Carlsen Dominates At Norway Chess Blitz Opener

Carlsen Dominates At Norway Chess Blitz Opener

| 28 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen won today's opening blitz tournament of the Altibox Norway Chess tournament. The world number one reached 7.5/8 (drawing only with Nils Gradelius of Sweden) but then lost to Anish Giri in the final round.

The fourth Norway Chess tournament was opened today with the traditional blitz tournament (more on that below), held in the Scandic Stavanger City hotel.  The actual tournament will mostly take place in the Stavanger Forum, one of Norway's largest conference and exhibition centers located a few kilometers south west of the city center. The last three rounds will be held in the Stavanger Concert House.

Ask anyone who is the favorite in Norway and you'll get “Carlsen“ as the answer. The world champion starts the tournament with 50 Elo points more than the second seed, Vladimir Kramnik. The big question is whether the world champion will finally win this tournament on home turf, after victories by Sergey Karjakin in 2013 and 2014 and Veselin Topalov in 2015.

Karjakin won't win this tournament for a third time, simply because he's not playing. Initially he was, but shortly after his victory at the Candidates' Tournament he withdrew. He was replaced by Li Chao of China, who had to suspend some wedding festivities (which can last up to half a year in China). “I asked my family. They told me I can play, ” was all he said about it.

Topalov doesn't spend much time on chess these days, and seems unlikely to win again either. He finished last at the Candidates' and today he stated that he is still in the same frame of mind: “It's completely the same. What was happening, I was saying it for long, was that I am not really training. But because my results were good so people didn't believe me!”

The 10 participants at the press conference. | Image courtesy abcnyheter.

Many fans will be happy to see Vladimir Kramnik back at the board, especially after the Candidates' where he might have fit better than a not highly motivated Topalov. At the press conference held Monday afternoon the 14th world champion noted the chess boom in Norway. He liked the fact that his games will be shown live on television (TV2 is again doing a daily show) and revealed that the driver who took him from the airport to the hotel knew about chess and asked him about the sixth match game between Anand and Carlsen in Sochi!

Before the tournament Carlsen had mentioned that if there's one player he wanted to beat the most, it was Kramnik. The Russian was asked if he could name someone and replied “everyone!” and then said: “If someone will beat me it will probably be Magnus!”

Kramnik and Carlsen, the top seeds, side by side. | Image courtesy abcnyheter.

At the bottom of the table there's an even bigger gap than at the top. Nils Grandelius, who won the qualifier last month, has a huge challenge ahead of him with a rating more than a hundred points lower than ninth seed Topalov. Asked whether he is afraid, Grandelius said: “Not at all! I'm here to learn so I have nothing to lose, so [there's] also no reason to have any fear.”

And none other than the world champ had some nice words for Grandelius, the first Swede to play in a super tournament since Ulf Andersson in the 1990s.

“Nils is a very original player,” said Carlsen. “He has original ideas both in the opening and also in other parts of the game. He can create problems for anybody. It will be interesting for me to play as I've never played him in a classical game before. In general I'll be following his games with great interest.”

Two and a half hours later, Grandelius impressed by drawing with Carlsen after being better the whole blitz game.

2016 Altibox Norway Chess | Participants

# Name Fed Rtg Born
1 Magnus Carlsen NOR 2851 1990
2 Vladimir Kramnik RUS 2801 1975
3 Anish Giri NED 2790 1994
4 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA 2788 1990
5 Levon Aronian ARM 2784 1982
6 Pavel Eljanov UKR 2765 1983
7 Pentala Harikrishna IND 2763 1986
8 Li Chao CHN 2755 1989
9 Veselin Topalov BUL 2754 1975
10 Nils Grandelius SWE 2649 1993

Blitz on the first day is a relatively new but already traditional way to start off things. Both fans and players seem to like the concept that you have to fight to get your five Whites and four Blacks.

“I think for everybody it's really good to have the blitz today, both for a bit of fun and for a bit of practice and to get feeling where you stand before the tournament,” said Carlsen at the press conference, adding: “Last year I didn't do so well and it started in the blitz. I want to show a better side of myself today.”

Well, that's what he did. He wasn't without luck but Carlsen did play well and won the tournament (3 minutes plus 2 seconds increment) very convincingly.

Among his seven victims was Kramnik, the man he really wants to beat in the classical part. One mistake was enough:

Carlsen also defeated a player he often has trouble with. Aronian was better out of the opening but after all minor pieces had left the board the position was about equal (though slightly more comfortable for Black) and the Armenian GM got outplayed surprisingly quickly.

Everything was going Carlsen's way, and after eight of the nine rounds he had secured victory. With 7.5/9 he was two points ahead of Giri and Kramnik, who were on 5.5 points by then. But Carlsen stumbled right before the finish, losing his game to Giri. 

This way Giri secured clear second place — the Dutchman was in excellent shape this Monday. In the first round his opponent allowed him a flashy finish. How fast can you spot it?

Almost as expected, Topalov didn't do great in the blitz but he did manage to trick Vachier-Lagrave.

2016 Altibox Norway Chess | Blitz Final Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2851 3040 phpfCo1l0.png 0 1 1 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 7.5/9
2 Giri,Anish 2790 2933 1 phpfCo1l0.png 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 6.5/9
3 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2788 2888 0 1 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1 0 1 1 1 6.0/9 23.25
4 Kramnik,Vladimir 2801 2886 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 6.0/9 21.75
5 Aronian,Levon 2784 2769 0 ½ ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.5/9
6 Harikrishna,P 2763 2733 0 0 0 0 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 1 1 1 4.0/9
7 Topalov,Veselin 2754 2652 0 ½ 1 0 ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 0 ½ 3.0/9
8 Grandelius,Nils 2649 2618 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 0 2.5/9 11.75
9 Li,Chao 2755 2606 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 1 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 2.5/9 7.75
10 Eljanov,Pavel 2765 2605 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 2.5/9 7.50

These final standings are based on the players' classical ratings. However, the tournament will be rated for the FIDE blitz ratings. As you can see on 2700chess, Carlsen won 25 points and broke the 2900 barrier there.

The real tournament starts on Tuesday at 4 p.m. (10 a.m. New York, 7 a.m. Pacific) in the Stavanger Forum, with rounds each day except Saturday, which is a rest day. The top five finishers in the blitz will get five white games. The pairings for tomorrow: Carlsen-Harikrishna, Giri-Eljanov, Vachier-Lagrave-Li Chao, Kramnik-Grandelius and Aronian-Topalov.

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