Norway Chess, Round 7: Aronian climbs to second place

by Antonio Pereira
6/13/2019 – Ding Liren beat Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the classical phase of round seven at the 2019 Altibox Norway Chess Tournament. The rest of the games went to Armageddon. Magnus Carlsen drew Wesley So with Black to get his sixth win of the event in sudden death, while Levon Aronian also drew Yu Yangyi with Black to get the mini-match win — the Armenian is now in sole second place, two points behind the world champion. Round-up show by GM DANIEL KING. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / norwaychess.no

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Ding Liren the best in Classical

After two rounds with all draws in Classical, Ding Liren ended the streak of peaceful results with his win over Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Fabiano Caruana, meanwhile, had a big advantage with White against Vishy Anand, but failed to convert it into a full point. It was not a total disaster for Caruana, though, as he beat the Indian in Armageddon. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian also got one and a half points after winning their mini-matches in sudden death.

Results of Round 7 - Classical
 

Had the organizers not put forth the novel format used this year in Stavanger, Ding Liren would now be the leader on 4½ out of 7 (Carlsen is on 4 out of 7 in Classical). Of course, we should take into account the fact that some players might have used a different strategy given the format — i.e. playing safe with Black if they think they have good chances of drawing in Armageddon, or playing more riskily than usual with White to avoid being obliged to win in the blitz tie-breaker. Nonetheless, Ding Liren's performance has added eight points to his rating and has got him closer to world's number two Fabiano Caruana (Ding beat Caruana in round three).

Ding Liren

Ding Liren is eyeing the second place in the world ratings list | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Against Mamedyarov, Ding played 3.f3 against the Grünfeld and recent theory was followed until move 21, when the Chinese finally played a novelty. Throughout the battle that ensued, Ding Liren, more than once, offered pawn sacrifices to clear paths for his active pieces. For example, on move 22:

 

22.e5 opens up the c2-h7 diagonal for the light-squared bishop — after 22...xe5 Ding played 23.d3. The Chinese grandmaster continued to play actively, using his pair of bishops to create threats against the weakened black king. Shak's position did not take long to collapse:

 

Resignation came after 33.d6 xd3 34.xf6, when the weakness on the dark-squared long diagonal means Black will end up a piece down if he wants to avoid mate.

Ding Liren

It was a fine win by Ding Liren | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Also in Classical, Fabiano Caruana got a huge attack against Vishy Anand out of an Open Ruy Lopez. The American, however, missed many chances to convert his edge into a full point. On move 32, for example, he could have got a major material advantage:

 

It is hard to understand why Caruana did not play 32.♗f7 check, when his pawn on e6 would have survived and Black would have been forced to give up his queen in order to stay alive — a sample line is 32...♚h8 33.♗xg5 ♛e5 34.♗f4, and if Black decides to save his queen White plays ♗h6 with decisive effect. Fabiano played the also winning 32.f3, but this move did not give him a clear-cut plan to convert his advantage. 

The American lost the thread quickly afterwards, and Vishy managed to get a balanced position. In the end, the Indian even got his d-pawn to the second rank, which resulted in Caruana needing to be careful to finally get the draw.

Fabiano Caruana

Still the second highest-rated player in the world, Fabiano Caruana | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Armageddon tie-breakers

In round seven, two out of four sudden death games ended up with White getting an obligatory win and the other two were drawn, favouring Black. 

Results of Round 7 - Armageddon
 

Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian were the ones that got safe draws with the black pieces to collect the one and a half points. For Aronian, this result was particularly important as he defeated Yu Yangyi, who was in sole second place until Tuesday — Levon now leapfrogged the Chinese and became Magnus' closest chaser.

 

Click or tap on the second game to replay it on the board

Magnus Carlsen

World champion Magnus Carlsen now leads by two points | Photo: Lennart Ootes

After failing to convert a huge advantage, Caruana got to recover mentally to take down Vishy with White in Armageddon. While most of Anand's pieces were sitting on the eighth rank, Fabiano had many ports of entry into Black's position. On move 35, he also started mobilizing his far advanced pawns:

 

After 35.f5 — and 38...e6 some moves later — White obliterated Black's defences. Anand resigned shortly afterwards.

Viswanathan Anand

Vishy Anand could not avoid a loss in Armageddon | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Also with the white pieces, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave got mini-match victory in Armageddon. His victim was Alexander Grischuk, who, after getting second place at the first leg of the FIDE Grand Prix in Moscow, perhaps arrived in Norway too tired to perform at his usual level. At the same time, MVL's performance in Stavanger has not been his best showing either — the Frenchman did get to beat Carlsen and win the blitz opener, but his win over Grishcuk was the first one in the "official" tournament.

Vachier-Lagrave gave up an exchange in order to keep advancing his queenside pawns freely:

 

After 26.xc4 dxc4 27.xc6 b8 28.xc4 White's a and b-pawns are set up to wreak havoc on Black's position. Grischuk resigned on move 35.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave | Photo: Lennart Ootes


Round 7 round-up show

GM Danny King recaps the action from round five


Standings after Round 7

# Name Country Rating Points
1 Magnus Carlsen Norway 2875 11
2 Levon Aronian Armenia 2752 9
3 Yu Yangyi China 2738
4 Ding Liren China 2805
5 Wesley So USA 2754 7
6 Fabiano Caruana USA 2819
7 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave France 2779 6
8 Viswanathan Anand India 2767 6
9 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov Azerbaijan 2774 5
10 Alexander Grischuk Russia 2775 3½

All games - Classical

 

All games - Armageddon

 

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Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.
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imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 6/13/2019 03:52
Unless his level drops significantly, that is - which, again, has happened to him before...
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 6/13/2019 03:52
A GM friend of mine said he thought Ding was potentially the strongest challenger and, while that still sounds plausible (Ding beating Carlsen in a match), I'm not really seeing the evidence there, at least not yet. What I'm seeing, in their direct encounters and not only, is not particularly encouraging. (For those of us rooting against Magnus, that is.) Looks like Carlsen is safe for another few years...
imdvb_8793 imdvb_8793 6/13/2019 03:50
"You cannot look at Ding, and say "what if", because you then have to look at Carlsen, and also say it."

The only problem with this line of thinking is that Ding has actually SCORED +2 to Carlsen's +1, whereas assuming Carlsen would have done better if he'd not had the Armageddon to fall back on is just speculation. He might have lost one or two games overpressing - which we know he can do. Besides, as far as I can tell, he's not really even been playing that much safer than in other classical events, if at all. Sveshnikovs every Black game, almost no quick draws, not immediately exchanging rooks yesterday, etc. Nor do I think Ding would have played any differently if there were no Armageddon. But having the Armageddon there, where he knows he's the best, is an advantage for Carlsen in the classical as well. He has a lot less pressure to make more than a draw there. Maybe some slight rating pressure, but he's so far ahead there that... not really... The others don't have that luxury, no matter how good they are in classical. Which leads to, like dsilver70 said, the best blitz player - or at least the best one that's on form, as MVL, for whatever reason, clearly isn't - winning the classical, pretty much exclusively due to being the best blitz player. Because, at least with this scoring system, that's just too big an edge in a classical event at this level, where the margins are so, so thin... So, yeah, MVL won the first blitz tournament in Norway 2019, and Magnus will probably win the second one - the Armageddon version. Ding is leading the classical event. Which, according to the organizers, is clearly the least important one.

All that said, I still, sadly, don't see anybody beating Magnus in the upcoming 2020 match. If MVL - or maybe Karjakin or Caruana - gets there, it might be interesting, but I'm still not feeling a win, not even as much as I was for Fabi last year.
jonkm jonkm 6/13/2019 01:57
Magnus still leading? It's getting boring. So from now on, when Magnus is playing I guess there will be competition only for 2nd place.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 6/13/2019 01:29
I do not find this tournament interesting. Looking at the scoreboard in a normal tournament one sees who had more wins than losses at a single glance, because the point system was logical: there is a point for a game which is given to the winner. If there is no winner, the players split it. All this fight against draws makes chess uninteresting and I start to lose interest in top level tournaments. My games are more interesting than Armageddon games. Everyone can play incorrect, dramatic games. In my view all these ridiculous anti-draw measures, including the Bilbao scoring system are only hurting chess. I would rather watch a correct draw than any of the Armageddon games. And I do not like the way players are pressurized to take risks. Chess is an intellectual game. If people want to see a fight, there are other, less intelectual activities, like watching boxing. This attitude, which completely ignores the value of a correct game and values only the drama does not show much chess understanding in my opinion.
KevinC KevinC 6/13/2019 01:00
At least they state the obvious: "Of course, we should take into account the fact that some players might have used a different strategy given the format — i.e. playing safe with Black if they think they have good chances of drawing in Armageddon, or playing more riskily than usual with White to avoid being obliged to win in the blitz tie-breaker."

You cannot look at Ding, and say "what if", because you then have to look at Carlsen, and also say it.
jsaldea12 jsaldea12 6/13/2019 12:39
Also, i agree with observation of Pillius and Rokko
jsaldea12 jsaldea12 6/13/2019 12:34
I agree with dsilver70 observation. Let me continue with my suggestion: If the classdical games end in draw, then armaggedon decides. same 3 points for win, 1 point for draw.
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jsaldea12 jsaldea12 6/13/2019 12:25
This is honest sincere suggested counting system in chess: Allot 3 points to win, 1 point to draw, zero to loss, applicable to classical or armageddon.. This is easy to understand than the present merry mix up counting system used in Norway Chess. Take it or leave it.
dsilver70 dsilver70 6/13/2019 11:52
If Ding wins the rest of classical games and Carlsen draw one and loses one classical and winning in Armageddon, Ding will end up +4 and Carlsen =0. Yet Carlsen will win the tournament. This is really dumb and unfair system. It's a classical tournament where winner s the best blitz player
pillius pillius 6/13/2019 10:59
this tournament is embarrassing for chess...
rokko rokko 6/13/2019 10:17
The only player with +2 is forth. Ridiculous!
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