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Norway 2019 Round 4: The Tiger Roars, while the Mozart of Chess eases through!

by Tanmay Srinath - 09/06/2019

Vishy Anand gave the Indian contingent much to cheer for, with a wonderful attacking display against Ding Liren in the Armageddon after a topsy turvy first game. Magnus Carlsen won in another Grunfeld game as White in the tiebreakers after Shak equalised easily in their classical encounter. Caruana played superbly, but missed a chance to make possibly the 'Move of the Year'(!!) against So. Aronian played like Bent Larsen, but couldn't win like the great Dane against MVL. Yu Yangyi regained ground with a thumping win as Black against the tired Grischuk in their classical game. An in-depth report from Norway Chess by Tanmay Srinath

The 4th Round of Norway Chess produced thrilling battles on all 5 boards, but only one game was decided classically-Yu Yangyi's energetic endgame play thwarted Alexander Grischuk's efforts to hold the game. Magnus Carlsen played 1.d4 for the second successive day, but this time his opponent Mamedyarov was better prepared in the Grunfeld, and neutralised the World Champion's enterprising pawn sacrifice. Viswanathan Anand survived a 107 move torture session at the hands of Ding Liren in a crazy game that was swaying from one end to another, while Wesley So's extra exchange couldn't be put to use against Caruana. Levon Aronian's creative opening play was only enough for a draw against MVL. In the Armageddons, Carlsen pulled a rabbit out of his hat, Anand capitalised on poor defending to win a fine attacking game, while So and MVL held on to draw against Caruana and Aronian, with the former missing what might have turned out to be the move of the tournament. Let's now get the finer details straight.":


Classical Games: Yu's Petroff proves to be a good pressure reflector

The most impressive effort of the round was definitely Grischuk-Yu Yangyi. Sasha eschewed the traditional 5.Nc3 Petroff and played a rare sideline in the previously popular 5.d4 variation. He didn't get much out of the opening, but the game was inherently balanced till Grischuk missed the most clinical way to make the draw. What then followed was a lesson in endgame technique. Let us now look at some of the most critical moments of the game:

After a spectacular Grand Prix Tournament in Moscow, things have not gone well for Sasha, as he has already lost 10 rating points. Tiredness? | Photo:Norway Chess

Grischuk-Yu Yangyi

The players enter the 6.Bd3 Petroff, the go to weapon of Grandmasters for a long time till recently.

Sasha goes for a rare plan not involving c4.

Grischuk has gotten what he wants out of the opening- a position where White has only a small advantage, but a long lasting one. Yu's defensive idea though was not to be underestimated.

Grischuk went for central action with Rfd1 and Rac1. Instead, the precise Rfb1! secures White great prospects, as a5 is now hard to stop and if it arrives, Black will never be able to break with c5.

The problem with choosing a slightly inaccurate plan is that the ensuing moves are inaccurate and if the player is White, whatever advantage that he is lucky enough to get might evaporate. In this position, the best way to retain slightly better chances was the paradoxical Rdc1!, intending to push a5 and c5 after preparation. See the annotations for explanations.

It is exactily these positions that White has to watch out for in such openings. When you play e5 and f4, chances are that a rook landing on e4 will really hurt your position. Here, it is no different. Though the computers claim that the position is equal, the flow is already on Black's side. Here Grischuk should have continued axb6! and a draw is the most probable. Instead, Rb1?! gave Black unnecessary chances.

Sasha's innacurate play in the endgame means he is worse, but material is equal and thus the game is far from over. However, White needs to be accurate here. Kf2! was the best move at his disposal, evacuating his king from the back rank. Instead, c5? tossed Grischuk from the frying pan into the fire. White soon succumbed to mating threats on the back rank and queening ideas.

The final position is the perfect illustration of the principle of two weaknesses-White's king and the monsterous a-pawn. Yu forced resignation with mate in 7 on the board and won a great game.

Yu Yangyi has proved that he has the goods to play consistent chess at the highest echelon of chess. The only thing left now is to get his rating back into the top 10. | Photo:Norway Chess

Anand-Ding Liren was a marathon of 107 moves, with fluctuating evaluations. Before going into the full game, here are a few critical points:

Ding Liren has always had a restricted but deep opening repertoire, | Photo:Norway Chess.

Anand-Ding Liren

The players enter the main lines of the quiet Italian. Anand played Bb5 here, keeping the bishops on and thus retaining chances of claiming an advantage.

Who has said that 1.e4 e5 games are not tactical. With exd4 on the previous move, Ding Liren sacrificed a piece after Bxc6(Diagram) dxc3! Anand found the only way to maintain the balance with Ba4! and soon the players reached one of the turning points of the game.

Vishy took on f2, seemingly feeling that his position was radically worse. Re2! is instead best, and forces Black to play accurately to prove compensation for the piece.

