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    Entries in 2018 Norway Chess (10)

    Friday
    Jun082018

    Norway Chess, Last Round: Caruana Wins Another Tournament!

    I was hoping for the five-way tie followed by a blitz tournament tomorrow (Friday), but if someone had to spoil it I'm glad it was Fabiano Caruana. Aside from his poor performance at Wijk aan Zee, it has been one success after another for him: a win in the London Chess Classic in December, and then after Wijk he enjoyed victory in the Candidates and Grenke, had a very strong second place in the U.S. Championship and then won Norway Chess.

    It's also an impressive result, considering his poor start in the tournament: a bad loss to Magnus Carlsen in round 1, followed by a missed opportunity in round 2. After that he settled down, and with wins in the last two rounds wound up in clear first with 5/8. He was half a point ahead of Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, and Viswanathan Anand. His last round win was over Wesley So, and had the game finished in a draw both players would have joined Carlsen, Nakamura, and Anand in shared first with 4.5 points apiece.

    The game could have finished in a draw, too - for that matter, So even enjoyed a significant advantage at one point. But most of the time it was Caruana who was pressing, and from that standpoint the most deserved, or maybe the least undeserved, result was a Caruana win. The critical moments came just before and after the time control. With 39...Rd2 Black would have maintained equality, but after 39...Kd8 Caruana would have been winning with most normal moves. Instead, he chose 40.h3?, and after 40...Rxh3+!, the last move of the time control (and played with little time on the clock), So found the shot that should have given him a draw. Unfortunately, after 41.gxh3 So didn't use any time to stop to double-check his opportunities after the time control. Had he done so, he would easily have found that 41...Rd2 would lead to a draw. Instead, he used all of four seconds to play 41...Rd3??, and he resigned a few moves later.

    What about Carlsen? He was apparently satisfied making a quick draw with Black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, while Levon Aronian and Nakamura played a longer game that was never in much danger of seeing anyone lose. Anand, by contrast, played sharply with Black against Sergey Karjakin, and when Karjakin made a tactical mistake with 26.h4?(?) Anand seized his opportunity and won quickly. It would have put Anand into the playoff, had it not been for So's last lapse.

    Big congratulations to Caruana, who has closed to within 20 points of Carlsen on the live list, and who showed that he can win tournaments against the very best players in the world, even when he's not in his best form.

    The last four games of the event are here, with my notes to the two decisive games. Here are the final standings:

    • 1. Caruana 5/8
    • 2-4. Carlsen, Nakamura, Anand 4.5
    • 5-6. So, Aronian 4
    • 7. Mamedyarov 3.5
    • 8-9. Vachier-Lagrave, Karjakin 3

    Wednesday
    Jun062018

    Norway Chess, Round 8: Four Leaders Entering the Last Round

    It wasn't impossible a round or two ago that there could have been a nine-way tie for first, but it's still pretty impressive that four or even five of the tournament's nine players could win up sharing first.

    Entering the eighth round three players led with +1 scores: Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, and Viswanathan Anand. All three had White, and not one of them won. Carlsen had an extra pawn in an endgame against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, but couldn't make anything of it, and the game was eventually drawn. So didn't manage to get anything against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's Najdorf, and in fact had to hold a pawn-down rook ending to get the draw. And for Anand it was even worse. He chose an especially insipid line against Fabiano Caruana's Petroff, and Caruana used the time allowed by White's slow approach to build a kingside attack. It bore fruit, as Anand had to cough up material to break the attack, and though his technique was imperfect the American managed to convert.

    Speaking of Americans, all three are tied for first with Carlsen, as Hikaru Nakamura defeated Sergey Karjakin very convincingly on the white side of a classic English line favored by Garry Kasparov in the 1980s.

    There are thus four players tied for first, and if they draw their games and Anand beats Karjakin we could have a five-way tie for first. It's not exactly Lake Wobegon, but more than half of the "children" would be above average, which is pretty good.

    The last round pairings follow. All of the paired players have played seven games; only Mamedyarov who will have the bye, has played all eight games. (Tournament website here, games - unannotated today, sorry - are here.)

