European Team Championship: Carlsen Blunders, Russian Teams Lead
Magnus Carlsen's rating dropped to a four-year low after he blundered a piece against Yannick Pelletier at the European Team Championship, where Russia leads in both the Open and Women's sections.
Is Magnus Carlsen's dominance in the chess world in decline? It might be too early to ask the question, but the Norwegian is definitely having a bad year.
After a loss to Levon Aronian (can happen) and a draw as Black against Sune Berg Hansen (disappointing, but can happen), the world champion blundered terribly against Yannick Pelletier on Tuesday, losing a full piece in a better position.
In three games, Carlsen has dropped a whopping 17.8 points to reach a live rating of 2832.2. It hasn't been that low since December 2011. His lead over #2 Veselin Topalov is now less than 30 points.
Carlsen has lost 10 classical games so far in 2015. That's the highest amount since 2008 when he lost 14 (of 93 games total). #ETCC2015— Tarjei J. Svensen ( @TarjeiJS) November 17, 2015
First, let's look at that game against Hansen. Denmark's board one had prepared well and played in aggressive style. Not a bad strategy!?
White remained a pawn down but had the bishop pair. A complicated endgame ensued, where the Dane grabbed his chance to liquidate to a drawish position. A normal GM game, where the almost 300 points of rating difference didn't matter.
Carlsen's next game was a complete shocker. The champ was pressing in his typical style but suddenly committed a blunder you would normally only see on a club night.
“I was under pressure the whole game,” said Pelletier. “Somehow against him you never believe you're going to make it.”
“My first question was: What did I miss? As soon as I played Ne7 he saw the problem.” — Pelletier.
It is said that moves where knights go backwards are often missed, and it's possible that this was also a blind spot for Carlsen during this game. In Chess.com's live broadcast, Pelletier said that his opponent had also missed the same Nd5-e7 on move 31.
Pelletier had played Carlsen nine times before, always in Biel, and beaten his opponent twice when Carlsen was young. Later, Carlsen beat Pelletier five times.
“He is a genius, but he is also human. He is having a bad period; I don't know why. Maybe a loss of motivation. I don't know,” Pelletier said in our live broadcast.
Pelletier seem to be debunking the theory that a chess player will drop 50 or even 100 rating points when he becomes a father. At the moment he is a “full-time dad,” as he said, but last month the Swiss GM beat another 2800 player: Hikaru Nakamura.
Meanwhile, Carlsen was a good sport and stayed in the competition hall to support the last Norwegian player still at the board. IM Frode Urkedal drew his endgame to clinch a 2.5-1.5 victory over Switzerland, because Hammer and Tari had already won their games.
Back to the fourth round, which saw the clash between Ukraine and Russia on top boards. Peter Svidler defeated Vassily Ivanchuk on board one with the black pieces. He played the Marshall and called it “a bit of a bluff.”
Russia played 2-2 with Azerbaijan in round five, and are now leading by a point.
The fans cannot complain with an event that sees so many players with attractive playing styles. Well-known exponents are Alexei Shirov, Richard Rapport, and Baadur Jobava. According to our annotator GM Dejan Bojkov the latter played a “Zugzwang masterpiece” in the match Georgia-Croatia:
In England-Armenia, which ended in 2-2, Michael Adams defeated Levon Aronian — for the first time ever, as he revealed in our live broadcast. A convincing win in crystal clear style it was. (Aronian won his next game to Daniele Vocaturo to get back to +1, without a single draw.)
The French seem to be dealing well with everything that happened (and continues to happen) in their native country. They're in shared second place after five rounds. Here's another fine game annotated by GM Dejan Bojkov, with MVL beating Vallejo in Tuesday's France-Spain match.
Vachier-Lagrave also joined our show after this win:
2015 European Team Championship | Round 5 Standings (Top 20)
(Full standings here.)
In the women's section Russia is also in the lead. There the team got the full 10 match points from their five matches.
The top clash with Georgia on Monday was a crushing 0.5-3.5 victory for the Russian ladies, with Kosteniuk having the better end of the draw against Dzagnidze. Last month the “Nona” team had beaten Moscow, with some of the same players in both teams.
Kateryna Lagno played the Two Knights, an opening she probably analyzed with Alexander Riazantsev, one of the many Russian coaches that traveled along to Reykjavik.
The signs of true talent are not merely a sharp tactical vision. It's the positional endgame grinds that are even more impressive for a player who is only 17 years old:
2015 European Team Championship (Women) | Round 5 Standings (Top 20)
(Full standings here.)
Wednesday is a rest day in Reykjavik. Four more rounds will be played in the Laugardalshöll.
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