So far and yet so close…

L’équipe de France.

Ranked 7-9 on the starting list (with Armenia and England), the french team ended up 9th, but not without having played for the top places until the very end. A thriller and improbable tiebreak rules, these are for sure the Chess Olympiads!

I landed in Batumi (Georgia) three days before the start of these real Nations World Championships, together with Etienne (Bacrot), and also Romain (Edouard), who met up with us in Istanbul. The remainder of the team arrived on Saturday 22, after a long travel as well. So we had enough time to acclimatize, take advantage of our nice hotel, rest and prepare.
The tournament itself was nicely organized, even if the playing hall was a bit too small, but I perfectly understand the difficulty of having to place more than 660 boards in a comfortable environment!

Our hotel was not far from the playing hall, but we found out early on that the shuttles weren’t very convenient, as they would take us to the game way to soon. So we chose to take taxis, but it remains a detail…
One of the novelties in these Olympiads was the anti-cheating disposal, supposed to find out people wearing electronic devices. As I myself was tested after my round 3 game against Bilel Bellahcene, I must confess that I was not convinced by this detector looking behind my ears. Had I hidden a device on me, I would have had enough time to get rid of it before to reach the examination room. Should be improved!

The atmosphere inside the team was very good, and that was also the case with the girls. Most of the time, we would all gather after dinner. We had brought a lot of board games, and they allowed us to fill up evening hours in a pleasant way!

I began the tournament on the bench, as is usual within the strongest teams, who choose to take it easy with their first board, when the pairing is normally an easy one. We controlled the first three rounds, throwing only a draw of twelve games (4-0 against Yemen and Uruguay, 3.5-0.5 against Algeria). Thus we took an early lead in the tournament. On the dark side, Romain fell ill just before round 2, and he seldom played till the end.

Here is my first game, against Uruguayan GM Rodriguez Vila:

Rodriguez Vila-Mvl, Round 2; the black win still requires accuracy.
Rodriguez Vila-Mvl, Round 2; the black win still requires accuracy.

34…Nxc1 35.Rd5+ (35.Rxb2 Qxb2 36.Qxc1 Bb3+ 37.Nc2 and after all pieces are traded on c2, the h pawn decides) 35…Kc6! (but not 35…Bxd5? 36.Qxd5+ Kc7 37.Qc5+ Kb8 38.Qe5+! and black’s King doesn’t escape perpetual) 36.Rc5+ (36.Qxc1 Bxd5) 36…Kb6 37.Qd8+ Kxc5 and the lone white’s Queen can’t give perpetual). The Uruguyan GM resigned after 38.Qc7+ Kb5 39.c4+ Ka6.

The fact is that I had a very difficult game the next day against Bilel Bellahcene, who bullied me from the beginning, before to completely crumble in a totally drawn Rook endgame.

The beginning of Round 4 match Vietnam-France (photo Chessbase).
The beginning of Round 4 match Vietnam-France (photo Chessbase).

Things got really serious with round 4 pairing against Vietnam. Fortunately, Christian (Bauer) did the job on board 4, allowing us to claim the match after a peaceful end on the three other boards (Vietnam-France 1.5-2.5).

Round 5 clash against Poland went wrong, and I must confess that I quickly became worried when I saw the positions on all boards. I was not that much concerned for Laurent (Fressinet), but maybe I should have been! I was more worried for Etienne and not so certain about Christian’s position. In all cases, it was clear for me that I would have to win, especially with the position I had. By the way, my game developed well in this respect.

Mvl-Duda, Round 5; white’s position is easier to play.
Mvl-Duda, Round 5; white’s position is easier to play.

Here, I was expecting the critical 22…Nc4, and I wanted to answer 23.Qe2 Nxb2 24.Rd8!? f6 25.Nh4, forgetting 25…Qe5!, which seems to equalize. A few moves ahead, the position became unclear, though probably more difficult to play for black, who had to face a nasty initiative for the pawn. And the fact is that Duda’s position quickly went downhill, and I was even surprised by the number of wins I had at my disposal! Maybe I didn’t choose the most precise one, but I think I took the best practical decisions, leaving no chance at all to black.
Despite my win, the match itself went awry, as we lost the other three games. Nothing fell into place for Laurent and Etienne, so Christian had to force events and also lost! (France-Pologne 1-3).

This was a first blow, against a Polish team we have to congratulate for a really thrilling overall performance in the tournament.

So the rest day was welcome to recover from the defeat, as well as from The Bermuda Party!

Mvl is a shooter, even during the rest day! (Photo Laurent Fressinet).
Mvl is a shooter, even during the rest day! (Photo Laurent Fressinet).

We resumed hostilities against England, and I have to admit I played a tame game against Adams.

Adams-Mvl, Round 6; 13…Nxd5?!, not the best decision.
Adams-Mvl, Round 6; 13…Nxd5?!, not the best decision.

Here, after the normal 13…f5, I had an easy game. But I got attracted by the win of a pawn which follows 13…Nxd5 14.cxd5 (14.Nxd5?! Ne7! is maybe already slightly better for black) 14…cxb4 15.axb4 (15.dxc6? Qxc6+) 15…Nxb4, without assessing that after 16.Qa4! Qxa4 17.Nxa4, white got adequate compensation, with no winning prospects at all for me.

After Romain, who tried to get back in the team, had quickly drawn with white, the match situation became tense. Indeed, Etienne was clearly struggling on board 2, but he finally escaped. (England-France 2-2) with four draws, was a bit frustrating result, though a logical one…

Then we won an important match against Hungary, though not without adventures!
In the beginning, we had rather pleasant positions on all boards, except mine as I messed up my opening against Leko.

Leko-Mvl, Round 7; a shaky opening for black.
Leko-Mvl, Round 7; a shaky opening for black.

In this position obviously arising from a Najdorf, I didn’t dare to be slightly worse after 17…Qc7 18.Qc3!, and I opted for 17…Nf6, but when 18.h4! came on the board, I understood that my planned move 18…Nbxd5? was not possible because of 19.Bg5 Nf4 20.h5! N4xh5 21.Rxh5 gxh5 22.Bh6 and white’s attack is too strong.
Leko was beginning to spend an awful lot of time on his moves, in particular 48 minutes to answer 18.h4 to 17…Nf6 in the diagrammed position, which is completely baffling to me! Then, after 18…Qc7, a further 18 minutes for 19.h5; unbelievable!
Thus, he certainly lacked time to find the win that I also failed to spot, as it is all but trivial! After 19…Nxh5, instead of 20.Bh6, he had 20.Rxh5! gxh5 21.Bh6 f5 22.Bxg7 Qxg7 23.Qe3! (the key move) 23…Qc7 24.Rg1+ Kh7 25.Rg5! (second key move!) 25…Rf7 (25…Rf6 26.Rxh5+ Kg8 27.Qg1+ or 26…Kg7 27.Qg1+ Rg6 28.Qh2) 26.Rxh5+ Kg8 27.Qg1+! (27.Qg5+? Rg7 28.Qh4 Rg1+!) 27…Rg7 28.Qh2 with a decisive attack.
Fortunately, this difficult variation went unnoticed, and the game continued 20.Bh6 Nf4 21.Bxf4 exf4 22.Qxf4 Rfc8 23.Qe4, and whew, the storm is gone!

Leko-Mvl, 23…Nxa4 or no 23…Nxa4?
Leko-Mvl, 23…Nxa4 or no 23…Nxa4?

Meanwhile, despite the complexity of the game, I had faith in Christian’s position. From my board at any rate, his piece sacrifice on h6 looked very interesting. It is also at this moment that I saw Laurent hit by a Knight sacrifice on e5 against Almasi. A sacrifice that proved inaccurate afterwards, but looked pretty scary live!
So I decided to await events, as I already had the idea to sac on a4, but I was not quite sure of myself! However, a couple of moves later, I felt Laurent’s position was getting scarier, and I decided to give the sac a go!
After 23…Nxa4!? 24.Bxa4 b5 25.Bxb5 a4 26.Nd4 a3, I had foreseen that I would be much better in case of 27.bxa3 Rxa3, and the same if 27.Nc6 a2 28.Kd2 Re8!. But I underestimated 27.Bc6!, after which my position is not so enviable, even if I keep compensations, with all my pieces active, my King secure, and my pawn on b2. Add to this that Peter had only five minutes left on the clock…
Let me illustrate this point by jumping to move 35, in the following position:

Leko-Mvl, a position as complex as can be!
Leko-Mvl, a position as complex as can be!

If, instead of 35.Nc6? Re8+ 36.Kf2 Qf4!, allowing me to switch to the Kingside and to be back on track, Peter had found the counter-intuitive, but very strong 35.Rh4!, it’s not clear if the only move 35…f5 would have crossed my mind. Indeed, the try to take advantage of white’s auto-pin by 35…Rc4? was refuted by the pretty 36.Rxb2 Bxd4 (36…Rxd4 37.Rb8+) 37.Rd2! and it’s a case of the biter bit, as black is indeed losing its pinned Bd4!

Then came the apotheosis of the game, juste after move 40:

Leko-Mvl, is it an immediate draw ?
Leko-Mvl, is it an immediate draw ?

After the time control, I thought I would give perpetual by 41.Kf1 Qh1+ 42.Kf2 Qh2+ etc…, all the more as the match situation had clearly improved, with Laurent drawing, Etienne unable to lose, and Christian already winning. But instead of repeating immediately by 41.Kf1, in which case I could as well have taken the draw right away, Peter commited the huge mistake of standing up to head for the toilets. All in all, he took fifteen minutes to play this forced move. A very bad practical decision, which made me understand thad he had seen a problem somewhere! Thus, I had time to calmly assess the position and to realize how strong it would be to play 41…Bf6! instead of taking the draw! And in the course of my calculations, I realized that the move was indeed winning, notably in the main variation of the game, 42.Rd1 Bh4 43.Qd4 Bg3!.

Batumi by night (photo mardihouse.ge).
Batumi by night (photo mardihouse.ge).

A win (Hungary-France 1-3) that was just what we needed, but as for myself, I had caught a cold that day. Therefore, I lacked energy for the remaining rounds, and it could already be seen in my next game against Eljanov (France-Ukraine 2.5-1.5). He gave me a pawn in the opening, and I thought it would turn out to be good for me, but he had more counterplay than I expected. But the way things were going elsewhere, led me to offer a draw as soon as I could (in Batumi Olympiads, draws by mutual agreement were forbidden before move 30 – Ed.).

We played our worse chess in round 9 (Germany-France 2-2). For my part, I got burned in the opening, because of the doubtful decisions I took.

Nisipeanu-Mvl, Round 9; to castle or not to castle, that is the question…
Nisipeanu-Mvl, Round 9; to castle or not to castle, that is the question…

Facing a new idea, 12.Nxc6 bxc6 13.Qf3 leading to the diagrammed position, I was really reluctant to castle Kingside. I was afraid of 13…0-0 14.0-0-0 followed by 15.g4. But I should probably have gone for it anyway, as my position became inferior right away after 13…Qc7?! 14.Qg3 Bb7 15.0-0-0. Obviously, I could have avoided the real highlight 15…g5?, way too risky, after which, even if he was not going to be perfect in the process of converting, I never had my chance anymore. At some stage in this match against Germany, it didn’t look so weird to me that we might lose 0-4!
Luckily, Etienne held the draw a pawn down, and Laurent navigated at best in a very nasty position arising from a nice central break, on which I wouldn’t have bet a lot! As for Christian, he happened to be our savior, even though it hadn’t much to do with his white opening! The draw 2-2 was a real relief given the course of the games. Thus we were rewarded with a clement pairing for round 10, Croatia.

