Fabiano Caruana beat Sergey Karjakin in Altibox Norway Chess Round 5 to return to 50% while dragging his opponent down to the same level. That was good news for Magnus Carlsen, whose somewhat shaky draw against Vishy Anand meant he restored a one-point lead, since Mamedyarov-Nakamura and MVL-Aronian also ended in relatively uneventful draws. Ding Liren is out of the event after understandably deciding he needs to focus on recovering from hip surgery.
And then there were nine… Ding Liren will miss the remainder of the tournament, with the results of the three games he played discarded. No-one will replace him, so in Round 5 it was Wesley So who got an extra rest day while the other players were in action:
After the Grünfeld-themed Round 4 it was the Nimzo-Indian that took centre stage in Round 5, meaning Jan was the man (check out his 4.Qc2 against the Nimzo-Indian and A repertoire against 1.d4 | Part 3: Nimzo-Indian Defence) as he again teamed up with Peter Svidler for live commentary on all the action:
Let’s first take a look at the draws in the order in which the players shuffled into the commentary room to explain themselves. First up were Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Hikaru Nakamura, who served up a dish of Candidates Tournament leftovers. Shak played the 4.Qc2 Nimzo-Indian, as he had against Magnus in Wijk aan Zee, against Aronian and So in the Berlin Candidates and against Karjakin in Shamkir Chess. All those games had ended in draws, and Jan Gustafsson wondered if the opening really suits Mamedyarov’s chess strengths.
Shak said he’d prepared the line that occurred in the game for the Candidates, but it turned out Hikaru Nakamura had as well – just for the 2016 Candidates in Moscow! Otherwise he might have hesitated before playing 16...g5!
Shak said he was surprised by that “strong move”, and concluded, “he understands everything - for me it’s better to make a draw and go to sleep!” He’d been talking previously about how his toothache had gone but he’s now having issues with sleeping too much.
17.Nxg5 is playable, but just a draw, and there was also just a draw in the game after 17.Bg3 Qxc5 18.Qd8+ Kg7 19.Be5 Qc1+ 20.Ke2 Qc4+ and perpetual check. The players shook hands after 24 moves.
MVL-Aronian lasted just one move longer, but seemed to have the potential for more when Maxime Vachier-Lagrave mixed something up in a 4.Nf3 Nimzo-Indian. He was clearly surprised by Levon’s 11…Rb8 and after 12.Qc2 Ba6 13.Rd1 his position didn’t inspire confidence:
Levon was able to gain a bind on the position with 13…Bxc3 14.bxc3 Qa5 15.Bb2 Bc4. It wasn’t that Maxime hadn’t prepared, but…
I need to apologise to my helpers. It doesn’t matter if they do a good or a bad job if I don’t remember the lines I had on the computer this morning… I knew basically all the candidate moves, but I couldn’t remember which is good!
It was White on the defensive, but things came to an abrupt end after 21.Bh3:
Maxime’s dream scenario here would be for Aronian to blunder with 21…Ba6? 22.c4!, when the threat of 23.Bc3 is no laughing matter. That was spotted by Jan and Peter commentating and also by the players, who instead repeated moves with 21…Nc8 22.Rd2 Nb6 23.Rd6 and so on.
It was perhaps a half-chance missed for Levon, but the players clearly have a healthy respect for each other – or at least Levon was only half-joking when he said of one option:
I have to play some unnatural moves, which is a bad idea against such a talented natural player as Maxime.
Shortly afterwards he added that, “even with a big talent you cannot win without a queen.”
Carlsen-Anand, the third draw, stretched all the way to move 45, but the real action was over much sooner. In fact it seemed as though 8…Qa5 from Vishy might equalise almost on the spot:
Black’s plan is to follow up with d5, and here, although the position had been seen a couple of dozen times before, Magnus thought for 14 minutes. In the confessional booth he explained why his knowledge was a little rusty:
The black breakthrough did follow with 9.Bd2 Qh5 10.Be2 d5, but after 11.cxd5 exd5 12.exd5 Nxd5 13.0-0 Vishy saw something he disliked in the mass exchanges that would follow 13…Rd8 14.Nd4 Nxc3 and, in his words, “blundered” 13…Nf6?!
