Levon Aronian ist the winner of the GRENKE Chess Classic with one round to go. The Armenian grandmaster won in the sixth round against Hou Yifan.
Fabiano Caruana tried everything to win his game against Matthias Blübaum, to keep a minimal chance to tie with Aronian after seven rounds alive, but he only got a draw. The other games also ended in a draw.
Georg Meier was very well prepared today against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and deserved his draw with the black pieces. As expected, Arkadij Naiditsch and Magnus Carlsen played an eventful game, but none of the players had serious winning chances.
It was a short game today for Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Georg Meier. They ended their game after 2,5 hours of play with a draw. Meier played his favourite variation of the French defence and proved to he was better prepared than his opponent. Black surpised everybody with the novelty 12…Bc5 and only started thinking after move 18. “After the game against Carlsen yesterday, one could get the impression that I do not study any opening theory. I think I could prove everybody wrong“, Meier said after the game.
Vachier-Lagrave won a pawn in the middlegame, but black had some active pieces, which was enough to equalize the endgame. It did not take long before the players agreed to share the point.
Levon Aronian played another variation today, that you do not see very often on the boards of top players and he offered a pawn to get the initiative. Hou Yifan was visibly surprised and had to defend a slightly worse position after the opening. After the exchange of queens, Aronian could put tremendous pressure on the black position with his strong bishop pair.
After 25 moves a critical position appeared on the board. Hou Yifan sacrificed a pawn, to end the development of her pieces. “She should have attacked my rook with her knight”, Aronian analyzed in the press conference. He could improve his position gradually and won his game convincingly with his well-know technical skills.
Arkadij Naiditsch and Magnus Carlsen shared the point after an interesting battle. Naiditsch played a Queens Pawn opening and left the theoretical paths early in the game. “I guess that we both did not really knew all the details of the position“, the world champion said in the press conference.
Both players had some interesting alternatives in the opening. Naiditsch seemed to have a slight advantage in the middlegame with his strong rooks and bishops. He sacrificed the exchange for a bishop, pawn and some activity, but Carlsen found a way to equalize the position.
At the end, Naiditsch had a Queen and three pawns against two rooks and a bishop. After the exchange of some more pieces, a draw was agreed.
Matthias Blübaum and Fabiano Caruana played the longest game oft he day. Caruana played the Queens Gambit Accepted against 1.d4. The queens and two pieces were exchanged, which is typical for this opening. The American grandmaster pushed his a-pawn forward and created some small changes.
More pieces were exchanged and Caruana kept a slight advantage. He activated his King, rook and knight and the chess fans hoped for more. With a win over Blübaum, a real final would have been on the boards on Saturday in the game Caruana-Aronian. Caruana won a pawn, but it was not enough to win the game. In a theoretical endgame, with a rook and knight against a rook, the players agreed to share the point.
Round 6 standings:
1. Aronian Levon ARM 2774 – 5
2-3. Carlsen Magnus NOR 2838 and Caruana Fabiano USA 2817 – 3½
4-6. Hou Yifan CHN 2649, Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2803 and Naiditsch Arkadij AZE 2702 – 3
7-8. Meier Georg GER 2621 and Bluebaum Matthias GER 2634 – 1½
Round 7 pairings: