As usual, all eyes are on Magnus Carlsen as we wait to see if he can finally win a classical tournament.
The start was promising, he drew with Caruana, beat his last challenger Karjakin and put pressure with Black on Anand. Being White against his former second Vachier seemed like a good chance for a +2 and for a while things were pointing in that direction – a not-so-harmless endgame (as shown in Radjabov’s win over Svidler at the last Grand Prix in Geneva) allowed Carlsen to do his magic and he managed to get a winning position. And then Carlsen missed something that completely turned things around.
Just when you think you’ve escaped, they pull you back in… A disappointing result and turn of events for Carlsen, who looked back to his best until the fateful moment. He will really have to show true grit if he is to win this tournament.
The win made the Frenchman the leader with 3/4. Quite surprising to my mind, but he’s proven to be a tough customer so he is not there without merit (he missed a win against Svidler, so maybe beating Carlsen was a compensation?!).
Of the other events I’d like to point out Nakamura’s big howler against Nepomniachtchi. Nakamura’s been increasingly solid in these top events. He loses less but he also wins less, making it almost impossible for him to win the event. And when he does lose, it makes even more difficult to bounce back. The blunder against the fast-playing Russian was embarrasing.
I think that the pre-tournament favourites still remain the same. To my mind Nepomniachtchi, who I think is way too unstable for this level, Karjakin, who is way too social-media oriented for a serious contender and Svidler, who hasn’t won such an event ever, can be written out, but the rest are still in the game. My money would still be on Carlsen, but as they say in investments, past performance is not a guarantee for future sucess!