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Norway R08: Vishy holds Aronian; Magnus retains World number one

by Aditya Pai - 16/06/2017

The penultimate round of the Altibox Norway saw some exciting action. Vishy Anand managed to hold the leader Levon Aronian to a draw. It was a very interesting three fold repetition. Carlsen got the better of Sergey Karjakin and cemented his World number one spot. Kramnik lost his game to Maxime Vachier Lagrave. We have detailed summaries of each game as well as world class analysis by Alexander Yermolinsky. And don't forget to watch the last round! It's Anand vs Carlsen!

Photos by Lennart Ootes

Another eventful round concluded in Stavanger yesterday evening. Going into the ante-penultimate round, the players at the Altibox Norway Chess were hungry for victories. Not only were the tournament leaders trying to get home a win and improve their winning chances at the event, even the bottom-most players struggled hard to improve their tournament standing. Had he won yesterday, Levon Aronian would have needed only a draw with the black pieces tonight. For Nakamura, a win would have brought him back into the lead with Aronian. Even Giri needed to win desperately in order to stay in contention for the title prize of the event. The same was the case with Vladimir Kramnik, but an added incentive for him was the rating gain he could make by winning. Kramnik has played consistently so far and if he manages to maintain his world number two spot, he would get a direct ticket into the Candidates tournament, which determines the challenger to the World Champion.


Among the tail-enders, Magnus Carlsen was probably the most desperate for a win. After his loss against Vladimir Kramnik yesterday, he was very close to losing his world number one spot. Fireworks were expected and the round delivered to these expectations.

Round 8: June 15, 2017 in Stavanger Concert Hall
Hikaru Nakamura
Wesley So
Anish Giri
Fabiano Caruana
Levon Aronian
Vishy Anand
Magnus Carlsen
Sergey Karjakin
M. Vachier-Lagrave
Vladimir Kramnik

Although, three out of the five games were drawn, the players fought to the last breath to scrape out wins. Both games that ended decisively seemed to have helped the current World Champion, Magnus Carlsen, in one way or another. Firstly, he was one of the victors of the round. With his win against his former World Championship challenger, Sergey Karjakin, he was able to gather a few rating points to widen the rating gap between himself and Kramnik. More importantly, Kramnik too lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and lost rating points. What’s even more unfortunate for the Russian veteran is that he has slipped down to the fourth spot in live ratings after this round.

Aronian gets some hearty wishes from a fan before the game. (Source: official website)

One of the most important games of the round was between Levon Aronian and Viswanathan Anand.  A win would catapult the Armenian star a clear point ahead of the rest of the field; and with just one round to go, any result other than a loss in the next round would have made him the title winner. Moreover, he had the white pieces. And given that Anand has been struggling in the tournament, there was no doubt that the Armenian would give it his all in this game. But despite what his tournament situation might be, Anand is not an easy nut to crack and Aronian seemed to appreciate this.


In a middle-game that arose out of a Queen’s Pawn game, Aronian felt that he had an edge over the Indian and decided to push by deploying a slightly slow plan. Nevertheless, he was able to gain control of the queen-bishop file with his rook and had even planted it deep in into black’s position on c6. He said after the game that he was looking for ways to break through on black’s queenside but wasn’t able to make it work somehow. Anand also played some really cunning moves in the game.


On move 29, by bringing his king back to g8, the five-time World Champion was inviting Aronian to penetrate into his position with his queen. Had Aronian gone for it, he would have ended up with his queen trapped in a corner of the board. Aronian said after the game that he thought that although it seemed his plan was slow, it looked promising to him. It was unfortunate that it didn’t lead anywhere. He also said that the position was such that he could easily have been in trouble if he hadn’t been accurate. After their game, Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura also tried their hand at Anand’s position and both concluded that it was difficult for Aronian to break through. And if he pushed too hard, he might end up in a slightly worse position. Reluctant to risk too much, Aronian chose to repeat the position and force a draw after 32 moves.

