Reports Jun 9, 2017 | 7:24 AMby Colin McGourty

Norway Chess 3: 5 draws, 2 thrillers

Magnus Carlsen called Hikaru Nakamura’s play in a Najdorf Sicilian “insanely risky”, but ended happy to have escaped with a draw. The other four games were also drawn in Round 3 of Altibox Norway Chess, but Levon Aronian in particular was seconds away from losing on time in a crazy encounter with Anish Giri. MVL-Caruana and Karjakin-Anand were less eventful, while Vladimir Kramnik not only held on to his world no. 2 spot against Wesley So but came close to scoring a big win in a 71-move game.

A fighting postmortem after a fighting game! | photo: Lennart Ootes

Five draws was always going to be a likely outcome to a day’s play in a tournament without a single outsider, but no-one could criticise the action we saw on Thursday in Stavanger:

You can replay the Round 3 commentary of Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson below (to watch them live and support such shows in future please consider going Premium):   

The most anticipated game of the day saw Hikaru Nakamura facing his nemesis, Magnus Carlsen. If the World Champion was going to get his first win of the tournament where would his chances be better than against a player he had a 12:1 classical record against? 

It's been a customary slow start so far for Magnus Carlsen | photo: Lennart Ootes

The likelihood of a decisive outcome was boosted when Nakamura went for the Sicilian, and things eventually got very double-edged:


Here Magnus went for 24.Rc6, but after 24…f4 he soon realised that Nakamura’s attack was much more dangerous than he initially thought. In fact, he later commented:

Not to play 24.b5 is just insane, practically speaking. With this time control you need to play for the initiative.

The point is that after 24.b5 the obvious 24…Nc5 is met by the exchange sacrifice 25.Rxc5! and it’s White who’s in command. Magnus commented about the position that occurred later in the game, “fun it is not”, though there was nothing obvious Nakamura missed.

For the full details check out Peter Svidler’s analysis:

Some of the games were less dramatic. MVL-Caruana was a Petroff Defence that never real caught fire, though it was notable for the approach the players took to the issue of drawing in a situation when draw offers aren’t allowed – they played on to bare kings at move 51!

Fabiano Caruana's second Rustam Kasimdzhanov with the man himself and Anish Giri | photo: Lennart Ootes

Karjakin-Anand, meanwhile, was a fascinating Berlin Defence that only failed to set the pulses racing because it was clear that both players were reproducing their home preparation. 

Vishy Anand got back on track after losing to Kramnik | photo: Lennart Ootes

Sergey admitted his play with a double pawn sacrifice was a leftover from his World Championship match preparation, while Vishy told a story about how he remembered the key position after 21…Bd7! five moves earlier:


I still remember as if it was yesterday when my second Radek (Wojtaszek) sat in front of me and said “and now the move is 21…Bd7!” and my first reaction was, “you’re joking! 22.Rxb7?” He said, “No, no, no, don’t worry - 22…Qc8! and you’re absolutely fine. That’s all you need to know, we’ll move to the next.” So that was more or less the sequence he did with me. I remember the conversation rather than the position. I fell out of my chair when he played 22.Rxb7, but he said don’t worry, 22…Qc8 is the draw.

Karjakin knew the antidote to the pawn grab as well, and played 22.h3, a move his team had decided was the best practical try. It came to nothing, though, when Vishy found 22…b5! 23.Bxb5 Qe8!, forcing a draw. After losing to Kramnik the day before he admitted, “I needed it after this stupid game yesterday”.

The most enjoyable game of the round, however, was Aronian-Giri. Anish Giri has come in for a lot of criticism for his style of play, but what can you say about his choice here:


Computers recommend 19…e4, but Giri’s 19…g5!? was a much more dramatic roll of the dice. Anish has, of course, a reputation for draws, and in the post-mortem Aronian couldn’t resist a joke when Giri rejected a move suggested by his opponent:  

Giri: But I’m just trying to make a draw here, aren’t I?

Aronian: Isn’t that always the case?

Giri has now come close to winning in his last two games | photo: Lennart Ootes

Peter Svidler jumped to defend Giri after the outcome of the game was known and the trolling had begun:

He did play g7-g5 in that position, for crying out loud, and people are still unhappy!

The position that Giri’s pawn push created was so complex that Aronian plunged into an 18-minute think and soon found himself with a mere 90 seconds for 13 moves. As we predicted in our preview, the time control in Stavanger was an issue, with no increments before move 61 and only 100 minutes before move 40 (Kramnik revealed that he only realised mid-game that the time control wasn’t 120 minutes as it was, for instance, in Shamkir recently).

For the purposes of winning on time Anish Giri should probably have tried 28…Qe7! rather than 28…Ng4+, which led to simplifications and an exchange of queens, but even the way the game went it was very close, with Giri commenting:

The objective evaluation of the position is absolutely irrelevant!

What mattered was the clock, and moves that might increase the likelihood of Levon physically failing to make the moves in time. For instance, after 36.Rf5 it’s clear that White is planning to play 37.Rc5:


So it was cunning for Giri to play 36…Rc4!, making that “pre-move” a losing move! What followed was a blur...

...and after 37.Kg3 c5 (37…c6! would have been a better move to limit White’s options) Levon knocked over his king as he played 38.Kf3. If he’d put the piece back on the square on his own time that might have been a losing mistake, but instead Levon stopped his clock first and only then adjusted the piece, an absolutely understandable contravention of the rules. 

Ultimately he looks to have made move 40 with 4 seconds remaining, with the position a straightforward draw.

Chess is tough... | photo: Lennart Ootes

The final game to finish was Kramnik-So, where Vladimir Kramnik repeated the Giuoco Piano he’d played against Karjakin in Round 1. White was better for more or less the whole game, with the computer pointing out the best chance came on move 30:


30.g4! was a move Kramnik dismissed as he thought it would leave his king too exposed, but objectively it may have been very hard to meet. In the game itself Kramnik applied heavy pressure in an endgame, with Svidler summing up:

Vlad almost managed to squeeze water out of a very solid stone.

Karjakin told a funny story of how he spent five hours wondering where his colleagues were getting water from before realising a bottle was standing next to him on the table... Kramnik had no trouble discovering the local water supply | photo: Lennart Ootes

Wesley held on, though, meaning that nothing had changed as the players went into Friday’s rest day:


After the rest day we have another five fascinating encounters, with Aronian-Carlsen perhaps historically having been the most interesting, though Caruana-Kramnik runs it close. Giri-Anand is a battle between the players who currently find themselves adrift of the pack.

Tune in for all the action with commentary from Peter Svidler and Jan Gustafsson LIVE here on chess24 from 16:00 CEST onwards. You can also follow the action in our mobile apps:

         

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