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Norway Chess R7: Anand joins the leaders beating MVL!

by Aditya Pai - 06/06/2018

After six straight draws, the Tiger from Madras, Vishy Anand has finally scored his first win of the tournament, and that too with the black pieces! Against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Vishy gave a hint of his vintage style essaying the Open variation of the Ruy Lopez. Another quick sparkle was seen in Caruana's game against Nakamura where the former sacrificed a rook on his 20th turn but this soon fizzled out into a draw. The other two games of the day were short draws. With Carlsen having a rest day in round 7 and So drawing Mamedyarov, Anand has joined stepped up to the joint first place in the tournament with this victory! 

Anand's scores his first win in Norway Chess 2018

At the conclusion of the seventh round of the seventh round of the Altibox Norway Chess, two more leaders were added to the tournament. After Wesley So, it was Indian chess legend, Viswanathan Anand and the Armenian number one, Levon Aronian, who joined shared first place with Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen had a rest day today due to Ding Liren’s withdrawal from the tournament. As for Levon Aronian, he has played a game more than the rest of the leaders, so he will be at a disadvantage. That’s not, however, the case with Anand. With six draws and a win, he is on equal footing with Carlsen and So. In round seven, he scored an emphatic win over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to step up the leaderboard.


In the game, Anand brought back some memories of the past by going for the Open variation of the Ruy Lopez. Vachier Lagrave responded well in the opening.  Preceding thematic play on the kingside with rook manoeuvres on his 14th and the 16th move was quite an interesting idea by the Frenchman. But Anand has known these positions since before Vachier-Lagrave was born. Anand, too, came up with a very innovative exchange sacrifice that gave him a pleasant edge in the position.

Anand scored his first win against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Anand said after the game that he felt the position changed quite suddenly.” At the board, this sensation of the position taking a violent turn is what I remember,” Anand said explaining how he felt his position suddenly changed from being almost equal to fighting for an advantage in a span of merely four moves.

Further, to keep the pressure on the position Anand came up with a very nice exchange sacrifice that liquidated the position into a won endgame for the Indian ace.

All other games of the round were drawn. The first one to finish was Sergey Karjakin’s game against Levon Aronian. The game did last 39 moves but nothing much happened in the game for quite a while. Queens were traded quite early in the game – on move 14 to be exact – and this was followed by a sequence of a few more exchanges.

Karjakin's game against Aronian was the first one to finish in round 7 | Photo: Lennart Ootes

By the 32nd move, an endgame with black having a bishop against the white knight arose. But with three pawns each on the same side of the board, there was hardly anything to play for. About seven moves later, Aronian gave up his bishop for White's last remaining pawn to force a draw.

After the game, Aronian said that he knew the line well. I was familiar with this line. After all, I was the first player to play it,” he said.

Mamedyarov continued his streak of quick draws. In round 7, he drew against Wesley So in just 26 moves | Photo: Lennart Ootes 

The game between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Wesley So was much shorter in terms of the number of moves played but lasted only a few minutes longer than the game between Karjakin and Aronian. In a closed Catalan, the game followed the footsteps of the game between Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Anish Giri from the Shamkir chess tournament held earlier this year in April. Mamedyarov deviated from the abovementioned game on his 13th turn but, a couple of moves later exchanged rooks and decided to accept a draw by repetition by the 26th move.

“I had no ideas. Sometimes when you plan a bad tournament you just want to play fast and attack. It’s the only chance,” Mamedyarov said after the game, explaining his short draw.

The all-American clash between Caruana and Nakamura finished in a draw after a glimmer of a tactical shot by Caruana | Photo: Lennart Ootes 

Fabiano Caruana’s game against Hikaru Nakamura lasted about fifty minutes longer than the two quick draws of the round. But the result in this game wasn’t different than the other two. In the Mikenas variation of the English Opening, the players had swapped queens already by the 10th move. What transpired was an endgame with Caruana having a bishop pair as compensation for the weaknesses in his pawn structure.


An interesting moment sparked on the 20th move in what looked like a barren position when Caruana sacrificed a rook. But this was a mere mirage as all it led to was more exchanges. Returning his extra material, Nakamura entered an endgame where white had an extra pawn which wasn’t going to last on the board for too long. After it was hacked off the position was repeated thrice to sign peace.

Seven rounds into the tournament, Anand has managed to make it to the top of the leaderboard. With just two more rounds to go this is quite a welcome development. What remains to be seen is if he will be able to keep up this fantastic run and win the event after all.


About the Author

Aditya Pai is an ardent chess fan, avid reader, and a film lover. He holds a Master's in English Literature and used to work as an advertising copywriter before joining the ChessBase India team.

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