Hard fought but no glory for young German phenom Keymer vs Carlsen


Vincent Keymer’s stern resistance earns him praise from world champion Magnus Carlsen in the opening round of GRENKE Chess Classic

By Aditya Pai

The opening round of the GRENKE Chess Classic featured an exciting matchup between Magnus Carlsen and the 14-year-old German International Master, Vincent Keymer. Despite his young age and the high rating gap, Keymer turned out to be a tough nut to crack for the reigning world champion. The game went on for almost seven hours during which Keymer came very close to holding the world champion to a draw. In his post-game interview, Carlsen praised his opponent for putting up a great fight before adding that both his and Keymer’s play could have been vastly improved.

Prior to this, Dvorkovich spoke to the organisers about current developments. He also officially announced the commencement of the Chess960 World Championship. The tournament will be open to all players, regardless of their titles or rating. The first stage of the event will be held online on Chess.com on April 28 while the finale will be held in Oslo, this autumn.

In the most anticipated game of the round, Magnus Carlsen opened with the Benoni against Keymer’s 1.d4 but the game soon veered into the waters of a King’s Indian Defence. Given the occasion, Carlsen’s choice seemed logical. Keymer put up a stiff resistance against the world champion’s kingside attack but erred under time pressure and lost a pawn before reaching the first time control.

Over the next forty moves both players exchanged errors but, unfortunately for Keymer, he was the last to commit one. After six hours, forty five minutes and eighty one moves, Carlsen had managed to bring down his 14-year-old opponent.

All of the other games of the day ended in draws, some being more interesting than the others. The game between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Viswanathan Anand was the first to finish. Anand chose the Caro-Kann Defence to counter Vachier-Lagrave’s 1.e4. Just eight moves into the game, ‘MVL’ gave up a pawn for initiative but the long, sharp sequence only led to a move repetition by the 20th move.

Fabiano Caruana took a page off Carlsen’s book, deploying the Sicilian Sveshnikov with black. But Peter Svidler, Fabiano’s opponent, turned out to be very well prepared and the two engaged in a long, theoretical battle. Once the position liquidated, an equal endgame was reached which quickly fizzled out in a draw.

A sharp Sicilian Najdorf was seen in the game between Levon Aronian and Arkadij Naiditsch. With white, Aronian flung his ‘a’ pawn far up to a5 in order to stymie Black’s queenside pawns and soon this side of the board became the battleground. After several subsequent exchanges, the players agreed to a draw on move 41.

The game Georg Meier and Francisco Vallejo Pons also featured an early advancing ‘a’ pawn. But here, it was played in response to black’s unusual looking b5 on the third move. Despite his unusual opening, Black remained in control and the game ended in a draw in 24 moves.

With Magnus Carlsen’s victory over Vincent Keymer, the tournament has already found a sole leader. For Keymer, more tough tests lie ahead as he faces Carlsen’s immediate world championship predecessor, GM Viswanathan Anand, in round 2.

Photos: Maria Emelianova/Georgios Souleidis