[Sorry about the delay - I was otherwise engaged yesterday. All of you probably already know what happened, but for completeness' sake we'll write a quick wrap-up and pretend what follows is news.]
There was plenty of drama in the final round of the Norway Chess tournament, with three players vying for first place; two of them facing each other. Sergey Karjakin led by half a point over Fabiano Caruana - who had the white pieces against him in the last round - and Magnus Carlsen, who had White against bottom seed Simen Agdestein. Thus while Karjakin led it would be hard to describe him as the favorite.
Indeed, Karjakin could easily have finished in third place. While Carlsen didn't get anything against Agdestein through the first time control, the latter faltered soon afterwards. Releasing the tension with 42...bxc4+ was a significant step in the wrong direction, and "consistent" play led to a speedy loss. Meanwhile, Karjakin's 31st move was an error, and had Caruana centralized his knight to e4 rather than violating old Tarrasch's maxim with 32.Na4 Karjakin would have been in trouble. Instead, Caruana lost the thread, and was completely lost by the end of the time control.
So Karjakin is once again the winner of an event the Norwegian organizers presumably designed to showcase their star, the world champion. I believe I've asked the question before, and wonder what the stats are about how players in matches and round-robins fare in their home countries, given a multinational field.
Moving on from brief ruminations about a possible home field disadvantage, let's quickly summarize the other results. Veselin Topalov missed a big chance to win his third game in the second half of the tournament, though it was only there for one move. Levon Aronian should have played 23...c5, when he would have had only a slight disadvantage. Instead he played 23...Bg7?, when either 24.d5 or 24.Qxb5 axb5 25.d5 would have given White a big advantage. (Topalov seemed to think it was just winning when he mentioned it in the post-game press conference.) Fortunately for Aronian, Topalov played 24.h4?, and this time Black played 24...c5 - now with equality.
Vladimir Kramnik went loaded for bear against Alexander Grischuk's Gruenfeld, and energetic and imaginative attacking play was about to lead to success. All Kramnik needed to do was play 31.fxg6 and he would be winning or at least close to winning. The main idea is that after 31...hxg6 32.d7 Black cannot play 32...Rd4 because of 33.Rxg6+; this resource was unavailable to Kramnik after 31.d7? Rd4. After a further error (32.Qf3 instead of 32.Qc2 or the cool 32.fxg6! Rxd3 33.gxf7+ Kh8 34.Rxd3=) Kramnik was lost, and indeed went on to lose the game. Kramnik started the tournament +2 and finished -1 - another disappointing result for the ex-champ in 2014.
Finally, Anish Giri and Peter Svidler put disappointing tournaments to bed with a 20-move draw by repetition.
- 1. Karjakin 6/9
- 2. Carlsen 5.5
- 3. Grischuk 5
- 4-5. Caruana, Topalov 4.5
- 6-9. Aronian, Svidler, Giri, Kramnik 4
- 10. Agdestein 3.5
As Carlsen himself stated after the event, Agdestein's last place wasn't really a fair result, but he was unable to convert many superior positions. Had he done so, he might have been the tournament victor or at least have been in the running. Anyway, it was an entertaining event, and next up is the world rapid & blitz championship, starting tomorrow.