at the main Grenke event. At the Grenke Open 2019, another youngster had a chance to make history and that was 12-year-old D. Gukesh. India's youngest GM and the second youngest in the world, Gukesh scored 7.5/9 and finished joint first at this extremely strong open event which had 56 GMs and 81 IMs among the 904 players who took part. Finally Gukesh had to settle for the fifth spot due to his tiebreaks. Yet another 2700 performance for Gukesh after he became a GM. How does the boy do it? We analyze this by checking all of Gukesh's games. 

12-year-old Gukesh finishes as the joint winner of Grenke Open 2019

The Grenke Chess Open is Europe's biggest open event with 904 participants | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

The Grenke Open is the biggest open event in Europe. In terms of sheer numbers it is comparable to the Delhi Open which takes place in January every year in India. However, the most number of players at Delhi GM Open come in category B and C, while at the Grenke Open you have the maximum number of players in the A group (above 1900). These are the number of players in various groups at the Grenke Chess Festival that takes place in the city of Karlsruhe:

A group: 904 players

B group: 797 players

C group: 291 players.

Total: 1992 players

The most amazing thing to note is that in the A group, you have only 25 of the 900+ participants who have a rating below 1900. The rating cut off rules are very strictly followed. In the A group we had players from 49 countries with 56 GMs and 81 IMs. Apart from the top prize of 20,000 euros, at stake was entry to next year's Grenke Chess Classic. The winner would get to fight against the best players in the world, just like what Vincent Keymer is doing right now. The top seed of the tournament was Etienne Bacrot (2683), followed by Gata Kamsky, Anton Korobov, Alireza Firouzja and many other strong GMs. India had 32 players taking part with S.P. Sethuraman being the highest rated Indian, followed by Gukesh, Shyam Sundar and other Indian IMs. One of the things to note about Grenke Open is that they have nine rounds taking place in five days. This means four days of double rounds and this can become quite tiring for a lot of players.


As is usual in such an open tournament where you have so many participants, we had eight players finishing on the winning score of 7.5/9. The tiebreak was buchholz and based on it German GM Daniel Fridman won the winner's trophy, a cheque of 13,094 euros (the prize money was shared) and a spot in the Grenke Chess Classic 2020. 

The winner of the Grenke Chess Open 2019 - Daniel Fridman | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

For Indians it was Gukesh who performed amazingly well at the event. He not only was unbeaten and scored 7.5/9, but he also did not lose rating points in a single game! He gained a total of 19 Elo points with a 2706 performance. | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

Gukesh's consitent performance, with no draws against opponents rated lower than him and a win against a 2600+ opponent

The last round against GM Marin Bosiocic (2613) was extremely critical for Gukesh's performance at the event. A draw or a loss would have relegated him to an outside top-10 finish. The game didn't begin well for Gukesh as he played his new weapon with black pieces - the King's Indian Defence. Gukesh has been experimenting with his repertoire in the last couple of events and is moving towards more aggressive systems. That's why you can see him playing 1.e4 with white and the King's Indian Defence instead of the Slav against 1.d4. Bosiocic played an ambitious system against Gukesh and very soon had a clearly better position.


Bosiocic vs Gukesh

Black has a worse position because his bishop on g7 is quite terrible

For Gukesh it doesn't really matter if his position is worse or better. He just keeps fighting and looking for his chances. That's what he did in this game as well and very soon he got his chance!

White is better at this point. But your king is in check. Where do you move it to?

Kb5! was a good move and Gukesh would have to defend out of his skin for the half point. However, Bosiocic blundered with Kd5? Can you spot why is that a mistake?

Checking a few more of Gukesh's games

How does 12-year-old boy manage to play so consistently? He plays one tournament after another and even after becoming a GM, he hasn't slowed down. A good way to gauge how Guki (as his family calls him) is able to show is best chess event after event and has almost managed to reach 2550, is by looking at all of his games from an event. Let's do that for the Grenke Open 2019.

Round 1:

Playing against a 2127 rated opponent, Gukesh opens his game with his favourite opening 1.Nf3 and gets a typical small edge with the bishop pair. He is able to make one strong move after another and wins without any real difficulties. I would call this a typical Gukesh positional win against a lower rated opponent. With small moves, positional ideas and excellent tactical feel, he is able to completely outwit them.

Round 2:

His opponent is a 2251 rated player and Gukesh is black. He plays the Sicilian, like he always does against 1.e4. His opponent goes for the Grand Prix system and Gukesh makes some very interesting anti-positional decisions like taking on a4 getting an isolated pawn on a6 and d6. He then also sacrificed his pawn on a6 to get a very strong mating attack. This attack was not so apparent, but Gukesh had calculated the tactics very well. 

Round 3:

To beat a 2323 rated player in this fashion with white shows what a strong positional player Gukesh is. Once again we see 1.Nf3 and g3 system from white. This was followed by a central pawn expansion and the opponent collapsing within 25 moves. One cannot even exactly pin point what was Black's mistake. It was just that Gukesh understood these positions much better.

