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Nakamura Grabs Lead In Norway 1st Round

Nakamura Grabs Lead In Norway 1st Round

As the only winner in the first round, Hikaru Nakamura grabbed an early lead at the Altibox Norway Chess tournament. The American grandmaster defeated Anish Giri, who was close to a draw but then allowed his opponent a winning liquidation.

Hikaru Nakamura was the only winner on Tuesday. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

The first six rounds of the Altibox Norway Chess tournament are held in the Clarion Hotel Energy, Stavanger's biggest conference hotel which opened in August 2014. It is located more centrally than Clarion Hotel Air, where yesterday's blitz tournament was held, and unlike there, everything is happening on the ground floor.

In fact, any hotel guest that enters the building is immediately immersed in the world of top chess. On one side of the hotel reception you'll find the commentary booth with Nigel Short and Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam, and on the other side there's the TV2 studio. The Norwegian channel is again bringing a daily live broadcast on its sports channel.

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A picture taken from the "press room" in front of the commentary booth,
the hotel reception on the left and the TV2 "studio" behind.

After an exciting blitz event on Monday, the fans and the media had to readjust a bit. Things didn't go so fast anymore! Luckily the Norwegians are very much used to slow television.

To make matters worse, after a few hours of play all games seemed to be heading to a draw, after not too much excitement. But both statements turned out to be wrong: in their post-mortems the players demonstrated that the games were actually quite interesting, and not all of them ended in draws.

Let's start with that decisive game: Hikaru Nakamura vs Anish Giri. It was a 4.Bg5 Grünfeld where Giri did not play the topical 4...Bg7 but the more classical 4...Ne4. Nakamura wasn't expecting that, and had to start thinking from move nine. He decided to go for solid moves, which resulted in a RRB vs RRN endgame.

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The players discussing their game right after it finished. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

Nakamura thought that Black should be fine if he goes for a setup with ...e5 instead of ...f5, but there Giri already didn't like his position. White's advantage started to grow when some pawns were traded, and it was around that time that the thought briefly crossed Nakamura's mind that he was playing Bobby Fischer's favorite endgame.

It was kind of ironic that White's advantage of bishop over knight decided the game at the point where the bishop could trade that knight in favorable circumstances!

Giri, at the post-mortem: "Bobby, if he's watching, he probably smiles!"

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After the game Chess.com conducted an interview with Nakamura. He talks about the game but also about his recent running activities:

Nakamura was still in time to play Titled Tuesday the same evening, and duly won this as well. A report on this event will be posted soon.

It was the longest game of the first round, with ½-½ on the score board for the other four games. If anyone had winning chances today, it was Vladimir Kramnik, despite getting almost nothing out of the opening. But it was Karjakin who decided against a move that would have equalised. Karjakin did see it; do you?

In the game Karjakin played two inaccurate moves in a row, and then got under a lot of pressure. Eventually he got an endgame where he was a pawn down, and managed to hold with good defense whereas Kramnik didn't play the strongest moves.

"I thought I was quite close to a win already," Kramnik said. "But as usual Sergey was defending very well, finding only moves..."

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Karjakin again proved a tough nut to crack. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

The 14th world champion pointed out that it's difficult to have different time controls at tournaments. Unlike other big events, Norway Chess doesn't have increment before move 61. 

Kramnik: "I kind of panicked, started to make nonsense at some point. I got too nervous."



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Kramnik came close to beating Karjakin again,
after his win in the blitz yesterday. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

The big game was of course Magnus Carlsen vs Wesley So, a.k.a. the world number one vs the world number two. Carlsen had good reason to be optimistic, and seemed to be in a fighting mood last night. He added another tweet in the morning about his win the blitz.

However, the next morning Carlsen's mood had changed somewhat. He chose a very solid approach in the opening—maybe too solid.

"What I did was probably a bit too tame obviously," he said. "When you go Be3 there you know it's not gonna be easy to win. You need to play extremely precisely to get anywhere at all."

Even so, it was White who could play for two results. Or, as Carlsen put it: "I don't see how to make progress but it's like 95% equal, not 100!"

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Carlsen had his typical minimal edge, but couldn't do much with it today;
in the endgame his knight was badly placed. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

At move 59, when Carlsen finally decided to end his winning attempts, the arbiter instructed him to play on. The world champ had actually offered a draw, forgetting that this is not allowed in this tournament. Thereupon, the players quickly went for a move repetition to solve this issue.

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The world's highest rated players, in good spirits, going
through their game afterward. | Photo Maria Emelianova.

Vachier-Lagrave vs Anand can be found in the PGN file. Levon Aronian vs Fabiano Caruana is definitely worth a look here as it contained lots of hidden tactics. Aronian didn't have problems with Nigel Short calling him a "cheapo artist," saying he was planning to "catch him in one of the cheapos." 

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Caruana and Aronian, well dressed as a cheapo artist today! | Photo Maria Emelianova.

2017 Altibox Norway Chess | Round 1 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Nakamura,Hikaru 2785 3571 1 1.0/1
2 Carlsen,Magnus 2832 2812 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
3 So,Wesley 2812 2832 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
4 Kramnik,Vladimir 2808 2781 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
5 Caruana,Fabiano 2808 2793 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
6 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2796 2786 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
7 Aronian,Levon 2793 2808 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
8 Anand,Viswanathan 2786 2796 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
9 Karjakin,Sergey 2781 2808 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
10 Giri,Anish 2771 1985 0 0.0/1

The pairings for round two on Wednesday are Nakamura-Aronian, Giri-Karjakin, Caruana-Carlsen, So-MVL and Anand-Kramnik.

Download games in PGN

You can follow the games in Live Chess each day starting at 4 p.m. local time (7 a.m. Pacific, 10 a.m. Eastern). We're providing on-site coverage on Chess.com/News and on our Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels.


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