Wins For Carlsen, Giri, Kramnik In Norway Chess Round 1

Wins For Carlsen, Giri, Kramnik In Norway Chess Round 1

| 36 | Chess Event Coverage

Three of the players who earned five white games in yesterday's blitz tournament started Altibox Norway Chess with a win: Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri and Vladimir Kramnik. Giri ended a streak of 20 draws in classical games.

All photos courtesy Altibox Norway Chess/Joachim Steinbru.

Magnus Carlsen dominated the blitz tournament on the opening day of the Altibox Norway Chess tournament, but lost to Anish Giri. Both players started the main tournament with a win today, and for both that was perhaps a slight surprise: Carlsen is known as a slow starter while Giri hadn't won (or lost, for that matter) a game since January 23.

Let's start with Carlsen, who is, after all, the world champion. He was already the favorite, as he always is, after so many tournament victories in recent years. Many times these wins came after bad starts, but that's not the case in Stavanger this year.

Carlsen defeated Pentala Harikrishna in a Queen's Indian, the opening that Karjakin used in many black games at the Candidates'. With the bishop pair and a slightly better structure Carlsen couldn't complain about the opening. This advantage was traded for a position with an isolated queen's pawn in the enemy camp and bishop vs knight.

Several times Carlsen offered a queen trade, but the Indian GM declined and decided to give up a knight for some pawns on the queenside. However, White was too active and won with a direct attack on the king. An excellent game by the world champ.

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov

Anish Giri's drawing streak came to an end as he defeated Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine, using the Giuoco Piano — mostly a way to avoid the Berlin these days. Rather surprisingly the players managed to get a new position on the board by move eight! That had to do with the move order: 7.Re1 is not the most popular, and 7...a5 had only been played once in a correspondence game.

Whatever happened in the opening, Eljanov was doing OK basically up to the point where things started to get tactical. The key moment was move 19, where the Ukrainian unnecessarily allowed his opponent to win two pieces for a rook and pawn. The remaining endgame was just better for White. 

(Karjakin is referring to the fact that FIDE has temporarily stripped all Ukrainian players from their ratings because of unpaid bills from the Ukrainian Chess Federation concerning the Lviv World Championship match between Mariya Muzychuk and Hou Yifan.)

Anish Giri broke the spell! | Photo courtesy Altibox Norway Chess/Joachim Steinbru.

And the fans got treated with even a third win. Nils Grandelius put up a great fight against Vladimir Kramnik and was close to equal for long, but finally succumbed to the pressure shortly before the time control. By then the narrow path to the draw was very difficult. It involved playing for a mating net, but in the game it was Kramnik who had all the fun.

Veselin Topalov may not be too focused on chess these days and his blitz didn't go so well, but he started his tournament fine: a solid draw against Levon Aronian. He was better in fact, but not much.

A solid draw for Topalov as Black vs Aronian. | Photo courtesy Altibox Norway Chess/Joachim Steinbru.

The least interesting game was between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Li Chao. The Chinese player chose the Petroff, which isn't so popular anymore at top level but there doesn't seem to be a particular reason (except that the Berlin is solid too!).  MVL avoided a move repetition but then Li found a nice way to liquidate to a drawn endgame.

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

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