Round 4:

With 3.0/3 Gukesh faced a 2294 rated opponent. One of things Gukesh has introduced in his black repertoire is the King's Indian Defence. And it is so very logical because he keeps playing the King's Indian Attack all the time with white. When I had once interviewed Gukesh he had told me that Slav was his favourite opening. It's nice to see that he is not hanging on to any favourites of having any prejudices or preference for a specific opening. He just plays the position on its merits. This game showed one of Gukesh's strong points in chess - his defensive ability. His opponent sacrificed material, for an initiative and Gukesh not only gobbled that up but at the right moment had the bravery to take more material which seemed dangerous.

Round 5:

Nothing much happened in this game against the eventual winner Daniel Fridman. Gukesh was white and drew the game in 25 moves. I am not really sure if this result would have made him happy or Gukesh felt as if he didn't make the best use of his white pieces. But it was not really a bad result to make an effortless draw against a fine player like Fridman.

Round 6:

I found this game of Gukesh against Maksim Chigaev to be quite impressive. Chigaev (2634) has been playing well recently and was very closely to winning Tata Steel Challengers earlier this year. With the white pieces he played the Sicilian Rossolimo. Now this is an opening that has troubled Gukesh in the past. He had lost a game in it against Michael Adams as well. But the good thing about Gukesh is that he doesn't leave the opening after a loss. In fact he discussed it with Vishy Anand when he visited the latter's home in Chennai. The result of all of this work was quite clearly apparent. Gukesh was able to make an easy draw with Chigaev in just 25 moves!

Round 7:

Two draws had slowed Gukesh down a bit, so it was now time to play for a win! I liked this game against Bjorn Ahlander (2410) because Gukesh came out of his comfort zone and played 1.e4. He played the g3 variation, something that had been discussed by WIM Angela Franco in her lecture on the ChessBase India YouTube Channel. Gukesh got a nice edge out of the opening and used his powerful light squared bishop and a-pawn to win the game.

Round 8:

Another game with the white pieces, this time against the German GM Matthias Bluebaum and Gukesh opens with 1.e4. Of course his knowledge in this system was not quite up to the mark and Bluebaum equalized quite easily. Gukesh had to make an early draw.

Round 9:

This game is analyzed above. It's games like these that make Gukesh the champion he is! Marin Bosiocic is a strong GM and known especially for his speed. Gukesh was under pressure, had a minus position, but he kept finding resources. This win made him tie for the top spot with 7.5/9.



With our analysis, we can conclude that Gukesh's success lies in the fact that he never gives up and keeps finding resources. He is also an excellent active positional player who has a fine understanding of small positional nuances, but at the same time is highly proficient when it comes to spotting tactics. All in all this is a great package. It is also wonderful to see him not just sticking to his strengths (Reti systems) but experimenting with new openings. The more varied his repertoire will be, the faster he will progress.

Rank after round 9

Rk.SNo NameFEDRtgClub/CityPts. TB1 Rp
18GMFridman, DanielGER2629SV Mülheim-Nord7,556,52749
23GMKorobov, AntonUKR2675SC Viernheim7,555,52760
312GMHeimann, AndreasGER2616SF Deizisau7,555,02734
420GMTer-Sahakyan, SamvelARM26017,554,52686
42GMGukesh DIND25367,554,52706
617GMBluebaum, MatthiasGER2610SF Deizisau7,553,52682
728GMDonchenko, AlexanderGER2584SF Deizisau7,553,02666
813GMBanusz, TamasHUN2614SV Hockenheim7,550,02649
97GMSarana, AlexeyRUS26307,054,52673
1035GMGareyev, TimurUSA25607,054,02602
116GMChigaev, MaksimRUS26347,053,02672
9GMSethuraman, S.P.IND2624SC Emmendingen7,053,02643
1322GMPapp, GaborHUN2598ESV Nickelhütte Aue7,052,52611
1415GMTabatabaei, M.aminIRI2612Münchener SC7,052,02623
47GMBasso, Pier LuigiITA2516Club 64 Modena7,052,02630
1623GMVan Foreest, JordenNED2598DJK Aufwärts Aachen7,051,52621
175GMKuzubov, YuriyUKR2653Sfr. Bad Emstal/Wolfhagen7,051,02661
18GMSvane, RasmusGER2605Hamburger SK7,051,02626
27GMBernadskiy, VitaliyUKR25877,051,02563
2011GMEsipenko, AndreyRUS26167,050,02647

Complete list

The prize winners of the Grenke Open 2019 | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

From being a father to a player - Gukesh's dad Rajinikanth! | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

Rajini kanth played in the C-group of the Grenke Open and score a very respectable 6.5/9. Incessant travels and supporting Gukesh's chess has made Rajini kanth give up his career as a doctor. But who knows? Perhaps, learning from his son's games, he may soon start playing in a lot of events! The thing to learn from Gukesh's father is that he has never really been a conformist. He has always tried to take risks and blaze new paths for his son and himself. It's not without reason that Gukesh became the youngest GM in the world.

