Vishy Anand won in style against Magnus Carlsen in Round 4 of Norway Chess to leave the World Champion stuck on 0.5/4. How different things might be if not for the loss on time in Round 1. Vishy noted Magnus, “played a beautiful game and if he’d won that he’d be a different person”. The same knock-on effect applies to Veselin Topalov, who now leads alone on 3.5/4 after beating Levon Aronian in Round 4, while Jon Ludvig Hammer’s loss to Alexander Grischuk completed a day to forget for Norway.
Norway Chess 2015, Round 4 (click a game to replay it with computer analysis)
For Round 4 the players visited the medieval Utstein Monastery on the island of Mosterøy.
Luckily Anand wasn’t in charge of getting there:
Where Vishy was in charge, though, was on the chessboard. Commentary co-host Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam revealed Vladimir Kramnik Skyped him, “Carlsen is listening to me! ” after Magnus “followed his advice” and avoided the Berlin Defence that had led to defeat against Caruana. The more classical Ruy Lopez didn't, however, serve him any better.
For a long time the game followed a typical pattern in Anand-Carlsen encounters. The world no. 1 maintained the tension (the first piece was exchanged on move 21) and then played provocative moves that forced Vishy to go for an all-out attack. That had worked perfectly, for instance, in the GRENKE Chess Classic in Baden-Baden, but this time Vishy held his nerve to inflict yet another defeat on the young Norwegian.
IM Lawrence Trent takes us through the game:
Afterwards Vishy Anand got a well-merited round of applause during his post-game press conference:
Of course even if the first round debacle can’t be forgotten, the World Champion scoring 0.5/4 in any tournament is a sensation. Vladimir Kramnik managed it at the end of last year’s Norway Chess, but it’s not the kind of thing the incredibly consistent Carlsen has made a habit of, except perhaps in the Gausdal Classics:
Suddenly Magnus Carlsen’s huge edge over the rest of the chess world has been reduced, though for most having a lead of "only" 40+ points over your rivals would be considered a luxury problem (Topalov won after this snapshot to move into no. 2 on 2812.9):
Magnus was understandably upset with how he’d played:
And the chess world gave its verdicts on the incredible sequence of events:
During his Banter Blitz session here on chess24, Peter Svidler noted:
I think we all understand that his current results stem from Round 1, which would be extremely traumatic for anyone.
Fabiano Caruana disagreed with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave that Carlsen was unused to bad starts:
Isn’t he actually quite used to it? In most tournaments he starts with an early loss and then comes back with several wins in a row. I don’t think the reason is that he lost (in Round 1), but maybe the way that he lost.
Caruana described the loss on time to Topalov as, “bad luck, but it was also irresponsible”, though he did add, “his score doesn’t correspond to how he’s playing”.
The pressure of playing at home, which few know more about than Vishy Anand, has also been suggested as an issue:
Though no-one put it better than “Squarology”:
It was a bad day all round for Norway, with Jan Gustafsson (a big fan of Norway, before readers write in to complain ) asking Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave:
Do you guys think they should stop inviting two Norwegians, since they obviously can't keep up with the rest?
Jon Ludvig Hammer knew he was in for a tough afternoon when he ran into 7.Nh3!?
Alexander Grischuk noted this had actually been played about 20 times before, but it took Hammer 13 minutes to decide on “punishing” it with 7…g5. Grischuk approved of that move, but felt that after 8.Ng1 Hammer’s 8…h5?! was asking too much. It seems Grischuk’s plan wasn’t as bad as it looked:
Jon Ludvig went on to spend 39 minutes on the risky 12…Bxh3?! pawn grab and soon everything was against him. There was maybe a hint of hyperbole as Jan commented:
Hammer is in trouble and Grischuk is ahead on time, maybe for the first time in his chess career!
The remainder of the game was more about aesthetics:
It wasn’t just the commentators who spotted that, with Grischuk pointing out it could have been the 6-pawn attack:
Watch his press conference in full, which has the added bonus of starting with the moment Magnus Carlsen resigned against Vishy Anand!
If there’s one person who can take comfort in the Norwegian debacle it’s Levon Aronian, since at least some of the “what’s up with Levon?” attention has been distracted elsewhere. In Round 4 he was smoothly outplayed by Veselin Topalov, who outsmarted his opponent in the opening and then proved he can play technical positions just as well as his trademark all-out attacking chess.
For a while the black position looked hard to break down,
although when Jan Gustafsson noted a line “doesn’t feel like much”, Yasser
Seirawan shot back, “It depends which side Karpov is playing!” In the end the
quiet position suddenly turned treacherous for Levon after 38.b4!
After the forced sequence, 38…cxb4 39.Rc8! (threatening mate-in-1) 39…Nd8 40.R1c7+ Ke8 41.Nc5! the threat of Rd7 next move meant Black had nothing better than to give up the exchange. Levon fought on until move 58, but it was more going through the motions than in the hope of a positive outcome.
The two remaining games were drawn, though not without adventures. Fabiano Caruana showed his stubborn streak, as he persisted in playing the Najdorf Defence despite a very poor record with it, and particularly against his opponent in Round 4, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Fabiano cheerfully commented afterwards:
I think I lost my last three games in a row, unless you count a draw in a rapid game against Karjakin, when I should also have lost! At some point I’m going to win a game against the Najdorf.
Visually he came close on Friday, but despite some attractive moves…
21.Kh1! (who needs the exchange anyway?) …it seems Black always had enough tactical firepower to hold.
Giri-Nakamura was a battle in the combative 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3 Bc5 variation of the Ruy Lopez.
The Norway Chess commentators weren’t sure what to call it, and although it has been labelled the "Tkachiev Ruy Lopez" the man himself got in touch with us to ask that we describe it as the Yurtaev Variation. The maverick Kyrgyzstan Grandmaster Leonid Yurtaev (1959-2011) beat the likes of Tal, Ivanchuk, Morozevich, Kasparov and Aronian during his career. Vlad notes:
Everything started with my game against Bologan in Tilburg 1994, but I was told all the critical lines by my roommate and friend/guru Leonid Yurtaev. Such an almost genius player as Yurtaev deserves this legacy. This is entirely HIS!
Giri and Nakamura played in the spirit of the opening, though they ultimately balanced each other out over 59 moves. Afterwards an entertaining press conference ended with the players wondering which Top 100 players have tattoos. Stay tuned for Giri’s suggestion of what Nigel Short has tattooed on his body
So once again we’re left with an “enjoy it while you can” cross table for Magnus Carlsen’s rivals:
Jan Gustafsson noted on the live commentary:
If Carsen lost again and had 0.5/4 that might break the Norwegian media... I'm not sure the tournament continues
There were worrying signs:
But assuming Norway Chess does go on... after a rest day on Saturday Magnus will have White against Grischuk on Sunday. The 10 classical games
between them so far have witnessed 8 draws and 2 wins for Carlsen. Elsewhere
Nakamura-Anand and Aronian-Caruana stand out, while tournament leader Topalov
may press for a win even with Black against outsider Hammer.
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