Carlsen Retains Lead After Quick Draws In Norway Chess Round 2
Karjakin-Carlsen was the first game to end in a draw today. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Carlsen Retains Lead After Quick Draws In Norway Chess Round 2

| 33 | Chess Event Coverage

It took just 2.5 hours for all games to finish in draws in round two of the Altibox Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger, Norway. Magnus Carlsen retained his half-point lead.

It was one of those days. Most round-robin tournaments have at least one round where not much is happening. It's partly because of how chess has evolved, and partly because players of this caliber are really well prepared in the opening, and tend to make few mistakes.

"That's what happens in chess now. A lot of positions look really cool, but you know just from using the computer so much that there always are resources to defend," was how Hikaru Nakamura explained it.

Hikaru Nakamura Norway Chess

Hikaru Nakamura today. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

The American GM had tried a modest little pawn move (6.h3) in the Queen's Gambit Declined against Vishy Anand, and for a while things looked quite interesting.

Taking on d4 with the bishop looked odd perhaps to chess fans who are not familiar with the Bf4 variation. Anand did so "by analogy," because this move equalizes in the same position but with White's rook on c1 and pawn on h2. After more accurate play from both sides, the game fizzled out quickly.

Vishy Anand Norway Chess

Anand's vast experience in the Queen's Gambit helped him to solve his opening problems. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Something similar happened in the other games, where the opening phase was interesting for a while until suddenly everything petered out. The first to do so were Sergey Karjakin and Magnus Carlsen.

After meeting his next challenger in round one, Carlsen played against his previous world-title-match opponent in round two. It was Carlsen who surprised his opponent by going for the Møller Defense in the Ruy Lopez, possibly inspired by the recent game Topalov-Wojtaszek, last month in Shamkir.

Carlsen vs Karjakin Norway 2018

Carlsen surprised Karjakin with the Møller variation. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Karjakin took three minutes to consider his options, went for 6.c3, and kept on following his game with Alexander Onischuk from eight years ago, which he still remembered. “After my game with Onischuk I always thought this was slightly better for White,” he said. “Maybe after today’s game I have to change my opinion.”

That was because of quite an advanced novelty by Carlsen in this game. He emphasized that it was his team who should get credit for finding, helped by the computer, the maneuver 14…Bg4! 15.Rxd6 Bf5!, which looks counterintuitive.

“It’s not easy to find,” said Carlsen, “because Black gives up both a pawn and a tempo.” Although Black still had to be careful, it was clear that the game was going to be a draw.

Carlsen said he still would have preferred a more interesting game: “I don’t think we should sit here and congratulate ourselves with a novelty that leads to a draw.”

Magnus Carlsen Norway Chess 2018

Carlsen played a successful but not fully satisfying novelty. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

His long game yesterday, which ended in a win, did influence his strategy for today somewhat. “It kind of makes it easier to accept a relatively dull draw," said Carlsen. "I would have wished for something more interesting but it's OK. It's not like I have a habit of beating him with Black anyway, or White, for that matter."

This was already the 74th game between these players.

Karjakin commented: "After the match I started to feel a bit tired of Magnus. I studied so many games of him and I realized once again how great he is. We are both probably a bit tired of each other! But we have to keep playing. When I am White I am trying to go for some principled lines and I’m fighting but somehow it usually ends in a draw.”

Sergey Karjakin Norway 2018

Karjakin: "We are both probably a bit tired of each other!" | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Fabiano Caruana had to play against his own repertoire today. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov took the interesting decision to play the Petroff, Caruana's main defensive weapon with Black. And, with 8...b6 the Azerbaijani even chose a line that his opponent had played himself, some years ago.

With a vague recollection of his analysis, Caruana went on and played somewhat aggressively on the kingside. Mamedyarov's classic reaction in the center was not the best, and led to a better endgame for White.

But there Caruana immediately blundered with 21.Ra5. "I got off from the board and walked away," said Caruana, "and suddenly it hit me, 21...Rg2."

Luckily for him, it was fairly easy to hold the draw.

Fabiano Caruana Norway 2018

Caruana played one very bad move, just like yesterday. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

Mamedyarov thought he was better there. "But then I thought, I have to go to the dentist tomorrow; a draw is good!” (Mameryarov's toothache treatment requires multiple visits.) 

“I just played one really awful move. I mean, overall I played not well in that game but one move was ridiculous and today I pretty much did the same,“ said Caruana.'s interview with Caruana.

Ding Liren somehow got Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to play a King's Indian instead of his favorite Grünfeld, but that's not a big deal against this modest e3 and Be2 setup. Inspired by the recent Carlsen-Caruana game at Grenke, MVL found a decent setup. He was happy with his play, especially for finding 30...e4!.

Ding Liren vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave Norway 2018

MVL did fine in a King's Indian this time. | Photo: Peter Doggers/

The game Aronian-So can be found in the PGN file.

Altibox Norway Chess 2018 | Round 2 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2843 2992 ½ 1 1.5/2
2 Karjakin,Sergey 2782 2810 ½ ½ 1.0/2
3 Ding,Liren 2791 2779 ½ ½ 1.0/2
4 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2789 2799 ½ ½ 1.0/2
5 So,Wesley 2778 2773 ½ ½ 1.0/2
6 Nakamura,Hikaru 2769 2775 ½ ½ 1.0/2
7 Aronian,Levon 2764 2769 ½ ½ 1.0/2
8 Anand,Viswanathan 2760 2766 ½ ½ 1.0/2
9 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2808 2806 ½ ½ 1.0/2
10 Caruana,Fabiano 2822 2635 0 ½ 0.5/2

After the round, some of the players were still in the competitive mood, as Aronian, Caruana, and MVL were spotted playing the card game Avalon in a small group.

Round three pairings (Wednesday): Carlsen-Aronian, Vachier-Lagrave-Caruana, Mamedyarov-Karjakin, Anand-Ding, So-Nakamura.

Games via TWIC.

Previous reports:

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