Carlsen Beats "Original" Grandelius, Takes Sole Lead In Stavanger

Carlsen Beats "Original" Grandelius, Takes Sole Lead In Stavanger

| 32 | Chess Event Coverage

As the only winner in the third round, Magnus Carlsen leads the Altibox Norway Chess alone. Today he defeated Nils Grandelius, who created an original game right from the start with the Nimzowitsch (2...Nf6) Sicilian.

Some say a man ain't happy unless a man truly dies.

Nils Grandelius was the only player to go down in the third round of Norway Chess, but nonetheless a happy man. He had played an interesting game against the world champion, and his play wasn't so bad actually. “I'm enjoying it,” the Swedish GM said. “It's hard to be too dissatisfied because I'm already worse early on. Move two probably.”

With his country watching — chess fever had crossed a Scandinavian border and his game was also broadcast live on Swedish TV — Grandelius played the Nimzowitsch Sicilian, instantly confirming his opponent's description of him as an original player. 

“I was actually warned that he might play it but I didn't take that warning seriously! So I didn't actually prepare for it,” said Carlsen. “It was very much mixed emotions. On the one hand I thought s***, why didn't I prepare for this, but on the other hand it feels like things cannot go that bad as White if I just make normal moves.”

And that's what he did, although 7.Qc1 might not look normal to anyone. Grandelius thought it was “clever” as his early queen sortie was intended to provoke 7.b3, which can give Black a target later on (“kind of the new way of playing it” — Grandelius).

There Grandelius took his first long thought, and after half an hour he found a remarkable little pawn move: 7...f6.

Grandelius, in deep thought after Carlsen's 7.Qc1. | Photo courtesy of Altibox Norway Chess/Joachim Steinbru.

Early finishers Pentala Harikrishna and Veselin Topalov said it looked strange, and both preferred White, claiming it was much easier to play even without the piece. However, Carlsen said he actually expected 7...f6: “There was not much choice.”

An important moment was move 14, where not only Carlsen expected the move 14...d6. Grandelius couldn't make it work and instead gave up his rook for that thorn in the flesh on f7 (“born out of desperation” — Grandelius), but he was simply an exchange down there for hardly any compensation.

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov

With again one decisive game in the round, Carlsen is now the sole leader. His comment: “All good.”

As said, the first players to finish were Harikrishna and Topalov. Their opening involved the same Aron Nimzowitsch (3...Bb4), but also that other giant of the early 20th century: Akiba Rubinstein (4.e3). White's cxd5 and exd5 was rare, but Black reacted well. His opponent's play was so accurate that by move 20 Hari decided that a move repetition was in order.

Harikrishna and Topalov in the studio going through their game (and being fascinated
by Carlsen-Grandelius). | Photo courtesy of Altibox Norway Chess/Joachim Steinbru.

After the Candidates' Topalov now makes a good impression, and so does Li Chao. On his 27th birthday, and for the third day in a row, he drew his game rather comfortably against one of the best players in the world. If anyone still wasn't sure, doubt no more: Li is a super strong player as well.

“I had to play precisely, which wasn't such an easy task,” said Aronian.

The game ended when both players had a rook and three pawns on the kingside. Strictly speaking the Sofia rule, used in this tournament, doesn't allow the game to end like that (without a repetition of moves) but luckily the arbiter doesn't enforce this rule too strictly.

A third solid draw in a row for Li Chao. | Photo courtesy of Altibox Norway Chess/Joachim Steinbru.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Pavel Eljanov played a Berlin ending but an interesting one. The Frenchman managed to keep a minimal advantage, and the opposite-colored bishop endgame wasn't easy. Unfortunately the players had to play it rather fast (there's no increment in Norway), but it was probably always a draw.

“I was not nearly fast enough,” said Vachier-Lagrave. “The Berlin holds. But I thought it was a fairly interesting Berlin.”

The last game to finish was between Vladimir Kramnik and Anish Giri. A tough pairing for the Dutchman, who was 6-0 down in classical games (and 5-0 as Black). But he did fine, and drew in a Fianchetto Grünfeld. White won a pawn early pawn, but couldn't consolidate.

Giri: “Since the first time we played a game I've become a grown man.”
Kramnik: “Now you even make a draw with Black, for the first time! One day [you] may beat me, before I retire!”
Giri: “My first plan was to wait for you to retire, but then I realized you're not going to do that so then I thought: let's make some draws!”

Vladimir Kramnik couldn't beat Anish Giri a seventh time. | Photo courtesy of Altibox Norway Chess/Joachim Steinbru.

At the end of the analysis commentator GM Jan Gustafsson asked the players: “If you had to go to a desert island and you had to chose one of the participants to take with you to maximize your surviving chances, whom would you take? Giri chose Li Chao, for his “Chinese wisdom.” Kramnik's answer is worth giving in full:

“Actually maybe Magnus, because I would play and analyze with him. You know, you have to spend time somehow and actually we can really make some great chess work. If it's just for some time I would take the best chess player obviously.”

Co-commentator Peter Svidler then pointed out that it was about escaping from the island.

Kramnik: “If there was a chance I would get off myself.”
Gustafsson: “But would you take Magnus or not?”
Kramnik: “Depends how he will behave. No, but I think we will be like 50 Elo points more in one year or two. I'm a hardcore chess player you know!”
Giri: “If that would happen Magnus would suddenly learn how to play the Berlin. He's never losing a game again!”

Earlier in the post-mortem Giri showed an amazing line from his homework but at the same time lamented that chess is more and more becoming a game of computer preparation.

It's the sign of the times, but sometimes we would rather party like it's 1999.

Altibox Norway Chess | Round 3 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2851 3001 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 1 2.5/3
2 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2788 2890 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 ½ 2.0/3 2.75
3 Kramnik,Vladimir 2801 2851 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1 2.0/3 2.00
4 Li,Chao 2755 2791 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1.5/3 2.75
5 Topalov,Veselin 2754 2799 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1.5/3 2.50
6 Giri,Anish 2790 2785 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 1.5/3 2.00
7 Aronian,Levon 2784 2720 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1.5/3 1.75
8 Eljanov,Pavel 2765 2660 ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1.0/3 1.50
9 Harikrishna,P 2763 2670 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1.0/3 1.25
10 Grandelius,Nils 2649 2533 0 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 0.5/3

The pairings for round four are Eljanov-Topalov, Li Chao-Carlsen, Giri-Aronian, Vachier-Lagrave-Kramnik, and Grandelius-Harikrishna.

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