Reports Jun 26, 2015 | 10:53 AMby Colin McGourty

Norway Chess 9: Topalov triumph, Magnus misery

Veselin Topalov has won Norway Chess 2015 after forcing a quick draw against Vishy Anand in the final round. The Indian took second place, although he was caught on points by Hikaru Nakamura, who inflicted a second loss in a row on Levon Aronian. The real sensation of the final day, though, was a calamitous defeat for World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who got too creative against his compatriot and second Jon Ludvig Hammer. We take a look at the games and how the event went for each of the players.

Norway Chess Round 9 results

Topalov 1/2 – 1/2 Anand

Half an hour, 18 moves, an exact replica of the game with which Ivanchuk ended Magnus Carlsen’s 6-game winning streak at the Tata Steel Tournament at the beginning of the year (at least that one gave us a wonderful interview!). It was easy to feel cheated as a chess fan.

It was also understandable, of course, and left the two oldest players in the Norway Chess field occupying the top stops both in the tournament and the Grand Chess Tour:

Veselin Topalov: 6.5/9 (5 wins, 3 draws, 1 loss), 2946 performance, +17.7 rating points

I apologise, but in some cases you have to be practical.

We can forgive Veselin for the final day, after he’d already produced six decisive games in Stavanger. This was a result Veselin could barely have dreamt of when he was being slowly ground down by Magnus Carlsen in the first round of the event, but the extraordinary win on time proved the springboard for the kind of performance the Bulgarian produced at the very height of his powers. Of course there was luck involved, but as Topalov explained in his post-game interview, that’s also required since computers have levelled the playing field among the top players.

In that interview Topalov also outlines his new approach to chess, which meant he cancelled an appearance in the Shamkir Chess tournament when the dates were changed to clash with a family holiday, and might consider playing an exhibition in Brazil although it conflicts with the 2016 Candidates Tournament. Veselin is now almost certain to qualify for that on rating, since he’s hit 2816 on the live rating lists.

Vishy Anand: 6/9 (3 wins, 6 draws), 2904 performance, +11.9 rating points

I was ready for a fight, but I just didn’t want to be silly about it.

You can’t blame Vishy for the draw in Stavanger any more than you can criticise Carlsen for the earlier draw with Ivanchuk, especially as it ensured the event in Norway will go down as a huge success for the former World Champion. Once again, as in Shamkir, he was never in serious trouble, and it seems the difficulties he had winning games a couple of years ago are a thing of the past. His three wins in Norway Chess were all the result of sacrificial kingside attacks that went like clockwork, with Anand ending ranked second in the world with a rating of 2816.1, “just” 37.2 points behind Magnus Carlsen.

Watch Vishy after his final game:


Hammer 1 – 0 Carlsen

Just when it seemed Magnus was back on track and would beat his own second to end on a respectable 50% we got one last sting in the tail. There were early warning signs:

And things didn’t improve:

IM Lawrence Trent looks at where it all went wrong for the World Champion:

Magnus Carlsen: 3.5/9 (2 wins, 3 draws, 4 losses), 2691 performance, -23 rating points

Needless to say, this wasn’t what Magnus had been hoping for or the rest of the world had expected, but at least it proves the World Champion is human – and his final result still perhaps requires an “*” to explain the first game. He gave his own verdict afterwards on Facebook:

Tarjei Svensen notes it was still a first place of kinds for Magnus 

Jon Ludvig Hammer: 3/9 (1 win, 4 draws, 4 losses), 2668 performance, -0.6 rating points

As we mentioned in our preview article, Hammer had jokingly commented before the event:

My main goal in this tournament is to beat Magnus. Then it does not matter if I lose all the other games and just get one point.

Amazingly he managed, even adding a couple of points from the rest of the field! Although Jon Ludvig still finished in last place he was delighted to have ended on such a high, and could also look back on missed opportunities earlier in the tournament.

Aronian 0-1 Nakamura

This game was the most picturesque of the day:

But the players paid for that beauty in time, only approaching move 20 as the time control began to loom ever larger. That was when Aronian crumbled, just as he had the day before against Magnus Carlsen:

19.Qb1!, which Levon suggested himself after the game, would have kept things under control. Instead after 19.Rc1 the black knight soon jumped to d3 to win an exchange. White had no compensation and Nakamura smoothly finished off the job.

