Entries in Magnus Carlsen (190)
It took him four tries, but Magnus Carlsen has finally won Norway Chess, the super-tournament created by his countrymen to showcase their top player, the world chess champion and world #1. In 2013 and 2014 Sergey Karjakin won the tournament, and last year it was Veselin Topalov who finished first.
This time around Carlsen was in control most of the way, and after defeating Vladimir Kramnik in an impressive game in round 7 (of 9) it looked like smooth sailing. He was playing well and riding a 42-game undefeated streak; what could possibly go wrong? The answer came in the very next round, as Levon Aronian in turn beat him rather badly to catch up with him and share the lead. Had they finished the last round tied there would have been a playoff, but Carlsen rebounded to defeat Pavel Eljanov with white while Aronian was unable to get anywhere with Black against Pentala Harikrishna. Carlsen finished with 6/9; Aronian with 5.5.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Topalov, and Kramnik finished a further half a point behind, while Li Chao and Harikrishna concluded their tournaments with creditable 50% scores. Anish Giri had a poor event by his standards, only scoring 4/9; Eljanov lost his last three games to wind up with just 3 points, and Nils Grandelius brought up the rear with 2.5 points.
Here are Carlsen's last three games, with brief comments.
The Norway Chess tournament has thus far been surprisingly bloodless, though not for want of effort. After a first round that saw three players win, the next three rounds saw only two wins in total. There were two victories in round 5, so the total thus far is seven wins in 25 games. (The decisive games can be replayed here.)
The tournament leader thus far is Magnus Carlsen, who looks set to avenge his failures in the first three editions of the tournament. He defeated Pentala Harikrishna in round 1 and Nils Grandelius in round 3 to propel himself to a score of 3.5/5; this puts him half a point ahead of Vladimir Kramnik (who also defeated Grandelius), Veselin Topalov (who also also defeated Grandelius), and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (who has not yet played Grandelius, but managed to defeat Anish Giri in a wild game).
Here are the pairings for round 6, with players' scores given in parentheses:
- Anish Giri (2.5) - Pentala Harikrishna (2.5)
- Pavel Eljanov (2) - Nils Grandelius (1)
- Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (3) - Magnus Carlsen (3.5)
- Li Chao (2) - Veselin Topalov (3)
- Vladimir Kramnik (3) - Levon Aronian (2.5)
The current trend of starting super-tournaments with blitz events used to determine the pairings is a very good one, and I hope it sticks around. It makes merit rather than luck the basis of color distribution, and it's also a treat for the spectators. (It probably helps the players warm up a bit too.)
On Monday, the Norway Chess super-tournament had their blitz event, and Magnus Carlsen was a runaway train up until the final round. He started with 7.5/8, only giving up a draw to bottom seed and (co-) tailender Nils Grandelius, of all people. He defeated Vladimir Kramnik, Levon Aronian, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and all the other stars before suffering a defeat to his personal kryptonite, Anish Giri. Giri lost to Vachier-Lagrave along the way, but was otherwise undefeated and took clear second with 6.5/9. Vachier-Lagrave and Kramnik tied for third-fourth. The former lost to Carlsen and to Veselin Topalov, while Kramnik's only loss was to Carlsen (and he beat Topalov). Finally, Aronian's 50% score was good enough for fifth, making him the last player to be guaranteed an extra game with the white pieces. (Below him, Pentala Harikrishna finished with 4 points, Topalov with 3, Grandelius, Li Chao, and Pavel Eljanov with 2.5.)
Here, then, are the pairings for round 1:
- Kramnik - Grandelius
- Carlsen - Harikrishna
- Vachier-Lagrave - Li Chao
- Giri - Eljanov
- Aronian - Topalov
Read more here. The bit that's getting all the attention is a tweet from London Chess Classic organizer Malcolm Pein. In response to a tweet from (Norwegian) Tarjei J. Svensen, who expressed the view that Sergey Karjakin's decision to skip the Norway Chess supertournament was "disrespectful...towards the organizer, the players and the entire chess world", Pein upped the ante:
Preparation? Nah - he's just chickening out - pathetic, pleased we didn't invite him to Grand Chess Tour
I'm inclined to agree with Pein's choice of the word "pathetic", but think it should be applied to his comment instead. Svensen has a point, though it's a little overstated (for one thing, the player who gets to take his spot is getting a great opportunity and a nice payday), but "chickening out"? If there's one thing Karjakin has a reputation for, it's that he is an extraordinarily resilient fighter. It also seems remarkably unwise of Pein to alienate someone who might be the world champion at year's end. (He's an underdog, but it certainly isn't impossible for him to win the title.)
