14-year-old Carlsen with 2792 performance

10/20/2005 – Schachwunderkind Magnus Carlsen strikes again. In devastating form the young Norwegian GM took first place at the Arnold Eikrem Memorial in Gausdal, a full point ahead of exprienced GMs and with a performance never yet seen from one so young. On the next rating list Magnus will be just a few points shy of 2600. Here's an illustrated report by Tarjei Svenson.

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Magnificent Magnus did it again

A report on the Arnold J. Eikrem Memorial
By Tarjei J. Svensen

"Why did I have to be born completely without any chess talent?" (Magnus Carlsen, Gausdal 2003)

Magnus Carlsen won the Gausdal Bygger'n Masters convincingly with 8 out of 9 and a fantastic 2792 performance. A great result, and probably THE greatest tournament result ever for a Norwegian. And especially impressive, taking into consideration that the kid is still only 14 years old! But mid-way during his 1st round game against an unknown patzer, it didn't look very good and the 14 year old Norwegian hero was seemingly lost with two pawns down! Against whom? You'll soon find out. Here's the full story.

The Gausdal era

The successful Gausdal tournaments were started by the late Arnold J. Eikrem, who had organized regular tournaments at the mountain hotel since 1970. With chess stars such as Shirov and Kramnik taking part in the early 90's, just before they both made it to the top, the tournaments were shining. To the great disappointment of many Gausdal lovers, Eikrem died in 1996, which led to considerably less international tournaments organized for the next few years.

You do not seem to be on my list of participants!? Hans Olav Lahlum

The one-man-show was then taken over by historian and master player, Hans Olav Lahlum. In the beginning of this century, Lahlum started out with a new and rather original style of organizing chess tournaments. The eccentric proved to be amazingly dedicated and passionate about his tournament organizing. This can be explained by the fact that Hans Olav actually decided to write round reports to ALL of the games in his tournaments after every round. When time allows it, he also writes player portraits before the tournaments, rolls dice with a grading of the result of each player. All of this is done with enormous help from web- and International master Eirik Gullaksen, and the games enterer/bulletin slave, yours truly. Still, this show is solely run by Hans Olav, as he is the official arbiter and the leader of the organizational committee (with only one member), he also is the one who does all the findings of sociable titled players from all over the world, who he thinks will fit into what us Norwegians call the very special Gausdal atmosphere.

In addition, the Gausdal hotel can offer great opportunities for both cross-country skiing and alpine skiing, unforgettable meals in the dining room and a swimming pool which makes the playing conditions excellent . The table tennis room has also been a big favourite among many of the players. All of this has contributed into making Gausdal an unforgettable experience for any chess lover.

Gausdal in the winter

As an experienced organizer and chess player for many years, Hans Olav Lahlum is an encyclopaedia of funny and humorous chess stories. Here are two of them, and we never seem to be tired of hearing these typical lunch-stories from him again and again...

  • "But this is cheating", said Norwegian player X when he just having arrived to play a tournament in Y (very far from Gausdal!) was informed he had to take a short draw against an opponent who had paid for a title norm. But the opponent said "no no no, me not cheating!", and showed the the player a receipt, signed by the organiser, confirming the player had paid in cash for the norm...

  • A player lost on time during strong mutual time trouble. But he immediately knocked the clock down to the floor, replaced it on the other side of the board, and tried demanding a win on time...

"I have been in England for nine days – I need food", a GM remarked before his first Gausdal lunch. Friendly and joyfull atmosphere, with the organizer surrounded by some of his international friends: On the right side, from right to left: IM Erwin l' Ami and GM Jan Smeets (NED, GM-group), Hans Olav Lahlum (NOR, arbiter), FM Geir Sune Tallaksen (NOR, GM-group), FM Helge A Nordahl (NOR, Elo-group) and GM Leif E Johannessen (NOR, GM-group). On the left side of the board Rolf Sander (GER, Elo-group), IM Harriet Hunt (ENG, IM-group) and Boris Berning (GER, ELO-group). From the dining room in Gausdal Classics September 2004.

