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    Entries in Norway Chess 2015 (12)

    Thursday
    Jun252015

    Norway Chess 2015, Final Round: Topalov Draws, Wins the Tournament; Hammer Beats Carlsen

    Another exciting super-tournament is now history, and the winner of the Norway Chess tournament of 2015 is the resurgent Veselin Topalov. Coming into the round he only needed a draw with Viswanathan Anand to clinch clear first, and he got it with ease as they played a known variation resulting in a draw by repetition.

    As Anand could have taken (clear) first place with a win, it would be easy to criticize this choice. But this was not a match and he was not in a zero-sum game situation. If he lost - and he had the black pieces - he would slip from at worst a three-way tie for second to potentially fourth place. Moreover, Anand's style and repertoire with black is generally classical and not based on strategically risky lines against 1.d4 like the King's Indian or the Modern Benoni. So while it would have been entertaining for us as spectators to see him go for broke in the last round, it's hard to criticize his decision to bring a successful tournament to a conclusion and to see if anyone would join him in a tie for second, half a point behind the winner.

    Two players had their chances, and one succeeded. If Hikaru Nakamura could defeat Levon Aronian with black, he'd catch Anand; likewise if Anish Giri could upend Fabiano Caruana with the black pieces. Remarkably, both had their chances, but only Nakamura reeled in the full point. Giri drew and finished in clear fourth, a point and a half ahead of Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. (Vachier-Lagrave drew with Alexander Grischuk.)

    The fifth game featured two players having bad tournaments, but bad in different ways and for different reasons. The player with the white pieces, Jon Ludwig Hammer, was alone in last place coming into the last round with just two points out of eight. This wasn't really a shock, as he was the lowest-rated player by a considerable margin, but as he had squandered many opportunities along the way he still had serious grounds for regret. The other player was the world champion, Magnus Carlsen. His score of 3.5/8 was terrible by his standards, but it seemed that he was playing his way into form after the catastrophe in round 1 and his getting clobbered in rounds 2 and 4. He had won convincingly in rounds 5 and 8, and looked good in round 6 as well even though that game only finished in a draw. With a win over his countryman and regular second, Carlsen could at least end the tournament with an even score and +3 over the last five rounds.

    But Hammer had his own ambitions. Before and during the tournament he offered two statements about what a good tournament would look like. The (probably) more serious statement was that he wanted to score at least three points; more jocularly, he said he'd be willing to lose every game as long as he beat Carlsen. In the end, then, it was a success: he got exactly three points out of nine and beat Carlsen - without having to lose the remaining games. He didn't even come in clear last place, but finished tied for last with Aronian, only half a point behind Carlsen and Grischuk.

    The games, with my notes, are here, and these are the final standings (the player listed first in case of a tie had the better tiebreak score):

    • 1. Topalov 6.5 (of 9)
    • 2-3. Anand, Nakamura 6
    • 4. Giri 5.5
    • 5-6. Caruana, Vachier-Lagrave 4
    • 7-8. Carlsen, Grischuk 3.5
    • 9-10. Aronian, Hammer 3

    Next stop: Dortmund, which starts on Saturday.

    Wednesday
    Jun242015

    Norway Chess, Round 8: Giri Beats Topalov, Setting Up A Last-Round Showdown with Anand for First

    Veselin Topalov had been riding high through the first seven rounds of the Norway Chess tournament, scoring an undefeated 6-1 that was a combination of strong play (against non-Norwegians) and good fortune (against Norwegians). He led by 1.5 points with just two rounds to go, but in round 8 he finally received his comeuppance at the hands of the youngest player in the tournament, Anish Giri. Topalov played an uncharacteristically passive line of the Queen's Indian/Catalan with Black, hoping to draw the resulting technical position. This really isn't Topalov's forte, however, and Giri simply outplayed him, step by step.

    As a result tournament victory is still up for grabs, but Topalov is still in good shape. He is half a point ahead of Viswanathan Anand and a point or more ahead of everyone else, and he has White against Anand in the final round. If he can draw with White (or win), he wins the tournament; if he loses, then Anand wins. Anand obtained this opportunity by beating Jon Ludwig Hammer. Hammer was fine out of the opening and into the early middlegame, but drifted into a bit of pressure and then blundered a pawn on move 27 and some more material a few moves after that.

    Hikaru Nakamura could have been in the running as well, had he managed to convert an extra pawn against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The Frenchman was slippery though, and Nakamura couldn't manage to neutralize his opponent's counterplay and keep his extra pawn at the same time. With the draw Nakamura is a point out of first, tied for third with Giri half a point behind Anand.

