Norway Chess, Round 8: Carlsen Clinches First
Friday, June 14, 2019 at 1:18AM
Dennis Monokroussos in 2019 Norway Chess, Magnus Carlsen

Just when it seemed that Magnus Carlsen might be slumping a little in classical chess, he won a nice game against Yu Yangyi to clinch clear first in the 2019 Norway Chess tournament with a round to spare. The win also put him into a tie with Ding Liren for the best score in the classical games - they're both at +2, while Fabiano Caruana (who, like Carlsen, won his classical game in round 8) is at +1.

Carlsen played a sideline of a gambit line (itself a sideline) against the Slav, and obtained a slight advantage when Yu Yangyi backed down from the most principled continuation. Yu's 16...Nc4 was a serious error, with all three of White's critical options providing an advantage. It's possible that Carlsen's clever 17.Qd3 - apparently overlooked by Yu - may have been worse than the pedestrian options of taking on c6 or on c4. His position was so good that it didn't matter all that much, and Carlsen's opinion about the position after the forcing sequence concluding with 23.c4 is that Black had no chance to survive - even if colors were reversed and he had the black pieces. Carlsen's technique was fully up to the job, as usual, and when Levon Aronian lost his classical game to Caruana Carlsen was guaranteed of clear first with a round to go. Carlsen has 13/16, while Aronian has only 9 points. (Remember that each round is worth a maximum of two points, so if Aronian had won the classical game against Caruana he'd have had 11 points entering the last round, still within range of a possible tie if he won his classical game while Carlsen lost his.)

The other matches were settled in Armageddon games. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave defeated Ding Liren with White, Viswanathan Anand defeated Alexander Grischuk with Black, and for some reason Wesley So gave Shakhriyar Mamedyarov a charity draw in a position my father could win, if he still remembers how the pieces move.

The games (without notes) are here, and these are the pairings for the final round, starting in a few hours:

Caruana (8.5) - Carlsen (13)
Anand (7.5) - Aronian (9)
So (8.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (7.5)
Yu (8.5) - Mamedyarov (5.5)
Ding (8) - Grischuk (4)

The Caruana-Carlsen pairing should be interesting. Carlsen's Sveshnikov has been looking vulnerable, and since Caruana has also taken up that opening since their world championship match he must really know its ins and outs extremely well by now. Carlsen has enjoyed a long undefeated streak, too, so this is a splendid chance for Caruana to win a statement game (albeit not the statement he could have made back in November).

Article originally appeared on The Chess Mind (http://www.thechessmind.net/).
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