With limited funding for chess in Norway, it's not at all an easy task to organize chess tournaments. With the exception of support from the Eikrem's Memorial Fund every second year, Lahlum actually has to finance these tournaments by himself, and occasionally pay some of the expenses from his own pocket! And why in the world would he do that, you may ask. The answer can partly be explained with six letters. Magnus!

Above: Hans Olav Lahlum and Magnus Carlsen from the Gausdal Classics 2004, where Magnus did not do very well. "Do you understand anything at all of these modern art paintings? Even a Hedgehog position seems more understandable to me...." "No way, I have enough problems understanding my own results..."

Magnus' debut at international level

Magnus Carlsen had his debut at the international level in the closed IM group of Gausdal Classics in April of 2001, when Hans Olav decided to invite him.  Still relatively unknown in the chess world at that time, he had already raised quite a few eyebrows in Norwegian chess tournaments with an unusually remarkable attacking style and theoretical knowledge leading to several impressive wins against relatively strong players. Correctly ignoring the warnings, Hans Olav and the rest of chess-Norway were able to see Magnus, with a FIDE rating of 2064, get five draws from International as well as Norwegian masters. With 2½ out of 9 points, he did much higher than expected and he gained valuable experience for later round robin tournaments.

A classic photo of 10-year-old Magnus' international debut in Gausdal Classics 2001

The wonder child then entered various open and closed Gausdal tournaments with mixed success. It was not before January 2003 in the open Gausdal Troll Masters where Magnus started to show his true capabilities. By scoring his first IM norm after defeating Canadian IM (now GM) Mark Bluvshtein in their last round encounter, Magnus had become the youngest ever player from the Nordic countries to score an IM norm, at the tender age of 12 years and 2 months. Hans Olav definitely deserves some credit here. After all, he was the one who had invited him again and again, despite the fact that the Norwegian Chess Federation was at the time quite puritanical when it came to letting younger players take part in serious tournaments like this. The federation did not send any kids under 14 to international youth events before Magnus entered the scene.

Gausdal Bygger'n Masters

Above, the secret of how Hans Olav got Magnus to play all those Gausdal tournaments is finally revealed!

For the very first time, Lahlum managed to get a sponsor for the tournament, which has been a serious problem with previous Gausdal tournaments. This time the Norwegian construction company Bygger'n contributed to the participation of a total of ten GMs in the field. This made the chances for IM and GM norms excellent for the 52 participating players.

One of those grandmasters in the field was Magnus, who once again decided to return to his favourite chess playing scene, for the first time as the highest rated player. Some people have asked why the heck a 14 year old 2570 rated ambitious grandmaster would take part in a tournament like this? The prizes are nothing to speak of, there are no real places to visit (no playgrounds for Magnus), and the rating opposition is way too low for him, compared to the category 16 tournaments he gets invitations to. The answer to this question is very simple to those who really know the kid: In addition to the fact that Magnus wants to show friend and organizer Hans Olav his appreciation for the work he has done for Magnus organizing tournaments over the years, the boy first of all likes to play chess. He also gets the chance to enjoy the company of his friends, and he likes to get free days away from school. And last but not at least, he likes to play table tennis and beat me and his friends up again and again! In other words, great fun and a perfect holiday! There you have to answer as to why Gausdal is the place where Magnus has played most of his international tournaments!

The show begins!

Magnus in his first round game against yours truly.

Despite a couple of disappointing Gausdal results from Magnus in the last few years, I expected Magnus to start the slaughtering from round one this time. And can you guess three times whom he faced in his first round?. No. No. Yes! Yours truly, FIDE rated 2112, and a true patzer by Magnus' definition. But how did it actually turn out? I'll show you and everyone else how I made my contribution to this result. With the desperate help from a couple of GM friends I prepared myself for The Tromp, only trying to focus on playing a good game and not end up being crushed in the opening!

