Carlsen Scores Big In Norway Chess Blitz Opener

Carlsen Scores Big In Norway Chess Blitz Opener

| 57 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen couldn't have wished for a better start at the Altibox Norway Chess tournament. As the only player to remain undefeated, he won the blitz with a 3069 performance and a two-point lead over Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian.

Magnus Carlsen reigned supreme on day one. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

Carlsen wasn't mild about himself at the press conference Monday afternoon in the Clarion Hotel Air in Stavanger.

"Since the world championship I had second places and a third. This is not what I aim for. My level of play hasn't been good either," he said. 

The training camp, which he had with some of his regular training partners before the tournament, bore fruit early on. Carlsen was in a class of his own and crushed the field with 7.5/9. The rest of the pack was at least two points behind.

The full press conference (embed from VG).

Carlsen repeated his win in last year's blitz tournament, after which he continued to win his first Norway Chess. It was his third blitz victory in Stavanger, and it was covered by all important Norwegian media today. The chess fever in the country is definitely still there.

Besides about two dozen media people there were also about 50 spectators (including the mayor!) on the hotel's 10th floor. The view over the Stavanger region and Sola airport was spectacular, but hardly anyone had eyes for that.


A helicopter landing at Stavanger Sola airport today.

Even a small and rather funny incident in round five, just before his game with Sergey Karjakin, didn't put Carlsen off balance. Shortly before the clocks were started, Carlsen opened an Isklar water bottle on the table, and splashed out quite a bit of water.

Karjakin couldn't resist a smile, but also Vladimir Kramnik, sitting behind Carlsen, was enjoying it very much. That was because, before Carlsen had arrived at the board, Kramnik had stopped at Karjakin's board and taken one of the two bottles that were there. (Karjakin had nodded that he didn't mind.) As it turned out, he took the "good" bottle...

Carlsen was given some tissues, cleaned the table and then adjusted his pieces while his clock was running. He won what was probably his best game:

Carlsen's famous slow start consisted of only two draws this time (with Nakamura and Anand), but then he scored 6.5/7 in the remainder, with only Kramnik holding him to a draw.

His win in round four against Levon Aronian saw a curiosity. At this level you don't often get to see a player actually making an illegal move and pressing the clock, but that's precisely what happened. It didn't matter as Aronian was lost anyway. 


For a moment Aronian forgot that f7 wasn't available for his king. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Having won the blitz with a round to spare, Carlsen's last game was still interesting as he was facing the world number-two in classical chess, Wesley So. At the press conference, So denied that his praise of Carlsen in the past had been false modesty. He pointed out that the Norwegian has been around at the top much longer and that "in order to have the same status a player has to be very consistent for a long time."

With four draws and one loss, Hikaru Nakamura had quite a bad start. His 3.5/4 in the second part was good enough for a shared second place—more than enough to get that desirable extra white game. His game with So was a miraculous win from a position where he was a healthy piece down.


Nakamura looking at the position he lost to Karjakin. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Nakamura finished with the same number of points as Levon Aronian. The Armenian grandmaster showed great form last month at Grenke and in the Bundesliga.

"I think I'm in a good form so I look forward to playing my best," he said before the blitz. "A lot depends on the way you start the tournament. If you start well you can build from there."

One of his most interesting wins was against Anish Giri.

Giri finished last with a pretty horrible score: 1.5/9. His colleagues made fun of him during dinner, especially after Carlsen had sent a tweet. This was about Giri's following remark from the press conference, about whether it's possible to score many wins in a tight and strong field like this. 

Giri: "You'd be surprised. It's not necessarily the line-up. Sometimes you have Jon Ludvig Hammer [as a] player and everybody hopes to beat him. The other day you have a top tournament like this and before you know, some very strong player can be the Ludvig Hammer of the tournament. He doesn't necessarily need to be Norwegian. We've seen many times players of this caliber ending on minus three, minus four, losing four games in a row. It seems that everybody is good but after a couple of rounds we'll find our losers. I hope it will not be me."


Giri: "Before you know, some very strong player can be the Ludvig Hammer of the tournament." | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

This was before the blitz. In the evening, Carlsen tweeted:


Carlsen facial expression after Giri's remark suggests that he already had a tweet in mind. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was another player who finished on a plus score. A not-too-difficult combination against Anand saw a spectacular move:

Vladimir Kramnik was the "lucky" Russian to get the extra white and not Sergey Karjakin. He won their mutual game in the final round, and finished fifth on tiebreak. In a tough position Karjakin lost on time, as early as move 22.


Kramnik and Karjakin chatting after their game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

At the press conference Kramnik was asked about his high ranking at his age: "Some 10 years ago I was sure I will not play after 40. I was pretty sure I was going to be not able to fight with the best players on equal terms. I doubt I would continue in such case. But to my big surprise I'm still keeping quite a high position on the rating. I didn't expect it. Now I still believe that pretty soon I will not manage. My guess would be another two years, but who knows."


Kramnik (here next to Carlsen) gives himself two more years. Let's hope it will be more. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

Below are the final standings of the blitz, with the top five getting an extra white game in the main tournament:

2017 Altibox Norway Chess | Blitz Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2914 3069 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 1 7.5/9
2 Nakamura,Hikaru 2865 2874 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 1 1 5.5/9 21.75
3 Aronian,Levon 2753 2886 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 5.5/9 21.00
4 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2825 2838 0 ½ ½ 1 0 1 1 0 1 5.0/9
5 Kramnik,Vladimir 2744 2809 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 1 ½ 0 ½ 4.5/9 20.50
6 Karjakin,Sergey 2791 2803 0 1 0 1 0 ½ 0 1 1 4.5/9 17.00
7 Anand,Viswanathan 2766 2767 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 4.0/9 17.25
8 So,Wesley 2791 2766 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 4.0/9 13.25
9 Caruana,Fabiano 2800 2683 0 0 ½ 1 1 0 0 0 ½ 3.0/9
10 Giri,Anish 2776 2526 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1.5/9

As the winner of the tournament Carlsen could choose his lot number. He went for number three, and as a result he is playing So right away in the first round. "It's nice," said Carlsen. "It's a chance to press him and show who is the best, but I can't promise anything."


On Tuesday, the main event will start with Carlsen vs So. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.

You can follow the games in Live Chess each day starting at 4 p.m. local time (7 a.m. Pacific, 10 a.m. Eastern). We're providing on-site coverage on and on our Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels.

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