5 Draws At Norway Chess; Topalov Maintains 1.5-Point Lead

5 Draws At Norway Chess; Topalov Maintains 1.5-Point Lead

| 11 | Chess Event Coverage

The seventh round of the Norway Chess tournament saw five draws, and so GM Veselin Topalov kept his lead of 1.5 points with two rounds to go.

Before starting the report on the seventh round, first an update on how Joachim Berg-Jensen and Magne Sagafoss are doing. Well, they're still going strong! They're still there, playing their match, trying to break the Guinness record for longest blitz match.

In the morning Berg-Jensen wasn't feeling great, and he even threw up a few times, but later it went better. After 21.5 hours Sagafoss said that he “wasn't feeling tired yet. I wonder what is wrong with me!”

Below is a video report on this fun event alongside the main tournament.

Update Wednesday:

One of the spectators at this blitz match today was GM Magnus Carlsen, who also spent quite a long time in the TV2 Studio. The reason? He played a quick draw with GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, despite going for a daring opening.

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 the world champion went for the very rare 6...g5 7.Bg3 Ne4!? — once played by Vladimir Kramnik in a blitz game against Alexander Grischuk.

In the confession box Carlsen said that this was a "don't-try-this-at-home opening," but after the game he would add: “I don't follow my own advice!” He also described it as “incredibly risky, but I thought it would be fun.”

MVL said he was “completely taken by surprise,” and so the Frenchman had to start calculating right there. He chose the most principled continuation, which involved a double pawn sacrifice.

Then suddenly the players started repeating moves, described by Vachier-Lagrave as: “I chickened out.”

After a three-time repetition, instead of claiming, Carlsen offered the draw.

A very quick draw between MVL and Carlsen.

“To play this line you need to be in some kind of self-punishing mood,” said Carlsen. “It's something I looked at before. It's not losing.”

I definitely have some interesting options, but there's no mate yet and I'm still a pawn down,” said Vachier-Lagrave, who showed some lines. Asked whether Carlsen had prepared this lines, he replied: “Once again it's not losing!”


Carlsen had prepared the line before; in the morning he spent some time in the sun!

After the game Carlsen reflected some more on his tournament so far. “The score suggest[s] that the losses are still there. In that sense there's nothing I can do. It's about finishing with some positive experiences. Any hope of playing a good tournament is gone.

“At least since the misery was at its worst, I have plus one. About the two draws there wasn't so much I could to. It's looking normal. There isn't any reason why I should be playing particularly badly.

“Even when I'm not in a great shape I still manage to get something from the tournament. This hasn't been the case. The start has been very unfortunate. Everything went wrong in my two white games.”

“I'm hoping to sleep well. The last few days I have not been sleeping well.”

Carlsen: Not sleeping well but in a good mood nonetheless.

While the players were still commenting on their games, the next draw appeared on the board. GM Levon Aronian and GM Vishy Anand split the point in a line of the English that was known from e.g. Karpov-Kasparov, Seville 1987.

Also in that game Black went 10...Qe7, and it was this move when Aronian didn't remember clearly what to do. (He might have focused on 10...d5 as played in Aronian-Adams, Baden-Baden 2015!)

Also in this game, the middlegame was about to start when the players repeated. At the press conference Anand showed lines where the repetition is avoided, and neither player felt it was very attractive to continue.


Aronian and Anand also playing it safe.

GM Veselin Topalov vs GM Fabiano Caruana was another draw, starting from a Fianchetto Grünfeld. “It was more or less planned,” admitted Topalov to Norwegian TV. At this stage, the tournament leader simply has no reason to take big risks, does he?

For a moment there was some excitement when Topalov missed 29...Qc2. Was the Bulgarian GM going to lose a pawn? Was Caruana going to break the tournament wide open?

But no, Topalov remained cool as a cucumber, came up with some strong moves and sealed the draw. “I am just looking day by day,” he said. “No matter what happens, even if I lose the last three, plus two is a fantastic result!”


Topalov: “I am just looking day by day.“


The draw between GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Alexander Grischuk was rather interesting as well, an English where Black played the Botvinnik-setup with c5/d6/e5/g6 against a “King's Indian setup for White," according to Grischuk. 

“The last time I looked at this line was four years ago,” said Grischuk. “I managed to beat Levon Aronian in a rapid game at the Kazan Candidates’ Match in 2011. I won so easily that I never looked at it since.”

Around move 25 the Russian GM was a bit better, and he hoped to trick his opponent into a line where he'd get a huge advantage by giving up his queen. However, Nakamura continued playing as solid as he's done for months, and avoided further danger.

“He had a lot of time, and he used it,” said Grischuk.


Grischuk trying to remember his old analysis!?

After 4.5 hours of play, the fifth game also ended in a draw: GM Jon Ludvig Hammer vs GM Anish Giri. It started as a Pirc, which wasn't Giri's intention at all before the game. “I suddenly got inspired,” the Dutch GM said. He quickly regretted his choice.

Without deep knowledge of the Be3 line, Giri seemed to mix two systems (the classical Pirc setup and the Modern setup with ...a6 & ...b5, where either Bf8-g7 or Ng8-f6 are postponed). “Anish is playing a nonsense opening. This could be interesting. Hope to punish him!” said Hammer in the confession box.

If he had simply castled queenside and kept the queens on the board, he would had been much better chances to punish his opponent.

12.Be4 wasn't critical, and there Giri felt he “wasn't going to lose the game.” The last four minor pieces were traded, and in a double-rook ending the pawns on both flanks became more or less fixed. The position was a draw anyway, but it was really a draw when a three-fold repetition came on the board. Giri called the arbiter, and Hammer quickly shook hands.

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov


Giri busy getting inspired to play 1...g6.


2015 Norway Chess | Round 7 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Topalov,V 2798 3088 phpfCo1l0.png ½     ½ 1 1 1 1 1 6.0/7  
2 Nakamura,H 2802 2889 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1     ½ ½ 1 4.5/7 14.75
3 Anand,V 2804 2893   ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½   4.5/7 14.00
4 Giri,A 2773 2827   ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png   ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 4.0/7  
5 Caruana,F 2805 2731 ½ 0 ½   phpfCo1l0.png 0 ½ 1   ½ 3.0/7 10.25
6 Aronian,L 2780 2716 0   ½ ½ 1 phpfCo1l0.png 0   ½ ½ 3.0/7 9.50
7 Vachier Lagrave,M 2723 2737 0   0 ½ ½ 1 phpfCo1l0.png ½   ½ 3.0/7 8.75
8 Carlsen,M 2876 2682 0 ½ 0 ½ 0   ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1   2.5/7 8.25
9 Grischuk,A 2781 2686 0 ½ ½ 0   ½   0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 2.5/7 8.00
10 Hammer,J 2677 2622 0 0   ½ ½ ½ ½   0 phpfCo1l0.png 2.0/7  


The Norway Chess tournament runs June 15-26 in the Stavanger region. | Games via TWIC  phpfCo1l0.png
No time to watch the games live? No problem! The Norway Chess tournament is covered on with a daily recap show that runs 1.5 hours. The games will be analyzed and there's video material by Peter Doggers, who is covering the tournament from Stavanger. The show starts each day at 11 p.m. Central European time, 5 p.m. New York, 2 p.m. Pacific.


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