Fressinet, Hammer Lead Norway Chess Qualifier Where Carlsen Is Commentator

Fressinet, Hammer Lead Norway Chess Qualifier Where Carlsen Is Commentator

| 26 | Chess Event Coverage

After three rounds GMs Laurent Fressinet and Jon Ludvig Hammer top the standings at the EnterCard Chess Qualifier for the 2015 Norway Chess tournament. GM Magnus Carlsen has a new role there: he is a commentator.

Since it is part of the new Grand Chess Tour, nine participants of the Norway Chess tournament (June 15-26) are known already. The 10th name will be clear on Friday evening, when the EnterCard Chess Qualifier has finished.

The qualifier is a brand new event held in Oslo, in a studio of TV2, Norway's largest commercial television station. Because, yes, this event is broadcast live on national TV. On TV2's sports channel, to be exact. prime time. The games start 8 pm.

It certainly helps that TV2 managed to get none other than Magnus Carlsen himself to commentate. After a modeling career, it is yet another activity added to the world champ's CV. It's logical but a pity nonetheless that his comments are in Norwegian.

It also helps that Carlsen has teamed up with the charming Kaja Marie Snare of TV2. During the rounds the two are sitting in a pop-up studio of glass, in the middle of a busy Oslo shopping street.

A glass cube has been set up in the middle of Oslo. | Photo Yerazik Khachatourian.

The commentary in the cube reminds a bit of the glass cube in Bilbao a few years back, but in that tournament the players themselves could be found inside. In Norway it is a wonderful example of the current chess fever which, for a big part, is Magnus fever.

A nice side event was held right next to the glass cube, where Carlsen played basketball with three of Norway's best players. After that, he challenged them in chess. Obviously TV2 also filmed all this; here's the video.

Carlsen is a decent basketball player as well. | Photo Tarjei Svensen.

The players in the qualifier are GMs Laurent Fressinet of France, Jon Ludvig Hammer of Norway, Simen Agdestein of Norway, Nils Grandelius of Sweden, Curt Hansen of Denmark and IM Aryan Tari of Norway.

These six players start with a single round robin of five classical games, held May 10-14. Then, on May 15, five rapid games follow, with colors reversed. The total prize fund is 130,000 Norwegian kroner (€15,500 / $17,400).

The playing hall is inside a TV studio. Photo Linnea Syversen.

The classical games are played at a rather fast time control: 90 minutes for 40 moves, and then 30 minutes to finish the game but without any increment. The rapid is played at 20 minutes per game, also without increment.

Players get two points for a win and one for a draw in the classical segment, and one point for a win and half a point for a draw in the rapid segment. In case of a tie, a blitz playoff will be held.

Magnus Carlsen, Kaja Marie Snare, Simen Agdestein and (part of) Jon Ludvig Hammer in the studio. | Photo Yerazik Khachatourian.

After three rounds it seems like the fight will be mainly between the two top seeds, Fressinet and Hammer. Both are on five points, with two wins and a draw. We cannot yet ruled out Grandelius, who is trailing by a point and still undefeated as well.

The oldest participant seems out of contention already. 50-year-old GM Curt Hansen, a former world junior champion, played his last tournament in 2006. Recently he made a successful comeback, finishing second in the Danish Championship last month, half a point behind GM Sune Berg Hansen

Hansen lost his first three games, but it must be said that he faced both Fressinet and Hammer already. The latter was rather content with his smooth win in the first round, and rightly so. His plan to target Black's hanging pawns worked out well.


A smooth start for Jon Ludvig Hammer. | Photo Tarjei Svensen.

Two days later Fressinet also beat Hansen rather easily. Cementing the bishop on b5 was a nice idea and as soon as White's knight ended on c6 it was basically over.


Agdestein vs Hammer, also in round three, was a thriller of a game. Well, especially the time-trouble phase!


2015 EnterCard Qualifier | Round 3 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts SB
1 Fressinet,Laurent 2712 2881 phpfCo1l0.png ½     1 1 5 2.25
2 Hammer,Jon Ludvig 2665 2930 ½ phpfCo1l0.png   1   1 5 2.25
3 Grandelius,Nils 2623 2707     phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1 4  
4 Agdestein,Simen 2620 2483   0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½   2 1.50
5 Tari,Aryan 2520 2531 0   ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png   2 1.50
6 Hansen,Curt 2621 1867 0 0 0     phpfCo1l0.png 0  


As mentioned before, the winner will qualify for the third edition of the Norway Chess tournament. The other nine participants will be Magnus Carlsen, Vishy Anand, Levon Aronian, Veselin Topalov, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Alexander Grischuk, Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

The winner of the first two editions, Sergey Karjakin, is not playing. Earlier this week he commented on Facebook

Многие спрашивают почему я не играю в Ставангере. Скажу более, организаторы меня лично приглашали, но, затем отказались ...

Posted by Sergey Karjakin on Monday, May 11, 2015

Many people have asked me why I am not playing in Stavanger. The truth is that the organizers invited me personally, but then changed their mind, referring to the fact that they have changed the rules, and now it is not a separate super-tournament but part of a tournament series. Then they probably felt uncomfortable about what they had done, so they nominated me for the qualifying event! Quite apart from the fact that it overlaps with the Grand Prix in Khanty-Mansiysk, I think that, to put it mildly, it is rather strange to be invited to qualify for a tournament, which I have won twice in a row. So I would not have played in the qualifier anyway. There is no moral to this story, let everyone draw their own conclusions. But having been asked why I am not playing, that is my answer. (Translation thanks to Chess-News.)

Jøran Aulin-Jansson, organizer of Norway Chess, told “First of all, let me say that I am sorry for not being able to invite the two-time winner of Norway Chess back in 2015.

“I can confirm that Mr. Karjakin’s answer is correct. I did tell Sergey that he could expect an invitation from Norway Chess, when I met him in Bilbao during the ECC in September 2014. But after this, we joined the Grand Chess Tour, and had to coordinate the choice of players within the group of organizers.

“I hope to see him and his wonderful wife Galia back in Norway soon.”

Karjakin seems to have a point for another reason: when the Grand Chess Tour was announced, it was stated that the top 10 of the January 2015 FIDE rating list was invited.

“Some players had other commitments or obligations and were not able to participate in the tour. We went down and invited other players,” said Tony Rich, Director of the Chess and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. 

January 2015 FIDE ratings

GMs Vladimir Kramnik and Wesley So had to decline their participation due to prior commitments, and so Karjakin was a logical next choice. Instead, GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is playing.

Aulin-Jansson: “[When sending the initial invitations] we looked only at the nine first. Vachier-Lagrave was invited at a very late stage; during the Shamkir Chess tournament.” By that time, on the April rating list, MVL had surpassed Karjakin. 

April 2015 FIDE ratings

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

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