    • Vachier-Lagrave (2.5) - Carlsen (4)
    • Caruana (4) - So (4)
    • Karjakin (3) - Anand (3.5)
    • Aronian (3.5) - Nakamura (4)

     

    Wednesday
    Jun062018

    Norway Chess, Round 7: Three Leaders With Two Rounds to Go

    Coming into the round Magnus Carlsen had more points than anyone else - 3.5 - but this was in part a function of his having played one more game than Wesley So. Carlsen had 3.5/6, So 3/5, and no one else had better than an even score. Carlsen had the bye in round 7 and So drew with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, leaving both Carlsen and So with 3.5/6.

    The other three games featured players with a chance to catch up and join the tie for first. If Fabiano Caruana had beaten Hikaru Nakamura, or vice-versa, he'd have had 3.5/6, while the winner of Sergey Karjakin's game with Levon Aronian - had there been one - also would have reached +1. (Karjakin would have had 3.5/6, Aronian 4/7.) That left the game between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Viswanathan Anand. MVL was at -1 and couldn't have caught up, but Anand could have, and did: he too has 3.5/6.

    With two rounds to go, here are the pairings for round 8:

    • Nakamura (3/6) - Karjakin (3/6)
    • Anand (3.5/6) - Caruana (3/6)
    • So (3.5/6) - Vachier-Lagrave (2/6)
    • Carlsen (3.5/6) - Mamedyarov (3/7)
    • Aronian (3.5/7) - bye

    The round 7 games, with some comments to MVL-Anand, are here.

    Sunday
    Jun032018

    Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

    A tip of the hat to John Cole and David McCarthy, both of whom let me know about this choice quote from Magnus Carlsen after round 5, speaking of his 12-game history with Wesley So: “To be honest, usually nothing happens in these games. I can't remember him ever being close to beat me [sic]. If I want a draw, I will often get it easily.”

    Perhaps it would be smarter (and more polite) to avoid such comments in the future, at least with opponents who aren't fellow trash-talkers like Anish Giri. Then again, the quote comes from a tweet by Tarjei Svensen; perhaps Carlsen's words weren't meant for public consumption (or for public consumption in English?), and so it's his fault too if this gave So a bit of extra motivation before his one-sided victory in game 6.

    Sunday
    Jun032018

    Norway Chess, Round 6: So Beats Carlsen, (Sort of) Catches Him in First

    When Wesley So had his great streak in the second half of 2016 into early 2017, he surged to a clear #2 on the rating list and looked like the next challenger to Magnus Carlsen. Whenever someone has emerged like that as a seeming threat to the champion, Carlsen has gone out of his way to beat him up and show him who's who at the top. Carlsen beat So several times after that, and demonstrated that he was still the boss. It took So a while, but today he finally took Carlsen's measure, beating him decisively on the white side of an Exchange Slav. Well done! Further, it means that Carlsen's tournament victory has gone from an apparent fait accompli to an open question. Carlsen had been +2 while the next six players were on 50%; now Carlsen and So are on +1, with five players half a point behind and the two tailenders at -1. Anyone can still win the tournament - and for that matter, it's still possible that everyone could win it (tiebreakers and playoffs aside).

    The other three games were drawn, mostly uneventfully (you can replay today's games, with my notes to So-Carlsen, here). Tomorrow (Monday) is a rest day, and on Tuesday the pairings are as follows:

    • Mamedyarov (2.5/6) - So (3/5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (2/5) - Anand (2.5/5)
    • Caruana (2.5/5) - Nakamura (2.5/5)
    • Karjakin (2.5/5) - Aronian (3/6)
    • Carlsen (3.5/6) - bye

    Saturday
    Jun022018

    Norway Chess, Rounds 3-5: Carlsen Leads, Ding Withdraws

    It was a tough break for Ding Liren - literally - when he had a bicycle accident while riding with his father during the free day after round three. He fractured his hip and had to withdraw. That's very unfortunate for him, and I'm sure we're all united in wishing him a full and speedy recovery. Fortunately for the tournament standings, he had drawn all three of his games, so from a fairness perspective the effect of his withdrawal will be minimal.

