The last six rounds of Grenke Chess Classics took place in Baden-Baden. It is a short transfer by car from Karlsruhe, but the setting is very different. From the largest Open in the World, taking place in the middle of city, to the much more intimate Kulturhaus playing venue in the spa-town Baden-Baden, partly in summer weather. Curiously, my level of play hasn’t been stellar in Baden-Baden. Not so despite winning in 2015, nor in 2017 or this time. This year I fought hard, had many quite long games and was only in danger once, after over-pressing against Meier. In time trouble none of us saw the beautiful winning line involving a double rook sacrifice on h7 and h6.
In general my opponents played quite tight in this event, and when I missed some opportunities to press, +2 undefeated and clear 2nd place is a reasonable result despite loosing four rating points.
I played a sharp variation against Vachier-Lagrave and the Richter-Rauzer as black in the last round against Anand, and it contributed to a varied and quite interesting event on my part.
I’d like to congratulate clear winner Caruana on a great performance. Emotions high after his Candidates success he ended up cruising through the event saving worse or lost positions against me and Hou Yifan, and generally taking all his winning chances, including the last two decisive rounds. He confirmed his position as a dangerous and worthy World Championship Challenger in November.
Aronian recovered partly from his disastrous Candidates and shared 3rd with early leaders Vachier-Lagrave and Vitiugov. The Baden-Baden part of the event wasn’t “fire on board” for any us, and fortunately the fire alarm late last night at the hotel turned out to be a false alarm, after which the guests were treated to champagne instead:)
Last but not least I’m greatful to main sponsor Grenke and organizers headed by Sven Noppes. Thank you!
Right now I’m tired, but anyhow treasure the idea of playing in Shamkir already next week!
Magnus Carlsen, Oslo, April 11th 2018