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    Entries in 2019 Norway Chess (11)

    Saturday
    Jun152019

    Norway Chess, Round 9: Carlsen Wins the Tournament, but Loses to Caruana

    Congratulations to the world champion and to his most recent challenger! Magnus Carlsen had a good tournament overall, just about maintaining his classical rating with a +2 score in the classical games, while winning his first six Armageddons. And congratulations to Fabiano Caruana as well. He went +1 in classical chess and overcame a poor start to finish fourth, just half a point behind Yu Yangyi and Levon Aronian. And, of course, his biggest congratulations comes from beating Carlsen in the last round. He even had a chance to defeat Carlsen in the classical game, which would have been an even bigger feather in his cap, but after missing his chance there he showed excellent technique in the Armageddon game, doing a Carlsen to grind out his great opponent in an ending.

    As mentioned, Yu Yangyi tied for second, and he got there by defeating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in their classical game. Surprisingly, this happened in the Scotch Four Knights, and while Yu didn't get anything with it earlier in the event, this time he was more successful. Mamedyarov didn't play very well, and lost in just 30 moves.

    In the other games, Levon Aronian "drew" the Armageddon game with Black against Viswanathan Anand to win their battle. In fact he could have won very easily, but gave a charity draw to finish the match. The end of the game was nice, with Aronian appearing to fall into a trap; of course, he saw a little further and got the last tactical laugh.

    Wesley So was in trouble with White against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave early on in their Armageddon game, but a careless move or two by MVL allowed So to flip the script. Given a chance to take over, he did it, and tied with Caruana for 4th-5th.

    Finally, Alexander Grischuk drew his Armageddon game with Black against Ding Liren. He was clearly winning early on, and while he let the full point slip away he achieved what he needed with the draw.

    The games (without notes) are here; here are the final standings:

    1. Carlsen 13.5/18
    2-3. Yu, Aronian 10.5
    4-5. Caruana, So 10
    6. Ding 8.5
    7-8. Vachier-Lagrave, Anand 8
    9-10. Mamedyarov, Grischuk 5.5

    Friday
    Jun142019

    Norway Chess, Round 8: Carlsen Clinches First

    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).

    Wednesday
    Jun122019

    Norway Chess, Round 7: More Draws, And Carlsen Keeps Winning in Armageddon

    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)

    Tuesday
    Jun112019

    Norway Chess, Rounds 4-6: Carlsen, Yu Keep Winning Armageddon Games

    The tournament has been rather disappointing, at least for fans of classical chess. Only seven of the 30 games have had a decisive result, and only one of the last 15 wasn't drawn. Of course there have been fighting draws, but increasingly the players are splitting the point fairly quickly and going off to the Armageddon games.

    So far, that has worked very well for Magnus Carlsen and Yu Yangyi. Carlsen won one classical game, back in round 3, and everything else has been wins in Armageddon. (In the literal sense in four of those games; in round 5 he won the Armageddon by drawing with Black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.) Carlsen has 9.5/12, and leads Yu Yangyi by a point and a half. Yu has actually outscored Carlsen by half a point over the last three rounds. He defeated Alexander Grischuk with Black in round 4 in their classical game, and won the Armageddon games in rounds 5 and 6. Were it not for his classical loss to Wesley So in round 3, he might have been the leader.

    Levon Aronian is another half a point back, and then there's So another point behind to round out the group of players with plus scores. Three rounds remain, with round 7 coming after the rest day on Tuesday. The games from rounds 4-6 (without notes) are here, and here are the round 7 pairings:

    So (6.5) - Carlsen (9.5)
    Yu (8) - Aronian (7.5)
    Ding (5.5) - Mamedyarov (5)
    Caruana (5) - Anand (5.5)
    Vachier-Lagrave (4.5) - Grischuk (3)

