In the third GRENKE Chess Classic, World Champion Magnus Carlsen was ultimately drawn into the Armageddon at Baden Baden. It was not something that Carlsen could have imagined because his opponent in the last Round 7 game was several rungs lower in FIDE rankings. But the drawn game in Round 7 with Bacrot Etienne brought the tournament to the edge of a climatic thrill. With 4.5 points out of 7, Carlsen finished at par with the German Grand master Arkadij Naiditsch and his victory could not come until the decisive last tiebreak. For Carlsen, it was not the most convincing tournament win but it counted in the end. For India’s Vishy Anand, however, GREKE Classic was an eminently forgettable tournament. Though Anand somehow managed to win on Sunday, he lost again on Monday in Round 7, playing with England’s Micky Adams. Three losses in 7 matches, brought about by blunders every time, were not in keeping with the reputation of the former world champion from India.
On Monday, when everyone expected Carlsen to win his last Round 7 game against Frenchman Bacrot Etienne, the game ended in a draw. Given Bacrot’s performance over the week, Carlsen did not think of a loss or a draw but in the end he couldn’t help it. It wasn’t an easy tournament, where Carlsen was at level with Germany’s Arkadij Naiditsch on points and only an outright victory would have given the Norwegian the first place in the tournament. That didn’t happen as he was stretched into tiebreaks, as dictated by rules, after the French Grand Master played impeccable chess in the closing stages and held the world champion at bay. Carlsen had a winning opportunity but he missed it. The drawn game meant that Carlsen had to play the decisive tiebreak with Germany’s Arkadij Naiditsch, who also missed his chance against Aronian Levon in his last game that day. The end of the tournament could have become more intriguing if Fabiano Caruana had not missed a sharp chance against David Baramidze in the other round 7 match. That occurrence would have brought three players at the same score of 4.5/7 and Carlsen, Naiditsch and Caruna had to engage in a 3-way tie-break. In the end, however, Carlsen and Naiditsch had to settle it out in a rapid blitz as per the FIDE format. This required the players to begin with 2 games with 10 minutes + 2 seconds per move and if needed another 2 games with 5 minutes + 2 seconds for every move. If the match still remained undecided then the final game was needed, in which 6 minutes would be allowed for White and 5 minutes for Black + 2 seconds per move. If the match was drawn, then the victory would go to the player with Black. The GRENKE Chess Classic went to the very end.
The first tiebreak game ended with an easy victory for the world champion and he looked like taking the second game too. But Naiditsch suddenly began a machine-like play as Magnus lost his bearings. The German Grand Master produced a turnaround in a jiffy with his adventurous play and got his revenge as the clock struck time. These games were followed by two 5-minute blitz games now. But no one was surprised that both blitz encounters ended as drawn games. Now everything depended on the last Armageddon duel, in which Black had 6 minutes to White’s 5, with increments of 2 seconds. Carlsen was in trouble because he had whites and the draw would turn him into a loser. It was here that the German lost his nerve. Playing with blacks, he ran out of ideas as he played an error-prone 22-Qb4 followed by a crazy 23-Bc5. After standing up to the world champion for so long, the German handed over the GRENKE title to Magnus Carlsen.
Though Carlsen scored another tournament victory, it wasn’t much to talk about going by the sky-high reputation of the world champion. The Norwegian has been ruling the chess world since the age of 17 and his famous triumphs include; Wijk aan Zee 3 times in 2008, 2010 and 2013, London Chess Classic 3 times in 2009, 2010 and 2012, Biel 2 times in 2007 and 2011, Tal Memorial two times in 2011, 2012, Bilbao Masters two times in 2011 and 2012, Nanjing in 2009, Sinquefield Cup in 2013, Zurich Chess Challenge in 2014 and Shamkir Chess in 2014. His biggest milestone, however was winning the London Candidates Tournament of 2013 that gave him the right to challenge Viswanathan Anand for the World Championship title. There has been no looking back since then.
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