Grenke Chess Classic 2017 – Baden-Baden
Fortunately it is not all dark. I did play well most of most games, although I realize that highlighting this puts the bar below where my expectations are and should be. Elite chess requires zealous dedication and focus to avoid serious mistakes throughout each game. This is generally one of my strengths, but maybe not so this time.
In the first game against Matthias Bluebaum I had equalized from the opening with black. His defense was solid and seemed impenetrable for some time, but when I continued to pose questions he went astray just before the time control. In a momentary lapse of concentration I considered the game won, and blundered back with e5 after which he could exchange material and reach a drawn ending.
The game against Aronian was typical for our encounters. He found a sharp line in the Ruy Lopez Anti-Marshall and was maybe slightly better. He probably overestimated his position and I got sufficient counterplay to reach a winning position. I thought I found two winning continuations (Ne5 and Qxe4) and went for what I considered the simplest line with Qxe4. Having missed Ne2+ he managed to reach a drawn ending, and subsequently won his next four games!
Against Hou Yifan I was slightly better as black in the middle game but again blundered badly (b5), having missed en passant followed by Rd5! In a difficult position I managed not too lose immediately and low on time, discovering that Ra1 and Rxa6 didn’t work, she went for simplifications and a drawn ending.
Another mistake (Nb5) killed any advantage I had against Caruana and finally I won in round 5 against Meier.
The games against Naiditsch and Vachier-Lagrave were interesting and complicated games both ending in a draw. Against Vachier-Lagrave I had a really promising position offering black little counterplay when I gave up most of the advantage with b4 as I had missed his defense Qb6 after d6.
As communicated to the organizer Sven Noppes I hope to be back and it would be great to have more rounds in the future. It was a well organized and interesting event. I liked playing in both the very different settings in Karlsruhe and Baden-Baden. Centerstage in the same playing hall as a huge Open tournament is fascinating, but I also really like the classical elite atmosphere in the Baden-Baden part.
I already look forward to Norway Chess in June. It will be strongest 10-player tournament this year.