Aronian Beats Carlsen In Dazzling 4th Round Norway Chess
Levon Aronian defeated Magnus Carlsen in a brilliant game today at the Altibox Norway Chess tournament. This fight was the focus of attention, but Anish Giri and Hikaru Nakamura also won their games in what was one of the best rounds of any super tournament in recent years.
Aronian vs Carlsen was a brilliancy. | Photo: Lennart Ootes.
The Altibox Norway Chess participants had one of the strangest rest days ever. They were brought to a farm (Felleskjøpet Agri, one of the tournament's sponsors) half an hour away from Stavanger, and then they... turned into farmers. They had to cut trees, drive tractors and milk cows!
The players actually enjoyed it a lot. Here's Chess.com's video on a remarkable event, with top GMs like you've never seen them before:
Was it the cow milk, as Nakamura suggested? Or the knowledge that they were bad farmers (Aronian)? Whatever it was, the players seemed really inspired today.
"It's a pity that it has to be today," Giri joked to Nakamura after both had won their game around the same time. "Everyone will be talking about Magnus losing!"
The Levon Aronian vs Magnus Carlsen game definitely was the game of the day, and not just because the world champion was involved. And no, he didn't even play badly.
Aronian was playing mesmerizing chess today.
First an early exchange sacrifice on the queenside, then a classic Bxh7+ sacrifice on the kingside... Was this really happening? Against Magnus Carlsen?
I've been touting Aronian as my favorite player for years at #2sjakk: Trademark sacrificial aggression with a positional foundation.— Jon Ludvig Hammer ( @gmjlh) June 10, 2017
It all started with an opening idea in a Chebanenko Slav which Aronian had prepared back in 2003(!), but still useful today because Carlsen played the older move 9...Qe7 instead of the topical 9...Bd6.
Aronian's concept involved an exchange sac on the queenside (a2-a3, Bb4xa3, Ra1xa3, Qe7xa3) followed by c4-c5, to shut off the black queen.
The playing hall was full of spectators today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.
Amazingly, the Bxh7+ that followed meant that White was temporarily a rook down.
"I calculated it to the point that I take on b6 and play Qa7 and I thought I should be better," said Aronian. That was deep, and accurate calculation by the Armenian player, who complimented his opponent for defending well.
Because that's what made it a memorable game: not just the sacrifices, but also Carlsen's resilient defense, which Aronian eventually managed to break. It takes two to tango.
The players leaving the battlefield. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.
Aronian said he had come to the board to fight. "The difference between my wins against Magnus and his wins against me: I have to work hard for mine while his I just give them as a present!"
Here's Chess.com's interview after the game:
Carlsen, who dropped to his lowest rating in six years in the live ratings, was in the TV2 studio briefly but then decided not to join Aronian for the post-mortem. Hugely disappointed, he immediately returned to his room.
While Nigel Short and Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam were analyzing variations from Aronian-Carlsen, suddenly Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave were standing in front of them. Captivated by Aronian's winning chess, the commentators had completely missed that it was Nakamura who scored a point first.
(And while Nakamura and MVL were showing their game, both the Aronian-Carlsen and Giri-Anand games were decided. This is often a problem with live broadcast of top events: because of a long post-mortem of one game, the viewers miss the action in other games. Whereas it's great to get the insights of top GMs, the timing is sometimes bad.)
Nakamura-MVL was the first game to finish today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.
Like all players, the first thing Nakamura wants to know after a game is what engine said. Today he could be satisfied: the engine liked his moves, which were very accurate and strong.
In a Najdorf position, where he was pushing on the queenside and MVL was moving pieces and pawns towards his king, the Nakamura found the subtle 25.Kh1! and Black's attack was just nothing.
Here's Chess.com's interview with Nakamura:
The third winner was Anish Giri, who defeated Viswanathan Anand in what was the game between the two tailenders. Anand deviated from Giri-Grischuk from the Moscow Grand Prix last month, but Giri had done his homework (together with his second GM Erwin l'Ami) and kept an edge.
After winning the "double bishop pair" (a term Giri introduced for getting not one bishop for a knight, but two vs two knights), the Dutchman correctly went for the aggressive 20.f4!—mostly a practical choice, also considering the fast time control in Stavanger.
Breaking open the position with f2-f4 was well timed. | Photo Maria Emelianova.
It worked out well, and Giri won convincingly, but as it turned out he had missed a win, and Anand had missed a defense that might have been enough for a draw.
It was a good day for the Netherlands, because it was also the last round of the European Individual Championship in Minsk, where GM Benjamin Bok (among others) qualified for the World Cup.
Chess.com also spoke with Giri after the game:
It was a splendid round in which all five games could have ended decisively. Russians Vladimir Kramnik and Sergey Karjakin were both in big trouble, against Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So respectively, but managed to save their games with heroic defense.
The reason for Kramnik's problems was not difficult to find: blundering a pawn in the opening. "I was happy that my position was still kind of fightable."
Caruana: "It's a bit strange. The more I look at my position, it seems much better or winning." #NorwayChess— Tarjei J. Svensen ( @TarjeiJS) June 10, 2017
At the end of the day, the "Minister of Defense" did it again. Karjakin escaped with a stalemate after So had played an excellent strategic game.
Stalemate on the board! | Photo: Maria Emelianova.
2017 Altibox Norway Chess | Round 4 Standings
Today's round saw the playing hall completely full—there are seats for about 70 spectators—probably because it was a Saturday, and because in the same venue a weekend tournament has started. The many spectators witnessed a memorable round.
They'll agree with Garry Kasparov, who tweeted 1.5 years ago: "The chess world is a better place when Aronian is playing well!"
#NorwayChess is absolutely tremendous today, ferocious games on every board. Aronian looks to be finally regaining his peak form again.— Jonathan Tisdall ( @GMjtis) June 10, 2017
The pairings for round five on Sunday are Karjakin-Caruana, Anand-So, Carlsen-Giri, MVL-Aronian, and Kramnik-Nakamura.