    The other games had no implications for first place (surprisingly). Fabiano Caruana slightly outplayed Alexander Grischuk with Black, but it wasn't enough to win the game. Finally, what would normally be one of the absolute highlights of any chess tournament, a battle between Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian, was almost an afterthought with both players near the bottom of the tournament table. Aronian played a terrific opening with Black and was somewhat better, only to go wrong with 21...Qb6. This gave Carlsen a very slight edge, which was neutralized, and then Aronian went awry again with 31...Nd3? and 34...Qxb2? Now he was losing, but when Carlsen with 36.Rc2?? Aronian had the chance to be better with 36...Qb8! Both players missed it, but a kibitzing Anand spotted it right away. (If only he had spotted ...Nxe5 in some game played in 2014....) Instead, Aronian blundered back and resigned on his 40th move, down a rook with no counterplay and the queens coming off.

    The games, with my notes (except to Grischuk-Caruana), are here. These are the last-round pairings:

    • Vachier-Lagrave (3.5) - Grischuk (3)
    • Aronian (3) - Nakamura (5)
    • Hammer (2) - Carlsen (3.5)
    • Topalov (6) - Anand (5.5)
    • Caruana (3.5) - Giri (5)

    Tuesday
    Jun232015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 7: Five Draws

    It wasn't the most interesting round of the Norway Chess tournament, but given all the blood we've seen so far there's not much to complain about. Besides, most of the draws had their interesting moments as well.

    Veselin Topalov came into (and left) the round with a one and a half point lead, and it looked like his game with Fabiano Caruana would be a dull draw. Caruana played the ...c6+...d5 line of the Fianchetto Gruenfeld, a line that tends to be pretty dry even on the best of days. When the game looked like it was about to terminate in a handshake, Topalov shook things up on the board with 28.Qa1 and a series of very risky moves. The geometry involved in some of the lines was pretty remarkable, and while most of the risk was objectively Topalov's the position definitely held some dangers for Caruana. Still, he defended alertly, and the game concluded with a Topalov piece sac followed by perpetual check.

    With a win Hikaru Nakamura could have come to within a point of Topalov, but he didn't manage to get anything with White against Alexander Grischuk in an English. Likewise for Viswanathan Anand, who was also slugging things out in an English, but with Black against Levon Aronian. Anand equalized easily and drew quickly, while Nakamura's game made it to the end of the first time control.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Magnus Carlsen had an even shorter draw - just 17 moves - but theirs was a wild and almost completely uncharted opening. In the Semi-Slav with 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 g5 7.Bg3 Carlsen came up with 7...Ne4, a very unusual and provocative move. Vachier-Lagrave's reply was even more remarkable: he sacrificed two pawns for unclear compensation. Unfortunately, the game didn't get much further, ending in a repetition that commenced just four moves after the second pawn sac. Hopefully the line will get played again soon, as it has the potential for great entertainment.

    The longest game of the round was Jon Ludwig Hammer's. He had a chance for a huge attack against Anish Giri while the game was still in the opening, but instead of 12.0-0-0 he went for a slightly better queenless middlegame with 12.Be4. Although he retained some advantage after that, it wasn't nearly enough to push Giri over the edge.

    The games (with my notes) are here. The round 8 pairings are as follows:

    • Grischuk (2.5) - Caruana (3)
    • Giri (4) - Topalov (6)
    • Anand (4.5) - Hammer (2)
    • Carlsen (2.5) - Aronian (3)
    • Nakamura (4.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (3)

    Monday
    Jun222015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 6: Topalov Wins Again!

    The score (5.5/6!) and the all-time high rating suggest that the Veselin Topalov of the mid-2000s is back. Is he? I have my doubts, but he's still playing at a very high level and showing his best chess in at least the past five years. In today's round 6 action he won, though with an undue amount of help from Alexander Grischuk. Not all the "credit" goes to Grischuk, however. Topalov obtained an edge with Black, but 16.Nb5 was a gift horse without any hidden soldiers inside. (Perhaps next Grischuk could have offered a large wooden badger...) Topalov accepted the gift and won the game, though it took the further error (which should not be thought of as a gift) 28.Rxg3 to turn Black's advantage into a decisive one.

