Magnus Carlsen confirmed his domination in the 2016 Grand Chess Tour. After taking the silver in Paris, Carlsen was totally dominant in the Leuven Grand Chess Tour. The World Champion won the rapid part and proceeded to destroying opposition in the blitz part, securing the title a couple of rounds in advance.
With the victory Magnus Carlsen collects a total of 23 points in the GCT standings, six more than Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So who share second position. Scroll down for the full standings.
1. Carlsen, Magnus 23
2. So, Wesley 20½
3. Aronian, Levon 20
4. Anand, Viswanathan 19½
5. Caruana, Fabiano 17½
6. Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 17
7. Nakamura, Hikaru 16½
8. Kramnik, Vladimir 16
9. Giri, Anish 16
10. Topalov, Veselin 14
Report by WGM by WGM Tatev Abrahamyan
After nine more blitz games, the Leuven leg of the Grand Chess Tour came to an end. World Champion Magnus Carlsen started the day with a lead over the rest of the field and had no trouble sealing the deal with three rounds to go. As Carlsen will not play in the rest of the Tour, he is automatically disqualified from winning the entire tour, hence the big battle became over the second place and Grand Chess Tour points. The race to second place was between American Wesley So and the Armenian Levon Aronian, who started and finished the day half a point apart. So’s “don’t lose any games” strategy seemed to pay off, as he bested the Armenian by half a point, collecting 10 Grand Chess Tour points and $30,000. Aronian was awarded 8 Grand Chess Tour points and $15,000 for his third place finish.
Grand Chess Tour standings
|Paris GCT||Leuven GCT||Total|
|Magnus Carlsen (Norway)||10||13||23|
|Hikaru Nakamura (United States)||13||4||17|
|Wesley So (United States)||7||10||17|
|Levon Aronian (Armenia)||6||8||14|
|Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France)||8||5||13|
|Fabiano Caruana (United States)||3||6||9|
|Vladimir Kramnik (Russia)||4||3||7|
|Anish Giri (Netherlands)||5||2||7|
|Viswanathan Anand (India)||7||7|
|Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria)||2||1||3|
|Laurent Fressinet (France)||1||1|
|Ding Liren (China)||0|
The world champion started his day off convincingly with 2.5/3. Unlike the first day of blitz, his wins weren’t just lucky breaks and his play was smooth and deadly, reminiscent of the days when he plays at his highest level. After 5 games, the world champion had a commanding 3 point lead over his closest rival, Wesley So. Although it was still mathematically possible for So to surpass Carlsen, it was clear that the world champion was not going to collapse. After one more game, he extended his lead to 3.5, clinching the title with 3 rounds to go. Carlsen won both the rapid and the blitz portion of Leuven, thus winning the entire event. His only loss today came from Anish Giri, after he played too ambitiously when had already guaranteed the tournament win. His most remarkable game was against Vladimir Kramnik, when he marched his king to the center with queens still on the board. The most memorable game in chess history where this occurred was played in 1991 between Nigel Short and Jan Timman. The fans were thrilled to see such a rare idea unfolding right in front of their eyes. The world champion finished off the day with a draw against Hikaru Nakamura.
As it became clear that there was no stopping Carlsen, the big interest was the tight race between So and Aronian. The Armenian was always a striking distance behind Wesley So, but wasn’t able to pass the super solid American. Even after realizing that he has no realistic chances of winning the event, his love of chess became apparent as he vowed to fight until the end, even when there is nothing at stake. In the post-tournament interview, the ever-so-humble So was quite happy with his result and was very grateful to the organizers and sponsors for the event. He felt that he could have done better, but in this own words, “everyone could have done better.”
The biggest treat of the day was the exclusive interview with living legend Garry Kasparov. The former world champion praised Carlsen and admired the fact that every loss brings him suffering and the desire to keep improving. He believes that this quality will help Carlsen to keep working on his chess game and never be bored of it. In his own words, “when Magnus plays chess, he makes it look easy.” Kasparov himself has no desire to return to competitive chess but enjoys being a spectator.
The rapid and the blitz portion of the Grand Chess Tour are over as we move on to classical chess. The next stop will be the Sinquefield Cup, held in the chess capital of the U.S., Saint Louis, from August 1-16. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, the world champion won’t be able to continue the Tour. When asked about who is the favorite to win, he logically picked the frontrunners—So, Nakamura, and Aronian, but chose the Armenian as the favorite. There is still a lot to play for in the remainder of the Tour, as the overall Grand Chess Tour points are still up for grabs. The chess world waits in anticipation for August to see these giants clash yet again in classical chess.
Information on the dates, standings and photos are available on grandchesstour.org.
Photo credits: Your Next Move GCT 2016