Hammer's Rest Day Report: Norway Chess 2016

Hammer's Rest Day Report: Norway Chess 2016

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Editor's note: In an exclusive to, Grandmaster Jon Ludvig Hammer writes his thoughts on what's happened in Norway so far, original analysis of some of the key games, and some fun, behind-the-scenes looks at what the players do on their rest days.

Magnus Carlsen's home turf drought may come to an end next week, as the world champion is off to an early lead at the 2016 Altibox Norway Chess super tournament. Wins with White and draws with Black have him at three points out of four -- half a point ahead of chasers Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Vladimir Kramnik -- and already close to matching his overall score from last year's event.

The Magnus "home town turn-around," if you will, started with a blitz tournament on Monday, and already there we saw a determined Carlsen, demolishing the field with 7.5/8, securing the blitz victory with a round to spare. The last round became a disappointment for Carlsen, as Anish Giri emerged victorious with an aggressive queenside attack.

That win cemented Giri's second place in the blitz. It was clearly a sign of good form on Giri's part, as he went on to crush Pavel Eljanov in the main tournament's first round. By seemingly simple means, Giri managed to outplay his opponent in a quiet Italian opening, and his method is well worth studying:

Analysis by GM Jon Ludvig Hammer

Before that first round win, Giri had 20 draws in a row, including the entire world championship qualifier (14 games) in Moscow this March. Having broken the winless streak, Giri looked poised for great things in Stavanger, but the second round turned things around.

The Frenchman Vachier-Lagrave got trapped in some of Giri's preparation, but held his cool and navigated the complications better than Giri, resulting in a huge black win for the Najdorf expert.

phpWEYuvW.jpegAnish all smiles, back to having decisive results on the chessboard.

The highlight of round three was definitely Magnus Carlsen showing his attacking prowess against fellow Scandinavian Nils Grandelius. After a provocative opening from the Swede, Carlsen with the white pieces got a massive development advantage, but in order to avoid the loss of a pawn, he had to give up a full piece. See the attacking game with my thoughts here:

Analysis by GM Jon Ludvig Hammer

All draws in round four suggest the players really were looking forward to today's rest day, so no games were analyzed deeply.


GM Levon Aronian and WIM Arianne Caoili.

The players visited scholastic players at a local science museum, in addition to some friendly competition of "bubble soccer," fencing, and archery.

Magnus Carlsen skipped the competition part, apparently overwhelmed by the young fans. Anish Giri also left the scene after sprinting 200 meters. This reporter is unsure whether it was due to an injury, but let's not rule it out.


Magnus signing autographs earlier today.

Here are some photos of the event; a video will follow later as well!


A group photo with everyone involved....


The day included fencing...

phpenRZ9C.jpegShooting with bow and arrow...


...but the highlight was clearly bubble football!

phpF7IhL7.jpegAronian choosing a safe spot to control the ball.


Making a goal is not so easy. As is getting to the ball in the first place.


Personally my week has been spent doing commentary for Norwegian broadcaster Tv2.

Tv2 has the most chess broadcasts in Norway by a big margin, and in my biased opinion, we relay the games with instructive comments that everyone can enjoy and understand.

Though, admittedly Norway is fairly nationalistic when it comes to sport, so the broadcast is mostly focused on Carlsen and his winning ways.

Here's a quick look at what our broadcast from Tv2 looks like. You'll find me sitting at the "round table" to the far right.


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