    There was one other winner on the day, and that was Viswanathan Anand. The ex-champ is looking like he could be headed for a third match with Carlsen, with his convincing victory over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave being only the latest bit of evidence. It seemed that Vachier-Lagrave was poorly prepared for Anand's opening choice, There was an earlier game between David Navara and the aforementioned Grischuk in the same line and in which the same Bxh6 sac occurred, and there too White won. Maybe MVL was overly trusting of his computer's evaluation (see my notes for more details) and maybe he missed the earlier game because it came about through a slightly different move order. Whatever the story, Black had to be ready for Anand's 19.Bxh6, and he wasn't. The result was a smooth victory for White.

    Magnus Carlsen needed a win to remain mathematically alive in the race for first, and with the white pieces against Hikaru Nakamura he couldn't have picked a more convenient opponent - at least in theory, based on their lopsided score in classical chess. (It's something like 11-0 in Carlsen's favor, not counting draws.) Carlsen was slightly careless in the opening, allowing Nakamura to equalize fully, but as as is usually the case in Carlsen's games that wasn't the end of the story. Carlsen managed to win a pawn and get his fans (and the engines) revved up about his chances. This was only an illusion, however. Nakamura was able to reach a rook and three vs. rook and four scenario with all the pawns on the same side and the defender's pawns arranged in the ideal f7/g6/h5 formation. The game went 95 moves, of which the last 50 or so were unnecessary. (Carlsen was right to try; I'm merely noting that he never came close to posing Black any real problems.)

    The other two games were drawn. Fabiano Caruana had a huge advantage early in the game against Jon Ludwig Hammer, but slipped up and let his opponent escape. Anish Giri tested Levon Aronian in the razor-sharp Vienna Variation (an important sub-line within the Ragozin), and Aronian had done his homework. As often happens in such openings, a series of complications suddenly resolves after a series of exchanges, resulting in a drawn, playless ending.

    The games, with my notes to the first three games, are here. The tournament website is here, and these are the pairings for round 7:

    • Nakamura (4) - Grischuk (2)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (2.5) - Carlsen (2)
    • Aronian (2.5) - Anand (4)
    • Hammer (1.5) - Giri (3.5)
    • Topalov (5.5) - Caruana (2.5)

    Monday
    Jun222015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 5: Topalov Wins Again; Carlsen, Aronian Win Their First

    The Norway Chess tournament has passed the halfway point, and Veselin Topalov continues his success. When he's not playing Norwegians, he wins cleanly; when he does, he hangs in there and waits for miracles to happen. And that's what happened in round 5. Topalov was in all kinds of trouble with Black against Jon Ludwig Hammer. Maybe he was never flat out lost, but it was close! Topalov finally took over the advantage from move 42 on, yet Hammer defended well and was on the verge of a draw after 73 moves. All he needed to do was play 74.f5, a move that any club player could find and that requires calculating a grand total of two moves ahead. Instead, Hammer played 74.Kc6?? and had to resign after the obvious 74...Ke6. A blind spot for Hammer?

    Yes, but perhaps it was a literal blind spot. It was suggested, very plausibly, that Hammer didn't really look up when Topalov played 73...Ke7 and assumed that Black had played 73...Bb8 instead. In that case, 74.Kc6 would have been the only move. Hammer's haste cost him the game, and completely unnecessarily, especially since he had 15 minutes left on his clock when that happened.

    With the win Topalov leads the second-placed Hikaru Nakamura by a point with an impressive score of 4.5/5. Nakamura started the round half a point behind, but after a draw with Viswanathan Anand the gap doubled. Anand is a further half a point back, tied for 3rd-4th with Anish Giri, who in turn drew comfortably with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

    The other two games finished with a winner, and like Hammer-Topalov those victories had a tinge of the accidental to them. In fact, all three games were decided by hasty moves, though in the two games we haven't yet described that haste was due to time trouble. Levon Aronian had an opening edge against Fabiano Caruana, but Caruana had equalized and the game was headed for a draw as the first time control neared its end. 39...Qg6 would have sealed the deal, giving Caruana full, safe equality and the ability to reach the second time control without any big worries. Instead, he thought he spotted an opportunity and quickly played 39...Qxg3+. It's a nice little tactic, and...it loses. Black wins a pawn for the moment, but White's king achieves maximum activity and ransacks all of Black's queenside pawns. Caruana fought on to move 60, but there was no saving the game.