With Anand's innacurate play, Ding has gotten a better position, with three pawns and a rook for two pieces. So, Rfb8! makes more sense than the game move Bf5?! , forcing Qe3 Qxe3 Nxe3 b5! , with a small advantage.

Ding probably thought he was still better, otherwise he would have considered liquidating into a roughly equal endgame after d4! Qxd4 Bc6 Ndxc4 Bxb5 Bxb5 (see next diagram).

I personally feel that White should have something here, but with 4 pawns and a weakness on e5 it is hard to make progress.

Vishy was quick to pounce on the mistake, and the players reached this ending, which clearly better for White as both the queenside and the e4 pawns are potential weaknesses.

I wonder why Anand didn't go pawn grabbing here with Nxh6! ,securing him a large advantage as g6 will soon fall and the queenside pawns can be stopped rather easily. This was the first of a few opportunities Vishy didn't take that would have increased his advantage.

Anand has played well after the half chance. With h4! he could have consolidated his position on the kingside fully, and then gone after the g6 and a5 pawns. Instead, Bd5+?! eventually allowed Ding to dangerously push his a-pawn forward. 

Ding Liren finally killed off the game with Rxc3! forcing a drawn B vs R endgame after Rxc3 a2. He then tried testing Anand's defensive skill, but the Madras Tiger stayed strong.

The remaining games contained a few intriguing moments, but nothing dramatic happened:



Carlsen's innovative handling of the White pieces has put Shak under enormous pressure. It was time to invade with Rb7! Instead, Ne4?! allowed Black to equalise with little effort.

Shak has managed to hold his own in classical chess. | Photo:Norway Chess

Fabiano Caruana was lucky to escape in his classical game against Wesley So:



With Rf5! So would have correctly started the conversion process. Instead, c5!? allowed White to equalise rather easily.

So would have been unhappy with his play after getting a better position. | Photo:Norway Chess

Levon Aronian played funky chess in an English opening, and had some chances for an opening advantage on move 14:



Aronian has played the double strike f4 and c4, so he had to castle long, and after 0-0-0 from Black Levon would have had easier play on the open kingside-h6 is very weak and shots like e5 and f5 will always be in the air.

With the classical games done, let's move on to the armageddons.

Armageddon: Anand's 'Terror Attack' and Carlsen's Squeeze

We will start with Vishy Anand's game against Ding Liren. The former World Champion isn't growing any younger at 49, but he bashed his younger compatriot (who is just about half Vishy's age!) in this game! One more thing-the engines assesment that Anand is losing at a certain point is useless in practical play-the Tiger's attack looks literally unstoppable.


Anand-Ding Liren

Vishy's Nf5!?! is a typical Tal like move, not giving a damn for Black's ideas and following up with scintillating attacking chess. The reason it doesn't deserve a double exclamation mark is because it objectively loses! After the precise Re2! Qxd3 Qa6! Ding could have completed a beautiful reversal! Instead the Chinese blundered with Be6??, losing prettily after Bxg7 Bxf5 Qh6! Re6 and now the finisher!


What a way to finish the game! There is no defense at all to eventual mate! The best Ding can do is play Bxd4 exd4 Qxd4 Rxd4 Nxh8, which is mate in two after Rd8+ Re8 Rxe8#. The Madras Tiger is back!!


Yes, is this the beginning of the end for Anand's opponents? | Photo: Chessbase India


IM Sagar Shah has extensively analysed the Armageddon Game Anand-Ding. Check it out here:

The other games contained some spectacular moments:



Shak had to play Rc1! retaining options of coming back with the rook while vacating room for the a-pawn to run. Instead, d3? loses surprisingly after g7!, though Magnus only won after subsequent mistakes.


Carlsen retains his lead over the rest of the field. | Photo:Norway Chess

Levon Aronian missed subtleties that would have put MVL's position under intense stress:


Here the most effective way of deploying White's troupes is Nf3! followed by Bf4, taking firm control of d6. Aronian failed to find this, and had to take a perpetual in a worse position, losing the match.


Fabiano Caruana headlines the missed opportunities list, not seeing what could have been the move of the year against Wesley So:



Had Fabiano noticed the mortal danger of the Black king and the need to clear the way for the c-pawn, then Qe5!!! would have been child's play for him. The point is that neither the rook nor the queen can take the Qe5, as c4+ is immediately decisive. What a miss!

Fabiano had an opportunity to turn on the afterburners | Photo:Norway Chess


Standings after Round 4

1M. Carlsen13030
2W. So13021
3Yu Yangyi121205
4Ding Liren13012
5L. Aronian13012
6S. Mamedyarov121114
7V. Anand03121
8F. Caruana121023
9M. Vachier-Lagrave03112
10A. Grischuk022021

Magnus Carlsen leads by a point, but with 5 rounds still to go even Grischuk has an outside chance! This is turning out to be quite the thriller.


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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