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Grand Chess Tour Leuven - Wesley So leads, Anand beats Nepo

by Sagar Shah - 29/06/2017

The Grand Chess Tour 2017 has begun. The first leg held a few days ago was won by Magnus Carlsen. In the second leg, we move to Leuven in Belgium and Vishy Anand is back in action. The event is going to witness nine rounds of rapid play (25 + 10) and eighteen rounds of blitz. On the first day three rounds of rapid chess were played and Wesley So emerged as the sole leader by beating Magnus Carlsen. Anand scored 50% - he drew with Anish Giri, lost to Vladimir Kramnik and won against Ian Nepomniachtchi. A summary of entire day's play, beautiful pictures and brief annotations.

Photos by Lennart Ootes and Grand Chess Tour

The line up of players for the Your Next Move Leg of the Grand Chess Tour in Leuven
The format of play. 9 rounds of rapid chess followed by 18 rounds of blitz chess over five days
After the grueling first leg of the Grand Chess Tour in Paris, which concluded just two days ago, Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Wesley So continued on to Leuven, Belgium to play in the second leg of the Grand Chess Tour. They are joined by Viswanathan Anand, Levon Aronian, Ian Nepomniachtchi who skipped Paris and are just starting the tour. The event wildcards are Vladimir Kramnik, Anish Giri, Vassily Ivanchuk and Baadur Jobava, who are just fighting for prizes but not tour points. Wesley So, who had an atrocious showing in Paris, seems to have recovered finely as he is leading the event after defeating the World Champion. He is being trailed by Nepomniachtchi and Vachier-Lagrave, who are only a point behind.
Standings after three rounds of Rapid chess on day one

Round 1:

Carlsen had a complicated game against Aronian where he sacrificed a pawn to open up his pair of bishops that were aiming at his opponent’s king. The Armenian didn’t find the forcing draw and blundered instead, an opportunity that his opponent did not waste.

[Event "GCT Rapid YourNextMove"]
[Site "Leuven BEL"]
[Date "2017.06.28"]
[Round "1.1"]
[White "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Black "Aronian, Levon"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E49"]
[WhiteElo "2832"]
[BlackElo "2793"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "97"]
[EventDate "2017.06.28"]
[EventType "rapid"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3 d5 6. a3 Bxc3+ 7. bxc3 dxc4 8.
Bxc4 c5 9. Ne2 Qc7 10. Ba2 b6 11. O-O Ba6 12. Bb2 Nc6 13. Rc1 Rfd8 14. c4 cxd4
15. exd4 Ng4 16. Ng3 Qf4 17. h3 Nf6 18. Ne2 Qh4 19. d5 exd5 20. cxd5 Ne7 21.
Re1 Nexd5 22. Nd4 Bb7 23. Nf3 Qh6 24. Ne5 Rf8 25. Nc6 Bxc6 26. Rxc6 Rad8 27.
Qf3 Qd2 28. Re2 Qf4 $2 {Now follows a nice tactic!} (28... Qd1+ 29. Kh2 $44)
29. Rxf6 $1 gxf6 30. Bxd5 $1 {You saw both the white pieces that took the
knight also defended the queen on f3!} Qxf3 31. Bxf3 Rfe8 32. Rc2 Rc8 33. Rxc8
Rxc8 34. Bxf6 b5 35. Kf1 a5 36. Ke2 b4 37. axb4 axb4 38. Bd5 Rc5 39. Bb3 Rc6
40. Bd4 Kf8 41. Kd3 Ke7 42. Ke4 Rc1 43. Kd5 Kd7 44. h4 Re1 45. g3 f5 46. Be3
Ke7 47. Kc4 Kf6 48. Kxb4 Ke5 49. Bc2 1-0


Magnus Carlsen beat Levon Aronian

Vachier-Lagrave was unsure about his opening but once he got the advantage, he converted without any trouble against Vassily Ivanchuk. Wesley So started the event off strongly by defeating former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik. True to his style, Jobava played an unorthodox opening, but self-destructed after giving up a pawn for no compensation against Ian Nepomniachtchi.


Giri vs Anand was a quiet affair, with neither side having any real chances.

