Norway Chess: 5 Draws, Grandelius Escapes

Norway Chess: 5 Draws, Grandelius Escapes

| 15 | Chess Event Coverage

Using a setup popularized by Alexander Morozevich, Pentala Harikrishna came close to beating Nils Grandelius, but at the end of the day all games at the Altibox Norway Chess tournament ended in draws.

The standings didn't change a single bit after today's round in sunny Stavanger as all games ended in draws. Magnus Carlsen's performance rating dropped below 3000 again, but he probably couldn't care less. More important, he is leading the tournament on home soil, the tournament he couldn't win yet in three attempts.

Carlsen arriving at the playing hall with his second Peter Heine
Nielsen. | Photo courtesy Altibox Norway Chess/Tom Haga.

Carlsen was the first to draw today but he could hardly be blamed himself. Li Chao had White and not only played the Exchange Slav (already not very ambitious) but in a way that just led to a symmetrical and very equal position. That was rather puzzling, because Li is known as a fighting player. Afterward the Chinese player explained: he was suffering from a headache. On top of that, he thought that today was the rest day, not tomorrow.

In the game Carlsen tried it a bit (“there wasn't much to play for but it felt like I was trying for a little something something”) but Li was too solid.

Li Chao-Carlsen, not the most exciting game ever. | Photo courtesy Altibox Norway Chess/Tom Haga.

Much more fun was the encounter between Nils Grandelius (him again!) and Pentala Harikrishna. The latter played Alexander Morozevich's gxf6 French, always good for dynamic games. 

Neglecting the advice from Levon Aronian, Grandelius went for an early pawn grab on the kingside, saying: “It's a bit risky but it's also a pawn.” Carlsen said he didn't really understand what was going on until the move f6-f5, and from that point the world champion preferred Black (“practically at least”).

Harikrishna was well on his way to win the game. At some point adding pressure to a pinned knight was simple enough, but he hesitated and allowed his opponent to escape.

Game Of The Day Analyzed By GM Dejan Bojkov

Pavel Eljanov played the 5.Bg5 Queen's Gambit Declined against Veselin Topalov, the classical move that has been overshadowed by 5.Bf4 in recent years. With 7...b6 Topalov chose a variation in chess with one of the longest names: the Tartakower-Makagonov-Bondarevsky-system! 

“There are not so many forced lines and in many positions you don't really get much worse,” was how the Bulgarian explained his choice.

With 8.cxd5 Eljanov then followed in Bobby Fischer's footsteps (the famous sixth match game from 1972!) but only a few moves later he left theory. His setup wasn't principled enough and so Black faced no problems whatsoever.

Four draws is not a start you'd expect from Topalov. He said: “It's better than losing games as in London or Moscow. I had no chances to do any better; there were no complicated games yet. For confidence it's better to start with a normal result.”

A typical “correct” grandmaster draw. | Photo courtesy Altibox Norway Chess/Tom Haga.

Speaking of the 5.Bf4 QGD, that topical move was in fact played on one of the other boards today: Anish Giri vs Levon Aronian. The two reached a very similar middlegame position as in their encounter last month in Moscow, but as it turned out neither player could remember exactly the move order from that one!

Also today Giri got the b4-b5 break in (much quicker in fact) but it didn't pose Black big problems. The Dutchman then decided to try it in the center but his e3-e4 push backfired and he was soon slightly worse. Getting the Nc7xd5 trade in was important and there the biggest problems were behind him. “I'm glad that the game ended so peaceful. I was thinking I'm in for a very long suffering,” said Giri.

Even the memory of Giri and Aronian has limits. | Photo courtesy Altibox Norway Chess/Tom Haga.

The longest game of the round was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Vladimir Kramnik, and perhaps the fact that neither player knew exactly whether he was playing for a win had something to do with that! Especially the opening and early middle phase was a bit messy; MVL described it as “awful.”

It seems that after this game the Frenchman is the one who can be disappointed. He missed some chances for an advantage (27.Nh4, 31.Qxd1) and was also the one who was getting good positions during the post-mortem. 

When looking at the lines after 27.Nh4, commentator Peter Svidler said to Magnus Carlsen: “Maybe Vladimir overestimated his chances” to which the Norwegian replied: “He's prone to do that.”

Kramnik has a strange tournament so far. He said himself: “I cannot get anything with White and at least I'm slightly better with Black in every game.”

MVL vs Kramnik, a bit of a strange game. | Photo courtesy Altibox Norway Chess/Tom Haga.

Some more players answered Jan Gustafsson's “desert island question” (see yesterday's report).

Eljanov chose MVL: “Maxime maybe. At least I'm bigger than him!”

Topalov chose Giri: “I would also think about survival but I don't know who would be the most useful. I think I would chose Anish probably. Because the impression is he would listen to me!”

Aronian chose Carlsen: “I think Magnus is physically strong and probably intellectually capable so I will pick him. Somebody has to carry the bags you know!”

Hari's answer was perhaps the most sensible: “Why would I be with a chess player on an island. I must be so unfortunate!”

Altibox Norway Chess | Round 4 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,Magnus 2851 2921 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1 1 3.0/4
2 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2788 2866 phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1 ½ 2.5/4 5.00
3 Kramnik,Vladimir 2801 2834 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ 1 2.5/4 4.25
4 Li,Chao 2755 2806 ½ ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 2.0/4 5.00
5 Topalov,Veselin 2754 2790 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ ½ ½ 2.0/4 4.00
6 Giri,Anish 2790 2785 0 ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1 2.0/4 3.75
7 Aronian,Levon 2784 2737 ½ ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 2.0/4 3.50
8 Eljanov,Pavel 2765 2686 ½ ½ 0 phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1.5/4 3.00
9 Harikrishna,P 2763 2667 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png ½ 1.5/4 2.25
10 Grandelius,Nils 2649 2609 0 0 ½ ½ phpfCo1l0.png 1.0/4

Carlsen tops the standings with five rounds to go. | Photo courtesy Altibox Norway Chess/Tom Haga.

The pairings for round five, on Sunday, are Kramnik-Eljanov , Aronian-Vachier-Lagrave, Topalov-Grandelius, Carlsen-Giri, and Harikrishna-Li Chao. phpfCo1l0.png

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