    To the chess. We left off after round 2; in round 3, as in round 1, Magnus Carlsen was the sole winner. (All the round 2 games were drawn, so Carlsen was also the sole winner in the entire tournament through three rounds.) He defeated Levon Aronian in a 5.Re1 Anti-Berlin, a variation that's often tragically dull. This time the play was more interesting, and while Aronian's time trouble blunder on move 27 sped things up Carlsen already enjoyed the upper hand. All four of the draws were very interesting, and some of the players were under pressure, but no one missed any wins on the way to the peaceful outcome.

    Then came the rest day, which worked out well for most of the players - though not for Ding, as mentioned already, although he and Viswanathan Anand took first in, of all things, a cooking competition for the players.

    In round 4, it was the day of the Gruenfeld - or rather, the day to beat the Gruenfeld, as Sergey Karjakin defeated Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Levon Aronian defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov on the white side of Classical lines. Aronian thereby returned to 50%, while Karjakin went to +1. Hikaru Nakamura didn't get anything with White against Magnus Carlsen, and they drew quickly, while Viswanathan Anand and Wesley So played a game that was probably in both players' computers beforehand.

    Finally, in round 5, gravity took over as Fabiano Caruana beat Karjakin, bringing them both to 50% from opposite directions. The other three games were more or less mutually comfortable draws, so the standings at the moment see Carlsen at +2, Mamedyarov and MVL at -1, and the other six players (or seven, counting Ding) are on 50%. Here are the pairings for round 6:

    • So (2/4) - Carlsen (3.5/5)
    • Aronian (2.5/5) - Caruana (2/4)
    • Nakamura (2/4) - Vachier-Lagrave (1.5/4)
    • Anand (2/4) - Mamedyarov (2/5)
    • Karjakin (2.5/5) has the bye.

    Tournament site here, games (with comments to three of the decisive games) here.

    Tuesday
    May292018

    Norway Chess, Round 2: Five Largely Uneventful Draws

    Which is not to say that the players didn't try; it's just how the proverbial cookie crumbles. There were no barnburners, and most of the games only went as long as they did because of anti-draw rules that forced the players to find a repetition or reach move 40. It happens, and hopefully we'll have better luck as chess fans tomorrow.

    Games here (no notes); tomorrow's pairings are as follows:

    • Carlsen (1.5) - Aronian (1)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (1) - Caruana (.5)
    • Mamedyarov (1) - Karjakin (1) (The draw has probably already been agreed.)
    • Anand (1) - Ding Liren (1)
    • So (1) - Nakamura (1)

    Monday
    May282018

    Norway Chess, Round 1: Carlsen Beats Caruana; Other Games Drawn

    This is no way to throw down the gauntlet to the world champion! First Fabiano Caruana loses to Magnus Carlsen in the blitz, and then today - much more importantly - he lost to him in round 1 of the 5th Altibox Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger. In fact the challenger didn't play badly; he was just outplayed by the champion. Caruana was in a challenging but tenable position on move 25 when he played the natural but mistaken 25...Rc7. After that, Carlsen never let him back into the game. Very impressive.

    Impressive, and good enough for sole first, as the other four games were drawn. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played a short but interesting game in a Gruenfeld sideline, while Wesley So and Sergey Karjakin played a longer, quieter game that also finished peacefully. So enjoyed an edge throughout, just not enough of an edge to sufficiently trouble the "Minister of Defense". Viswanathan Anand and Levon Aronian, who are unexpectedly the bottom seeds in this ridiculously strong tournament, drew a 4.d3 Anti-Berlin where Aronian's 8...a6 was a beautiful and surprising zwischenzug. Aronian achieved a comfortable draw.

