He won his third consecutive game, while his closest rivals drew. The World Champion also won his first game of the event.

With his third consecutive victory, Levon Aronian of Armenia has taken control of the Grenke Chess Classic. After five rounds, he leads his closest pursuers by a full point with only two games left to play.

Among the group a point behind Aronian are Magnus Carlsen, the World Champion from Norway, Fabiano Caruana of the United States, and Hou Yifan of China.

As happened in Round 4, the matchups between players who were more or less ranked the same ended in draws, while the games between players of larger ranking disparities were won by the higher rated player — Aronian and Carlsen.

Carlsen had started poorly with four draws (including missing a clear win in an earlier game), but in Round 5 he demolished Georg Meier of Germany after Meier took too many liberties in the opening.

Georg Meier vs. Magnus Carlsen
GRENKE Chess Classic | Karlsruhe GER | Round 5 | 20 Apr 2017 | ECO: D90 | 0-1
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. g3? This is just a dubious move. White can choose to play Nc3 or g3 in the Grunfeld, but the combination is a bad idea.
5... dxc4! If White could play Na3 and win his pawn back, he would be doing great. As it is, it's not so easy to recapture. Meier made the only move that guarantees that he maintains material equality, but he loses a lot of time.
6. Qa4+
6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O c6 8. Ne5 Ng4! Is well known to be good for Black.  )
6... Nfd7 7. Qxc4 Material is Equal again, but now Black develops his central pressure very quickly.
7... Nb6! 8. Qd3 O-O 9. Bf4
9. Bg2 Nc6 Was not much better
10. e3 e5! And White has a lousy fianchetto Grunfeld where he has been forced into playing Qd3 instead of castling.
11. d5 Nb4  )
9... Nc6 10. Rd1
10. e3 f6!? The bishop on f4 is in trouble. Black threatens g5 and if White plays h4, then:
11. h4 e5! 12. dxe5 Qxd3 13. Bxd3 fxe5  )
10... Bf5! 11. Qd2
11. e4 Bg4 And White's center falls apart.  )
11... Bg4! 12. Bg2 Bxf3! Energetic play from Carlsen. White is nearly lost already.
13. Bxf3 Nxd4 14. Bxb7 Nc4 15. Qc1 Rb8 16. b3 Rxb7 17. bxc4 c5 The fireworks are over and material is equal, but Black has a huge lead in development and the White pawn on c4 pawn is ripe for the taking.
18. O-O
18. e3 Does not win a piece because of:
18... Qa5!  )
18... Rb4 19. Bh6 Bxh6 20. Qxh6 Rxc4 21. Ne4 Nxe2+ 22. Kg2 Qa8 23. f3 Rxe4! The simplest. Black never again has to worry about Ng5.
24. fxe4 Qxe4+ 25. Kf2 Nd4 With White's king exposed, the knight on d4 is as good as a rook. And with three extra pawns for the exchange, Black is easily winning. Carlsen cleaned up without trouble.
26. Qe3 Qd5 27. Rd2 e5 28. Re1 Re8 29. Qe4 Qe6 30. Re3 Kg7 31. Rb2 c4 32. g4 Qf6+ 33. Ke1 Qg5 34. Kf2 Re6 35. Ke1 h5 36. h3 Rf6 37. Kd2 Rf4 38. Qxe5+ Qxe5 39. Rxe5 Nf3+ 40. Ke3 Nxe5 41. Kxf4 Nd3+

Aronian’s game against Arkadij Naiditsch of Azerbaijan was also quite one-sided. 