Svensen,Tarjei J (2112) - Carlsen,Magnus (2570) [D00]
Gausdal Bygger'n Masters Gausdal Høyfjellshotell (1), 01.10.2005
1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 d5 3.Bxf6 exf6 4.e3 c6 5.Bd3 Bd6 6.Qf3 Qb6 7.b3 h5 8.h3 Rh6 9.g3 Be6 10.Ne2 Nd7 11.Nd2 0-0-0 12.c3 f5 13.h4 g6 14.b4 Nf6 15.Nb3 Ne4 16.0-0-0 f4?!

This was the kind of move that scared me in the game. Magnus decides to sacrifice a pawn to open the position for his powerful bishops. However, this is slightly premature. 16...Rhh8 to prepare it is probably better.

17.Bxe4? I somehow forgot that the black rook was on h6 in this position, which made the variation 17..exf4 Bg4 18.Qe3 followed by 18...Re8 considerably less dangerous. 17...dxe4 18.Qxe4 Bf5. Magnus and I did see the opportunity to play 18...Bd5 19.Qd3 Bxh1 20.Rxh1 fxe3 21.fxe3 Rhh8, but we were both of the opinion that White had some counterplay after 22.e4. 19.Qg2 fxe3? 19...Qa6 seems just to be winning directly. 20.fxe3 Re8 21.Qf2 Qa6 22.Kb2 Rhh8 23.Rhe1 b6 24.a3 Re7 25.Nf4.

25...Rhe8? I was very surprised to see Magnus overlooking my next move, wondering for myself "What the heck is going on?" 26.Nxh5! Simply wins a pawn. I had to look at what would happen after Bg4, but I quickly realized I'll then just play Nf6.

26...Qc4 27.Ng7 Be6 28.Nxe6 Rxe6 29.Qf3? White is close to winning here, but as I am about to get in time trouble. 29.Nd2 Qd3 29.g4 and Black doesn't have much to play on. 29...Qd5 30.Qxd5? Now the position is not so easy anymore. 30.Qf2 or even 30.Qxf7 would give white the best chances. 30...cxd5 31.g4 Re4 32.c4? Another blunder in time trouble. Black's bishop gets too strong, and my pawns too weak. dxc4 33.Nd2 Rxg4 34.Nxc4 Bc7 35.Kc3 Rxh4 36.d5 b5 37.Nb2 Bb6 38.Rd3 Kd7 39.Re2 Kd6 40.a4 Rc8+ 41.Kb3 Rcc4 42.e4 Rcxe4 43.Rxe4 Rxe4 44.axb5 Rd4 45.Nc4+ Kxd5 46.Nxb6+ axb6 47.Rc3 Ke5 48.Rc6 Rd6 0-1.

Realizing I had given away a game against the youngest grandmaster in the world, I could see the relief in Magnus' face. "Each move I made myself, made me overlook two more of my opponent's moves!", Magnus said after the game. After all, a loss against someone almost 500 points lower rated than himself would have been a terrible start to the tournament. Although I had thrown away the win, I tried to comfort myself with the fact that I had reached my goal not to be totally crushed, which kept me from banging my head on the wall.

Another Norwegian hopeful: 12-year-old Frode O. O. Urkedal

In the next few rounds, Magnus was in his usual self, smashing his opponents one after the other. His win against the Norwegian FM who made his third IM norm in this tournament, Øystein Hole, was particularly impressive. Hole is actually one of the players that Magnus is still eager to get a positive score against, since they started to face each other rather early.

From Magnus playing Hole in Gausdal Classics 2001 (Hole won)

Carlsen,Magnus (2570) - Hole,Øystein (2336) [D10]
Gausdal Bygger'n Masters Gausdal Høyfjellshotell (2), 02.10.2005
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.e4 b5 5.a4 b4 6.Na2 Nf6 7.e5 Nd5 8.Bxc4 e6 9.Nf3 Be7 10.Bd2 a5 11.Nc1 Bb7 12.Nb3 Nd7 13.0-0 Rc8 14.Rc1 0-0 15.Qe2 c5 16.Bb5 cxd4 17.Rxc8 Bxc8 18.Nfxd4 Nb8 19.Qg4 Kh8 20.Re1 Qb6 21.Bd3 Ba6 22.Bb1 Nc6

