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Magnus Carlsen wins Norway Chess 2019 with one round to spare!

by Tanmay Srinath - 14/06/2019

What a player! What a record! Magnus Carlsen vanquished Yu Yangyi in an artful endgame to take sole 1st in Norway Chess for the 2nd time! That too with a round to spare! His 7th tournament win in a row is testament to his efforts and verve, as he successfully puts behind him a pale patch of performances at the Norway Chess. Fabiano Caruana played a magnificent game as black in the Reversed Rossolimo to defeat Levon Aronian and retain chances of sole second. MVL, Anand and So took their time in the Armageddons to vanquish their rivals, and cling on to chances of being the best of the rest. An all-inclusive report from Norway Chess by Tanmay Srinath.

The Magnus tempest trounces Norway!

There aren't enough superlatives to explain what Magnus Carlsen has just achieved. By outplaying Yu Yangyi with White, he won his 6th tournament in 6 appearances this year. This is slowly building up into one of the most dominant streaks in chess. That Magnus is unbeaten in 67(!) games is an indication of the kind of the kind of chess the World Champion is currently playing-dynamic, rich yet solid. The fact that he is still losing rating(!) shows how well he has played in the previous events. One hopes that this streak continues for as long as possible! In other games, Caruana showed why he is the World No.2 in classical chess with a clinical display against Levon Aronian, while the others decided to take it to the armageddons. Vishy Anand and MVL won outright as Black and White against Grischuk and Ding Liren, while So forced a draw in a winning position to seal the tie in his favour. A comprehensive look at the games now follows:

Classical: Carlsen's Endgame Grind and Caruana's Sudden Attack!

There aren't many players in the history of the game that play the endgame as well as Magnus Carlsen, and maybe none better than peak Carlsen. Today the World Champion took on a hanging pawns structure against the debutant Yu Yangyi, and showed subtle understanding of nuances to take home the full point:

Perhaps the reason for Magnus' successes is his nonchalance towards it. | Photo: Norway Chess

Yu has played a tournament he can be really proud of. | Photo: Norway Chess

Carlsen-Yu Yangyi

Magnus goes for the rare Geller Gambit, an exotic choice at the top level these days. Alpha Zero's blessings maybe?

Find the optimal setup for Black. Mind you, Yu played 9...Bd6 and had to suffer a lot!

This is the sort of position that one with a clean positional style should aim for. Carlsen's strengths are well known, and here the positions plays to his game style - White is a touch better, with clear scope of improving his pieces, with Rb1 and Ba3. Black has a static weakness on c6 and less space. Most importantly, the hanging pawns are a source of strength, and prevent Black from getting enough counterplay.

Magnus played Qd3?!, took the game into a better ending and won. Instead the obvious Bxc6! promises him a winning advantage. The variations are given in the annotations below.

Yu played Nxe3?! giving White an unopposed monster on f3 after Qxa6!. Instead, find a way for Black to minimise his losses and get a worse but playable ending.

Carlsen managed to liquidate into this endgame, which is clearly superior for White because of his better bishop and Black's useless majority. Magnus now puts up a clinic in endgame play. He gets a winning position in just 4 steps!

Step 1: He fixes the weakness on c6 and restricts the dark square bishop at the same time.

Step 2: His improves his king and prevents Black's counterplay on the kingside and the center.

Step 3: He improves his rook, all the while keeping control of Black's potential activity.

Step 4: The most important one! Prevention of counterplay is what the great champions excel at and Magnus is no exception. Here he prevents the Black kingside from becoming a source of irritation for him, by physically blocking the pawns from advancing.

Magnus wins the c6 pawn by force and now it is all over. Black resigned on move 44. A superb display of technique by one of the greatest players of all time!