[Event "GCT Rapid YourNextMove"]
[Site "Leuven BEL"]
[Date "2017.06.28"]
[Round "1.3"]
[White "Giri, Anish"]
[Black "Anand, Viswanathan"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A08"]
[WhiteElo "2771"]
[BlackElo "2786"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "96"]
[EventDate "2017.06.28"]
[EventType "rapid"]

1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 c5 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. O-O g6 5. c4 Bg7 6. Qa4+ Bd7 7. Qb3 dxc4 8.
Qxc4 (8. Qxb7 Bc6 $19) 8... Qb6 9. Ne5 Be6 10. Qa4+ Nbd7 11. d3 O-O 12. Nc4 Qc7
13. Bf4 Qc8 14. Nc3 Nb6 $1 15. Nxb6 axb6 16. Qc2 Bh3 17. Qb3 Bxg2 18. Kxg2 Qc6+
19. Kg1 Rfd8 {It always makes me wonder how Vishy Anand does it? He plays
simple moves and gets an excellent position out of the opening more often than
not. I think it is his exprience. And also the fact that he knows the
limitations in the game of chess. In short he keeps it simple.} 20. Be5 Nh5 21.
Bxg7 Nxg7 22. Qb5 Qe6 23. Qc4 Qc6 24. Qe4 Qxe4 25. Nxe4 Ne6 26. Rfc1 f5 27. Nc3
Kf7 28. Rab1 b5 29. Nxb5 Rxa2 30. Rc3 Ra4 31. Kg2 Rb4 32. Na3 Kf6 33. Nc2 Rb5
34. Na3 Rb4 35. Nc2 Rb5 36. e3 Ra8 37. b4 Ra2 38. Rc4 Nd8 39. d4 cxd4 40. Nxd4
Rd5 41. Rc5 Rd6 42. Ra5 Ra6 43. Rxa6+ bxa6 44. Rc1 Nf7 45. Rc6+ Nd6 46. b5 axb5
47. Nxb5 Ke6 48. Nxd6 exd6 1/2-1/2
Anand started with a solid draw against Anish Giri
It was Anish Giri's 23rd birthday
We are sure that this is Sopiko's choice!

Round 2:

Carlsen played the aggressive Marshall Gambit against the World Rapid Champion but the game ended in a draw after Ivanchuk sacrificed his queen and forced a perpetual. Levon Aronian bounced back from his first round loss by defeating Jobava who couldn’t fend off his opponent’s attack on his king. Ian Nepomniachtchi defeated Anish Giri in a messy game where he was even down two pawns at some point. Giri did not play the most natural moves and Nepomniachtchi joked that he at least thought he could threaten checkmate here and there. His approach paid off when Giri found his king exposed and under an unstoppable attack.


In the clash of the titans, former World Champions Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand essayed the classical Giuoco Piano opening. With his signature central pawn break, Kramnik got the advantage and converted easily.

[Event "GCT Rapid YourNextMove"]
[Site "Leuven BEL"]
[Date "2017.06.28"]
[Round "2.4"]
[White "Kramnik, Vladimir"]
[Black "Anand, Viswanathan"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C50"]
[WhiteElo "2808"]
[BlackElo "2786"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "77"]
[EventDate "2017.06.28"]
[EventType "rapid"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 {Kramnik and Anand's discussion in the Guioco Piano
continues.} Bc5 4. O-O Nf6 5. d3 O-O 6. h3 d6 7. c3 a5 8. Re1 h6 9. Nbd2 Be6
10. a4 Re8 11. Bb5 Bd7 12. Nc4 Nb8 13. Bxd7 Nbxd7 14. Bd2 Nb6 15. b3 c6 (15...
Nxc4 16. bxc4 Bb6 17. Nh4 $14) 16. Rb1 $5 Qc7 17. d4 Nxc4 18. bxc4 exd4 19.
cxd4 Bb4 20. Qc2 c5 21. d5 Re7 (21... Nd7 22. Re3 Ne5 23. Nxe5 Rxe5 24. f4 Re7
25. Bc1 $1 {The bishop on b4 doesn't really look very useful.}) 22. Re3 Rae8
23. Rbe1 Qd8 24. R1e2 Nh5 25. g3 Bxd2 26. Qxd2 Qd7 27. e5 $1 {Very alert.} Qxh3
(27... dxe5 28. Nxe5 Qxh3 29. d6 $1 $18 (29. g4 Qh4 30. gxh5 Rxe5 31. Rxe5 Qg4+
$11)) 28. exd6 Rxe3 (28... Nxg3 29. fxg3 Qxg3+ 30. Kf1 Qh3+ 31. Kf2 $18) 29.
Rxe3 Qd7 30. Rxe8+ Qxe8 31. Qxa5 {White is just winning.} Nf6 32. Qxc5 Qxa4 33.
Qc8+ Kh7 34. Qf5+ Kg8 35. Ne5 Qb4 36. d7 Qd6 37. Qf3 b6 38. Kg2 h5 39. Kg1 1-0
With their last few battles Kramnik is ensuring that he creates a huge plus score against Vishy Anand

Round 3:

There were quite a few unexpected results in this round. Vladimir Kramnik found several impressive tactics to obtain a winning position against MVL but for some inexplicable reason gave away one of the pawns shielding his king and walked into a perpetual.