    Finally, Magnus Carlsen had been having a dreadful tournament with only half a point out of four, and despite this he showed his resilience by winning in classic Carlsen style. Alexander Grischuk had managed to equalize, though as usual with Grischuk he didn't manage to do this without getting into time trouble. With the game about to reach the point where a club player could hold Grischuk's position Carlsen tried one last idea: 26.c5! Grischuk could and should have held this, but without time it was far from trivial. Carlsen obtained a very usable edge, though perhaps not yet enough to win the game. On move 40, it was time for another trick: 40.f4. This may not have been the very best move, and had Grischuk replied correctly he probably would have saved the game. Time trouble killed him, though, and 40...exf4?? made it easy for the world champion. (The games, with my notes, are here.)

    Carlsen has awakened, and while it's almost impossible for him to contend for first it's not too late for him to do some damage. Next up, he has the white pieces against one of his usual "customers", Hikaru Nakamura. If Nakamura had White it might be a great opportunity for the American to get a '1', but with Black it may be another story. We'll see; meanwhile, here are the pairings for round 6:

    • Grischuk (2) - Topalov (4.5)
    • Caruana (2) - Hammer (1)
    • Giri (3) - Aronian (2)
    • Anand (3) - Vachier-Lagrave (2.5)
    • Carlsen (1.5) - Nakamura (3.5)

    Saturday
    Jun202015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 4: Magnus Who?

    Magnus Carlsen has been dominating the chess world for years now, including great results last year (winning world championships in three different sub-disciplines) and this (winning every event he has entered). But in the Norway Chess tournament, a tournament that owes its existence to the prominence of its national hero, he has come a-cropper. In 2013 and 2014 he failed to win as Sergey Karjakin won the two inaugural editions of the tournament, and Karjakin's absence this year hasn't improved a thing for Carlsen.

    First he lost to Veselin Topalov on time from a winning position because he was unaware that there wasn't a third time control. Then he got thumped by Fabiano Caruana and his outstanding preparation. In round 3 he failed to win a won game against Anish Giri, who never stops rubbing in the fact that Carlsen has never yet beaten him, and then today, in round 4, he was crushed by Viswanathan Anand in a Breyer Ruy. Anand played very well, winning with a nice attack, but Carlsen did not play anywhere near his usual standard.

    Carlsen thus has just half a point from four games, is in last place and has pitched away 19.5 rating points thus far. At this point we can forget about Carlsen winning the tournament and ask instead of he can achieve a more modest goal like getting back to 50%. With three white games in the next four rounds, including one against his traditional "customer" Hikaru Nakamura, plus the chance to play his countryman Jon Ludwig Hammer in the last round, he'll still have a shot at the more modest goal if he can get his mind together. Saturday is a rest day, and that's bound to help. Whatever happens, he'll be back in the saddle soon, striking fear into all his opponents, but it's interesting and remarkable to see that even the highest-rated player of all time can have an inexplicable slump.

    Meanwhile, let's return to the top of the crosstable. Veselin Topalov is alone in first place with 3.5/4 after a convincing victory against Levon Aronian. Topalov seemed like a spent force 2-3 years ago, but now he's back near his peak rating and is #2 in the world. An impressive comeback! He was lucky in this tournament in round 1, but since then he has earned his points cleanly, and deserves his spot at the top.

    Hikaru Nakamura is in second, half a point behind, after his draw with Anish Giri. Nakamura had Black in a very theoretical line, and while Giri emerged with some advantage it wasn't enough to parlay into a win. Giri and Anand are tied for third with 2.5/4.

    Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave were both on 50% coming into the round, and after they drew with each other in a well-played 6.h3 Najdorf they ended the round the same way.

    Alexander Grischuk is also at 50%, thanks to a win over Jon Ludwig Hammer. The opening was anything but traditional, and it was Grischuk who navigated the uncharted waters better than his opponent. Grischuk is known for his excellent theoretical preparation, but I've seen him play some fantastic chess from original, even bizarre (and certainly untheoretical) positions. Hammer is tied with Aronian at -2; not good, but not quite last place.

    (The games are here, with my notes.)

    After the rest day the action will resume on Sunday, with the following games:

    • Carlsen (.5) - Grischuk (2)
    • Nakamura (3) - Anand (2.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (2) - Giri (2.5)
    • Aronian (1) - Caruana (2)
    • Hammer (1) - Topalov (3.5)

    Friday
    Jun192015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 3: Nakamura, Topalov Win, Lead

    Hikaru Nakamura has enjoyed a very good career score against Fabiano Caruana, and although Caruana made up some ground by beating Nakamura in St. Louis last year Nakamura struck back today against his countryman. It was a strange win, however, as Caruana was doing just fine and had reached an equal rook ending that seemed headed for a reasonably quick and straightforward draw. Near the end of the first time control, things got out of hand for the Italian-American (and in favor of the American who spends more time in Italy thanks to his Italian girlfriend) when he hit upon the dubious 38...b5 and the outright terrible 40...g5. Both moves weakened Black's structure, and the latter also invited White's rook in to cause lethal damage.