[Event "5th Norway Chess 2017"]
[Site "Stavanger NOR"]
[Date "2017.06.15"]
[Round "8.4"]
[White "Aronian, Levon"]
[Black "Anand, Viswanathan"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E10"]
[WhiteElo "2793"]
[BlackElo "2786"]
[PlyCount "63"]
[EventDate "2017.06.06"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. g3 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 Be7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O Nbd7 8. a4
a5 9. Qc2 c6 10. Rc1 Ne4 11. Ne1 Nd6 12. Na3 b6 13. cxd5 cxd5 14. Qb3 Ba6 15.
Nb5 Rc8 16. Bf4 Bxb5 17. axb5 Nf5 18. Nf3 Bd6 19. Bxd6 Nxd6 20. e3 Rc7 21. Bf1
Qc8 22. Qd1 Rd8 23. Bd3 h6 24. Rxc7 Qxc7 25. Rc1 Qb7 26. Qa4 Rc8 27. Rc6 Ne8
28. Bh7+ Kh8 29. Bb1 Kg8 30. Bh7+ Kh8 31. Bb1 Kg8 32. Bh7+ 1/2-1/2


Always a hard nut to crack is the five-time World Champion- Vishy Anand

Nakamura looks at the big screen to check what the others are up to

The game between Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So ended in a draw. This was also one of the more important games of the round because Nakamura had the chance to tie for first if he had won. The game began as a Queen’s Gambit Declined in which Wesley showed after the game that he had some sneaky traps up his sleeve had his countryman slipped. Although that did not happen, Wesley was able to equalize the game pretty easily. In the endgame, Wesley’s rook position was slightly passive. But Nakamura had a weak back rank which compensated for the rook’s passivity. And when Naka tried to solve his back rank problem, Wesley was able to deliver perpetual checks and draw the game.

When you’re among the world’s top 10, you don’t need the board to calculate moves!

Another interesting draw was in the game between Anish Giri and Fabiano Caruana. Kicking off with a Queen’s Gambit Accepted, Giri was able to drift the game into an endgame wherein he had a bishop against Caruana’s knight and an extra pawn to the good. As the game progressed, Giri was able to win yet another pawn. But this gave his American opponent the opportunity to execute his plan and setup a firm blockade on the ‘g’ and the ‘h’ files with his king and knight. It didn’t take much time for the Dutchman to realize that it wasn’t possible to break through this fortress and the players agreed a draw after 67 moves.

The World Champion (left) against his most recent challenger ended in a victory for the World Champion!

Magnus Carlsen, as mentioned before, also won his game against Sergey Karjakin. This is his first win of the tournament and quite a welcome one since after this win he’s no longer the bottom-most scorer of the event. More importantly, has secured his world number one spot at least for the time being. In a game that began with the Nimzo-Indian defense, things started heating up when the World Champion sacrificed his c pawn to break through in the center.  Karjakin said after the game that he still thought he should have been a bit better, even after the sacrifice, had he defended his king-knight pawn. But in the heat of the moment, he captured Carlsen’s pawn on a2 which gave the World Champion some play against his king. The game was still equal in the opinion of the computers but Karjakin made a fatal error on his 41st move which allowed a tactic that instantly decided the game in Carlsen’s favour.