For a long time, Carlsen vs So was equal and was headed towards a peaceful result, but the World Champion decided to complicate the position. Unfortunately for him, he pressed too hard and was outplayed by his opponent. Historically, Carlsen has been a problematic opponent for So, hence this was a great confidence boost for the U.S. Champion.

[Event "GCT Rapid YourNextMove"]
[Site "Leuven BEL"]
[Date "2017.06.28"]
[Round "3.2"]
[White "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Black "So, Wesley"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "E53"]
[WhiteElo "2832"]
[BlackElo "2812"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "102"]
[EventDate "2017.06.28"]
[EventType "rapid"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Nf3 c5 6. Bd3 d5 7. cxd5 exd5 8.
dxc5 Bg4 9. O-O Nbd7 10. Bd2 Bxf3 11. Qxf3 Nxc5 12. Bc2 Nce4 13. Bxe4 Nxe4 14.
Rfd1 Qa5 15. Nxe4 dxe4 16. Bxb4 Qxb4 17. Qe2 Rfd8 18. h3 {This should be equal.
But as we all know Magnus. He just keeps pressing. Advantage or no advantage
does not matter to him.} g6 19. Rac1 Rxd1+ 20. Rxd1 Rc8 21. b3 h5 22. g4 Qc5
23. Kg2 Qe5 24. Rd4 Kg7 25. Qd1 hxg4 26. Qxg4 Rc2 27. Qxe4 Qg5+ 28. Kf1 Rxa2
29. Ra4 Rd2 30. Ke1 Rd5 31. Rd4 Rb5 32. b4 a5 33. h4 (33. bxa5 Qg1+ 34. Ke2
Rb2+ 35. Rd2 Rxd2+ 36. Kxd2 Qxf2+ $15) 33... Qg1+ 34. Ke2 Rf5 35. f4 Qg4+ 36.
Kd3 (36. Kd2 {was better.}) 36... Qd1+ 37. Kc3 Qc1+ 38. Kd3 a4 (38... axb4 39.
Rxb4 Qd1+ 40. Kc3 Rc5+ 41. Rc4 Qc1+ $19) 39. Ke2 a3 40. Rd2 Qg1 41. Qc4 Rf6 42.
Qd4 a2 43. Rd1 Qg2+ 44. Kd3 Qc6 45. h5 Kh7 46. hxg6+ Rxg6 47. b5 (47. Rh1+ Qxh1
$19) 47... Qxb5+ 48. Kc2 Rg2+ 49. Kc3 Qb2+ 50. Kc4 Rc2+ 51. Kd5 Qb3+ 0-1


Victory against Magnus Carlsen was not just a huge psychological boost, but also made Wesley So the leader after three rounds of rapid play

Anish Giri gave himself a birthday present when he finally got the opportunity to play the line that he had prepared since last year’s candidate’s tournament. Aronian played a principled line, but Giri’s analysis were concise, never giving his opponent a chance.

[Event "GCT Rapid YourNextMove"]
[Site "Leuven BEL"]
[Date "2017.06.28"]
[Round "3.4"]
[White "Giri, Anish"]
[Black "Aronian, Levon"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A29"]
[WhiteElo "2771"]
[BlackElo "2793"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "59"]
[EventDate "2017.06.28"]
[EventType "rapid"]
1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 Bb4 5. Nd5 e4 6. Nh4 O-O 7. Bg2 d6 8. b3
g5 $5 {You can expect Levon to play the most principled line.} 9. Bb2 Nxd5 10.
cxd5 Nb8 (10... Ne7 11. Bf6 {is the main problem.} gxh4 12. Qc2 $1 $16 (12. e3
Bf5 13. Qh5 Bg6 14. Qxh4 Re8 15. Bxe4 $14)) 11. Qc2 $1 {A strong move.} gxh4 (
11... f5 12. g4 $1 gxh4 13. gxf5 Bxf5 14. Bxe4 $16) 12. Bxe4 Re8 (12... f5 13.
gxh4 $1 {With the g-file open White should have a huge attack.}) 13. Bxh7+ Kf8
14. Qc4 Na6 15. gxh4 Re5 16. Qf4 Qe7 17. Rg1 Rxe2+ 18. Kd1 Rxd2+ 19. Qxd2 Qxh4
(19... Bxd2 20. Rg8#) 20. Rg8+ Ke7 21. Qe3+ Be6 22. dxe6 Qh5+ 23. Kc1 Rxg8 24.
exf7+ Kxf7 25. Qf4+ Ke8 26. Bxg8 {White is simply a rook up.} Nc5 27. Bc4 d5
28. Bb5+ c6 29. Qxb4 Qg5+ 30. Qd2 1-0