    Friday
    Jun072019

    Norway Chess, Round 3: Carlsen Leads

    It was an excellent round for the champ, as Magnus Carlsen defeated Alexander Grischuk in their classical game with a direct kingside attack to get the full two points for the round, while Shakhriyar Mamedyarov - the previous leader - lost his classical game to Levon Aronian, despite having the white pieces. Still more good news for the champ: Yu Yangyi entered the round tied with Carlsen, but lost his classical game against Wesley So. Fabiano Caruana also suffered a loss, to Ding Liren, so in every match involving players with reasonable scores (excepting Carlsen's), the player with the lower score won. Finally, Viswanathan Anand drew twice with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the battle of players entering the round with half a point out of four. As Anand had Black in both games, he "won" the Armageddon battle and took that match by a 1.5-0.5 score.

    Tomorrow/today (Friday) is a rest day, so there's a chance I'll get caught up on the games. For now, here are the pairings for round 4, on Saturday:

    Carlsen (5) - Mamedyarov (3.5)
    Aronian (4) - Vachier-Lagrave (1)
    Caruana (2.5) - So (4)
    Anand (2) - Ding Liren (4)
    Grischuk (1) - Yu Yangyi (3)
    Thursday
    Jun062019

    Norway Chess, Round 2: Mamedyarov Leads

    Every pairing has a winner, but there are 2-0 winners and 1.5-0.5 winners. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was one of the former, thanks to consecutive blunders by Viswanathan Anand in their classical game, and as a result he leads after two rounds of Norway Chess with 3.5/4.

    Levon Aronian nearly joined him, as he enjoyed a winning advantage against Magnus Carlsen for a very long time, but let a clear win slip on move 54 (54.g5!) and the rest of the advantage drop on move 58 (58.Re4+! followed by 59.g5 kept hope alive). Carlsen is not someone to give a second chance to, and he won the Armageddon game convincingly.

    Carlsen is in second with 3/4, tied with Yu Yangyi. Yu drew the classical game with his countryman, Ding Liren, and won the Armageddon game.

    Fabiano Caruana bounced back from yesterday's Armageddon loss by defeating Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the classical game. After winning the blitz and taking the #1 spot on the blitz list, MVL has landed with a thud in this tournament, tied with Anand for dead last with .5/4.

    Finally, Alexander Grischuk went for a known draw by repetition against Wesley So, finishing their classical game in just 15 moves. His optimism about his chances against So in blitz was misplaced: So was winning from early on, settling for a draw - which counts as a win in the Armageddon format - in a position that was still comfortably winning.

    Here are the round 3 pairings:

    Carlsen (3) - Grischuk (1)
    So (2) - Yu (3)
    Ding (2) - Caruana (2.5)
    Mamedyarov (3.5) - Aronian (2)
    Vachier-Lagrave (.5) - Anand (.5)

     

    Wednesday
    Jun052019

    Norway Chess, Round 1: All Classical Games Drawn, All Armageddon Games Decisive

    Correct play was the watchword for round 1, as all five classical games were drawn. No one was in serious trouble in any of the games, though Viswanathan Anand experienced some pressure against Magnus Carlsen and Alexander Grischuk had some small chances against Levon Aronian. All five pairings went to Armageddon games, and all five finished with a winner - the player with the white pieces, in four of the games.

    Carlsen won easily against Anand, thanks to his bishops and much better pawn structure. The losing move, at least practically speaking, came as early as move 12, when Anand played 12...dxe5 rather than the dynamic 12...Ne4. There were some inaccuracies along the way - not surprisingly, given that it's essentially a slow blitz game (White gets 10 minutes, Black 7, with no increment until after move 61) - but Carlsen generally played well and Anand eventually cracked under White's long-term pressure.

    Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's win over Fabiano Caruana was similar in terms of the plot line: much better right out of the opening, he maintained the advantage for a long time, had some stumbles, but his opponent was unable to take advantage and eventually lost.

    Ding Liren demolished Wesley So with a kingside attack in a Semi-Tarrasch. As far as the opening was concerned, So was fine, but in the context of a blitz game he was unable to cope with his opponent's attacking initiative.

    The general whitewash was interrupted in the game between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Yu Yangyi. MVL enjoyed a small but enduring edge, which had largely dissipated after Yu's 24...Re8. If he wanted to keep squeezing he should traded on e8, played 26.Qe3, and then pushed the g-pawn. Instead, he kept the rooks on with 25.Rf4 and then played 26.g4 followed by 27.g5. In this case it was self-destructive. Black's rook benefited from its uncontested possession of the e-file, the queen penetrated to a1, and all White's pawn pushed achieved was a weakening of his own structure and a loss of king safety. After this Vachier-Lagrave was in big trouble, and soon lost. (Given the Armageddon format, he still would have "lost" even with a draw, but his position was so bad that Yu was unlikely to extend that courtesy.)

    Finally, Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk played an up-and-down game that was decided on the clock. Early on Grischuk had a decisive advantage on the board, and later it was Aronian who was winning on the board. By the end the position was equal, and in the fight to bash out enough moves to reach move 61 it was Grischuk who first ran out of time.

    The games (without notes) are here; these are tomorrow's pairings:

    Aronian (1.5) - Carlsen (1.5)
    Anand (.5) - Mamedyarov (1.5)
    Yu Yangyi (1.5) - Ding Liren (1.5)
    Caruana (.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (.5)
    Grischuk (.5) - So (.5)
    Monday
    Jun032019

    Vachier-Lagrave Wins Norway Chess Blitz, Beats Carlsen Again

    That's three straight wins in blitz for Maxime Vachier-Lagrave over Magnus Carlsen, though it should be acknowledged that he was losing in two of those games, including today's. Had Carlsen converted his advantage in their last-round game, he would have won the blitz and maintained his status as the world's #1 blitz player. Had he...but he didn't. The result doesn't matter for the tournament - what counted there was coming in the top 5, to get an extra game with White (which could in theory prove a disadvantage, with the Armageddon format), and Carlsen managed that. Anyway, MVL wins bragging rights both in the tournament and in the blitz ratings, so a double congratulations to the Frenchman with three names.

    Final Blitz Standings:

    1. Vachier-Lagrave 7.5/9
    2-3. Aronian, Carlsen 6
    4. Mamedyarov 5
    5. Ding Liren 4.5
    6-7. Yu Yangyi, So 3.5
    8-10. Caruana, Anand, Grischuk 3

    Here are the first round pairings for the main event, which starts tomorrow at 5 p.m. local time in Norway (=11 a.m. ET):

    • Aronian - Grischuk
    • Carlsen - Anand
    • Mamedyarov - Caruana
    • Vachier-Lagrave - Yu Yangyi
    • Ding Liren - So
    Monday
    Jun032019

    Norway Chess Starts Tomorrow (Sort Of)

    The tournament proper won't begin until Tuesday, but it kicks off tomorrow/today (Monday) with a blitz tournament to determine the pairings. In addition to the intrinsic interest generated by any super-tournament, especially one featuring the world champion, there's the additional attraction of the format. The 2019 Norway Chess tournament will not allow the players to split the point - or rather, the points. (Not equally, that is.) If any of the classical games are drawn, the players proceed to an Armageddon blitz game. If a player wins the classical game, he gets 2 points for the round; if he wins the blitz game after a draw in the classical game he'll get 1.5 points for the round while his opponent will pick up half a point.

    Tomorrow's blitz action kicks off at 6:30 p.m. local time; 12:30 p.m. ET.

    Thursday
    May302019

    Norway Chess Starts Next Tuesday

    A brief PSA for those who are already craving their super-GM jones a day after the finish of the Moscow Grand Prix: Norway Chess starts play this coming Tuesday. It's a ridiculously strong field: the 10 players are all in the top 13 in the world: Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Ding Liren, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Viswanathan Anand, Alexander Grischuk, Levon Aronian, Wesley So, and Yu Yangyi.

    Tournament website here.