Magnus Carlsen's win in the match with Petrosian wasn't FIDE-rated of course, and although Leuven was rated the net effect was that he's a touch lower than Ding Liren on the live blitz list! (Ding Liren is 2875; Carlsen "only" 2873. Nakamura is third at 2841 and Ian Nepomniachtchi is next at 2840, in case you were wondering.) But will it last...
Entries in Magnus Carlsen (195)
In earlier matches Alexander Grischuk, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Hikaru Nakamura won quarterfinal matches against Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, and Wesley So, respectively, and in every case there was some drama going into the bullet phase of the competition. In the fourth quarterfinal match in this Chess.com blitz event, there wasn't any. Tigran Petrosian won a very strong qualifier to earn a match with Magnus Carlsen, but that's where the fun ended: Carlsen defeated him by a gruesome 21-4 margin.
The full report is here.
Magnus Carlsen wasn't quite as devastating as he had been on day 2 of the rapid portion of the tournament, but by jetting out to a +4=2 start today he clinched clear first with three rounds to go. After that he lost, Elmer Fudd-style, to Anish Giri (trying to annihilate the "rabbit" he burned his bridges and lost pretty badly) and drew his last two games. That was still good enough to win the tournament by 2.5 points.
The race for second was a close one between Wesley So, Levon Aronian, and Viswanathan Anand, and in the end the honors went to So. With two rounds to play So led Anand by half a point, and Aronian was another half a point behind. So drew with Carlsen, while Aronian defeated Anand to leapfrog him. In the last round all three players drew, resulting in So taking second and Aronian finishing in third.
After Anand, the next finisher was another two points back, so there were essentially two tournaments going on - or maybe three: Carlsen's coronation, the race for second, and then everyone else. Here are the final standings, first for the blitz portion and then overall:
- 1. Carlsen 11 (of 18)
- 2. Aronian 10
- 3-5. Anand, Nakamura, So 9.5
- 6-7. Kramnik, Vachier-Lagrave 9
- 8. Caruana 8.5
- 9. Giri 8
- 10. Topalov 6
- 1. Carlsen 23 (of 36)
- 2. So 20.5
- 3. Aronian 20
- 4. Anand 19.5
- 5. Caruana 17.5
- 6. Vachier-Lagrave 17
- 7. Nakamura 16.5
- 8-9. Kramnik, Giri 16
- 10. Topalov 14
Is it possible to say "Poor Hikaru Nakamura" after he wins the rapid section, ties for first in the blitz, and takes first overall in the Paris leg of the 2016 Grand Chess Tour? Maybe so, in light of the ongoing tragedy that is his head-to-head rivalry with Magnus Carlsen, though I think he prefers the overall outcome to one where Carlsen won the event but Nakamura won the head-to-head.
When we left off in the previous post Nakamura and Carlsen were tied for first, but Nakamura won one more game than Carlsen on day two, finishing half a point ahead in normal scoring (7/9, to Carlsen's 6.5; Wesley So and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave tied for third-fourth with 5.5 points apiece). As the rapid games count double compared to the blitz games, Nakamura led by a point, 14 to 13 heading into the blitz.
The blitz was a double-round robin, with one round robin per day. Nakamura got off to a hot start, an undefeated 6.5/8, which was half a point better than Carlsen and good enough for a point and a half lead overall. They were paired in the final game of the day, with Nakamura getting the white pieces. Carlsen was well-prepared, but 17...Qd5 seemed to be an inaccuracy. After Nakamura's 18.Bf1 Carlsen thought for almost three full minutes before reconciling himself to a pawn-down ending where only two results were possible. (At least outside of the Twilight Zone.) Nakamura failed to activate his king and allowed Black to create a passed e-pawn, and then he even allowed Carlsen's king to penetrate to the point where his own king was in a mating net. In the end, Carlsen even managed to win the game, taking the lead in the blitz, cutting Nakamura's overall lead to a mere half a point, and doubtlessly ruining Nakamura's mood.
On day two Nakamura came out shaky, losing to MVL in round 2 and drawing in rounds 1 and 3. Carlsen started by defeating So with Black in the first round, but when he lost to Fabiano Caruana - who had been having a terrible tournament up to that point - the wheels started to come off from him as well. That gave Nakamura time to clear his head, and with two rounds to go Nakamura led the blitz by a point and a half.
It didn't last - but fortunately for Nakamura, it didn't need to. Nakamura drew quickly with White in the penultimate round to clinch a tie for first in the blitz, and overall tournament victory. It should have clinched clear first in the blitz, as Carlsen was "dead" lost against Laurent Fressinet, but he received a near-miracle when Fressinet played 38.Rc8??? instead of the obvious 38.Bc8. (Actually, practically any other move maintains the win, and even after the terrible rook move White was still winning.) It kept going downhill after that, and one panicky move after another allowed Carlsen to win, closing to within a point of Nakamura going into their last-round matchup. Needless to say, unfortunately, Carlsen's hypnotic powers came through once again. White (Carlsen) was better after his 32nd move, but not winning until Nakamura's reply, which was a blunder. After 32...Ne4?? 33.Nh4 Black has no good answer to the threatened 34.Ng6 followed by 35.Rh8#.
So they split the blitz and Nakamura won overall first. MVL had a great performance on the second day of the blitz and finished just half a point behind them in that discipline, which also gave him third place overall.
In passing: The Veselin Topalov-Vladimir Kramnik grudge match was a bit of a push: Kramnik won their rapid game, while Topalov won the blitz match 1.5-.5. Since the rapid counted double, Kramnik outscored his foe, but Topalov's win in the second game of the second day of the blitz started Kramnik on an incredible tailspin. Kramnik drew his first game that day, with Black against Anish Giri: so far, so good. In round 2 he lost to Topalov, however, and finished the day with only one more draw, going a dismal 1-8. (His only other draw was against Levon Aronian in the penultimate round.) Also in passing: Carlsen did manage a win over Giri on the first day of the blitz, but their rapid game was a draw and Giri promptly beat Carlsen on day two of the blitz.
Next week they'll do it all over again in Leuven, Belgium, except with Viswanathan Anand taking Fressinet's place.
The event featured an impressive cast of characters that included world champion Magnus Carlsen, but the chess was so dreadfully bad that the best thing to do is acknowledge its existence and promptly forget about it. That, and at least for me, to issue at least a semi-retraction to all the people I've told over the years that increments in blitz are only there to prevent people from "manning up" to accept that they've lost on time. I still feel that way about blitz as a participant (even on those occasions when I'm the one losing a winning position on time), but as a spectator it's another story. A huge percentage of the games were utterly ruined, as you can see for yourself if you're so inclined.
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.