Rapport Beats Carlsen, Grabs GRENKE Chess Classic Lead


GM Richard Rapport pounced on a blunder by world number-one Magnus Carlsen, then made a draw against World Champion Ding Liren, to end day one of the 2024 GRENKE Chess Classic in the sole lead on 1.5/2. Carlsen hit back to beat GM Daniel Fridman with a knight sacrifice, though only after a huge fight full of twists and turns.      

Day two starts on Wednesday at 9 a.m. ET / 15:00 CET / 7:30 p.m. IST.

The GRENKE Chess Classic is back after a four-year hiatus caused by a mixture of Covid and corporate turmoil. The seventh edition returns to the six-player double round-robin format of the first edition, won by then-World Champion Viswanathan Anand back in 2013. 

There’s a twist, however, with two games to be played each day at a 45-minute + 10-second increment time control that FIDE will rate as rapid chess, even if it’s closer to a fast-classical format that Carlsen has proposed using for world championship matches.

In fact there’s another twist: after the round-robin tournament is over, the last day will see the players compete in a two-game match to decide the final placements, with first playing second, third vs. fourth, and fifth vs. sixth. 

The event is taking place over Easter in Karlsruhe, Germany, and though it began in a small venue it will move on Thursday into a massive hall where a staggering 2700+ players are currently set to compete in the GRENKE Open.

The lineup is topped by world number-14 GM Arjun Erigaisi, with GMs Alexey Sarana, Hans Niemann, and Abhimanyu Mishra among the players competing for a €20,000 top prize and a place in the 2025 GRENKE Chess Classic.

Rapport: “I’m not really used to beating Magnus, so I guess it feels good!” Photo: GRENKE Chess.

Day one of the 2024 Classic saw Rapport top the standings.  

GRENKE Chess Classic | Day 1 Standings

The day began with smiles, as Carlsen, running a few minutes late, arrived to face Rapport.

The Hungarian star, now representing Romania, would later comment: “I had the feeling that Magnus tends to start slowly in tournaments, so I was not too unhappy to play him with White in the first game, to put it this way. I’m sure he will start to get back to his usual self and start steamrolling the field!”

It was certainly a slow start by the defending champion, with Carlsen playing the Caro-Kann and falling significantly behind on the clock. The situation on the board didn’t look great either, though when Rapport missed a chance to turn the screw it felt as though his opponent would take over. That never quite happened, however, and time proved a huge factor as the world number-one made a game-losing blunder in an otherwise equal position. 

Carlsen instantly saw what he’d done. If he captured back on d2 in the final position Rapport’s bishop would come to e3 and fork the black king and rook. 

When GM Jan Gustafsson asked if the format of two games a day was tough, Rapport responded that he was used to playing double rounds in the GRENKE Open, when they played full-length classical chess.

The Ding-Rapport gang was back together! Photo: GRENKE Chess.

It also helped that for his second game he faced the player he’d helped win the world championship, Ding, who took a draw by repetition on move 18 of a Benoni where the computer was claiming a significant edge for White.

“I didn’t like my position after …Nh5,” said Ding, who, after a miserable time in Weissenhaus playing Chess960, got to make two effortless draws on day one in Karlsruhe. The first had been with the black pieces against French star GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Ding seemed in good spirits as he outlined the road ahead: “Norway Chess is my next tournament, then the Olympiad, and of course at the end of this year the World Championship match—it’s a busy schedule for me!”

Ding was again joined by his mother in Germany. Photo: GRENKE Chess.

Carlsen had some catching up to do, and there was never any doubt he would try to do it immediately in round two, where he faced the underdog of the field, 48-year-old German GM Fridman, who had been waiting since winning the Open in 2019 for his chance to play the Classic.

Carlsen showed his aggressive intentions from the start as he went for a double fianchetto with the black pieces, and on move 22 he got to sacrifice a knight.

“Black is never worse,” said the watching Rapport, and soon Carlsen had taken over, but in what followed he had to win the game another two or three times after allowing Fridman to exploit some brilliant resources. That rollercoaster is our Game of the Day, with analysis by GM Rafael Leitao below.

GM Rafael Leitao GotD

That win proved enough for Carlsen to join a four-way tie for second-place, since he’d played the only two decisive games of the day. The one big miss was for German number-one Vincent Keymer, whose time handling let him down, not for the first time, as he failed to put Vachier-Lagrave to the sword.

GRENKE Chess Classic | Day 1 Results


Carlsen vs. Ding will kick off day two!


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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