[Event "Altibox Norway Chess 2017"]
[Site "Stavanger"]
[Date "2017.06.15"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Black "Karjakin, Sergey"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "E48"]
[WhiteElo "2832"]
[BlackElo "2781"]
[Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"]
[PlyCount "87"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 O-O 5. Bd3 d5 6. cxd5 exd5 7. Nge2 {
A modest system, but not without venom. White plans a classic Botvinnik Pawn
Roller, made famous by his win over Capablanca, AVRO 1938.} Re8 8. Bd2 Bf8 {
The most solid choice.} ({Unlike in similar lines of the QGD, where the white
bishop goes to g5, here White's K-side seems a bit vulnerable, so} 8... Bd6 {
was tried on numerous occasions.} 9. O-O c6 10. Rc1 {[#] was seen In
Khismatullin-Anand, World Rapid 2015. Vishy chose} Ng4 $5 ({The tempting} 10...
Bxh2+ {doesn't quite work here:} 11. Kxh2 Ng4+ 12. Kg3 $1 Qd6+ 13. f4 ({
White can also contemplate} 13. Nf4 $5 g5 14. Rh1 f5 15. f3 $1 Nxe3 16. Bxe3
Rxe3 17. Ncxd5 $1 gxf4+ 18. Nxf4 {where he will soon get his turn to take
potshots at the enemy king.}) 13... Rxe3+ 14. Bxe3 Nxe3 15. Qd2 $18) 11. h3 $2
(11. g3 {is normal}) 11... Nh2 12. Re1 Nf3+ 13. gxf3 Qg5+ 14. Kh1 {and should
have won the game, but for some reason he rejected the obvious} Bxh3 ({The
game went} 14... Qh4 15. Nf4 Bxh3 16. Ng2 Qxf2 17. Bf1 Re6 18. e4 Qg3 $2 19. e5
Bxg2+ 20. Bxg2 Qh4+ 21. Kg1 Qxd4+ 22. Be3 {and White eventually won})) 9. O-O
b6 (9... c6 10. Rc1 a5 11. f3 b5 $5 12. Ng3 Ba6 13. Nce2 b4 14. Bxa6 Rxa6 {
was seen in Jobava-Mareco, World Rapid 2016. Two of my favorite players
slugging it out!}) 10. Rc1 c5 11. Nf4 Bb7 (11... Ba6 {appears a bit risky
because of the d5-pawn coming under assault after} 12. dxc5 Bxd3 13. Nxd3 bxc5
14. Na4 c4 15. Nf4 Nc6 16. Bc3 {but, perhaps, Black can just give it away:} d4
17. exd4 Rc8 18. d5 Nb4 $44) 12. Qf3 {[#]} Na6 {Dull, standard play.} ({
Ivan Saric tried to uphold Black's colors (Jolly Roger?) a couple of times.
One of his efforts saw} 12... Nc6 $5 13. Ncxd5 Nxd5 14. Nxd5 Ne5 15. dxe5 Qxd5
16. Qxd5 Bxd5 17. Bc3 Bxa2 {Black doesn't look to be worse at all.
Martinovic-Saric, 2017.}) ({I like} 12... Bc6 $5 {There's no white knight
anywhere near e5, and Black is planning to follow up c5-c4 with b6-b5!}) 13.
Rfd1 cxd4 {True to his newfound identity of "MInister of Defense" Sergey
dutifully accepts a slightly worse position.} ({Truth be told,} 13... Nc7 $6
14. dxc5 $1 bxc5 15. Na4 Ne4 16. Ba5 Qe7 17. b4 $1 {would have been a much
worse outcome.}) 14. exd4 Nc7 15. Bc2 Bd6 16. Be3 Ne4 $1 17. Ba4 Re7 18. Bb3
Qd7 19. h3 Nxc3 20. bxc3 $5 {Magnus is desperate to unbalance the position.
Actually, the resulting pawn structure is not that bad: with d4 defended White
can concentrate on the d5-pawn.} (20. Rxc3 Rae8 21. Rdc1 g6 {doesn't lead
White anywhere.}) 20... Bc6 21. Nh5 Re6 22. Bc2 $2 {Oh, Magnus....} ({First}
22. Re1 $1 {then Bc2 to keep that bishop alive!}) 22... Ba4 $1 {[#] Being
Magnus at this moment in time: no wins to his credit, no chance to contend for
first place, the media demanding explanations, the chess internet swirling
with rumors, the damned glasses make his head ache.... He just had to do
something about it.} 23. c4 $5 dxc4 24. d5 Rg6 $1 {So far Sergey is showing
himself up to the task.} 25. Bd4 (25. Bxg6 fxg6 26. Ng3 Bxd1 27. Rxd1 Qf7 $17)
({Objectively best was} 25. Bxa4 Qxa4 26. Nf4 Rf6 27. Qg4) 25... Bxc2 26. Rxc2
Qa4 27. Rcc1 {[#]} Qxa2 $2 {I love the concrete approach to positions, but
every once in a while we should think like Petrosian.} ({The natural defensive
move} 27... Ne8 $1 {would leave Carlsen staring at the dreadful possibility of
a third defeat in this tournament and the loss of the Number One position in
the Live Ratings list for the first time since 2011.}) 28. Nxg7 $1 Rxg7 29.
Bxg7 Kxg7 30. Qg4+ Kf8 31. Qh4 Qb2 32. Rxc4 $2 {In looming time trouble Magnus
lets the black king escape.} (32. Qh6+ Ke7 33. Rxc4 Qe5 34. Kf1 {White's
intiative should net him more pawns, such is the case in} Kd7 35. Qxh7 Re8 36.
Qxf7+ Kd8 37. Qf3 Qh2 38. g4 {although he's hardly better here.}) 32... Ne8 $2
({The position after the obvious} 32... Kg7 33. g3 Kh8 {favors Black}) 33. Re1
Qf6 34. Qxh7 Qg7 35. Qc2 Qf6 36. Rg4 Bc5 37. Re2 Qh6 38. g3 Nf6 39. Rh4 Qg7 40.
Kg2 Qg5 $6 ({If only Sergey had another minute to calculate} 40... Nxd5 {
as completely safe he would have never lost this game.} 41. Qf5 Rd8 42. Re6 a5
43. Reh6 Bd4 {etc.}) 41. Qc3 Bd6 $2 {This howler was a product of a 25 minute
think.} ({Still,} 41... Qg7 $11) 42. Rh8+ Ng8 43. Re4 Qg7 44. Rxg8+ $1 (44.
Rxg8+ Qxg8 45. Qf6 Bc5 46. Rg4 Qh7 47. d6 $18) 1-0


