Carlsen Beats Aronian, Expands Lead At Norway Chess
Carlsen scored his second win of the tournament. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Altibox Norway Chess.

Carlsen Beats Aronian, Expands Lead At Norway Chess

| 150 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen increased his lead to a full point with a convincing win over Levon Aronian today. The other four games in round three of the Altibox Norway Chess tournament ended in draws.

With his two wins and one draw, a tournament start that's not common at all for the world champion, Carlsen got his live rating back to 2851 (rounded), the highest rating Garry Kasparov had in his career. Carlsen broke that rating for the first time in December 2012, at the London Chess Classic. The video interview done with Carlsen on that day, when this reporter was still publishing on ChessVibes, has been watched more than half a million times.

The last time Carlsen had a higher rating than today was in November 2016, basically from the match with Sergey Karjakin in New York it went downhill. (A more sensational way of putting it is to point out that Carlsen had a girlfriend for about a year, roughly from late 2016 to late 2017. Although it's sometimes said that "a girlfriend costs you 100 Elo points," let's not jump to conclusions here!)

It's exactly a year ago that Carlsen's lead in the live ratings list had shrunk to 6.4 points, and he was one game away from losing the number-one spot to Vladimir Kramnik. After today, his lead over Caruana is 40 points.

Also last year, Levon Aronian’s brilliant win over Carlsen was the prelude to his splendid tournament victory. This year, the tables are turned and Carlsen won their game—quicker and easier than expected.

Carlsen Aronian Norway 2018

Aronian resigning the game. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Altibox Norway Chess.

Playing for a small advantage, the world champion managed to get an edge in the 5.Re1 line of the Berlin. That was mainly because of a mistake by Aronian on move 14. Yasser Seirawan disapproved of 14…Bg5 and so did Carlsen. He called it a “terrible” move afterward, but also mentioned it during the game in the confession booth—a small room where players can share their thoughts, in front of a camera, during play.

Soon Carlsen got a “completely dominating position,” as his compatriot Jon Ludvig Hammer put it on Norwegian TV. Aronian could probably have defended more tenaciously, but that was a tough task.

"I’m not sure if there was a turning point because I thought I was always on the front foot," said Carlsen. "I felt that very early on I had a very nice position, not a lot better but certainly more pleasant. In positions where you have a slight advantage with more space it’s easier to find good moves. For him, it’s trying to break out and then it’s easy to go wrong."


Magnus Carlsen Norway 2018

A most pleasant start of 2.5/3 for Carlsen. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Altibox Norway Chess.

The third round was played on a day when a meteorological record was broken in Norway: never before in May had the thermometer reached 32.4 Celsius (90.32 F) in this country. Not a bad day to have an ice cream, and that's exactly what Shakhriyar Mamedyarov is allowed to do again; his dentist visit in the morning was the last one, and everything should be fine now.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov Norway 2018

On Saturday Mamedyarov wanted to withdraw and go home, but he stayed and it's all good now. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Altibox Norway Chess.

The world number-three was involved in the shortest but most spectacular game of the round, his battle against Sergey Karjakin. The game did lose some of its glamor when the players, not unexpectedly, admitted that most of it was analysis.

“I had prepared this line for both colors for Berlin,” Karjakin said. “When he sacrificed the knight on g6 I knew it should be a forced draw.”

The game was so sharp and tactical that other players were looking at it as well. Anand: “I saw this game and couldn't keep my eyes off it. And then annoyingly my opponent made a move!”

While in the confession booth, MVL said: “Of course I have to admit that there were some nice touches in the game between Shakh and Sergey that took some of my resting time. I liked especially that move ...g5 and then what happens if White plays d4 or Qh5 or Ne4? It's brilliant.”

Karjakin Norway 2018

Karjakin was well prepared for Mamedyarov's fireworks. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Altibox Norway Chess.

Fabiano Caruana went for another Petroff against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who did manage to put his opponent under some pressure. With the help of the computer, the Frenchman had found a funny line that led to an endgame where he had the bishop pair.

 In the confession booth, he said:

“Things went quite well; for the first time I could manage to get into my preparations. I got [a] position where I enjoy the bishops; everyone knows I enjoy the bishops, I am not the only one! Things already got quite dangerous for Fabiano. Now that I get my pawn to a5 it's already difficult to suggest a defensive setup there.”

MVL in the confession booth.

He added that he “expected a long game,” but that was shortly before Caruana came up with the great maneuver Nf6-g8-e7-f5, which changed everything. As d4 became a target, that knight had to be swapped off when the remaining position was equal.

MVL vs Caruana Norway 2018

The Petroff ending looked better for White than it was. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Altibox Norway Chess.

Viswanathan Anand and Ding Liren drew a game where a strong knight on e4 compensated for a pawn, and White had some kind of fortress in the end. That was, however, after Anand felt he had misplayed it somehow.

His 16th move was an improvement over Karjakin-Ding, Berlin 2018 (a draw, which shut the door for Karjakin to reach another world-title match). Anand explained that his strategy for White was to avoid Black playing both …e5 and …b4, closing the position completely, like in the aforementioned game in Berlin. He didn’t get his dream setup (controlling either the a- or c-file, knight on e4, Qg4, g3) and then there was nothing to play for.

Anand vs Ding Norway 2018

Anand and Ding after their game. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Wesley So's opening vs Hikaru Nakamura was fascinating. His early g2-g4 is not a new idea anymore, but combining it with a king on e2 was. Eventually an B-vs-N ending was reached, which had many hidden ideas as well, as the players showed afterward.'s interview with Nakamura.

Altibox Norway Chess 2018 | Round 3 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2843 3068 ½ 1 1 2.5/3
2 Karjakin,Sergey 2782 2809 ½ ½ ½ 1.5/3 2.75
3 Ding,Liren 2791 2773 ½ ½ ½ 1.5/3 2.25
4 Nakamura,Hikaru 2769 2776 ½ ½ ½ 1.5/3 2.25
5 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2808 2798 ½ ½ ½ 1.5/3 2
6 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2789 2807 ½ ½ ½ 1.5/3 2
7 So,Wesley 2778 2772 ½ ½ ½ 1.5/3 2
8 Anand,Viswanathan 2760 2774 ½ ½ ½ 1.5/3 2
9 Caruana,Fabiano 2822 2693 0 ½ ½ 1.0/3 1.5
10 Aronian,Levon 2764 2674 0 ½ ½ 1.0/3 1.5

Tomorrow is a rest day. Round four pairings (Friday): Ding-Caruana, Karjakin-MVL, Aronian-Mamedyarov, Nakamura-Carlsen, Anand-So.

Games via TWIC.

Correction: an earlier version erroneously stated that the game Karjakin-Ding, Berlin 2018 was won by the Chinese GM.

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