'Opponents Handing It To Carlsen' At Norway Chess
Wesley So accepts the draw in his Armageddon with Magnus Carlsen. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

'Opponents Handing It To Carlsen' At Norway Chess

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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79 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen has a chance to win the 2019 Altibox Norway Chess tournament with a round to spare. On Wednesday, Levon Aronian defeated Yu Yangyi to take over second place, but he is trailing the leader by two points.

Aronian joined the commentary studio after his Armageddon victory and was asked about his chances to overtake Carlsen, leading to this expressive exchange with Judit Polgar:

Aronian: "I don't know, his opponents are apparently just handing it to him!"
Polgar: "Well, you were number one in this, right?"
Aronian: "Yes, I started the trend and now everybody thinks it's the right thing to do!"
Polgar: "You showed the way."
Aronian: "It's ridiculous!"

Aronian Polgar Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Aronian: "Yes, I started the trend." | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The remark was made in what was indeed a relatively easy round for Carlsen. He wasn't thoroughly tested as Black in the standard game, and received a two-pawn gift right out of the opening in the Armageddon.

Carlsen and Wesley So were the first to finish in this round. Still seeing no reason to say goodbye to his Sveshnikov, the tournament leader this time faced the old 11.c3 line, which was played by Garry Kasparov in the 1990s. It was also Anish Giri's choice against Carlsen twice.

For quite a while it was considered that Black should play Bf6-g5 before White goes h2-h4, but as Carlsen showed, even with a more passive king's bishop, Black is absolutely fine.

So vs. Carlsen 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
So and Carlsen starting their classical game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

So was focusing really hard at the start of the Armageddon, holding his head in his hands, while Carlsen casually sacrificed a piece with 12...a5. Few would have taken that knight.

A few moves later, Carlsen frowned on So's decision to push his d-pawn up the board. It seems that the American grandmaster had expected Black to take it with the bishop or the knight (which both don't give much compensation for White either) and that 16...Qxd5 was just not on his radar.

The game was more or less decided at that moment. Twenty moves later, Carlsen was fine with a move repetition in an endgame with two extra pawns. With 6/6 he is still on a perfect Armageddon score.

So vs. Carlsen 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Carlsen didn't seem impressed by his opponent's play. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Aronian himself used an interesting pawn sacrifice in the Scotch Four Knights to equalize his black game with Yu Yangyi. The move 9...Bg4!? steps away from most of the theory there, although quite a few grandmasters have tried it out after Vidit Gujrathi introduced it against Wei Yi 14 months ago.

"Everybody has analyzed it," said Aronian.

The Armenian GM reached the draw without problems, and after surviving a sharp Nimzo opening phase, he did the same in the Armageddon:

Yu vs. Aronian 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Aronian and Yu checking the other positions on the big monitor. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Fabiano Caruana vs. Vishy Anand was one of those classical games where the shortened time control (two hours for the whole game with a 10-second increment after move 40) had its impact on the quality of play.

The American grandmaster got a long-lasting advantage out of the opening after Anand had not reacted well to the almost new move 12.Re1 in the Open Spanish. Caruana quickly built up a winning attack, but then failed to find several winning moves. 

"This is really embarrassing," Caruana said. "I basically panicked because I was low on time. This was a horrible game."

Anand Caruana 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
A smiling Anand after holding a dead lost game vs. Caruana. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

"At the end I was kind of relieved. It almost made me forget about what I missed," said Caruana about his Armageddon game, which he described as "a pretty clean game."

Caruana beats Anand 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Caruana getting his win after all. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Ding Liren scored an excellent victory against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov—the only classical win of the round. The Chinese player said he had prepared this 3.f3 Grunfeld on the rest day, and "couldn't believe his memory was so bad" when he saw 22...Bxe5, which wasn't his main line.

Ding started thinking, with the knowledge that it wasn't Black's best move, and came up with the excellent reply 23.Bd3, after which 23...Na4 was already the losing mistake, he felt. Strong calculation did the rest.

