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Norway Chess 2019 Round 2: Caruana's Norwegian Immortal and Mamedyarov's Tai-Chi Reversal!

by Tanmay Srinath - 06/06/2019

'Fab' Caruana displayed fabulous chess to dismantle Maxime Vachier Lagrave's Najdorf with an energetic bishop sacrifice. Viswanathan Anand seemed to lose his concentration for two moves, which was enough for Shakriyar Mamedyarov to complete a memorable reversal after suffering in passivity. Levon Aronian's heartbreak against Magnus Carlsen graduated to another level after the former missed the chance of the round. Carlsen then managed to beat Aronian in the armageddon. Yu Yangyi continues his charmed life in top level chess by beating Ding Liren in the tiebreaker, while Grischuk's hasty draw offer in the classical game came back to bite him against So. A detailed round two report from Norway Chess 2019 by Tanmay Srinath.

The 2nd Round of the Altibox Norway Chess 2019 produced two decisive results - Caruana played a model game in the Open Sicilian to beat MVL, while Anand completely lost the thread of the game against Shakriyar Mamedyarov. Elsewhere, Aronian missed chance after chance against Carlsen, drew the Classical game, and unceremoniously lost the armageddon. Yu Yangyi sprung a surprise on his more esteemed countryman Ding Liren, by beating him in a wonderful opposite coloured bishop endgame in the tiebreaker. Grischuk drew rather controversially in both the classical and blitz portions, the former in a mere 16 moves as White against Wesley So and the latter in a completely lost position, thus giving up the tie to the American. Let's dig in:

Classical Section: 'Fab' Caruana, alert Mamedyarov

We'll start with what was possibly the game of the tournament (until now!) Caruana's Norwegian immortal will be remembered as one of the great Sicilian scalps, showing us why the open Sicilian is the most critical test of 1.e4 c5.

Didn't the dignitary know that 1.e4 c5! would be played?! | Photo:Norway Chess


Vachier-Lagrave goes for the Poisoned Pawn variation in the Najdorf Sicilian.

MVL erred here with 15...Nxe4?! Use this as a test for both colours! Suggest an improvement for Black that leads to balanced play, and find White's refutation of the game move!

Yes! White takes 16.Nxe4! Nxe4 and now the stunning 17.Bf7+!! puts Black under enormous pressure.

With his last move, Caruana threatens 22.Rxe7+! winning back the piece and collecting at least an extra pawn. The depth of White's sacrifice is fully revealed after this move!

As is customary of good opening and middlegame play, a pawn up endgame is reached. White is clearly better here, but as both players show in the game, it is not so easy to make progress. The next phase is not faultless, but it shows off the difference between humans and engines in the choices each side makes.

Caruana's choice in the game, 28.c3!? is interesting at best. Instead, 28.g3! consolidates the pawn after 28...Qa1+ 29Kd2 Qe5! 30.c3!

After mutual mistakes, the above rook ending was reached. Here MVL failed to find the most accurate defense for Black, played 41...Re6? and eventually lost the game. Can you do better than him? Black to play and draw comfortably!

45.Ra2! seals the game in White's favour, as the a-pawn is too strong, and the soon to be passed c-pawn can't be effectively stopped by Black's forces. A terrific game by the fabulous Fabiano!

It wasn't a good day for MVL's pet Najdorf. | Photo:Norway Chess

Viswanathan Anand has had a terrible start to his Norweigan sojourn. After being blown over by Carlsen in the Armageddon yesterday, the Indian superstar threw away the game in literally one move today:

A bemused Vishy probably wondering why everyone is playing 1.c4 today! | Photo:Norway Chess


Flank pawns are worth less compared to central ones. Vishy had to go Ra3! leaving b4 en prise but getting the e5 pawn and maintaining the bind on Black's rook and bishop. Instead, a3!? allowed Mamedyarov to fish for counterplay with g4!

In Shamkir, Carlsen mentioned that while Anand is still very strong, he tends to suddenly lose his concentration. Unfortunately for Anand fans, it happened in this position, with Nf7?. After e4! black is better, but another absymal move fxg4? forces White to resign after Bc8! as he loses a piece.