Mvl-Saric, Round 10; the punishment doesn’t work.
Mvl-Saric, Round 10; the punishment doesn’t work.

Against Saric, I wanted to punish his 9…b6, weakening c6, by playing 10.d4, while I would have played 10.d3 against any other move. Not a very wise decision, although it could maybe have been justified had I played, after 10…cxd4 11.Nxd4 Bb7, 12.Bc6 instead of 12.Nc6: it shouldn’t have given much either, though. In the game, after 12.Nc6 Bxc6 13.Bxc6 Rb8, if I play 14.Ba4, then 14…Nc5 15.Bc2 b5, and I’m probably already a bit worse. 14.Bxd7 Nxd7 followed by 15…b5 didn’t give anything either, so I opted for 14.Qe2, after which black equalized comfortably by the sequence 14…Ne5 15.Ba4 Nxc4 16.Qxc4 b5, although it was not even the only way to proceed for him.

Thankfully, the match was rather well controlled on the other boards (France-Croatia 2.5-1.5). Romain made a last appearance and held the draw without much trouble, the same for Etienne, while Laurent wrapped up a convincing and decisive win.

Boards 1 & 2 during the decisive match against Russia (image Chess24).
Boards 1 & 2 during the decisive match against Russia (image Chess24).

All of us were highly motivated for the last round match against Russia, played on board 2. Everybody knows that the Olympiads format gives the utmost importance to the last round, and for what we were concerned, everything was still possible…
Unfortunately, Etienne’s game against Nepo went awry from the opening, as he faced a very strong new idea in the English, against which it was terribly difficult to react. My game wasn’t smooth either. I had a novelty against Karjakin’s Berlin Wall (13.Ne2), but he reacted perfectly, and annhilated all my tries; he even sacrificed a pawn to get lots of counterplay, leading me to force the draw. Laurent had succeeded in getting a nice middlegame position against Kramnik, but the Russian equalized anyway, just to take insane risks, as he very regularly does those days! Draw anyway after the time control, which made our defeat official as Christian, with black against Vitiugov, had previously shared the point, in a position I felt was preferable for him. (France-Russia 1.5-2.5).

Our overall result is rather positive as, despite the final deceptive loss, we always played for something. As a proof, had Nepo blundered against Etienne, we would have beaten Russia and won the Olympiads!
On a personal note, I’m a bit disapointed I was not at 100% of my strenght in the last rounds, but I’m pretty sure we will have other shots in the future.
Just a word about Women’s France team, whose tournament debut was a bit complicated. But the girls got back on track and showed solidarity, thanks to the excellent atmosphere among them.

And at the end, China wins! (photo Chessbase).
And at the end, China wins! (photo Chessbase).

And to conclude, congratulations to the Chinese for their double gold, the more so as they also grabbed both individual gold medals on the top board !
Impressive stuff!

Oh ! CapablancaThe Olympiads are obviously the greatest chess meeting in the world, with almost all countries on the spot. It is a titanic organization, with its staple moments. First, the Opening ceremony, astonishing by all accounts. Then the traditional Bermuda Party, before the rest day, scheduled this year in a seaside nightclub; but hush! what happens in Bermuda… remains in Bermuda!

To close the Olympiads, the Chilean singer and chess lover Juga di Prima came to Batumi, and sang on the stage her « Oh! Capablanca », which was successful in the previous months.

Maxime’s games :

Official site: https://batumi2018.fide.com/en

MVL inspires them !

L'express

L’Express is one of the biggest french magazines. Incidentally, it celebrates its birthday this very week.

