What a diff’rence a day made, so said Dinah Washington in her Grammy-winning hit-song. And this could well have been the song from her 1959 hit album that was reverberating around the head of Magnus Carlsen, as the World Champion stormed back from one of the worst day’s play of his career to snatch a sensational victory in the Your Next Move Grand Chess Tour rapid leg, held in the historic 15th century Town Hall of Leuven, Belgium.
Carlsen pressed the self-destruct button in the final round of day 1 as he blundered away a piece in just twelve moves to speed rival Hikaru Nakamura, that forced the world champion into resigning as early as just move 17. Jokingly, on leaving the building, Carlsen's parting words were “I’ve got to get out of here.” But just twenty four little hours later, as the diva would have it, Carlsen was soon smiling again, as he returned to storm the opposition for a perfect score of 4/4 - his ‘victims’ being Veselin Topalov, Anish Giri, Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik - to take a full point lead over the field going into the 18 rounds of Blitz on day three and four.
And what a difference not a day but a tournament made for Paris GCT victor Hikaru Nakamura! Buy the end of the rapid leg, it was the polar opposite with Nakamura languishing at the foot of the table in Leuven - a result that’s likely to benefit Carlsen, as he looks set now to take maximum GCT points to establish the early lead in the four-tournament series of events.
Photo © | Your Next Move GCT
1. Magnus Carlsen 12/18; 2. Wesley So 11; 3-4. Vishy Anand, Levon Aronian 10; 5. Fabiano Caruana 9; 6-8. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Anish Giri, Veselin Topalov 8; 9-10. Hikaru Nakamura, Vladimir Kramnik 7.
In the overall standings, rapid games are worth 2 points for a win, one point for a draw and zero for a loss. Thus each score above is double. Blitz games are counted in 'old money' with the usual one for a win and half a point for a draw.
GM Magnus Carlsen - GM Vishy Anand
GCT Rapid YourNextMove Leuven, (8)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.c3 a6 7.a4 The name Giuoco Piano - one of the oldest recorded openings in chess, played in the 16th century - means 'quiet game' in Italian. And like its name, it is initially very quiet with a slow build-up as both sides position their pieces for the middlegame battle. 7...Ba7 8.Na3 The knight is going to c2 to allow Be3 to challenge Black's dark-squared bishop. 8...Ne7 9.Nc2 0-0 10.Be3 Bxe3 11.Nxe3 Ng6 12.a5 With a5, Carlsen guarantee's himself a little advantage as he can play on the queenside pawns being fixed. 12...Ng4 13.h3! Not 13.Nxg4 Bxg4 14.h3 Be6 15.Bxe6 fxe6 and Black, with pressure down the f-file, will have play on the kingside that will nullify and weaknesses he has on the queenside. 13...Nxe3 14.fxe3 Qe7 15.Qb3 Carlsen is emerging with a grudging edge: he has play on the b7 pawn on the queenside and play down the f-file to pressure f7; also, his doubled e-pawns can look to expand in the center. 15...c6 16.d4! With Anand lagging in development, Carlsen quickly seizes his chance for central control, as taking e4-pawn will be dangerous. 16...Be6!? Not a bad idea: Anand tries to go for a symmetrical position - but Carlsen will still emerge with a small advantage with the exchanges and the better-placed knight. The alternative of 16...exd4 17.exd4 Nf4 (Certainly not 17...Qxe4?? 18.Bxf7+! Rxf7 19.Qxf7+ Kxf7 20.Ng5+ winning easily.) 18.Kh2 Be6 19.d5 Bd7 20.Rae1 left Black - while not with a bad position -with some discomfort, trying to develop his game from here. 17.Bxe6 fxe6 18.Rad1 Rae8 19.Qb4 Forcing Anand's hand, as left to his own devices, Carlsen will play Nd2-c4 and hit the pawn weaknesses on d6 and e5. All these little problems soon mount up the pressure for Anand. 19...exd4 20.cxd4! The best recapture, as it deprives Anand's knight of becoming active by taking the f4-square. 20...e5 21.dxe5 dxe5 22.Qxe7 Rxe7 23.Rd6! It's clear Carlsen has the sort of position he loves to grind home the win with. Anand, on the other hand, can't find a way to activate his pieces without compromising his position. And all of which builds up to Anand's position dramatically collapsing. 23...Nh8 Looking to better reposting the knight to f7, kicking the rook on d6 and supporting e5 - but it is all so very awkward for Anand, and this is ruthlessly exploited by Carlsen. 24.Nd2 Heading to c4 to hit the weak pawn on e5; not only that, but there's also an alternative plan of Nb3-c5 to hit the weakness on b7 - such positions have become Carlsen's bread and butter. 24...Nf7 25.Rd3 Ng5 26.Rf5 h6 27.h4 Nh7 28.Nb3! (See Diagram) Aiming for c5 is now the stronger option, as after 28.Nc4 Nf6 29.Rxe5 Rxe5 30.Nxe5 Re8! and Black is close to equalising here as his rook and knight become active and hit White pawn weaknesses. 28...Nf6 29.Nc5 Not only hitting the long-term weakness of b7, but also at the same time defending the e4-pawn. 29...Rff7 30.h5 Stopping ...g6 kicking the active rook from its good outpost on f5. 30...Kh7 31.Rd8 g6 32.hxg6+ Kxg6 33.Rd6! Kg7 34.Ne6+ Kg6 35.Nd8 Rf8 36.g4 It's amazing how Carlsen can make so much out of so little against even the best players in the world. 36...c5 37.b3 Ree8 Anand cracks under the relentless pressure - but his position was becoming untenable anyway. If 37...Rh7 38.Ne6 Rc8 39.Nf4+! wins. 38.Nxb7 1-0 Anand resigns, as a the a6-, c5- and e5-pawns will fall like dominoes now.