And that's how Vishy lost the game

Vishy is far from finished , but these lapses are becoming more and more common. How long can he keep the Indian flag flying at the very top? | Photo:Norway Chess

The enormous respect Shak has for Anand is clearly seen here. | Photo:Norway Chess

After a good result in Round 1, Aronian blew a chance to beat the World Champion in what turned out to be a costly mistake:

Levon in good spirits, as usual as FIDE President Arkadij Dvorkovich makes the first move! | Photo:Norway Chess


Levon played the natural looking h5?, losing much of his winning advantage. Although the position remained better for White, Magnus was out of the woods. Instead, g5! kills off any further resistance. If Carlsen played the relatively better fxg5 hxg5 b4, then White still has Rf4! Rxc3+ Kd2 Ke5 Rf1! winning the game rather easily. A huge chance for Levon.. that he regrettably couldn't capitalise on. I guess Aronian missed the fact that after b4 he has Rg4!, which wins after Rxc3+ Kd2!

White is completely winning

Levon's A-game deserted him at the wrong time. | Photo:Norway Chess.

The other two games were relative no shows, with Grischuk's game the most surprising. It seemed as if the Russian GM was wanting an armageddon game to decide things! Sasha's love for speed chess is well documented, but has he uncovered a potential flaw in this format? Perhaps the Sofia rules can be imposed here as well.

Armageddon: Yu and Carlsen win easily, but Grischuk's gamble doesn't pay off

It was a second straight win in the Armageddon for both Yu Yangyi and Magnus Carlsen, who beat two solid GMs Ding Liren and Levon Aronian respectively. Let us first look at Carlsen's game. The players repeated the Rossolimo from the classical game, but Carlsen deviated early, and forced Levon to think for himself in an unfamiliar position. The Norweigian finally turned the game on its head after Aronian underestimated a powerful exchange sacrifice:



The position seemed okay for White until Carlsen uncorked the superb Rxf5! which forces a transpositon into a R+N vs R+B ending with the outside passer for Black. Levon still had a defensible position, but the strain of having to defend took its toll, and he ended up losing.

Levon's jinx against Carlsen continues. | Photo:Norway Chess

The World Champion has started with 3.0/4. | Photo: Norway Chess.

Yu Yangyi has impressed one and all with his enterprising chess in this tournament, clearly feeling at home in pressure cooker situations. His speed chess acumen was useful in trouncing the once unbeatable Ding Liren:

Yu Yangyi won the battle of the Chinese super GMs. | Photo:Norway Chess

Yu Yangyi-Ding Liren

Ding Liren mistakenly went for the opposite coloured bishop endgame with Bc4?, and ended up in a lost position after Rxc3 Bxe6 Rxc8+ Bxc8. Why is this positon assessed so, despite containing opposite coloured bishops? The answer lies in White's healthy pawn formation and Black's poor queenside pawn structure, that is susceptible to attacks by the dark squared bishop.

Yu's understanding of endgame subtlety proved useful today. | Photo:Norway Chess

Alexander Grischuk is a two-time World Blitz Champion, and it is those skills that surprisingly let him down in the crucial stages against Wesley So:

Alexander's Armageddon game didn't go as planned. | Photo: Norway Chess


Having chosen the King's Indian Attack, Alexander had to go for an attack here with Nf2! followed by g4. Experience shows that White has the better chances due to his attack being more valuable. Sasha instead played on the queenside with b3? and later had to accept a draw in a completely lost position.

After two rounds, we have a clear leader in Shakriyar Mamedyarov with 3.5/4. Carlsen and Yu Yangyi trail by a half point with 3.0/4, with Fabi a further half point behind.

Standings after round 2

1S. Mamedyarovx      2 
2Yu Yangyi x      3
3M. Carlsen  x     3
4F. Caruana½  x     2
5L. Aronian  ½ x    2
6Ding Liren ½   x   2
7W. So     ½x  2
8A. Grischuk    ½ ½x  1
9V. Anand0 ½     x ½
10M. Vachier-Lagrave ½ 0     x½

Today's Results:

About the Author:

Tanmay Srinath is an 18-year-old chess player from Bangalore, Karnataka, currently pursuing both chess and engineering at BMSCE Bangalore. Tanmay is also a Taekwondo Black Belt, who has represented the country in an International Tournament in Thailand. He is a big fan of Mikhail Tal and Vishy Anand, and sincerely believes in doing his bit to Power Chess in India.

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