Sethuraman played a fine tournament to score 7.0/9 and finish ninth. He was unbeaten in the event and also gained three Elo points

Arjun Kalyan achieved his final GM norm at the Budapest spring festival. He now has all his three GM norms. He also gained some rating at the Grenke Open 2019 and is now close to becoming India's latest GM | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

One of the German talents whom we should be looking out for is Luis Engel. Luis achieved his second GM norm at the Grenke Open 2019. | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

11-year-old Savitha Shri scored her maiden WIM norm. She has also gained a lot of Elo points at the Reykjavik and Grenke Opens and has now surpassed 2000 Elo. | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

And that's how you score a WIM norm!

Siddharth Jagadeesh, who plays for the Singapore flag, but hails originally from India, made his maiden IM norm at the event with a round to spare. | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

Gukesh, Savitha and Siddharth and Rajinikanth - all four achievers went to Hamburg after the Grenke Open to visit the ChessBase office and founder of ChessBase Frederic Friedel

FM Pranav Anand played a fine event to score 6.5/9 | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

Leon Mendonca scored 5.5/9, but was quite solid and lost only 1 game | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

Swayams Mishra has helped many of his students achieve norms and titles. If he manages to score one more GM norm, he would become India's latest GM. He already has two GM norms and had previously surpassed the Elo barrier of 2500. | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

Soham Das scored 6.0/9 and was very close to securing an IM norm | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

After his fine performance at the Reykjavik Open, Prithu couldn't perform well at the Grenke Chess Open and scored 4.0/7 before pulling out from the event | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

WIM Nandhidhaa, who recently achieved her first IM norm at the HDbank Open in Vietnam, had a tough tournament as she lost her last two rounds and finished with 4.5/9 | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

Harshit Raja ended the tournament with 6.0/9 | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

Bharath Subramaniyam was looking forward to scoring his final IM norm, but missed it by a small margin. He scored 6.0/9 and also gained some rating. | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

Prraneeth Vuppala scored 5.5/9 and gained some valuable rating at the event. | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

Dev Shah played against all opponents rated higher than him and scored 5.0/9. A fine achievement. | Photo: Grenke Chess Open 2019

Overview of Indian performances

9GMSethuraman, S.P.26242623IND111½1½½½17,0122643A-Open
42GMGukesh D25360IND1111½½1½17,552706A-Open
46GMShyam, Sundar M.25190IND1011½½1½16,5562440A-Open
62IMPrithu Gupta24780IND110½½½½004,05202278A-Open
63IMSwayams, Mishra24780IND11½½01½116,5582436A-Open
76IMArjun Kalyan24450IND1111½01½½6,5322587A-Open
86IMRaja Harshit24320IND11½10110½6,0742426A-Open
90CMMendonca, Leon Luke24270IND1½1½½1½0½5,51572368A-Open
124Ashwath, R.23880IND½1101½½1½6,0952371A-Open
143IMSoham Das23672364IND½11½101½½6,0962439A-Open
151FMPranav Anand23590IND1½½½1½11½6,5522421A-Open
180IMKulkarni, Rakesh23340IND11½½½½½105,51612426A-Open
202WIMNandhidhaa, P V23140IND½101½1½004,53882204A-Open
216CMBharath Subramaniyam H23010IND1½1½½01½16,01092331A-Open
244IMKathmale, Sameer22790IND101101½½½5,51732381A-Open
249WIMPratyusha, Bodda22770IND½½½0000001,58832052A-Open
257Alok Sinha22710IND½101½1½015,52022284A-Open
334Rahul Kumar, Pune22162170IND0110100104,05622080A-Open
336Shyam Prasad Reddy K22150IND1101000115,02932295A-Open
372Mahitosh Dey21880IND½1011000½4,05302110A-Open
397CMPrraneeth Vuppala21770IND1½01010115,52192270A-Open
437Narendran Gouthaman21560IND½½½0½½½½14,54942053A-Open
456WIMParnali, S Dharia21440IND0110½01½04,05272166A-Open
556Thrish Karthik20960IND½100½1½½15,03092263A-Open
587Sarvadh Sathiaram20790IND0101011004,05522101A-Open
613Shourya Jain20680IND001½1½½½½4,54962143A-Open
690Nair, Sanjeev20290IND0011½10014,54702153A-Open
713CMDev, Shah20200IND1½0½1½01½5,02492282A-Open
718Jijo Joy20180IND½½0001½½½3,57102089A-Open
751WIMRakshitta Ravi20020IND1½½½½0½104,53762248A-Open
861WFMSahithi Varshini M19180IND1010001115,03442197A-Open
885Savitha Shri B18950IND½½10½½1105,02982243A-Open

We congratulate the organizers of Grenke Open 2019 for putting up such a grand show. You can follow some of the excellent work done by Grenke Chess by subscribing to their YouTube Channel.

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