GRENKE Chess Day 3: Carlsen Storms Into Lead


World number-one Magnus Carlsen called it “kind of insane to get two Benoni games in one day” as he defeated GM Vincent Keymer with the black pieces and then GM Richard Rapport with White to upend the standings and take a one-point lead. Rapport, who had led the 2024 GRENKE Chess Classic for the first two days, also lost a rollercoaster game to GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.    

Day four, after a rest day, starts on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET / 15:00 CET / 7:30 p.m. IST.


Day three of the GRENKE Chess Classic was all change, with the start of the GRENKE Open seeing round five scheduled three-and-a-half hours later than usual.

The logistics of getting over 2,500 players registered and paired saw a delay of another 50 minutes, but what followed was worth the wait. Carlsen started the day a point behind Rapport but finished it a point ahead!

GRENKE Chess Classic | Day 3 Standings


When Carlsen was asked if he’d needed some time to get used to the 45-minute time control, he responded:

“I think I needed some time to get used to playing chess overall! It feels these days that whenever I’m playing tournaments I’m always really rusty at the start because I don’t really practice enough chess apart from tournaments. I think now I’m more or less into it and I feel quite good.”

I’m always really rusty at the start because I don’t really practice enough chess.

—Magnus Carlsen

GRENKE Chess Classic Round 5: Carlsen Catches Rapport

GM Hans Niemann, fifth seed in the open behind GMs Arjun Erigaisi, Alexey Sarana, Vladimir Fedoseev, and Sanan Sjugirov (they all got off to winning starts), was standing watch as Carlsen made his way onto the stage to face German number-one Keymer. 

“The opening worked out amazingly against Vincent,” said Carlsen afterward, as he played the hyper-sharp Benoni and turned out to be better prepared than his young opponent. The Norwegian gave up no less than three pawns, but he got to win them all back in quick succession and, with a powerful passed a-pawn, was favorite to win even before Keymer played a move that lost on the spot—29.Nb6??.



Carlsen didn’t need to move the rook and give up the a-pawn, since 29…Nd5!, revealing an attack by the g7-bishop on the a1-rook, forced exchanges that made the a-pawn a monster.

He was soon up a piece, but might have had some flashbacks to the day before when in a game he called “not good enough” he’d failed to beat Vachier-Lagrave from a similar situation. Keymer did fight on until move 66, but this time there was no escape.

That win was enough for Carlsen to catch Rapport, who had been playing a brilliant game but suddenly got swept away by a Vachier-Lagrave counterattack.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave picked up his first win, handing Richard Rapport a first loss. Photo: Angelika Valkova/GRENKE Chess.

That spectacular Winawer French clash is our Game of the Day, with analysis by GM Rafael Leitao below.

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

As fate would have it, co-leaders Carlsen and Rapport were then paired to meet in round six.

GRENKE Chess Classic Round 6: Carlsen Takes The Lead


Carlsen had lost to Rapport in the first game of the tournament, so this was an opportunity for revenge, and his chances were increased when his opponent went for the Benoni as well. It turned out that hadn’t come as a surprise to the world number-one, who had foreseen exactly what would happen in the game. There was a “but” however, since after 14…a5 Carlsen froze for seven-and-a-half minutes. 

What followed was a tense struggle that suddenly clarified when Rapport played the losing 25…Rg7?. The world rapid champion took some time to figure it out, then went in for the kill. 

 A “very happy” Carlsen afterward shared some insights into the sad fate of the knight on b4.



That win saw the tournament favorite take a one-point lead over Rapport. He’s also a point ahead of World Champion Ding Liren and Vachier-Lagrave, after their game ended in a draw where the surprise was that Ding didn’t push any harder for a win despite being a pawn up. The Chinese star has drawn all six games so far.

Will Ding make a late push for the finish line? Photo: Angelika Valkova/GRENKE Chess.

No lack of fighting spirit was visible in the all-German clash between GM Daniel Fridman and Keymer, with the 19-year-old German number-one showing great will-power to squeeze a winning position out of what looked like a sure draw. Fridman then showed equal tenacity to fight back, but the final position, where the players drew by repetition, turns out to be winning for Keymer. 

A painful miss, but given the game ended at around 11 p.m. we can forgive the young star for missing a concealed chance.

Arjun Erigaisi is the top seed as the Open players bid for a place in next year’s Classic. Photo: Angelika Valkova/GRENKE Chess.

The Classic players now have a rest day on Friday, while those in the Open will be playing two rounds, at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The Classic is back to the usual starting time on Saturday. Can anyone catch Carlsen now? It’s noteworthy that they don’t necessarily have to, since finishing second would be enough to get to play a match against the winner of the round-robin. GM Jan Gustafsson’s commentary is over, but reinforcements are planned!  


The 2024 GRENKE Chess Classic takes place from March 26-April 1 in Karlsruhe, Germany. The six-player double round-robin features two rounds per day played at a 45-minute time control with 10 seconds added per move. On the last day, two-game matches will be played to decide the final places, with 1st vs. 2nd, 3rd vs. 4th, and 5th vs. 6th. 

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