Ian Nepomniachtchi stumbled for the first time today after playing too quickly at the critical points. His confidence made Anand question his decisions, but the objective evaluation of the position didn’t change the former World Champion won decisively.

[Event "GCT Rapid YourNextMove"]
[Site "Leuven BEL"]
[Date "2017.06.28"]
[Round "3.1"]
[White "Anand, Viswanathan"]
[Black "Nepomniachtchi, Ian"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B90"]
[WhiteElo "2786"]
[BlackElo "2732"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "133"]
[EventDate "2017.06.28"]
[EventType "rapid"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nde2 h5 8. Bg5
Be6 9. Bxf6 Qxf6 10. Qd3 Nd7 11. Nd5 Qd8 12. O-O-O b5 {This move has never
been seen before.} 13. Nec3 Rb8 14. Nb4 $5 Qg5+ 15. Kb1 Nc5 (15... a5 16. Nc6
$16) 16. Qf3 Be7 17. Ncd5 Bd8 18. Be2 Rb7 19. Ne3 Qf4 $6 20. Qxf4 $1 exf4 21.
Nf5 O-O (21... Bxf5 22. exf5 $16 {White is just better. The knight will sit on
d5 and the rook will come over to the e-file, bishop on f3, It will be a
positionally lost battle for Black.}) 22. Nxd6 Rb6 23. e5 (23. Bxh5 $16) 23...
Nd7 24. Nd5 Bxd5 25. Rxd5 Nxe5 26. Rhd1 Bc7 27. Bxh5 $16 {White is a pawn up
and in a completely dominating position.} g6 28. Be2 Kg7 29. a3 Rfb8 30. c3 {
Typical way to stop the b4 break.} Kf8 31. Kc2 Rd8 32. Ne4 Rxd5 33. Rxd5 Ke7
34. Nc5 Rc6 35. a4 $1 bxa4 36. Nxa6 Bd6 37. Ra5 f5 38. Rxa4 g5 39. Nb4 Rc8 40.
Nd3 Ng6 41. Ra7+ Kf6 42. Ra6 Ke7 43. Bf3 Nh4 44. Bd5 g4 45. hxg4 fxg4 46. Ra4
Rf8 47. Re4+ Kd8 48. Re6 Kd7 49. Rh6 Nf5 50. Be6+ Ke7 51. Bxf5 Rxf5 52. c4 g3
53. f3 Ra5 54. Rh4 Ra1 55. c5 Bb8 56. Nxf4 Rg1 57. Nd5+ Kd7 58. Ne3 Kc6 59. b4
Be5 60. Kd3 Kb5 61. Re4 Bb2 62. Rg4 Be5 63. f4 Bc7 64. Rxg3 Bxf4 65. Rg4 Bh6
66. Nf5 Bc1 67. Nd4+ {An excellent game by Anand.} 1-0


Jobava and Ivanchuk are both known for their unique and creative style, so it was no surprise that they would create chaos on the chessboard when they squared off. Jobava played very unnaturally to create an attack, even sacrificing a rook and a bishop to justify his moves but his play simply wasn’t justified. Ivanchuk defended easily and won with the extra material.

It is not unusual for Baaur to start off with three losses. What's more important for him is to have fun and play exciting games.
Ivanchuk - the eccentric genius!
Have you done your homework?!
Before the start of the event a simul was arranged where each top player would make move one move on all boards and then the other player would take over!
Two Russians and an Azeri
Magnus with his core team - Father Henrik, mother Sigrun and second Peter Heine Neilsen (covered by Henrik Carlsen)

Replay all the games:

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Write up by Tatev Abrahamyan for GCT

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