    The fourth draw was another story. Hikaru Nakamura outplayed Ding Liren in the middlegame, but carelessly allowing Black's queen to reach e2 surrendered a winning advantage. Nakamura even overpressed and gave Ding a chance to come out of the game with good chances for the full point, but Black's error on move 30 gave Nakamura the chance to win brilliantly. He missed the tactic, unfortunately (I say this not so much because I'm taking sides but because it would have immortalized the game, or at least the combination), and the game finished in a perpetual.

    The games are here; I've commented on Carlsen-Caruana and Nakamura-Ding. (I can't promise daily commentary, but we'll see how it goes.) Here are the pairings for round 2:

    • Karjakin (.5) - Carlsen (1)
    • Caruana (0) - Mamedyarov (.5)
    • Ding (.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (.5)
    • Aronian (.5) - So (.5)
    • Nakamura (.5) - Anand (.5)

    Sunday
    May272018

    So Wins Norway Blitz; Nakamura, Anand, Carlsen, and Mamedyarov also Win an Extra White

    Norway Chess held its customary pre-tournament blitz event to determine the pairings, and while there were motivations to win (money, blitz rating points, bragging rights) the main goal was to finish in the top five. That guarantees the player an extra game with the white pieces, and to that end Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura, Viswanathan Anand, Magnus Carlsen, and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov were all winners, though So finished in clear first. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Fabiano Caruana were tied with Mamedyarov on points, but finished 6th and 7th, respectively, on tiebreak. Sergey Karjakin, Levon Aronian, and Ding Liren rounded out the field.

    You can find the games and replay Chess24's live coverage here if you're a premium member. (You need to a member to watch the coverage, not to replay the games, which can be accessed on the tournament site or on TWIC, and probably plenty of other places too.) The full pairings for the main event are here, and this is what we've got coming in round 1, tomorrow:

    • Nakamura (2769) - Ding Liren (2791)
    • Anand (2760) - Aronian (2764)
    • So (2778) - Karjakin (2782)
    • Carlsen (2843) - Caruana (2822)
    • Mamedyarov (2808) - Vachier-Lagrave (2789)

    If you want to make predictions, make them now, before the Carlsen-Caruana game takes place. As for me, I'll take refuge in a Danish quotation, expressing a joke probably best known from a later, similar version spoken by Yogi Berra: It is difficult to make predicitons, especially about the future.

    Friday
    May252018

    Poikovsky, Norway Chess Both Start on Sunday (Sort of)

    Officially the Karpov Poikovsky tournament starts on Saturday and the Altibox Norway Chess tournament starts Sunday, but in both cases the first day of classical chess comes on the next day. So Poikovsky starts on Sunday and Norway Chess starts on Monday...except that there's a blitz tournament the day before. (Or that's what I assume. On the website it says "rapid", but it's highly unlikely that there will be a nine-round rapid event in one day, and it has been blitz the past four years.)

    Here are the lineups:

    Poikovsky: Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia, 2751), Dmitry Jakovenko (Russia, 2735), Santosh Vidit (India, 2707), Vladimir Fedoseev (Russia, 2706), Vladislav Artemiev (Russia, 2704), Boris Gelfand (Israel, 2695), Anton Korobov (Ukraine, 2678), Vladislav Kovalev (Belarus, 2650), Emil Sutovsky (Israel, 2647), and Victor Bologan (Moldova, 2610).

    Norway Chess: Magnus Carlsen (Norway, 2843), Fabiano Caruana (USA, 2822), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, 2808), Ding Liren (China, 2791), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France, 2789), Sergey Karjakin (Russia, 2782), Wesley So (USA, 2778), Hikaru Nakamura (USA, 2769), Levon Aronian (Armenia, 2764), Viswanathan Anand (India, 2760).

    Of course the second tournament will be the main event, but there are some terrific players in the first one too, and the rating disparities make it more likely that we'll see lots of blood. Also, while half the players in that tournament are rated below 2700, all but Kovalev have been rated above 2700. (Gelfand has for much of the past three decades been rated well above 2700, with a peak of 2777; Korobov has been 2723, Sutovsky 2703, and Bologan as high as 2734.)