MVL scored his first win today

The other win of the round was scored by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, one of the lowest scorers in the tournament, against Vladimir Kramnik, who was tied for third before this round. Starting off with an anti-Berlin, the game, in the words of Nigel Short, “turned chaotic” pretty soon. Maxime, after the game, even stated that he had forgotten his preparation at one point and played a move that he didn’t intend to play. Nonetheless, he was able to keep things under control and had Kramnik wanted, he could have gone for a drawn rook endgame on move 26 by forcing a mass exchange of pieces. Kramnik, however, was playing for a win and did not go for the line. In the ensuing double rook endgame, the Russian’s queenside pawns began to fall. To worsen the situation, Maxime’s passers on the queen’s wing also began to roll down dangerously. In the end, the Frenchman cherried it up with a neat tactic to force resignation.

[Event "Altibox Norway Chess 2017"]
[Site "Stavanger"]
[Date "2017.06.15"]
[Round "8"]
[White "Vachier Lagrave, Maxime"]
[Black "Kramnik, Vladimir"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C65"]
[WhiteElo "2796"]
[BlackElo "2808"]
[Annotator "Alex Yermolinsky"]
[PlyCount "95"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 d5 $5 {An intriguing line.} 6.
exd5 (6. Nbd2 {is a practical choice, Vachier Lagrave-Hou Yifan, Grenke 2017})
6... Qxd5 7. Bc4 Qd6 8. b4 {Energetic.} (8. Qe2 O-O 9. Nbd2 a5 {
Topalov-Aronian, 2016}) 8... Bb6 9. a4 e4 (9... a6 10. Nbd2 O-O 11. O-O h6 12.
Ba3 $14) 10. dxe4 Qxd1+ 11. Kxd1 Nxe4 12. Kc2 {[#]} Bf5 {Novelty, and a good
one.} (12... Nd6 {was seen in Caruana-Xiong, US Ch 2017, where Fabiano at some
point had a sizeable advantage only to squander it away and fight for a draw
later on.}) 13. Nh4 Bd7 14. Re1 f5 15. Nxf5 (15. f3 Bf2 16. Re2 Bxh4 17. fxe4
fxe4 18. Rxe4+ Be7 {is equal, because White has to stop Bf5, and therefore has
no time to exploit the pin on the e-file.}) 15... Bxf5 16. f3 Ne5 17. fxe4 Bg4
{Black enjoys full compensation for a sacrificed pawn.} 18. h3 (18. Na3 Bf2 19.
Rf1 Rf8 20. Kb3 O-O-O {Same here.}) 18... Nxc4 19. hxg4 O-O 20. Re2 a5 21. Nd2
(21. Na3 Ne5 22. Bb2 Rf4 23. g5 c6 24. Rd1 Rg4 $11) 21... Ne3+ 22. Kb3 axb4 23.
cxb4 Rfd8 {[#]} 24. Bb2 {The ensuing complications kept the game roughly
balanced.} ({However, MVL had a much better move.} 24. Nf3 $1 Nxg4 (24... Nxg2
25. a5 Rd3+ 26. Kb2) 25. a5 Bf2 26. b5 $14 {Once Black's threats run out the
active king will help White on the Q-side, while his black counterpart is
miles away from the action.}) 24... Rd3+ 25. Bc3 Bd4 26. Rc1 Nd1 27. Nb1 Nxc3
28. Nxc3 Be5 29. a5 Rg3 30. Rf2 c6 31. Rf3 Rxg4 32. Na4 Rxg2 33. Nc5 Rb2+ 34.