 

 

The true Champion! Magnus Carlsen played scintillating chess, and not once was he put under serious pressure. The best of the best! | Photo:Norway Chess

Fabiano Caruana is perhaps the favourite to win a rematch against Carlsen in 2020. The World No.2 is so far unchallenged for the title of best of the rest, and he continues to remain virtually unbeatable in classical chess. Today he dismissed Levon Aronian, one the most promising Candidates, in a mere 41 moves:

Levon remains in sole second, but he has a lot to do tomorrow if he has to retain that position. | Photo: Norway Chess

Aronian-Caruana

Aronian seeks to repeat the line that started the trauma for Caruana in London last year, but the World No.2 improved his play with Bxc3! 

Fabi played the mysterious Na5!? provoking White to advance on the queenside with b4!. Instead, h6! looks better, preparing to reposition the bishop on e6 and then play Na5.

Rb1!? was perhaps too ambitious from Levon. Instead, Rxa8! seeks to trade off Black's best piece and prepares to expand on the kingside after 0-0.

Caruana has played logical chess and fully equalised. It is White who has to be careful now.

Levon started faltering around here. Bd3?! does nothing to stop f5! and Black suddenly takes over the initiative. Instead, Ra7! aims to put out fire with fire. 

Ng4! was the only move to maintain the balance. Instead, Be2?? loses to Nf3!, which happened in the game. The final position is very pretty!

White has no way to prevent mate in 6.

Caruana has revived his fortunes in this tournament. | Photo: Norway Chess

MVL-Ding Liren was a 20 move draw in the Quiet Italian. Grischuk-Anand was an Open Ruy Lopez which was decided by Anand's opening preparation:

 

Grischuk-Anand

Sasha tried to stir things up with e6, but Vishy accurately grabbed the pawn after fxe6! Qh5+ Kf8! and soon forced an Armageddon tiebreaker.

It is clear to all that Grischuk needs to recharge his batteries. | Photo: Norway Chess

Mamedyarov missed a great chance to put extra pressure on Wesley So:

 

Mamedyarov-So

Rd7! should have been preferred to the game move Kf1, after which Black has no clear way to equalise the game.

Shak probably wondering how he could have put some more pressure Wesley. | Photo: Norway Chess

Armageddon: Anand's skill and MVL's will!

Vishy Anand was known as the lightning kid, because he could (and still can!) combine speed and accuracy to an unprecedented level. Today he showed glimpses of his former self by beating Grischuk as Black in the Armageddon, after being worse initially:

 

Grischuk-Anand

Anand understood that the rook is more valuable in these situations and played Bxd3! winning rook and two pawns for 2 pieces. He soon won after Grischuk flagged in a hopleless position.

Anand - evergreen! | Photo: Norway Chess

MVL completed an amazing turnaround against Ding Liren after the latter missed a chance to increase his advantage:

 

MVL-Ding Liren

Ra2! tries to advance the a-pawn with speed, and should win a piece. Instead, Rc2?! allowed Maxime to consolidate and later capitalise on further mistakes to complete a fine reversal.

MVL continues his streak in the Armageddons. | Photo: Norway Chess

Wesley So outplayed Shakriyar Mamedyarov and soon got a winning attack:

Mamedyarov-So

Black needed only a draw to win the tie, so d4! was the perfect move to do it. He not only gets a winning advantage, but a chance to eventually simplify into a better ending.

So has played solid chess throughout the tournament. | Photo: Norway Chess
Standings after Round 8
#NameCountryRatingPoints
1Magnus CarlsenNorway287513
2Levon AronianArmenia27529
3Yu YangyiChina2738
4Wesley SoUSA2754
5Fabiano CaruanaUSA2819
6Ding LirenChina27548
7Maxime Vachier-LagraveFrance2779
8Viswanathan AnandIndia2767
9Shakhriyar MamedyarovAzerbaijan2774
10Alexander GrischukRussia27754

Magnus Carlsen has already won the tournament, so the main battle will be for 2nd place. Everyone from 2 to 8 have a chance to finish as the runner up, so the final round will definitely witness intense clashes.

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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