Added on 4/2/2018

This week we wrap up the European Individual Championship and get started on the GRENKE Chess Classic.

GM Ivan Saric Ivan Saric took clear first in the European Individual Championship by winning his last two games to finish on 8.5/11.  The last round is often played conservatively by those who want to ensure qualification into the World Cup—23 spots were given out in Batumi.  Saric defeated David Navara in the last round but started to make his move in the previous round against Rasmus Svane in a game that featured a sacrificial skirmish:

Most of the top boards drew, which worked well for England, as both Gawain Jones and Luke McShane tied for second on 8 points.  Maxim Matlakov had set himself up with a big win over Tamir Nabaty in round nine, who as I mentioned last week, was one of the leaders for most for the way.  The game features a picturesque finish:

GM Maxim Matlakov

One player who reached the runner-up group with a win was Eltaj Safarli, who knocked off the legendary Vassily Ivanchuk.  Chuky had a strange tournament, racking up 6 wins with only two draws, but unfortunately losing three times.  I nearly went with his early loss to Alekseenko last week, but cut it for time considerations.  But here we shall look at Ivanchuk’s spotty play in Batumi.

GM Eltaj Safarli

The GRENKE Chess Classic features a few strong but not elite level Germans, the top woman (Hou Yifan), two holdovers from the Candidates (Caruana and Aronian; at least they didn’t have to travel too far), and three of the best players who were not in the Candidates (Anand, Vachier-Lagrave, and of course, Carlsen).  Perhaps it is fitting that having now put Magnus Carlsen in his crosshairs for their upcoming World Championship match in November, Fabiano Caruana took on the champ in the very first round.  The game did not disappoint, as Caruana tried fearlessly for victory but soon found himself scrambling to try to save the game:

The two super GMs a few years ago

The first round produced a lot of excitement but only one decisive game. In Contrast, an interesting round two produced only one draw.  Let’s check out how Vitiugov pulled off a gorgeous combination to take down Matthias Bluebaum to get the jump on the field:

GM Nikita Vitiugov

Through three rounds, MVL has 2.5, with Vitiugov headed that way as well.  I’ll have much more from there next week.  There is also a strong open tournament with a lot of 2700ish players, which time permitting, I’ll show some highlights from as well.