Giri Still Drawless In Norway, Loses To Vachier-Lagrave

Giri Still Drawless In Norway, Loses To Vachier-Lagrave

| 18 | Chess Event Coverage

Anish Giri hasn't forgotten how to win, or how to lose. Today he played extremely sharp but faced a Maxime Vachier-Lagrave up to the task. The French GM now leads Altibox Norway Chess with Carlsen and Kramnik.

“Time to draw some conclusions,” was a nice quip from Anish Giri after he had finished his Candidates' Tournament with 14 draws. Perhaps the Dutchman was planning to take some more risks in Norway? Or did his strong play in the blitz and first round boost his confidence? Whatever it was, today Giri decided that it was time for a sharp game. As Magnus Carlsen put it: “He seemed to be in good shape. He went for it.”

Anish Giri “went for it” today.

Giri answered Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's Najdorf with 6.Bg5, the move Miguel Najdorf himself faced in his very first 5...a6 game — played by Christian Poulsen at the 1939 Buenos Aires Olympiad.

After all these years it's still the most ambitious approach if only because White needs to know a huge number of variations.

MVL's move order (7...h6 and 8...Qb6) was smart, but after his 15th move Giri still hadn't spent more than five minutes on the clock. It was the first critical moment of the game, because 15...Rg8!? took Giri by surprise. 

He spent 47 minutes on his next move: 16.Rdg1. In many lines he had to compare positions with a white rook on d1 or h1 — the famous “which rook” problem.

Magnus Carlsen, who finished early today and made some comments about the other games, felt that 15...Rg8 “has to be bad” but admitted that it was perhaps a good practical choice, especially together with MVL's brilliant follow-up: 16...d5!!

Giri said that he had completely missed this possibility. “I was focused on this dark square blockade. It's just so shocking! The guy is not developed and goes ...d5!”

White was never going to be able to take on f4 anymore and, as Giri noted, making a move like 18.Qh3 is a sign that things have gone wrong. You just really want to take on f4.

The computer is surprisingly optimistic about White's chances after 19.Bf3, a move that's so ugly that it was hardly considered by the players. Around that moment Carlsen noted: “Long term it's not so easy with a bad king but here Black is just way too active. In such a position there might not be long term.”

As it went, even MVL was surprised how quickly White's position collapsed. 

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov

With four draws this meant that MVL swapped places with his opponent to reach shared first place with 1.5/2.

The first to split the point was in fact Magnus Carlsen, playing Black against Veselin Topalov. The main reason perhaps was the world champion's mood, which he described as follows: “I sort of went for the 'I'm Black today approach' so I might be able to play for some more at some point but you never now, it's a little risky and I have solid alternatives so let's be solid today.”

Carlsen went for the '"I'm Black today approach."

Like yesterday , Topalov was also rather solid and so not much happened actually. “Yesterday we played about 40 moves without any mistakes. Compared to my play this year it's a big achievement,” the Bulgarian said afterward. “With the black pieces against Levon it's always diffIcult and a draw with the world champion is fantastic!”

Shortly after this game the next draw appeared on the board. Still in the studio with GMs Jan Gustafsson and Peter Svidler when Nils Grandelius and Levon Aronian shook hands, Carlsen remarked: “This is one of the most bizarre repetitions I've ever seen!”

The three grandmasters were convinced that Aronian was better, especially if he had played 24...Bc2, “forcing” the exchange on a5. Aronian gave a pretty convincing reason why he didn't go for it and showed a line where several white pieces started looking at his king. (Fearless engines don't fully agree.)

After putting up very decent resistance against Kramnik the other day, Grandelius, the only non-2700+ GM, can definitely be satisfied with his start of the tournament.

Pavel Eljanov and Pentala Harikrishna were next. The Indian, who prefers “Hari” himself, treated the 4.f3 Nimzo sharply and forced the enemy king to d2 as early as move 11. That wasn't too terrible for White, but after his voluntary pin 15.Qd2 Eljanov started to dislike his position.

“It looks like bad homework from me,” he said after the game. “You have seven games. You can do better!” were Hari's encouraging words.

Li Chao, who only knew about his participation nine days before the start, has no reason to complain either. The Chinese player drew his second game, today against Vladimir Kramnik using the 3.g3 Vienna.

Also in a sideline like that you can expect Kramnik to be booked up, and indeed he played the first 14 moves quickly. 15.bxc3 turned out to be a novelty, and Kramnik admitted that he hadn't analyzed it. Really? There's something he hasn't analyzed? ;-)
A brave Li temporarily sacrificed some pawns and did an excellent job in the tactical mayhem that followed. Especially 31.Re7! was both missed and praised by Kramnik.

Altibox Norway Chess | Round 2 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2788 2963 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 1.5/2 1.50
2 Carlsen,Magnus 2851 2949 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 1.5/2 1.00
3 Kramnik,Vladimir 2801 2892 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 1.5/2 1.00
4 Li,Chao 2755 2794 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1.0/2 1.50
5 Topalov,Veselin 2754 2817 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1.0/2 1.25
6 Aronian,Levon 2784 2702 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1.0/2 0.75
7 Giri,Anish 2790 2777 0 phpfCo1l0.png 1 1.0/2 0.50
8 Grandelius,Nils 2649 2602 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 0.5/2 0.50
9 Eljanov,Pavel 2765 2586 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 0.5/2 0.25
10 Harikrishna,P 2763 2618 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png 0.5/2 0.25

The pairings for round three are Harikrishna-Topalov, Aronian-Li Chao, Carlsen-Grandelius, Kramnik-Giri, and Vachier-Lagrave-Eljanov.

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