Maybe the moral is that forums like Facebook and Twitter can make fools of us all.
That's a bit too strong, as someone can have better chances than any other individual but not have better chances than the rest of the field combined. Still, even in the more modest sense Magnus Carlsen opined (in advance) that Sergey Karjakin was a slight favorite to win the Candidates in a very even field because of his defensive abilities, his resilience, and his strong preparation. He was right on the money!
Google translation here. (HT: Eyal)
It's always pleasant to see an intelligently executed piece on chess in the popular press, and this Zeit Online interview with Magnus Carlsen fits the bill. Suitable to share with your non-chess friends. (HT: Tobias)
The first supertournament of 2016 is now history, and it's little surprise that the winner is the world champion and world #1 Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen is just 25 years old, and yet this is already the fifth time he has won the main event in Wijk aan Zee. His score of 9/13 was not a record, but his 2881 TPR was good enough for him to pick up 6.6 rating points - 7 points once it's rounded it on the new list, 50 points ahead of world #2 Vladimir Kramnik.
The last round looked ripe for drama coming in, with Carlsen only half a point ahead of Fabiano Caruana and a point ahead of his last round opponent, Ding Liren. The drama never materialized: Carlsen was always comfortable with white against Ding, who managed a draw after hours of suffering. Caruana was in a must-win situation, but winning to order with the black pieces against a solid, strong grandmaster like Evgeny Tomashevsky is a tall order. He didn't come close, and whether he was simply outplayed or because he took strategic risks in the hopes of getting a position where he could fight for more than a draw, Caruana was much worse straight out of the opening. It wasn't always clear whether Tomashevsky would win - he did - but it was clear that Caruana wouldn't win and wouldn't catch Carlsen.
It was still a good tournament for the American #1; he gained rating points, tied for second with Ding (and finished ahead of him on tiebreaks, not that that mattered), and is for now safe in his position as the #1 player in the U.S. It was a fine result for Ding Liren as well, currently rated #9 in the world.
Two other events are worth a quick mention. First, the other victor on the day was Pavel Eljanov, who defeated David Navara. Second, Hou Yifan nearly finished the tournament on a very high note, as she was clearly winning with black against Anish Giri. Unfortunately for her fans, she let the win slip, but one can be very impressed by Giri's tenacity in holding the rook ending.
- 1. Carlsen 9/13
- 2-3. Caruana, Ding Liren 8
- 4-6. So, Giri, Eljanov 7
- 7-8. Wei Yi, Mamedyarov 6.5
- 9. Karjakin 6
- 10-11. Navara, Tomashevsky 5.5
- 12-14. Hou Yifan, Adams, van Wely 5
In the Challengers' Group the three-man race between Baskaran Adhiban, Eltaj Safarli, and Alexey Dreev ended in a photo finish: all three wound up with 9/13. The former had the best tiebreak score, so he will play in the main event next year.
There's one round to go in the 2016 edition of the Tata Steel Chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee, and it's not too surprising to learn that the world's #1 player, world champion Magnus Carlsen, is in first place, and the tournament's second seed - Fabiano Caruana - is in second. The players have been alternating wins the past few rounds: Carlsen won in round 9, Caruana in round 10, Carlsen again in round 11, and Caruana again in round 12. The margin of difference so far is Caruana's loss to David Navara; had that game finished in a draw the mighty Cars would both have 8.5/12.
Going back to round 10: Carlsen entered the round with a full point lead, and with black a draw with Anish Giri was a satisfactory result, achieved without much fuss. Caruana took the opportunity to close the gap to half a point when he bludgeoned Wei Yi, who had been having an excellent tournament to that point. (Another game from that round I'll mention was the curious battle between Sergey Karjakin and Michael Adams. Karjakin played the London System and lost without a whimper. All Adams had to do was follow standard ideas - ideas Karjakin himself had employed in earlier games! - and he reached a superior position and won in crushing style.)
