I've been letting the Norway Chess reports slide, as I've been trying to catch up on work while also moving along in the back-and-leg saga. About the latter: I had a second cortisone shot on Monday and started physical therapy today. Fun! The pain is more or less gone, but some numbness remains in my foot (and could last another six months to a year) and my body still has a lot of self-repair to do. Of course, it's also very important that I not just get through the current episode, but go on to do what I can to avoid suffering this same fate (or worse) next year, or the year after that, etc.
Back to chess. Between the last rest day, after round 3, and this one, four rounds have gone by. Sergey Karjakin was 3-0 while Magnus Carlsen was 3-for-3 as well - but three draws rather than three wins. Karjakin started the next block by defeating Levon Aronian - impressively, and with the black pieces to boot! - while Carlsen drew again. In round 5 they met, and with Karjakin having White and an eight-game winning streak (counting the blitz, and including a win there over Carlsen) it looked like a fantastic opportunity for him to practically put the tournament on ice.
Things started terrifically for Karjakin, and he obtained a significant edge against Carlsen's Breyer, winding up with an extra pawn. Around move 29 though, it started to fall apart. If Karjakin had played 29.Bb5, looking to round up the c-pawn, Carlsen would have been in trouble. Instead, 29.Bc2 looked to consolidate behind the e-pawn, but the main result was to give Black a free hand to develop his counterplay. After 36 moves Carlsen had regained his pawn and enjoyed some initiative, but the game was still up in the air. Unfortunately for Karjakin, he erred on moves 37 and 39 (and move 40 too, but by then it was already too late), and by the time he made the time control the game was as good as over.
The win brought Carlsen to within a point of Karjakin, and with a grind-'em-out victory over poor Teimour Radjabov (who was defeated by him in similar style in the penultimate round of the Candidates) he closed to within half a point. That wasn't such bad news for Karjakin though, as it meant he drew with Black against world champ Viswanathan Anand - and he did so only with great effort. That he held was both impressive and important, demonstrating both mental toughness and probably giving his confidence a boost.
He was able to build on that in round 7, defeating Hikaru Nakamura on the white side of a 6.Bg5 Najdorf. Carlsen remained "on" as well, defeating his countryman Jon Ludwig Hammer with Black. (About Hammer: he started the event 0-3, but drew with Black against Veselin Topalov in round 4 and beat Wang Hao in round 5. He lost in rounds 6 and 7 though.) Today (Thursday) was a rest day; the penultimate round starts Friday. Here are the pairings, with scores in parentheses:
- Carlsen (5) - Wang Hao (2.5)
- Topalov (3) - Aronian (4)
- Anand (4) - Hammer (1.5)
- Nakamura (3.5) - Radjabov (2.5)
- Svidler (3.5) - Karjakin (5.5)