This move was the product of trying to be “really precise”, but Vishy soon realised that after 14.Nd4 his planned 14…Ng4 runs into 15.Bf4! and suddenly the position gets extremely sharp. He said, “I really wanted to kick myself”, but although things were getting uncomfortable after 14…Qc5 15.Nxc6 Nxc6 16.Bf3 Qa6!? the tension dropped shortly afterwards when queens were exchanged on e2. It was still not an ideal situation for Vishy, who lamented:
It’s exactly his type of position. Of all the guys to get this position, why do I do it today?
A few moves later, though, and it was clear the outcome of the game was going to be peaceful – the only problem was getting there. Draw offers are completely banned and the remainder of the game had a somewhat comic quality – it could almost have become tragi-comic after Magnus was a little careless – but the players finally found the sought-after repetition:
Luckily those somewhat underwhelming draws were just the warm-up act for the main game of the day.
Sergey Karjakin dashed Caruana’s hopes in the final round of the 2016 Candidates Tournament, and he almost repeated the trick earlier this year in Berlin when he beat Caruana to take the lead with just two rounds to go. Karjakin was on a roll there, and it seemed he might also be building up momentum in Stavanger after his win over MVL. In Round 5, however, he suffered an almost complete reversal of fortune.
Peter Svidler takes a look at the Rise and Fall of Karjakin:
While Karjakin had come armed with an opening surprise against MVL this time it was Fabiano who went for the deceptively innocuous-looking 7.b3.
To see the kind of madness that can ensue check out one of its most recent outings when Wouter Spoelman took on Lev Yankelevich in a wild Bundesliga game earlier this year. Spoelman didn’t think for over a minute on any move until he had a winning position by move 15.
Sergey spent 15 minutes and played not Yankelevich’s 7…d5 but 7…0-0, after which he seemed to get stuck in two minds. On the one hand he went for 10…b6, which Fabiano criticised as too slow, while on the other he then played some hyper-aggressive moves until he’d planted his queen on g3. This was a key position that arose after 19…Nf6!?
It was déjà vu all over again of the way MVL had played against Karjakin the day before. The computer insisted that White was close to winning, while the Norway Chess players were much less convinced. Nakamura repeated almost verbatim what he’d said the day before about Maxime’s position – “I like Karjakin’s position. It’s easier to play with Black”. Caruana himself said, “I thought what he did was more clever,” and he called the queen on g3 “very irritating”. Caruana felt putting the knight on f6 here was a “panicky decision”, though, and decided to remove it from the board with 20.Bxf6 gxf6:
I didn’t think I was forced to take, but I thought, if I don’t take and he equalises, I’ll really regret it!
Still, even after this point Vishy Anand was commenting that, “once you get past these doubled pawns” Black’s position wasn’t necessarily so bad. For a long time Black continued to pose problems, and Fabiano said it was only when Karjakin started just to shuffle his king around that he felt he would be able to break through. The final act came when White’s queen infiltrated on a8:
There was still some hope for Black here, since after 35…Bd7 Caruana’s main plan was to play 36.Qd8, which at first sight seems to win on the spot, but in fact can be met with 36…Ng6! White is still on top after 37.Bxg6 or 37.Qxd7! (based on a knight fork on f5), but the game would have gone on. Instead Karjakin clearly realised he was doomed as he let his time almost run out before blitzing out 35…Bxh3 36.gxh3 Qxh3+ 37.Kg1 Rxd4:
38.exd4? Qg3+ isn’t so clear, but unfortunately for Sergey his opponent had plenty of time to calmly calculate that 38.Bg2! ends all the fun. The game finished 38…Qg3 39.Rxd4
39...Ng4 40.Rf3 Qe1+ 41.Bf1 Black resigns
Check out Fabiano’s comments afterwards (and marvel, once again, at how much he sees):
Fabiano was far from getting carried away with returning to 50%, but commented that, “my last two games were a clear improvement on my first two, so I’m happy with that”. 50% is the place to be in this tournament, with six players there (note the table now doesn’t include Ding Liren’s games, so five of the players have played one game less). Only Magnus Carlsen is on a plus score, a point ahead of the field:
On Sunday we have So-Carlsen, which frankly might not entertain:
There’s plenty of potential in the other games, though, with Aronian-Caruana, Nakamura-MVL and Anand-Mamedyarov all heavyweight clashes. Sergey Karjakin will have two rest days before he gets a chance to bounce back, since he was paired to play Ding Liren on Sunday and Monday is the final rest day for all the players.