Norway Chess, Round 7: More Draws, And Carlsen Keeps Winning in Armageddon
Wednesday, June 12, 2019 at 7:35PM
Dennis Monokroussos in 2019 Norway Chess

One tournament doesn't make for much of a dataset, but it has been a pretty lousy event so far for everyone but those whose only wish is that Magnus Carlsen win. Carlsen's play hasn't been sparkling, while the Armageddon format doesn't seem to have instilled much ambition in players to take risks for the extra half a point that comes by winning the classical game. But to repeat myself, it's just one event, and it's not over yet.

Anyway, on to round 7. The event could have opened up as Magnus Carlsen was in trouble against Wesley So in both the classical and the Armageddon game, but he managed to draw both (with Black) to add another point and a half to his total. (In fact he could have played for the win in the blitz game, but with no rating points on the line the draw was just as good.)

The other American, Fabiano Caruana, squandered an even bigger advantage in the classical game on the way to a draw. He had Viswanathan Anand dead to rights, but in moderate time trouble not only let Anand slip away but was even in mild danger of losing. To Caruana's credit, however, he rebounded from the disappointment, played excellently in the Armageddon game, and blew Anand off the board.

Only one pairing finished with a classical winner, and while that's not much it equals the total of the three previous rounds combined, so relatively speaking the one win was like a river of blood coursing through the streets of Stavanger. The win seems to be at least in part a triumph of preparation by Ding Liren in a 3.f3 Anti-Gruenfeld against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Ding made his first 22 moves almost instantly, and when he finally had to invest some thought on moves 23 and 24, he had the time to do so. He found the right moves, obtained a winning position, and converted his advantage. With the win Ding became the informal leader of the classical tournament as the only player with a +2 score. As there is no prize for that, it doesn't really matter, except for the ratings, but it's still an impressive accomplishment.

Yu Yangyi had been staying fairly close to Carlsen thanks to his own successes in Armageddon battles, but that string of successes was put to an end by Levon Aronian. Their classical game was drawn in 31 moves, and Aronian's able defense against Yu's enduring pressure in the Armageddon game made sure that it also finished in a draw. Aronian had Black, so he gained the extra point, and now he's in clear second, two points behind Carlsen.

Finally, in a game between two great players having a less than great event, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave failed to dent Alexander Grischuk in their classical game, but won convincingly and in good style in the Armageddon.

The games (some with comments) are here. Here are the pairings for round 8, tomorrow/today:

Carlsen (11) - Yu (8.5)
Aronian (9) - Caruana (6.5)
Vachier-Lagrave (6) - Ding (7.5)
Mamedyarov (5) - So (7)
Grischuk (3.5) - Anand (6)

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