In round 11 Caruana seemed on the verge of catching Carlsen, but instead finished the round a full point behind. Carlsen allowed Hou Yifan to play the Petroff, and to all appearances this was an error. She plays it often and knows it well, and she had no problems in the opening. She also had no problems in the middlegame, and the endgame went smoothly too. Eventually a pawn ending was reached, and had Hou played 45...a5 instead of 45...h5?? the draw she coveted would have been there for the taking. Meanwhile, Caruana enjoyed a clear advantage with the black pieces coming out of the opening against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Mamedyarov defended patiently and successfully, and in the second time control Caruana had to prove the draw, which he did. (For those of you who wonder why it's a draw, the answer is that Black will set up a fortress the moment White stops checking. He'll play ...Rd5, and that's the end, unless he wants to tidy everything up with ...h5 and ...Rf5, when there's nothing to attack the rest of the game.)
Finally, in round 12 Carlsen again secured a comfortable draw with Black, this time against Wesley So, while Caruana collected a full point against Loek van Wely in a sharp Najdorf line that was popular around the turn of the century. Caruana played brilliantly at first, possibly refuting the variation, but shaky play later on gave van Wely some chances to survive. Those chances vaporized after 29...Rc4?, allowing the aesthetically pleasing 30.f6+!, after which Caruana finished in style.
Meanwhile, a third protagonist has entered the picture: Ding Liren. He won with black against Evgeny Tomashevsky in round 11 and as white against Pavel Eljanov in round 12, pulling within a point of Carlsen and half a point of Caruana. Better still, he'll face Carlsen in the final round, albeit with the black pieces, so three players have a chance for first place. (Note: There are no playoffs or tiebreakers used, so if there are two or three players tied for first they are the co-winners of the event.) Here are the final round pairings:
- Mamedyarov (6) - Karjakin (5.5)
- van Wely (4.5) - Wei Yi (6)
- Tomashevsky (4.5) - Caruana (8)
- Eljanov (6) - Navara (5.5)
- Carlsen (8.5) - Ding Liren (7.5)
- Adams (4.5) - So (6.5)
- Giri (6.5) - Hou Yifan (4.5)
As I've already said once or twice, the entire field (and their fans) can blame what is happening in Wijk aan Zee on Loek van Wely for losing a winning position against Magnus Carlsen in round 5. Carlsen won his fourth game in the last five rounds (only giving up a short draw with black in round 8 to Sergey Karjakin), defeating Michael Adams to increase his lead over the field. Early tournament leader Fabiano Caruana is a point behind, and four other players (Wesley So, Ding Liren, Wei Yi, and Anish Giri) are another half a point back.
For most of the game it looked like another trademark Carlsen victory was in process. First, a low-theory Giuoco Piano to get the ball rolling, then slow but steady progress leading to a winning endgame. Adams did drum up some kingside counterplay, but it was clearly too slow. Moreover, this counterplay hit its apogee early in the second time control, so Carlsen had all the time in the world to work it out.
But somehow, Carlsen faltered. His 49.b4 committed him to a sacrifice of a rook for Adams' kingside passers, played in the belief that his pawns would still win the game. His hope was fulfilled, but it seems that this was more due to Adams' errors rather than to a correct assessment of 49.b4.
As for Caruana, he had some chances with White against Karjakin around the first time control, but he allowed Karjakin to save the game with a very concrete approach starting with 45...bxc5. Black forces the play through the end of the game, and holds by a hair.
All the other games were drawn, with one exception. Wei Yi won an exceptional attacking game against David Navara, featuring a promising-looking line against the Berlin. Interestingly, Caruana and Wei Yi played the same line - including the same novelty - through move 10, when the games diverged. Perhaps Karjakin's reply to Caruana is the cure; that may or may not be. What is clear is that Navara's treatment is a dead end, and the result was a spectacular victory for the young Chinese superstar.
With Carlsen ahead by a point with four rounds to play, the field is going to have to hurry up to catch him. Here are the pairings for round 10, and Carlsen's pairing may offer his foes their best reason for optimism, as Carlsen has never defeated Anish Giri in a classical game:
- Karjakin (4.5) - Adams (2.5)
- Giri (5) - Carlsen (6.5)
- Hou Yifan (4) - Eljanov (4.5)
- So (5) - Tomashevsky (3.5)
- Ding Liren (5) - van Wely (3.5)
- Navara (4) - Mamedyarov (4.5)
- Caruana (5.5) - Wei Yi (5)
In the Challengers' tournament Baskaran Adhiban finally lost a game (to Jorden Van Foreest, with white), so he has fallen into a tie with Eltaj Safarli, who drew with Erwin l'Ami. They both have 6.5/9, half a point of Alexey Dreev, who also drew (with Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu).