Reports Jun 9, 2014 | 3:11 AMby Colin McGourty

Norway Chess Rd 5: Chess is cruel

World Champion Magnus Carlsen described himself as “very lucky” after coming back from the dead to defeat world no. 2 Levon Aronian in a 7-hour game on Sunday. Carlsen moved into second place while Vladimir Kramnik leapfrogged Fabiano Caruana into the lead after his young opponent cracked at the end of a gruelling defence. Elsewhere Veselin Topalov collapsed in a winning position to lose to Anish Giri and veteran Simen Agdestein missed a gilt-edged chance to pick up a super-GM scalp.

Carlsen looked dead and buried, but is suddenly breathing down Kramnik's neck in second place | photo: official website

Replay the chess24 commentary (watch live here)

IM Lawrence Trent so appreciated the long games in Round 5 that he felt he needed to address the World Champion personally:

You can replay the epic broadcast below:

The remaining commentary on Round 5 can be replayed at Livestream.

Round 5 results

Alexander Grischuk1/2 - 1/2Simen Agdestein
Magnus Carlsen1 - 0Levon Aronian
Vladimir Kramnik1 - 0Fabiano Caruana
Peter Svidler1/2 - 1/2Sergey Karjakin
Anish Giri1 - 0Veselin Topalov

After the players seemed to take an unofficial rest day on Saturday they returned on Sunday to put on another spellbinding display of combative if not entirely flawless chess. Not for the first time Peter Svidler was involved in the quietest game of the day, but also not for the first time it was very far from a quiet draw!

Svidler 1/2 – 1/2 Karjakin (replay)

Svidler pressed but didn't get the huge helping hand from his opponent we saw in other games | photo: official website

Although Sergey Karjakin played the opening quicker than his fellow Russian, by move 18 Svidler’s pieces were threatening to overrun the black position. Karjakin decided drastic measures were called for and went for 18…e4!?

The subsequent exchanges seemed to do little to reduce the white initiative, but a single wasted tempo on 23.h3? (Svidler: “a huge mistake - a completely unnecessary move I should not have made”) was enough to allow Sergey to navigate a path to a draw in 38 moves.

Karjakin’s escapology skills have become legendary among his fellow grandmasters, and after an unlikely win Anish Giri quipped:

I played in the best spirit of Sergey Karjakin – I got myself into trouble and then I got very lucky.

Giri 1 – 0 Topalov (replay)

Things are going from bad to worse for Topalov - but perhaps he can forget the tournament situation when he faces Kramnik in Round 6! | photo: official website

The opening certainly wasn’t among the young Dutchman’s greatest achievements, and he admitted:

I don’t have a clue about the position but it’s no excuse to play so badly. It’s a very, very sad position.

Veselin Topalov could taste victory, but perhaps the fact he’d failed to win in 31 games in Norway (as we noted after Round 4) was weighing on him in the following position:

31…d5! should give Black a crushing attack, but instead 31.Kh8? 32.Nf3! exf5?? 33.Nxe5 fxe5 (33…dxe5 34.Qd7!) 34.Nxd6 was essentially game over. Veselin resigned on move 43 with the computer counting down moves to mate.

Giri summed things up:

I played very silly chess, but at least I got lucky today. At least in the tournament table it won’t be written that this was a retarded game, just that I won!

In what would later become the leitmotif of the day Topalov struggled to explain his play, while a buoyant Giri had a theory:

My opponents are great players, but they’re no longer so young, so they just lose control at some point. I don’t have understanding, I don’t calculate well, so I play for age.

That could arguably be applied to the revelation of the tournament, 47-year-old Simen Agdestein, although so far he’s been more than holding his own in elite company!

Grischuk 1/2 – 1/2 Agdestein (replay)

Agdestein catches up on some sleep | photo: official website

In Round 5 Agdestein went for a line of the French Defence with a dubious reputation, surprising Grischuk with 15…Qd8. The computer only gives the slenderest of edges to White, but the current world no. 3 couldn’t believe his eyes:

I still can’t believe it – all the pieces on the 8th rank. I just felt I should checkmate. When you overestimate your position that much it’s difficult because you try to find something that most likely doesn’t exist.

That, and excellent play from his opponent, led to a position where Simen was yet again on the verge of beating a player who outrated him by more than 150 points:

The 1 minute and 10 seconds that followed before Simen Agdestein played 39…Kg6?! must have seemed like an eternity to Grischuk, since he’d spotted that 39…Rxg2+! wins on the spot – 40.Kxg2 Qe4+ picks up the rook, while 40.Qxg2 runs into 40...Qxf4+ 41.Kg1 Bb7 and there's no happy ending for White.

Grischuk commented:

I saw it, and Simen looked excited, so I thought that was it and I’d already accepted the loss.

But a couple of moves later the worst was over and a draw was agreed on move 49. Simen:

I’m a little bit annoyed I don’t win these positions. I don’t get the chance to have these positions against these guys very often. It’s probably lack of experience… at this level.

That “only” leaves the two key encounters of the round.

Kramnik 1 – 0 Caruana (replay)

At least in this game the veteran outlasted the young whippersnapper | photo: official website

Fabiano Caruana came into the round still leading, but with the disappointment of missing wins against both Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri behind him. His mood probably wasn’t helped when he walked into a long line of Kramnik analysis, with the Russian only starting to think on move 17:

White’s better minor pieces and pawns ensure long term pressure, but Caruana remained unflappable, even after dropping a pawn. With a draw almost inevitable (Giri gave the odds as 94% draw, 5% Kramnik win and 1% Caruana win), Kramnik made one last ditch attempt to squeeze out a win by giving up his extra pawn. Caruana had calculated that draw as well, though, until suddenly all his good work went up in smoke with 50…Ke8?

50…Kf8 was a straightforward draw, while in the game after 51.Kf6 Rb6+ 52.Kg7 Caruana had seen enough and resigned. There were two reasons for him to feel even worse about the end to his Sunday. First – he’d seen the saving move!

When he played 45.Rd2 I calculated the line with 50…Kf8. I don’t know why I played Ke8 – no explanation!

The last turn of the screw was that the final position was still far from a trivial win, as Kramnik noted (although tablebases tell us it's mate-in-43 with perfect play!):

The final position is not such an easy win. I don’t know why he resigned. I think it’s a win, but it’s not so easy.

The only consolation for Caruana was that he was hardly alone in suffering bitter defeat. World no. 2 Levon Aronian let the biggest catch in world chess slip out of his net.

Carlsen 1-0 Aronian

Levon Aronian seemed desolate after his loss - sometimes chess is a cruel, cruel sport | photo: official website

Magnus Carlsen was witheringly honest about his own play after today’s game:

I think I was pretty thoroughly outplayed in the middlegame and was very lucky not to lose before the time control.

In the end, of course, he scored his first win after he activated “hulk mode” the moment he was given a second chance. Spanish IM David Martinez takes an in-depth look at a spectacular game between the world's two best players:

1. d4 ♘f6 2. c4 e6 3. ♘f3 d5 4. ♘c3 ♗b4 The Ragozin is one of those variations that's used more at the elite level than lower down. It involves a large number of distinct positions, from tactical complications to strategic struggles. Carlsen is continuing to change his style (see, for instance, Ubilava's opinion) and enters a theoretical dispute.

5. cxd5 exd5 6. ♗g5 h6 7. ♗h4 ♘bd7 This move is surpassing 7...g5 followed by Ne4 in popularity.

8. e3 g5 9. ♗g3 ♘e4 Aronian had already reached this position in last year's World Cup against the Russian grandmaster and well-known theoretician Igor Lysyj, who on that occasion played 10. Qc2.

10. ♘d2 ♘xg3 11. fxg3! Magnus provides us with one of the novelties of the tournament, not so much for its objective value - perhaps similar to that of hxg3 - but its originality. In principle Carlsen's idea is to exploit the f-file and keep his king well-protected when he castles short... though ultimately he neither occupies the file nor castles short! Meanwhile the drawbacks of taking with the f-pawn are obvious - e3 will attract the attention of the black pieces and become a clear weakness.

11... ♘b6 12. ♗d3 ♕e7 13. ♕f3 ♗e6 14. a3 ♗xc3 15. bxc3 0-0-0 Aronian has developed his pieces naturally in one of the many manners at his disposal, and if Magnus doesn't act rapidly the Armenian will now be able to consolidate his position and leave White pinned down. So he goes for complications!

16. a4! ♗d7 17. a5? A mistake which gets White into some difficulty.

17. 0-0 was the correct move, not fearing the pawn being captured. 17... ♔b8 (17... ♖he8 18. e4 and the white pieces are very well coordinated for the coming struggle. ; 17... ♘xa4 18. ♖fe1! Defending e3 with the threats of Qxd5 and the subtle Qd1. Whenever Black retreats his knight from a4 Carlsen will capture on a7. ; 17... ♗xa4 18. ♖fb1 followed by Rxb6 and Rxa4.) 18. a5 ♘a4 19. a6 and now if 19... ♖he8 20. ♖fe1 then White has calmly defended e3 and can continue the attack with the rest of his pieces - very different to the game!

17... ♘a4 18. a6 Carlsen continues to surprise us by playing aggressively with White, in a similar manner to his approach against Caruana and consistent with how he played in the Gashimov Memorial.

18... ♖he8 19. ♔f2

19. ♘c4 is an amazing way of defending e3. Black could reply with 19... ♘xc3 which not only captures a pawn but also defends the d5-pawn and threatens g4, so White may continue 20. ♘e5 putting the knight on an ideal square, although in turn I think Black should sacrifice the exchange with 20... f6 21. ♘xd7 ♖xd7 22. ♗f5 b5 and in this position I give up on thinking with the evaluation "anything could happen".

19... ♔b8

19... b5 is a way of defending against the white attack that reminds me of 29. b4 in Antón - Jobava, a game analysed here. I think there are ways of defending that only (fortunately) occur to those who are 18 years old...

20. ♖he1 ♘xc3 21. axb7 The position is double-edged and the world no. 2 goes on to demonstrate that in this type of position he has no reason to look up to the World Champion.

21... ♕b4! Activity!

22. ♔g1 ♕b2 23. ♘f1 f5! A very good move. Aronian is trying to tie Carlsen's hands. Of course you have to calculate what happens if the pawn is captured...

24. ♖a5 Carlsen's position is very awkward and it costs him a lot of time to make each of the following moves. His problem is that the black pieces coordinate easily in the centre while it would be impossible to say the same about White's...

24. ♗xf5? ♗xf5 25. ♕xf5 ♖f8 followed by Rf2.

24... ♗a4 25. ♖c5? The rook here is only pseudo-active, and provides White with no real benefits. It was more interesting to occupy the sixth rank instead, exploiting the fact that after Black's bishop moved he can no longer play a rook to e6 (the bishop has moved from d7 where it could support the rook).

25. ♕f2 ♕b4 26. ♖a6 or

25. ♖a6 would have left Black needing to worry about White's activity, although the position would still remain very complex.

25... ♖f8! 26. h3 ♖f6 Aronian has taken control of the game and prepares to launch the final assault.

27. ♘h2 ♖df8 28. ♕f1 ♘e4! Very precise. All Black's pieces are playing a role... The same can hardly be said about White's.

29. ♖e2

29. ♖xd5 ♘xg3 30. ♕f2 ♕c3 would be just as unpleasant for White, since if White takes on g3 and Black on d3 then the light squares will be extremely weak, while if 31. ♗b1 then 31... ♘e4 32. ♗xe4 fxe4 and once again Black's pieces are wonderfully coordinated.

29... ♕a3 30. ♗xe4 fxe4 31. ♕e1 c6! Black's domination is overwhelming. This move prepares to include the black bishop in the game from b5.

32. ♖a5

32. ♘g4 is impossible due to 32... ♖f1+ 33. ♕xf1 ♖xf1+ 34. ♔xf1 ♗b5 , winning.

32... ♕b3? This isn't a bad move in itself, but it suggests Aronian is heading in the wrong direction. Black should simply have played

32... h5 imprisoning the white knight for the whole game, and the rest would have been easy. The move is very natural and Aronian himself couldn't explain not making it after the game: 

I should just have played h5 at one moment. I went completely nuts. I don’t know why I didn’t play h5. It’s a puzzle – why would someone not play h5?

33. ♕a1 ♕d1+? A surprising move losing all of his advantages and letting Carlsen back into the game.

33... ♗b5 34. ♖e1 (34. ♖xa7 is impossible because after 34... ♗xe2 White's attack comes to nothing: 35. ♖a8+ ♔c7 36. ♕a5+ ♔d7 and it's over.) 34... a6 Sealing the queenside in order later to continue operations on the kingside. It wouldn't be easy to break down White's fortress, but there would be no way White could play for a win!

34. ♕xd1 ♗xd1 35. ♖e1 ♗h5 36. g4 ♗e8 37. ♖ea1 The picture is utterly changed. The white rooks coordinate against the black king and the knight is preparing to become active via f1-g3.

37... ♖f2? This is where Aronian loses the thread of the game, trying to double on the second rank, which is impossible due to the knight blocking any mates from f1 and the f8-rook needing to keep an eye on the e8-bishop.

37... ♔xb7 38. ♖xa7+ ♔b6 39. ♖7a2 , followed by Nf1-g3, would give White a more comfortable ending, but without a clear plan for making progress and with no hint of the tremendous activity of his rooks in the game. (39. ♖e7 could be met by 39... c5 )

38. ♖xa7 ♖b2 39. ♘f1 ♔c7 40. ♖a8 ♔xb7 41. ♖1a7+ ♔b6 42. ♖e7 White's initiative has triumphed and Aronian has to backpedal just to stay alive.

42... ♖bf2 43. ♖b8+ ♔a6 44. ♘g3 ♗g6 45. ♖xf8 ♖xf8 46. ♖e6 ♗e8 47. ♖xh6 ♔b5 Carlsen has won a pawn and now the game enters a technical phase, where Magnus always seems to be astonishingly calm.

48. ♖h7 ♔c4 49. ♖a7 The rook has served its function - capturing on h6 - and now goes in search of another.

49... ♗g6 50. ♖a6 ♖f6 51. ♖a3 ♔b4 52. ♖a1 ♔c3 53. ♖f1 ♖e6 54. ♖f8 The positioning of the rook on f8 is perfect, as it makes it possible to activate the white king and still pins down the black pieces, particularly the g5-pawn. Aronian tries to maintain his threats.

54... ♔d2 55. ♘f1+ ♔d3 56. ♔f2 ♖e7 57. ♖g8 ♖e6 58. ♔e1 ♖f6 59. ♖g7 ♖e6 60. ♖a7 Not hurrying, but still relentless. In order to activate the knight the black king has to be expelled.

60... ♖e8 61. ♖a3+ ♔c2 62. ♖a6 ♖c8 63. ♔e2 The first step has been accomplished.

63... ♗e8 64. ♖a5 ♔c3 65. ♘g3 ♖b8 66. ♖c5+ ♔b2 67. ♘h5 The knight threatens to invade on f6 in order to exchange the bishop and end the game, so Aronian is forced into a completely passive defence.

67... ♗xh5 68. gxh5 ♖h8 69. g4 ♖h6 70. ♔f2 ♖e6 71. ♔g3 ♖f6 Aronian could already have resigned here, but the psychological blow he received from not being able to finish things off before the time control is still lingering, and he decides to let himself be crushed.

72. h4 ♖f3+ 73. ♔g2 gxh4 74. h6 ♖xe3 75. h7 h3+ 76. ♔h2 ♖e2+ 77. ♔xh3 ♖e1 78. ♔g2 ♖e2+ 79. ♔g3 ♖e3+ 80. ♔h4 ♖e1 81. ♔g5 ♖h1 82. ♔g6 ♖h4 83. ♖xc6 e3 84. ♖e6 ♖xg4+ 85. ♔h5 ♖g1 86. ♖xe3 ♖h1+ 87. ♔g6 ♖g1+ 88. ♔f7 ♖h1 89. ♔g8 ♖g1+ 90. ♔h8 ♖g4 91. ♖e5 ♖xd4 92. ♔g7 ♖g4+ 93. ♔h6

And after agonising a little more Aronian decided to end his suffering. This was a real clash of the titans, even if far from flawless. After Magnus' interesting opening idea of 11. fxg3 he had an edge, but an error on move 17 and precise play from the Armenian left him up against the ropes until Aronian's inexplicable mistakes on moves 32 and 33 changed the position into an ending where Magnus has accustomed us to his always winning - as once more he did.


So suddenly we have a new leader, Vladimir Kramnik, while Magnus Carlsen has joined Fabiano Caruana in second place:

1Kramnik, VladimirRUS2783½1½1   ½ 
2Carlsen, MagnusNOR2881½½ ½  1 ½3
3Caruana, FabianoITA27910½ ½ 1 1 3
4Agdestein, SimenNOR2628½  ½½½½  
5Giri, AnishNED27520½½½    1
6Karjakin, SergeyRUS2771   ½ 10½½
7Grischuk, AlexanderRUS2792  0½ 01 1
8Aronian, LevonARM2815 0 ½ 10½ 2
9Svidler, PeterRUS2753½ 0  ½ ½½2
10Topalov, VeselinBUL2772 ½  0½0 ½

The players and everyone involved in the tournament perhaps deserve a rest day, but instead the show goes on the road again for Round 6 in the Aarbakke Fabrikkhall in Bryne.

Round 6, Monday June 9

  • Levon Aronian – Anish Giri
  • Sergey Karjakin – Magnus Carlsen
  • Alexander Grischuk – Peter Svidler
  • Veselin Topalov – Vladimir Kramnik
  • Simen Agdestein – Fabiano Caruana

The encounters involving Aronian, Caruana and Carlsen all look intriguing, but Topalov-Kramnik will inevitably be the focus of attention. Kramnik was asked about their relationship on Norwegian TV, and we've transcribed his response in a separate article (no handshakes are on the cards!):

Of course the only place to watch is here at chess24 with Jan Gustafsson and Lawrence Trent! The action starts at 15:30 CET!

See also:

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