    That put Nakamura at 2.5/3 (and to #2 in the live ratings), the same score enjoyed by Veselin Topalov (now the world's #3). Topalov won with great ease against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on the black side of a Meran Semi-Slav, thanks to MVL's choosing a mistaken tactical idea starting with 20.Bd2. That move may not have been so bad in itself, but the plan to go for Nd5 and Ba5 failed completely. Two moves later, Black was winning, and White resigned after a further six moves were played.

    The remaining games were drawn, and that left Anish Giri alone in third place with 2/3. He was completely lost to Magnus Carlsen, whose lucklessness against Giri is a source of endless mirth to the young Dutchman. The only positive for Carlsen is that it wasn't a third straight loss.

    Levon Aronian was very happy with his position out of the opening against Jon Ludwig Hammer, but to his dismay Hammer played very well after that and managed to hold the game, with some effort. Some, but especially after 34.Re4 h5!, it wasn't too tough to save the game. White's rook was stuck for the rest of the game.

    Finally, Viswanathan Anand enjoyed an advantage against Alexander Grischuk much of the way, but didn't manage to convert it into anything substantial. Anand has been getting good positions, but his opponents have been slipping away.

    Tournament site here, games here (but without notes today).

    Here are the round 4 pairings:

    • Grischuk (1) - Hammer (1)
    • Topalov (2.5) - Aronian (1)
    • Caruana (1.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (1.5)
    • Giri (2) - Nakamura (2.5)
    • Anand (1.5) - Carlsen (.5)

    Wednesday
    Jun172015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 2: Caruana Beats Carlsen, All Other Games Drawn

    Last year it looked like Fabiano Caruana was rapidly gaining on Magnus Carlsen, but when Caruana cooled off and Carlsen came back it looked like the gap between the champion and his challengers was as big as ever. It's still too early in the tournament to say that Carlsen's dominance is disappearing, but Caruana's very impressive and comprehensive win over Carlsen today suggests that the chase pack isn't that far back, either.

    Caruana was born in the United States, represented Italy for the past 10 years while often living elsewhere in Europe and has been coached by a Belgian and a Ukranian (among others), but maybe we should call him "Mr. Berlin". While White has been struggling to find anything in the Berlin endgame while Black players have been suffering somewhat against the 4.d3 line, Caruana has been finding great ideas for both sides. Yesterday a great new idea against 4.d3 gave him a pretty easy draw against Anand, and today a strong idea in the Berlin ending posed powerful problems with which Carlsen couldn't cope. (Overdoing the alliteration? Probably. Always avoid alliteration, they say.)

    With the win Caruana jumped back to #2 on the live rating list while joining the four round 1 winners (Nakamura, Giri, Topalov and Vachier-Lagrave) in a five-way tie for first. The other four games were drawn, so Carlsen is temporarily in clear last place with an 0-2 score.

    About those other four games: if yesterday it was offense that triumphed, today it was the defense. (Or, if you prefer, today the offense faltered.) Levon Aronian had good winning chances against Alexander Grischuk after the latter made a tactical slip, but couldn't take advantage. (Admittedly, the opportunity was a very subtle one.)

    Anish Giri had some edge against Viswanathan Anand, but it wasn't much. He was up an exchange for a pawn, but Anand's compensation was such that Giri decided to return the material in pursuit of a draw. He was a bit careless about the way he did this, however, and then Anand had some winning chances in a rook ending. Maybe he never had a win, but Anand himself opined that he could at least have posed Giri more serious problems than he did.

    Continuing the theme, Veselin Topalov had a significant (but not decisive) advantage against Hikaru Nakamura for a long time, and the commentators though that his winning chances were better than his opponent's drawing chances. Nakamura is nothing if not resilient, however, and Topalov wasn't even able to come close to a win.

    Finally, Jon Ludwig Hammer had a very big advantage against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and looked sure to convert. This was the one game (aside from Caruana-Carlsen, of course) where someone really did have a decisive advantage, but once again the defense held. Vachier-Lagrave held by "a millimeter...by a miracle", as Vladimir Kramnik would say, but even so Hammer is the leading Norwegian scorer in the tournament so far with half a point to his name. (I wouldn't bet a single penny that this will remain the case.)

