From a spectator perspective the introduction of Candidates tournaments from 2013 onwards has been a resounding success. Somewhat surprisingly the 2018 tournament is arguably the most exciting so far. I really enjoyed the many intense fights and the uncompromising approach by nearly all the players. With 14 rounds the Candidates is the longest elite event these days, and with the high stakes and winner-takes-all dynamic, gravity pulls down the leaders and facilitates comebacks even at a late stage. Still, I think the early +2 score achieved by first Kramnik and then Caruana forced a risk-taking approach more generally.
My pre-tournament favorites were Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian. Their average score ended up being negative, but early leader Caruana held on to the lead and impressively won on demand after the round 12 loss to a resurgent Karjakin. I look forward to a highly demanding and challenging World Championship match in November!
I spent the week before Grenke Chess Classics at a training camp in Oman and arrived in Karlsruhe hungry for chess. This year we play 9 rounds; Three in Karlsruhe coinciding with the huge Grenke Open, and six in Baden-Baden from tomorrow till April 9th.
As usual the field comprise several elite players as well as some of the best German players and the best female player. I’ve played Caruana in round 1 in our last three classical chess round robin tournaments and amazingly we were paired in round 1 in Grenke Chess Classics as well. Caruana had only four days to recover after the Candidates, and I decided to play fairly aggressively with black. I got a pleasant position from the Kings Indian opening and thought the c- and d-pawns would decide. The double rook ending turned out to be more complex than anything I think I’ve seen before. It looked winning, but I couldn’t find the winning line, missing the subtle Kb1-threat at the end of the 54… Rh7- line. Anyhow I’m satisfied with the first two games. Hou Yifan defended well but went astray just before the first time control. A lot of work was left, but the extra white pawn should decide for me, and it did.
Against Bluebaum in round 3 I never got any real chances. He played successfully tight as white, and when the 29…. Ng4-trick he had missed held for white anyway, I had to settle for a draw.
Lagrave and Vitiugov have both started well with 2.5/3 and I’m playing Lagrave Wednesday at 3 pm with the white pieces.
Magnus Carlsen, Baden-Baden, April 3rd 2018