Aronian vs. Naiditsch
GRENKE Chess Classic | 1:21:33-0:16:33 | Round 5 | 20 Apr 2017 | ECO: A00 | 1-0
1. c4 e6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 Nf6 4. Nf3 dxc4 5. O-O Nbd7 6. Qc2 c5?! I don't like this move
6... a6 This is thematic. Black would be fine after:
7. Qxc4 b5  )
7. Na3! White is able to take on c4 with the knight instead of the queen. Black should not have allowed that.
7... Nd5 8. Nxc4 b5 9. Ne3 Bb7 10. Nxd5! Bxd5 11. e4! Energetic and strong play from Aronian. He takes control of the center and opens the position before Black can castle.
11... Bb7 12. d4 cxd4
12... Be7 13. Rd1 Was no better for Black.  )
13. Nxd4 Rc8 14. Qe2 a6 15. Rd1 Bc5 If Black had one more move so that he could castle, he would be okay. But Aronian continues to use the initiative effectively.
16. Nb3! Be7 17. Rd3! Preparing to double on the d-file. Black is still unable to castle.
17... Qc7
17... O-O 18. Qd1! Bc6 19. Nd4! Ba8 20. Nxe6! And White would win material.  )
18. Bf4! Ne5 19. Rc3! Qb8 20. Qh5! Every move White makes is forcing and direct, and Black is never able to consolidate.
20... Bd6 21. Rxc8+
21. Nc5 This looks simpler to me, but the move played by Aronian is also good.  )
21... Bxc8 22. Rd1! Another forcing move. The threat is Rxd6.
22... Bc7
22... O-O 23. Rxd6 Qxd6 24. Bxe5  )
23. Na5! Bd7
23... Bxa5 24. Bxe5 And Black would lose too much material.  )
23... O-O This may have been relatively best, though after:
24. Bxe5 Bxe5 25. Nc6 Qc7 26. Nxe5 g6 27. Nxg6! hxg6 28. Qg5 White is up a pawn and Black has no compensation.  )
24. Bxe5! The most normal way for a human to play, and the most energetic. White is ready to give up material for a strong attack.
24... Bxe5 25. Rxd7! Kxd7 26. Qxf7+ Kd6 27. Bh3! Re8 Literally every move since Nb3 has been forced for Black. White is totally in control of the game and Black's position is on the brink of collapse.
28. Nb7+ Kc6 29. b4! White is now ready to bring the knight to c5.
29... Rf8
29... Qxb7 30. Qxe8+  )
30. Qe7
30. Na5+ This was a little more accurate because it avoids Bc7.
30... Kb6 31. Qe7 With a likely transposition  )
30... Bd6
30... Bc7! This offers more resistance, though after:
31. Na5+ Bxa5 32. Bxe6! Black would still have a difficult position.  )
31. Na5+ Kb6 32. Qxe6 Re8 33. Qd7 Black has to give back his extra material.
33... Bxb4 34. Nc6 Qd6 35. Qxe8 Qxc6 White is up a pawn, but he has a four-on-two kingside majority, which was enough to win.
36. Qb8+ Qb7 37. Qxb7+ Kxb7 38. f4 Kc6 39. Kf2 a5 40. Kf3 a4 41. Bf5 h6 42. Bg6 Kd7 43. e5 Bc5 44. Bd3 Kc6 45. Bc2 Kd5 46. Be4+ Kc4 47. Bc6 Bg1 48. h4 Kc5 49. Be8 Bd4 50. h5 Bc3 51. Ke4 Be1 52. g4 Bd2 53. Kf5 a3 54. g5 b4 55. Ba4 Kd5 56. gxh6 gxh6 57. Bb3+ Kc5 58. Ke4

The other two games were draws, though not without some excitement. Every recent game between Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France, when Caruana has White, has been a sharp Najdorf Sicilian, and Round 5 was no exception. Neither player really managed to generate serious winning chances, but the game had some interesting moments.

Fabiano Caruana vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
GRENKE Chess Classic | Karlsruhe GER | Round 5.3 | 20 Apr 2017 | ECO: B96 | 1/2-1/2
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 h6 8. Bh4 Qb6 9. a3 Be7 10. Bf2 Qc7 11. Qf3 Nbd7 12. O-O-O b5 13. g4 Bb7 14. h4 d5 15. e5 Ne4 16. Rh3 Nxf2 17. Qxf2 b4 18. axb4 Bxb4 19. f5 Nxe5 20. fxe6 O-O 21. Qg1
21. g5! This would have preserved a small edge for White as he has a strong initiative.  )
21... Rae8 22. g5 h5 23. Be2 g6 24. exf7+ Qxf7 Black now has a pleasant position. He is very solid, his king is safe, and his pieces are active.
25. Nb3! The most accurate move. White clears d4 for his other pieces and might try to put the knight on c5 at some point.
25... Nc4 26. Rf3 Qg7 27. Rxf8+ Rxf8 28. Qd4 Qxd4 29. Rxd4 The exchanges have favored White, but Black has enough activity to hold a draw.
29... Rc8 30. Bd3 Nxb2! Well calculated.
31. Rxb4
31. Kxb2 Bxc3+  )
31... Nxd3+ 32. cxd3 Rxc3+ 33. Kd2 Rc7 34. Ke3 White's active pieces offer him enough compensation for a pawn, but not more. The game was shortly drawn.
34... Bc8 35. Kd4 Kf7 36. Nc5 Ra7 37. Kxd5 a5 38. Rf4+ Bf5 39. Kc6 Ke7 40. Rd4 a4 41. Kb6 Ra8 42. Nxa4 Bxd3 43. Nc5

In Round 6, Aronian will play Hou and have his second consecutive game with White. If he wins, he would lock up the tournament with a round to spare.


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter, has his own site, and is also on Facebook.