As soon as november of its first year (1953), the weekly already published a « list of 100 », which offered a review of the hundred french people « who map out roads for the future ». In 2018, L’Express does it again to mark its 65 years of existence : only differences with 1953, parity is respected, and the political field has been excluded. As Guillaume Dubois, L’Express Director, states, the main purpose is to « bring to the fore French men and women who […] believe in their own future and in their country’s future. Coming from a broad range of areas, « reflecting a diversity of careers, of jobs, of sensitivities, and of origins, […] [the 100] are acting », he adds.
And among them, in the section of « Those who act to surpass themselves », you will find Maxime ! Do we have to see a symbol in the fact that he’s just next to Thomas Pesquet, the famous astronaut ?

Still, this recognition constitutes a huge incentive, for Maxime will jump back on the campaign trail in 2019, trying to move through the qualifying stages leading to the world championship match.

Find out Maxime’s presentation below, with the kind permission of L’Express management  (see translation below):

Article L'Express
Article L’Express

Caption: 27 y.o, chess player. He wants to become world champion.
Text: For the best french chess player in history, #1 at home, and World #5, 2017 was a terrible year. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave narrowly missed a spot in the Candidates, the tournament which selected the challenger of World Champion Magnus Carlsen, for the forthcoming title match in November. Thus, Maxime decided to treat 2018 as a transition year. Among other things, he hired a mental coach, in order to master this touch of impulsiveness which sometimes puts him at a disadvantage, despite his extraterrestrial skills (he belongs to the small circle of those who have reached 2800 Elo points, the method for calculating relative levels of chess players). Our International Grandmaster knows that his creative and sharp play can disarm Carlsen, less at ease than him in complex positions where anything can happen. Maxime has already beaten him, last time the previous year. At only 27, « MVL » has plenty of time ahead of him. But it is out of the question to miss the next opportunities of reaching the « title of titles », in 2020.

Titled tuesdayThere’s no way we would miss on this website games played by Maxime ! Thus, let’s have a slight month-long flash back, to revisit the « Titled Tuesday » tournament organized by www.chess.com. As its name indicates, this online blitz tournament takes place once a month on Tuesdays, and is restricted to titled players. Maxime played in the April 17 Titled Tuesday, probably the strongest one so far, with tens of GM’s around. The fact that an Argentinian FM prevailed, before to be banned from the website soon afterwards, contributes to global suspicions over the fairness of online chess…On his part, Maxime first crushed the competition, with 7/7 against 6 GM’s (!), before to give up two draws, and ultimately lose the decisive last-round game because of a huge blunder, even if not without finding ways to fight back (see Viewer below).

Official site: Chess.com
Maxime’s games:

Giant meeting in Berlin

Vue d’ensemble de la salle (Photo : ©Theo Heinze).

It’s the second time the Bundesliga gathers in the main room of the Berlin Maritim Hotel, very close to the center town. With sixteen teams around playing the last three rounds of the year’s championship, it can be said that this long weekend was the culmination of the year, a kind of huge chess party. In sporting terms, we (Baden-Baden) began the final weekend head to head with Solingen, with the hope of winning this long_distance affair in one of the three rounds.
Continue reading “Giant meeting in Berlin”

Mixed record in Grenke Classic

After a quick taxi transfer beetween Karlsrühe and Baden-Baden during the rest day, I took residence in a town and an hotel that I get to know pretty well ! The next day, I approached my game against Carlsen half a point ahead of him, but with black.

4th round: Carlsen (2843)-Mvl ½-½
I didn’t really expect him to enter this variation of the English opening ; especially since after the game, he said he had something special in mind, which he finally didn’t play. I don’t know what happened exactly, because he looked rather well prepared in this variation, which requires to remember very specific moves. I had already analyzed the exchange of Queens, a new try for white, and his later choice of sacrificing a pawn by 17.d6+ Kxd6 18.Rad1+ Ke7 19.Be5 wasn’t an easy follow-up to find, but it was certainly the best practical chance.

17.d6+, the best practical chance for the world champion.
17.d6+, the best practical chance for the world champion.

