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