Ding beats Mamedyarov 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Ding defeated Mamedyarov in great style. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave scored 1.5 points playing the white pieces against tail-ender Alexander Grischuk. The standard game wasn't a great success for the Frenchman, who could force a move repetition in a very original way at the end. MVL thought it hadn't been seen elsewhere yet.

Vachier-Lagrave 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
With 5.h3 Vachier-Lagrave "tricked himself" while he needed... more coffee.

For the Armageddon, MVL entered the Fianchetto Grunfeld where he postponed his castling.

"At least in this sort of position there's always some kind of play, so I was not worried about things getting too dry," MVL said. "I could have been concerned about getting worse but that was another issue!"

Playing with a pawn majority on the queenside, Vachier-Lagrave had missed a defensive move from Grischuk, but out of necessity he found a nice reply, after which his opponent quickly collapsed. The end was pretty, but also easy for a player of this caliber: 

Vachier-Lagrave Kasimdhanov 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Vachier-Lagrave chatting with Caruana's second and the former FIDE world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

2019 Altibox Norway Chess | Round 7 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts
1 Carlsen 2875 ½1 ½1 ½1 ½1 ½1 ½1 2 11.0/14
2 Aronian 2752 ½0 ½1 ½1 ½1 ½0 2 ½1 9.0/14
3 Yu Yangyi 2738 ½0 ½1 0 ½1 ½1 ½1 2 8.5/14
4 Ding Liren 2805 ½0 ½0 ½0 ½1 2 ½0 2 7.5/14
5 So 2754 ½0 ½0 2 ½0 ½1 ½0 ½1 7.0/14
6 Caruana 2819 ½0 0 ½0 2 ½1 ½0 ½1 6.5/14
7 Vachier-Lagrave 2779 ½0 ½1 ½0 0 ½ 0 ½1 ½1 6.0/14
8 Anand 2767 ½0 ½0 ½1 ½1 ½0 ½1 0 6.0/14
9 Mamedyarov 2774 ½0 0 0 ½1 ½0 2 ½0 5.0/14
10 Grischuk 2775 0 ½0 0 ½0 ½0 ½0 ½ 1 3.5/14

The pairings for round eight are Carlsen vs. Yu Yangyi, Aronian vs. Caruana, Vachier-Lagrave vs. Ding Liren, Mamedyarov vs. So and Grischuk vs. Anand. Then, in the last round, we'll see Caruana vs. Carlsen, Yu Yangyi vs. Mamedyarov, Anand vs. Aronian, Ding Liren vs. Grischuk and So vs. Vachier-Lagrave. 

If Carlsen beats his opponent on Thursday and Aronian doesn't, the world champion will add one more tournament victory to his collection.

Stavanger Concert Hall Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Traditionally for the last few rounds, the tournament moves to the Stavanger Concert Hall...
Volkswagen Mini Cooper Altibox Norway Chess 2019
...and each player has his own BMW Mini Cooper, plus a driver to get there.
The view inside the new playing hall Altibox Norway Chess 2019
The view inside the new playing hall. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Agdestein Lahlum Carlsen Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Carlsen in the TV2 studio, inside the concert hall, next to his former coach GM Simen Agdestein (left) and Hans Olav Lahlum. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.


The Altibox Norway Chess tournament takes place June 3-12 in the Clarion Hotel Energy and June 12-14 in the Stavanger Concert hall in Stavanger, Norway. New this year is that players who draw their game will play an Armageddon game right after (with the same colors).

Armageddon at Norway Chess
White gets 10 minutes on the clock; Black gets seven minutes but has draw odds. Only after move 60 the players get three seconds increment per move.

  • Win, main game: 2 points
  • Loss, main game: 0 points
  • Draw, main game and loss, Armageddon: 0.5 point
  • Draw, main game and win, Armageddon: 1.5 points

Also new is a shorter the time control in the classical games: two hours for the whole game, with an increment of 10 seconds after move 40.

The games start 5 p.m. local time (CEST), which is 11 a.m. Eastern and 8 a.m. Pacific. You can follow the games here as part of our live portal with daily commentary by the Chessbrahs.

The round seven coverage by the Chessbrahs.


Previous reports:

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