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Aronian Beats Another World Champ, Catches Nakamura

Aronian Beats Another World Champ, Catches Nakamura

Another world champion's queen was in trouble today at the Altibox Norway Chess tournament. Levon Aronian defeated Vladimir Kramnik, who clearly had an off day. In doing so, the Armenian player joined Hikaru Nakamura in the lead going into the second rest day. Meanwhile, Vishy Anand scored his first win of the tournament against Fabiano Caruana.

Aronian also beat Kramnik and is now in shared first place. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Sometimes your brain is just not working.

Vladimir Kramnik had a fine position out of the opening against Levon Aronian today, but after just two unfortunate queen moves, his position was suddenly hopeless.

Aronian tried the rare (but natural-looking) 13.Rc1 in the Semi-Tarrasch, yet another opening so many top GMs included in their repertoire after Kramnik's example.

Ironically, it was Kramnik's mirror rook move 16...Rac8 that would later give tactical problems. The engines still think it's fine, but at the post-mortem Aronian said to his opponent: "Completely unnecessary. You're asking for trouble."

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Carlsen checking out Kramnik's position. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Black was still fine at move 19, but two moves later it suddenly appeared that the black queen was having fewer and fewer available squares. Aronian said that he started to see chances right there. "When I played 19.Nh4, I calculated that 19…Qg4 is not good, because there will be always a threat like this."

"I just totally missed the idea of trapping the queen," Kramnik said. "I was out today. Completely. It happens sometimes."

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Kramnik desperately trying to save his queen. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

In an interview for our Russian YouTube channel, Aronian commented on the fact that he is without a second in Stavanger: "Recently I started to travel without seconds, and prepare by myself. Having [a] second is a good thing, but it’s also important to be responsible for your own preparation and to take it more seriously. You know, when there is no one to expect help from, you will be working more concentrated and determined."

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After the Grenke tournament, Aronian is again in good shape. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

After six rounds, Magnus Carlsen is still waiting for his first win. The last time that happened was a year and a half ago at the 2015 London Chess Classic, when he drew his first six games and then beat Nakamura in round seven.

In Stavanger, Carlsen's score is still minus-one, which means a tie for... last place.

Everything seemed totally fine with the world champion, who was in an excellent mood during the start of his game with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, despite the fact that he had already made a major error!

Shortly after making a couple of moves on the board he entered the confession box, where he made a rather hilarious remark: "I forgot my glasses today; I had planned to play the Italian. That failed miserably."

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Carlsen: "I forgot my glasses today; I had planned to play the Italian. That failed miserably." | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

The moves he played were 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 instead, the same he had played against MVL in the blitz tournament. In that game the Frenchman spent six seconds on his move 2...b6, and strangely enough today it took him 11 minutes to decide on 2...g6.

Unlike in that blitz game, MVL equalized comfortably today. Carlsen: "I have to pull myself together. It's embarrassing how little I've got out of my two white games."

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Carlsen and MVL played 12 quick trading moves until bare kings were left on the board.  | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

There's now four players on a minus-one score, thanks to Vishy Anand's first win of the tournament. The five-time world champion was looking good today as he defeated Fabiano Caruana with the black pieces.

After 17 moves the commentator Nigel Short liked Black's position (a space advantage and blockading knight in the center) but Anand wasn't sure yet.

The rook switch Re8-e6-g6 combined with Nf6-e8-d6 was a fine plan though. Caruana decided to castle on the other side and try for an attack, but Anand easily repelled everything on the kingside and was soon strategically winning.

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The Tiger from Madras was out for blood today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Anish Giri is still on 50 percent, but he should have been the only player on plus-one after today's round. Wesley So admitted that he must have been lost somewhere.

The pawn structure was symmetrical after the opening, but thanks to his strong fianchetto bishop Giri was still better. When So allowed a rook on the seventh it started to become even more uncomfortable, and after 29 moves Black's position looks terrible. So: "My position was desperate already when I have to make moves like 29...Ba8."

Giri didn't make the most of his chances. For instance, in hindsight he didn't understand why he went for a rook endgame; the bishop endgame with a c-pawn would have given decent winning chances.

Hikaru Nakamura vs Sergey Karjakin wasn't super interesting, except perhaps for the final position. In this pawn endgame, all remaining pawns are blocking each other, and the kings cannot cross to the enemy territory.

"I believe any single one of our viewers could draw this against Magnus Carlsen," Nigel Short said.
Karjakin: "With any color!"
"That's about as drawn as it gets," added Short.

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Short pointed out that the final position is kind of drawish. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

However, the same can be said about the position on move 50, when the white king has just taken the last piece. According to the international arbiter Chris Bird, the arbiter should have intervened, based on FIDE regulation 9.7 that says "The game is drawn when a position is reached from which a checkmate cannot occur by any possible series of legal moves."

She didn't, and the players made the draw even more drawish by playing a threefold repetition! Now that's as drawn as it gets.

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Nakamura and Karjakin checking computer lines after their game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova..

2017 Altibox Norway Chess | Round 6 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Nakamura,Hikaru 2785 2917 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 4.0/6 11.75
2 Aronian,Levon 2793 2920 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 4.0/6 11.50
3 Karjakin,Sergey 2781 2795 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.0/6 9.00
4 Kramnik,Vladimir 2808 2795 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 3.0/6 8.75
5 Giri,Anish 2771 2798 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 3.0/6 8.75
6 So,Wesley 2812 2796 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 3.0/6 8.25
7 Carlsen,Magnus 2832 2736 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.5/6 7.50
8 Caruana,Fabiano 2808 2741 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 2.5/6 7.50
9 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2796 2745 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 2.5/6 7.25
10 Anand,Viswanathan 2786 2738 ½ 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 2.5/6 6.75

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Both Carlsen's parents are staying in the hotel, and his oldest two sisters Ellen and Ingrid have now joined the family as well. Ellen joined the TV2 studio with regular commentator Hans Olav Lahlum today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Tomorrow is the second and last rest day. The pairings for round seven on Wednesday are Kramnik-Carlsen, MVL-Giri, Karjakin-Aronian, So-Caruana, and Anand-Nakamura.

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