Radek Wojtaszek defeated Magnus Carlsen | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour
Magnus Carlsen ended Day 1 of the Superbet Rapid and Blitz Poland in 7th place after playing the Polish Opening and losing to Radek Wojtaszek. Polish no. 1 Jan-Krzysztof Duda drew against Magnus and defeated Anish Giri and Bogdan-Daniel Deac to take the lead on 5/6, where he’s joined by Wesley So and Levon Aronian.
World no. 1 Magnus Carlsen is always a heavy favourite going into Grand Chess Tour rapid and blitz events, but he got off to a very slow start in Warsaw (it’s two points for a win and one for a draw in rapid chess).
There’s chess fever in the Polish capital right now…
…and there was no better way to start than with local hero Radek Wojtaszek scoring a shock win over the former World Champion. There was also no better opening, at least for memes, than to play the Polish, 1…b5 against 1.d4. It might have worked out better against Rauf Mamedov, who simply resigned in disgust when Magnus played 1…g5 against him last year.
Magnus put the blame firmly at the feet of his second, Peter Heine Nielsen.
It was something Peter suggested a couple of days ago and I was like, sure, so when you make such an opening choice that obviously increases the variance quite a bit, and against an unprepared opponent I don’t think it’s that bad, but unfortunately I didn’t remember what I was supposed to do, and then my position was pretty bad early on. I suspect after that I had some chances to come back a little bit, but it was always difficult and he deserved the win. Polish in Poland didn’t work!
How could you expect a Polish player not to be prepared for the Polish?
In pure chess terms, Magnus looked to have gone completely astray as early as move 9.
Wojtaszek was absolutely correct to go for the pawn sacrifice 10.d5! exd5 11.e5!, and after 11…Nh5 12.Nb3 g6 13.Bh6! he’d ensured Magnus would be unable to castle his king out of danger. Radek explained:
He surprised me, but it wasn’t a surprise, as I expected a surprise! I didn’t really know if it would be some sort of Benoni or something like that, but then when he played b5 I just thought, let’s play, let’s make some normal moves. My approach was to play active chess, and this is what I thought gave me victory. I played actively, especially this move d5.
Wojtaszek even explained that the full house in the venue encouraged him to go for it.
From then on, Magnus was always on the ropes, and although both players noted he had chances (31…d4! was the last) they also agreed that it was much harder for Black to play. In the end Radek scored a crushing win.
38…Kf8 loses the queen immediately to 39.Nxe6+, while after 38…Kd7 39.Qxf7+ the e6-knight is lost.
Magnus summed up his day:
I haven’t really played or studied chess much recently, so it was kind of showing, but at least I steadied the ship a little bit in the last couple of rounds, so it’s not a disaster, but overall, it was really rusty.
Round 2 against Wesley So saw Magnus play not one, but two strong and less than obvious piece sacrifices. First 7.c4!?
And then 26.Ne5!?
Wesley simply turned both offers down and showed some icily cool defence which threatened to become a counterattack. Magnus concluded, “It’s typical Wesley — he usually defends pretty well when he’s up against it”.
Wesley So drew against Magnus and won his remaining two games | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour
In his final game of the day, Carlsen played the Caro-Kann against Jan-Krzysztof Duda, and although he ended up a pawn down he never looked to be in trouble. In fact, the big question of the game was whether Magnus would end it with more than the 25 minutes he’d started with. He must have toyed with the idea of going all-out to do that, but he likely decided that losing the game in such a manner would have been hard to live down. He ended with a mere 23 minutes.
That tough day for Magnus had one curious consequence, which was that Ding Liren can now boast of being both a World Champion and a no. 1 on the rating list, at least in rapid chess.
Carlsen's lacklustre start allowed others to take the lead. Wesley So, apart from the draw against Magnus, won his remaining two games. He did what he’d failed to do in Bucharest and ground down Bogdan-Daniel Deac in an endgame, before outplaying Richard Rapport in a complicated heavy-piece position.
Not the kind of crowd Duda is used to having to deal with! | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour
Jan-Krzysztof Duda also beat Deac, but his most impressive win was against Anish Giri in Round 1. Duda described Giri continuing to play 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 against him as, “a bit sadistic”, but then confessed to missing 16…b5!?, which he said was “a very unpleasant moment”.
On further reflection, however, Duda decided Giri had probably missed that after 17.Nxb5! Rb8 he didn’t need to play 18.Nc3? Ba6! when Black is winning. Instead after 18.a4! a6 19.Nc3 Black no longer had the a6-square for the bishop, which saw Giri instead go for a dramatic blow, 19…Rxb2!?
The point is that after 20.Qxb2 Bxc3 you can’t play 21.Qxc3?? or 21…Ne2+ wins the queen. Nevertheless, after 21.Qa2 Bxa1 22.Qxa1 it turned out Duda had a promising position. He ultimately went on to win a tricky endgame.
The 3rd leader is Levon Aronian, who smoothly outplayed Kirill Shevchenko in Round 2 and then managed to squeeze home victory with an outside passed pawn against Anish Giri in Round 3.
Levon Aronian is playing in Warsaw as a replacement for Ding Liren | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour
More memorable, however, was the draw against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, not because Levon had winning chances, but because the players contrived to completely fill the c-file.
It was filled for seven ply in total, with captures on c1 and c7 not disturbing the picture.
Will we get the same kinds of crowds on a Monday? | photo: Lennart Ootes, Grand Chess Tour
The tournament continues with three more rounds on Monday, when Magnus will be hoping to mount a comeback when he faces Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Levon Aronian and Anish Giri.