Thanks to this good prep, I never left my comfort zone, though it was not so trivial to keep things even. Observers might have expected more suffering from me against Magnus, who loves that kind of endgame, but I feel I found the precise moves to neutralize him rather quickly !

Facing Magnus… (photo Grenke chess).
Facing Magnus… (photo Grenke chess).

5th round: Mvl-Aronian (2794) ½-½

I arrived at the board with a fresh idea in the anti-Marshall (12.h3), but unfortunately, I reacted badly to his manoeuver …Qb8-b5, which I hadn’t anticipated. Instead of 14.c4, I should have played 14.Be3, a move I rejected because of 14…d5, but 15.c4! would then give white an advantage, because the compensation for the pawn is huge after 15…dxc4 16.dxc4 Qxc4 17.Nbd2. Later, I was happy to find this little tactic 19.Nxe6!, though in the end, it doesn’t bring a lot !

17.Nxe6!, spectacular but not as strong as it looks.
17.Nxe6!, spectacular but not as strong as it looks.

At the end of the tactical sequence, he uncorked the excellent 25…g5!, which looks anti-positional but locks down the position. I should have tried 26.Kh2 (idea 27.Rg1) 26…h6 27.h4! in response, as Levon mentioned after the game ; white can still continue to press, but it probably wouldn’t have been enough against an accurate defense.
Then, I didn’t play well the ending that followed, notably when I foolishly decided to trade rooks. In fact, after 28.Rd1?, I was the one at risk in this Bishop endgame where my pawn on a5 falls, even though it holds by a hair’s breadth ! And yet, instead of 28.Rd1?, almost any move keeping the Rooks on the board would have guaranteed an immediate draw…

6th round : Vitiugov (2735)-Mvl ½-½
Once again, I could deliver a new idea, this time in the Neo-Grünfeld with 5.Qa4. An early and very interesting pawn sacrifice (6…0-0!?), regrettably spoiled by an idiotic move, played too impulsively, 14…Rfd8?.

6…0-0!?, the proof that you can still find novelties as soon as move 6 !
6…0-0!?, the proof that you can still find novelties as soon as move 6 !

I completely forgot that after 15.Rf1 Nd3, white was not forced to play 16.h3 Be6 17.Nd4 which leads to a draw, but had the strong 16.Nb3! at his disposal, after which I had to suffer for five hours before to salvage the draw.
Instead of 14…Rfd8?, 14…Nbc4! would have prevented white to establish a Knight on d4, and after 15.Nxe5 (15.Nxc4? Nxf3+) 15…Nxe5, black has adequate compensation for the pawn. Afterwards, I think I defended rather well the difficult position, but I could have spared myself sixty additional moves !

Against Vitiugov, just before the novelty 6…0-0!?.
Against Vitiugov, just before the novelty 6…0-0!?. (photo Grenke chess).

7th round : Mvl-Caruana (2784) 0-1
Against Fabiano, I decided not to face his new weapon, the Russian defense.
But I didn’t expect him to play the …Bb4 variation of the 4 Knights English. I took time to decide how to react and how to handle the position, the more so as my theoretical memories were a bit distant ! After hesitating quite a lot, I finally chose one of the safest lines, 9.Qc2, which is obviously also one of the less ambitious ones. By the way, I had forgotten during the game that the theoretical reference after 11…Bf5 was a game of mine ! (against Van Wely in 2008, draw in 37 moves -Ed.).
Anyway, I quite liked my position after the opening, and that’s why I tried 14.Qb2, followed by the unorthodox 17.Bf1!?, to try keeping the Bishop pair in the long run.

17.Ff1!?, an unorthodox try to keep the Bishop pair.
17.Ff1!?, an unorthodox try to keep the Bishop pair.

