Norway Chess R5: Silence After The Storm
The storm of spectacular chess that swept through Stavanger was short-lived. Round five of the Altibox Norway Chess tournament saw five draws, which means Hikaru Nakamura retained his half-point lead with four rounds to go.
Holding the draw vs Kramnik, Nakamura kept his half-point lead. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.
It was good while it lasted.
The tournament will see four more rounds, so it's way too early to make conclusions. Still, it was kind of sad that after such a great fourth round, the tournament was "back to business" today with much less fireworks, and five draws.
The cow-milk elixir only worked for a day, apparently! Or, as our member Samad1 commented under yesterday's report: "Let them milk the cows before every round ... make chess great again! "
Perhaps it's opening related? The new big trend at the highest level is the Giuoco Piano, and this can lead to dry games (such as Anand-So today), as one Indian grandmaster noted.
First Berlin and now Italian? What about the other openings? #NorwayChess— Adhiban Baskaran ( @adhibanchess) June 11, 2017
Before the round, the big question on the mind of the Norwegian fans was: how will Magnus cope with his loss?
Very exciting moment. No one is as dangerous as Magnus when angry, no one is as dangerous to Magnus as himself when angry. #NorwayChess— Jonathan Tisdall ( @GMjtis) June 11, 2017
How would Carlsen cope with his loss? | Photo: Maria Emelianova.
The statistic looks even better if you take a look at some more recent Carlsen losses in classical games. If we go back to August 2015, he scored 6.5/8 out of all games that he played after a loss.
- Wijk aan Zee 2017, Rapport, round 8 - Beat Van Wely the next round
- New York 2016, Karjakin, game 8 - Draw next game
- Bilbao 2016, Nakamura, round 1 - Beat Wei Yi next game
- Norway Chess 2016, Aronian, round 8 - Beat Eljanov next round
- European Teams 2015, Pelletier, round 5 - Beat Leko next round
- European Teams 2015 Aronian, round 3 - Draw vs Sune Berg Hansen next round
- Sinquefield Cup 2015, Topalov, round 1 - Beat Caruana next round
- Sinquefield Cup 2015, Grischuk, round 7 - Drew with Nakamura next round
This list is somewhat trivial, and changes considerably if you e.g. start to include the 2015 Norway Chess tournament, but the idea is clear: Magnus Carlsen tends to be pretty angry, and scores well after a rare loss.
What about today? Well, he didn't win, and that got him angry too.
Giri shaking hands with the world champ in a cool, calm & collected way. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.
Carlsen was reasonably satisfied with how he had started his game with Anish Giri, up until the first 14 moves. What he did after that (15.Be3 Bxe3 16.fxe3) spoilt everything, as he said in the TV2 studio. "I can't get my head right. I am not finding the moves."
He was even more critical of himself. Tarjei Svensen wrote down the best Carlsen quote for his report for Matt og Patt: "I played like an ass."
Apparently it's also a thing that tends to happen against this particular opponent. Carlsen about playing Giri: "Every time he plays so poorly against me and I am not able to punish it. I am pissed about it."
Giri, who only lost once in classical games against Carlsen, seems to benefit from his down-to-earth attitude towards the world champion. Today he said: "If I get a good position out of the opening I don't think the game is any different than with the others." He added: "But of course Magnus is very tricky, especially in the openings."
Giri: "Of course Magnus is very tricky." | Photo: Maria Emelianova.
If anyone had chances today it was Giri. He was also critical of Carlsen's 15.Be3 Bxe3 16.fxe3, calling it "strange" and "too timid," and eventually missed a chance on move 27. "It was a disaster not to play 27...exd4. It was a real chance to be slightly better."
After the game Giri brought some nuance to his remark at the opening press conference. "By the way, this thing about Jon Ludvig... My last two games I was suffering very badly against him for seven hours making a draw, so that was of course just a joke. In no way it was insulting to Jon Ludvig."
The quickest draw of the day was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Levon Aronian. The French GM went for the Marshall main line, as he often does, but this time it brought him less than nothing.
"I thought 20.h4 was a clever try," said MVL about his novelty. "I looked at this position multiple times, but what Levon played never crossed my mind. I realized it was not gonna be my day."
Six moves later Aronian was hoping it was gonna be his day, but Vachier-Lagrave saw an important tactic just in time, and managed to avoid getting into trouble.
MVL and Aronian bashing out 19 moves of Ruy Lopez Marshall theory. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.
Two games were very interesting from an opening perspective. First there was Vladimir Kramnik vs Hikaru Nakamura, a Qxd4 Sicilian in which White obtained the bishop pair at an early stage. Kramnik gave it up right after, but got a nice endgame anyway thanks to strong piece play. Especially White's queen's knight would be working hard today, making 15 of the 49 moves!
When they arrived for the post-mortem, both players were very much interested in the engine's evaluations. As it turned out, White's edge was clear but never very serious. At the very end Nakamura had reason to be slightly optimistic, but Kramnik said he was always in control: "I was also thinking that it could go in the wrong direction, but it looks like I have enough resources."
The opening in Sergey Karjakin vs Fabiano Caruana was a story in itself. This line of the Petroff even prompted Kramnik to enter the confession box and talk about this game, instead of his own!
Kramnik said that he was very interested in how this game would develop, because he had analysed this variation for his 2004 world championship match with Peter Leko. His conclusion back then: just holdable for Black.
After the game Caruana said that he had come to the same conclusion, and then he faced a critical Nigel Short, who stated that Caruana had "played like an accountant" for going into a worse endgame right from the opening.
Caruana playing the Petroff "like an accountant?" | Photo: Maria Emelianova.
Caruana: "There are different ways to approach it. The Petroff is not the most ambitious one but it does have the option of putting white under an enormous amount of pressure to actually prove anything. A lot of people also wouldn't be so content with White to play a position where there's no advantage and you have to play very accurately."
Caruana and Karjakin right after their game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova.
2017 Altibox Norway Chess | Round 5 Standings