Grand Chess Tour 2017 - Paris and Leuven

| Chess
| Leuven, Belgium

The Paris tournament finished last Sunday, and I have had some time to digest the overall result as well as how I tackled the challenging Blitz stage. I still have mixed feelings about the event, but fortunately the achievements shine stronger and miserable moments gradually fade away.

Having won the first four Blitz games Saturday, 9 wins and 4 draws overall gave me a solid lead. Collapsing midway both Saturday and Sunday losing several games in a row was highly frustrating. Not handling the delay instead of increment acceptably, was only a minor contributing factor. I simply couldn’t handle losses adequately.

Even a minus two score at the back end (6 points out of the last 14 Blitz games) was however sufficient for shared first with home favorite Maxime Vachier-Lagrave as Nakamura suffered a similar collapse on Sunday. I’m quite proud of managing to pull myself together for the play-off. In the first game I got a positional advantage as white. While MVL kept finding cunning tactical threats to balance the position with his passed a-pawn and potential menacing h3-pawn, I probably played a good game as well and my f and g-pawns decided in the end. In the second play-off game he over-pressed in a balanced Marshall variation, and I could force a draw in a better position to win the play-off and Paris Rapid and Blitz!  Overall MVL came second and Nakamura third.

Monday we travelled on to Leuven outside Brussels by train and Tuesday played a simul against young Belgian players in the town hall as last year.

After two days of Rapid chess in Leuven I’m shared 2nd with MVL at 8 points. Wesley So had a disappointing Paris event but has started excellently here with 10 points. I over-pressed in an equal queen and rook endgame yesterday against So and lost miserably. Apart from that game my performance has been fairly smooth. I’m particularly satisfied with the win against Kramnik today. I played the Bird (f4) opening and Kramink quickly grabbed space with b5. Until 15.Nb3 I was uncertain about the situation, but then I felt it was relatively equal and easier to play for white. I took on d4 with the knight hoping to get exactly the structure and position we reached some ten moves later. Kramnik might have pinned his hopes on getting his knight to e5, but after Bf3 white was simply winning.