But I lost too much time immediately afterwards, with two moves in a row which didn’t fit together, 18.a4 and 19.Rac1 ; I could have played 18.a4 and 19.Qb5, or 18.Rac1 and 19.c4, perhaps even 18.a4 and 19.c4, but not the combination of moves I chose !
Actually, in the course of the game, I underestimated the strength of 20…Qf5! because I hadn’t anticipated 21…Qc5+ at the end of the variation. Thus I was adequately punished, as Fabiano could even choose beetween the actual 22…Bd5, which does the job, and 22…Bxf3+ 23.exf3 Qf2!, which also wins.
Of course, this game remains a disappointment, and that day was clearly not mine, but it is no disaster either ; I just tried something different in the opening, and it backfired.

 The young german player Bluebaum is about to take on d5 in the opening (photo Grenke chess).
The young german player Bluebaum is about to take on d5 in the opening (photo Grenke chess).

8th round: Bluebaum (2631)-Mvl ½-½
I didn’t really anticipate to face this brand new fashion line in the symetrical English, with 5.e3 and 6.dxc3, which is no great danger to my mind. I even thought he was going to exchange all four rooks at move 18, leading us back home very promptly ! With his move 18.g4!?, he gave me new hopes of creating something, but it wasn’t to be enough. At the end, I must say I’m not that far, but he still holds an impregnable fortress, because not enough lines are open in the position.

42.Rc3! completes the fortress ; the exchange will be worthless in this blocked position.
42.Rc3! completes the fortress ; the exchange will be worthless in this blocked position.

9th round : Mvl-Meier (2648) ½-½
There again, with white, I wanted to change. I was rather pleased with the position which came out from this atypical Reti opening, with my rare 6.Qd3 opposed at his early …b5 ; indeed, there was room for creating imbalances, against a black setup which looked a bit passive.

6.Qd3!?, once again an original position on move 6 !
6.Qd3!?, once again an original position on move 6 !

I must confess that Georg reacted pretty well, proving that he knew that kind of setup and its ressources. He succeeded in playing the freeing 21…c5, even though I thought I could reduce his pieces to extreme passivity with my pawn sacrifice 22.Rec1 cxd4 23.Qd3, in particular with the Nb8 which could hardly move.
But in this kind of dynamic equilibrium, I was the one who ultimately found himself in bad shape, because of my try to force events with h4-h5… At the end, I had to be precise to earn my half point.

The Grenke Classic scene in Baden-Baden (photo Grenke chess).
The Grenke Classic scene in Baden-Baden (photo Grenke chess).

All in all, I would define this tournament as a sort of dress rehearsal one, with an average result at the end, but very interesting games, which is rather good news in view of the season’s follow-up.
Even if I messed up a bit with white at the end, my opening prep was satisfactory on the whole. Especially after a few months break from the highest level, since I probably had less fresh ideas in store than other players…
However, I was suprised to lack energy at the end ; I was rather expecting to struggle at the beginning of the tournament to find my form.

Kudos to Fabiano for the impressive achievement of scoring twice, Candidates and Grenke !
Next rendez-vous, the Norway Chess in Stavanger, with the opening blitz on May 27, and the tournament from May 28 to June 7.

Official site: http://www.grenkechessclassic.de/en/
Maxime’s games

Take me homeThe rail strikes in France didn’t interfere with Maxime’s travel for the Grenke tournament in Germany. Indeed, he took the train for his outward trip just before the strikes began ; and as for the return path, it was scheduled on Tuesday, April 10, a right timing as this day was spared by the union calendar… But others in Baden-Baden weren’t that lucky, although they were not heading towards France ! It turns out that the ground staff of four huge german airports, including the nearby Frankfurt hub, were on strike that day, forcing Lufthansa to cancel more than 800 flights ; among them were numerous long haul ones that some of the players were supposed to catch in order to fly back home. About star chess24.com commentator, IGM Jan Gustafsson, who had planned to fly directly to Thailand in order to play in the Bangkok Open, he lamented himself during the last round show, unable to know if he would be able to make it to Asia the next day !