Kc4 Bd6 $2 {I suspect Vladimir stole a look or two at the Carlsen-Karjakin
game, hoping his teammate could bring the Champ down. Grabbing that Number One
Position in the live rating list would be so sweet.} ({Normally this game
should have ended peacefully after something like this:} 34... Rb8 35. Rd1 h5
36. Rf5 Rc2+ 37. Kb3 Rc3+ 38. Ka2 (38. Ka4 $4 b5+ 39. axb6 Ra8+ 40. Na6 Rxa6#)
38... Bf6 39. Rxh5 Rc2+) 35. Rd1 Bxc5 36. Kxc5 {[#] Suddenly it's Black who's
in huge trouble. From the hunted, harried piece the chameleon King turns into
the fearsome hunter in the blink of an eye.} Re8 37. Rd7 Re5+ 38. Kc4 $1 h5 $2
({The salvation was there after a rook trade:} 38... Rxe4+ 39. Kc3 Rbe2 40.
Rxb7 R4e3+ 41. Rxe3 Rxe3+ 42. Kd4 Ra3 43. Kc5 g5 44. Kb6 g4 45. a6 g3 46. Re7
h5 47. Re5 h4 48. Ra5 Rxa5 {and both sides will get their new queens to arrive
in a drawn ending.}) 39. Rxb7 Rxe4+ 40. Kc5 {Not the same script with four
rooks present. Black will find it difficult to advance his pawns as his king
falls behind.} Rc2+ 41. Kd6 Rd4+ 42. Kc7 Ra2 43. Kxc6 h4 44. Rb6 Rg4 $2 (44...
Rc2+ 45. Kb7 Rd7+ 46. Ka6 Rd5 47. Rb8+ (47. b5 Rb2) 47... Kh7 48. Rff8 g5 49.
b5 {Still, a lot of work left for White.}) 45. a6 Kh7 46. Rf5 $1 {[#]} Ra4 (
46... g5 47. Re5 h3 48. Re7+ Kg6 49. Kd5+ Kf5 50. Rf7# {is a good visual on
why four rook endings are of a special kind.}) (46... Re4 47. Kd5 Rg4 48. Rh5+
Kg8 49. Kc6 g6 50. Ra5 $18) 47. Rh5+ Kg6 48. Rxh4 $1 {An elegant finish, and
MVL finally lights up the scoreboard!} 1-0



With just one round to go, only Hikaru Nakamura has a realistic chance to catch Aronian in the lead and tie for first. Anish Giri also has an outside chance if he wins his game tomorrow and Aronian loses. But that seems unlikely. Vishy Anand will be playing Magnus Carlsen with the white pieces tomorrow. Given that both players are desperate to improve their tournament standing, it will be interesting to see how the game unfolds.

Replay all the games:

Coverage on Firstpost:

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R1: Altibox Norway Chess: Viswanathan Anand should be buoyed by draw with black pieces in 1st round

R2: Altibox Norway Chess: Viswanathan Anand hurt by misjudgment against Vladimir Kramnik in 2nd round

R3: Viswanathan Anand up to the task as Sergey Karjakin tests his memory, preparation 

R4: Altibox Norway Chess: Viswanathan Anand's position grim after 2nd loss, but can't count him out yet

R5: Norway Chess 2017 Round 5: Viswanathan Anand splits the point against Wesley So; all games end in a draw

R6: Altibox Norway Chess: Viswanathan Anand shows he is far from 'over' with Round 6 comeback

R7: Altibox Norway Chess: Viswanathan Anand's prospects fade after Round 7 draw

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