    The games are here, the tournament site is here, and the round 3 pairings are as follows:

    • Nakamura (1.5) - Caruana (1.5)
    • Vachier-Lagrave (1.5) - Topalov (1.5)
    • Carlsen (0) - Giri (1.5)
    • Aronian (.5) - Hammer (.5)
    • Anand (1) - Grischuk (.5)

    Tuesday
    Jun162015

    Norway Chess, Round 1: Ladies & Gentleman, Boys & Girls: Show Up On Time and Know the Rules

    Once upon a time things were very simple if you played in a grandmaster tournament. The first time control was 40 moves in two and a half hours, and from then on it was always 16 moves per hour, repeating. There were no increments and there was no time delay, and the game would be adjourned after five hours of play. Simple. Nowadays, who knows?

    Apparently not Magnus Carlsen.

    There was an announcement before the start of the game that the time control was 40 moves in two hours, without increment, then one additional hour for the rest of the game with 30 seconds increment per move. Unfortunately for Carlsen, he didn't show up for the announcement and apparently didn't read the rules anywhere else, either, and he apparently assumed that the common but not universal practice of a 15-minute time bonus after move 60 would be in effect. It wasn't, so although he had played a good game and was on the verge of winning against Veselin Topalov, he lost on time while thinking about his 61st move. It was a horrible way to lose, slightly reminiscent of Hikaru Nakamura's "orange juice game" several years ago. Errare humanum est strikes again!

    That marred an otherwise very exciting first round of the Norway Chess supertournament, especially for the home fans. Overall, four of the five games were decisive, and the other three wins were all by White. (As should have been the case in Carlsen-Topalov as well.) Even the one draw was theoretically significant and had some interesting lines behind the scenes, so the spectators were well-rewarded with their time.

    Anish Giri squished Alexander Grischuk in a Rossolimo, though he unnecessarily gave Grischuk one chance to survive. Fortunately for Giri, his opponent was in his usual extreme time trouble and immediately replied with a virtual blunder, after which the win was a matter of course.

    Nakamura defeated Jon Ludwig Hammer on the white side of an English, creating a strategically complicated game that Hammer couldn't navigate as well as his opponent. The home team thus got off to an 0-2 start.

    Maxime Vachier-Lagrave built on yesterday's success in the blitz with a win over Levon Aronian, whose struggles the past couple of years don't seem to be ending. Aronian forgot his preparation in a sharp line of the Ragozin, and the best he could do after the opening was to transition into a queen and rook ending two pawns down. Aronian resisted well, but MVL's technique was up to the job.

    Finally, the one draw was a 4.d3 Berlin between Viswanathan Anand and Fabiano Caruana. Caruana introduced something new with 6...bxc6, offering a pawn for very concrete counterplay. Anand responded in a practical way, returning the pawn in exchange for safety and a better structure, but Caruana's activity and ultimately the opposite-colored bishops let the American hold the draw without too much trouble. (The games are here, with my brief notes.)

    So there was lots of excitement, and there is also some excitement on the rating list. Nakamura is now #2 in the world, Caruana is #3 and Topalov snuck ahead of Anand at #4. The top five are all over 2800, which is, I think, an all-time first. Will it continue? We'll see, starting with the round 2 pairings:

    • Grischuk - Aronian
    • Giri - Anand
    • Topalov - Nakamura
    • Caruana - Carlsen
    • Hammer - Vachier-Lagrave

    Monday
    Jun152015

    Norway Chess: Blitz Roundup and First Round Pairings

    Today's blitz tournament determined the pairing numbers, or rather, gave players the right to determine their pairing numbers for the Norway Chess main event, which starts tomorrow. The blitz tournament saw a huge number of blunders, so rather than summarize the action I'll stick to the results:

    • 1. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (!!) 6.5
    • 2. Hikaru Nakamura 6
    • 3-5. Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Viswanathan Anand (in that tiebreak order. The top five all guaranteed themselves an extra game with the white pieces.) 5.5
    • 6. Levon Aronian 5
    • 7. Alexander Grischuk 4
    • 8. Veselin Topalov 3
    • 9. Fabiano Caruana 2.5
    • 10. Jon Ludwig Hammer 1.5

    And now, the pairings for round 1, which start at 4 p.m. local time = 10 a.m. ET:

    • Giri - Grischuk
    • Anand - Caruana
    • Carlsen - Topalov
    • Nakamura - Hammer
    • Vachier-Lagrave - Aronian

    Predictions? I'll say Carlsen for the win, Anand to place and Nakamura to show.