Watch the players in the post-game press conference:

Levon Aronian: 3/9 (1 win, 4 draws, 4 losses), 2657 performance, -14.7 rating points

For a while after he beat Caruana we saw flashes of the old Aronian, not only confident at the board but a breath of fresh air in the post-game press conferences. The final losses to two key rivals, though, extinguished any positive emotions and left Aronian joint last with the worst performance of any player in the event. The “what’s up with Levon?” mystery remains.

Let’s hope at least his bughouse skills haven’t deteriorated!

Hikaru Nakamura: 6/9 (3 wins, 6 draws), 2904 performance, +12.2 rating points

Nakamura just missed out on 2nd place on tiebreaks, but his wonderful 2015 has continued. The American no. 1 still has only one classical loss this year (to Anand in Zurich) and could have done even better if he’d managed to beat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the penultimate round. Given his age advantage over the two players immediately above him in the rating list Nakamura has a strong claim to be Magnus Carlsen’s closest future rival, though that of course is the one thing missing that could have made Norway Chess 2015 a perfect event for him – a classical win over Carlsen.

Vachier-Lagrave 1/2 – 1/2  Grischuk

Grischuk followed Aronian’s play in Round 1 against Maxime, but after deviating with 11…Qf6 he avoiding the suffering his colleague had faced. The game ended in a quiet draw by repetition on move 38.

Watch the players talk about their game and their tournaments:

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave: 4/9 (1 win, 6 draws, 2 losses), 2745 performance, +3.3 rating points

In the end it was a solid performance for the French no. 1, but it was all gently downhill after he won the blitz tournament and went on to win that first round game against Levon Aronian. At that point it looked as though Maxime might make his selection for the Grand Chess Tour look inspired, but instead after 6 draws and 2 losses it merely looked a reasonable choice. Giving Maxime’s schedule he did well to hold on at the end, finishing with three draws after a heavy loss to Anand in Round 6.

He did win something, though!

Alexander Grischuk: 3.5/9 (1 win, 5 draws, 3 losses), 2702 performance, -9.9 rating points

Grischuk also ended with three draws against tough opposition, but that couldn’t paper over the cracks of yet another disappointing result for the Russian grandmaster. He scored a single win over Jon Ludvig Hammer, and has been on a steady decline for the whole of 2015, dropping from his January rating of 2810 to 2771.1, a slump that makes his qualification by rating for the 2016 Candidates Tournament unlikely.

Caruana 1/2-1/2 Giri

Caruana and Giri used to share a coach, Vladimir Chuchelov, which makes it trickier to decide what they should play against each other. Anish joked that he “mixed up the move order” by not playing the Berlin, and they eventually reached a complex middlegame that Giri was clearly better prepared for. Caruana burnt up 34 minutes on 18.g4:

It wasn’t long before Giri was well on top, but Caruana weathered the storm to hold a draw.

Fabiano Caruana: 4/9 (1 win, 6 draws, 2 losses), 2736 performance, -8.2 rating points

This was a step backwards for Fabiano after his fortunes had seemed to be on the rise again with a good end to Shamkir and a confident performance in the Khanty-Mansiysk Grand Prix. It all started well in Stavanger too, with a draw against Anand and then a brilliant win over Carlsen in Round 2. That momentum was squandered, though, with unnecessary defeats to Nakamura and Aronian in the next three rounds, followed by four draws.

Fabiano has dropped below 2800 and to the now unfamiliar depths of 5th place on the live rating list, while it also turned out he timed his official switch to the US badly! For the moment Nakamura unquestionably holds on to 1st place:


That can all change quickly, though, and Fabiano only has to wait until Saturday to play chess again, when he has the black pieces against Ian Nepomniachtchi in Dortmund (you’ll be able to watch all the action here on chess24!). For most players you’d worry about them playing two tournaments in such close succession, but Fabiano is famous for rising to the top by playing simply everywhere with little break.  

Anish Giri: 5.5/9 (2 wins, 7 draws), 2862 performance, +11.3 rating points

Giri is one of the big success stories of Norway Chess 2015, and his unbeaten +2 has given a real boost to his chances of qualifying for the 2016 Candidates Tournament by rating. Although he lived dangerously against the Norwegian representatives (but maintaining his +1 score against Magnus = priceless!), he managed to beat Grischuk and tournament winner Topalov.

The biggest challenge facing Giri now is his marriage to Sopiko Guramishvili next month!

So the final table of Norway Chess 2015 looks as follows (click on any result to replay the game):

We hope you enjoyed the coverage here on chess24 and make sure to stay tuned for Dortmund Chess with Kramnik, So, Caruana, Hou Yifan and co. – starting Saturday!

See also:

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