Six rounds remain in the Norway Chess super-tournament, and Sergey Karjakin has yet to play Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, Viswanathan Anand or Veselin Topalov - four of the world's top five players. Still, he leads with a 3-0 score, and this after winning the blitz tournament too, which he concluded with a 4-game winning streak. So he seems to be in good form and should be full of confidence - just what every sportsman wants.
His third victory in the main tournament came at Wang Hao's expense. Karjakin enjoyed a slight but persistent advantage on the white side of an old Rauzer main line, thanks to the bishop pair and an apparently more useful pawn majority, but that's all it was until Wang Hao's 36...f5(?). This increased the power of White's bishops, and when Karjakin sealed up the kingside with 39.h4(!), preparing 40.Re5, Black gave up. White's pieces dominate and Black has nothing to do but watch his pawns drop and White's queenside majority advance.
Aronian and Anand are tied for second, a full point behind Karjakin. Levon Aronian was a little fortunate to play Peter Svidler, who has apparently been visiting doctors for a variety of ailments during the event. Svidler was better throughout, but offered a draw after his 31st move, just after the legal limit. (Here the rule is that draw offers are forbidden before move 30.) The main line Svidler considered after his final move, 31.a5, continued 31...Nc4 32.Rb7+ Re7 33.a6 Na5 34.Nd6+ Ke6, but here he missed that after 35.Rxe7+ Kxe7 he would have 36.Nc8+, winning the a-pawn. It may or may not be enough to win, but it's certainly worth trying, as White gets winning chances for free; i.e., with no risk whatsoever.
Anand joined Aronian in second by defeating Veselin Topalov on the white side of a Najdorf. He enjoyed the easier play in the quasi-ending/late middlegame with all the heavy pieces plus opposite-colored bishops, but had Topalov braved the risky-looking 28...Qxh4 he might have been alright. After 28...Bd6 Anand played 29.Bg2 and 30.Bxd5, when the beautiful bishop gave him an obvious, clear advantage. Black's pieces lacked coordination and f7 became a target, and the position became just about impossible to hold. Topalov couldn't, and with the flashy 35.Be6 Anand won material, and Black gave up after the first time control.
What about Magnus Carlsen? The world's #1 faced Hikaru Nakamura and, of all things, the Bishop's Opening (via a Vienna move order). As one would expect from two players who like to play and have great faith in their ability to win games at the board, the play quickly grew creative when Carlsen offered a pawn with 10...b5!? Nakamura might have improved slightly, by his own admission, with the (more) natural 16.Qg4, but even so the game was always about equal up until 29.Nc3?! (29.Ne3 was better and equal). Carlsen played 29...e3, and the game soon finished in a draw, but he missed an opportunity with 29...Qe5(!), seen by the computer but not the players. The idea is seen in the variation 30.b6 e3 31.b7 (losing; 31.Re1 is forced, but Black is better, but not winning, after 31...Rd2) and now 31...Bxg2+! wins: 32.Kxg2 Rd2+ 33.Kf3 Qxf5+ 34.Kg3 Qxf1! 35.b8Q+ Kh7 and despite White's large material advantage he is lost.
Finally, Teimour Radjabov won his first game by giving Jon Ludwig Hammer his third consecutive loss in an up and down game.
Saturday is a rest day, and on Sunday they will play round 4, with these pairings (player scores in parethenses):
- Carlsen (1.5) - Svidler (1.5)
- Topalov (1) - Hammer (0)
- Anand (2) - Nakamura (1.5)
- Aronian (2) - Karjakin (3)
- Wang Hao (1) - Radjabov (1.5)