23.Bh6! Totally crushing! This is exactly how we are used to see Magnus at his best. 23...Rg8. The alternative 23...gxh6 24.Qe4! f5 25. exf6 Nxf6 26. Qxc6 doesn't seem to be any better. 24.Bxh7!! Devastating! 24...Kxh7 24...Nxd4 25.Bxg8 Nf5 26.Bxf7 Nxh6 was probably better, but White is still winning after 27.Qxe6, 25.Be3. The threat is Qh5 checkmate. 25...Rc8 26.Nxe6! Threatens the queen and mate on g7. 26...fxe6 27.Qh3+ Kg8 28.Qxe6. Won't hurt to grab the pawn. 28...Kf8 29.Bxb6 and Hole resigned just a few moves later. 1-0. Magnus was back on track!

In rounds 3, 4 and 5 Magnus defeated the three GMs Stellan Brynell, Vladimir Burmakin and Vladimir Dobrov, in fairly convincing manner. With an impressive 5 out of 5 Magnus now had to face another grandmaster, second seeded Kaido Kulaots from Estonia. The friendly and sympathetic Gausdal regular had played Magnus several times before at Gausdal, and not lost a single game so far. This time Magnus played with a rook down for most of the game! He was a little bit lucky to avoid a loss, and Kulaots probably had a winning position at some point, but it eventually ended in a draw. This led to the following humorous remark from Kulaots: "I can't even beat this kid with an extra rook!"

GM Kaido Kulaots preparing to play 5...b5 against Magnus.

In the next few rounds, Magnus was almost unstoppable. In round 7 another grandmaster had to bite the dust, Dejan Antic. Magnus won once again as Antic blundered in time trouble.

Above a relaxed Magnus having done the opening is taking a walk to check out the situation of his main competitors in round seven. Magnus' lead increased into a full point this round as he instructively exploited opponent GM Dejan Antic's time trouble mistakes, while GM Kaido Kulaots on the second board failed to win despite an extra pawn against GM Arnaud Hauchard. GM Vladimir Dobrov, who hit the jackpot with his preparations on the third board against GM Ralf Åkesson, later on accelerated to finish unshared second.

At this point his main competitors Kulaots, and Dobrov already had given out too many draws, so with a win in the 8th round against Norwegian 20 year old FM Geir Sune Tallaksen, he would be ensured 1st place in the tournament. Although Tallaksen would get an IM norm with a win in that game, the boy was once again unstoppable. This is how he finished him off:

Carlsen,Magnus (2570) - Tallaksen,Geir Sune (2350) [C95]
Gausdal Bygger'n Masters Gausdal Høyfjellshotell (8), 08.10.2005
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 Re8 13.Nf1 Bf8 14.Ng3 g6 15.a4 Bg7 16.Bd3 c6 17.Bg5 h6 18.Bd2 Qc7 19.Qc2 Rad8 20.b4 Nf8 21.dxe5 dxe5 22.c4 Ne6 23.Bf1 bxc4 24.Bxc4 c5 25.b5 axb5 26.axb5 Ra8 27.Rxa8 Bxa8 28.Qb3 Nd7 29.Rd1 Bb7 30.Nh4 Kh7 31.Ba5 Qxa5 32.Rxd7 Bxe4 33.Qd1 Ba8 34.Rxf7 Rd8 35.Qb1 Nf4

36. Nh5! Nxh5 37. Rxg7! 1-0. Qxg6 comes next and Black gets mated.

Magnus with his prize: 8000 NKR and a Troll

As Magnus with this had won the tournament, he found a new goal for himself. With his shared win in the Norwegian Championship in July leading toa playoff match against former training partner Simen Agdestein in the beginning of November, he would unofficially pass the 2600 mark with a win in the last round against GM Ralf Åkesson from Sweden.  He fought hard and was under a little bit of pressure, but the game was eventually drawn when the Swede decided to go for perpetual check.

GM Vladimir Dobrov secured his 2nd place with 7 points after a quick draw in the last round against fellow Russian GM Vladimir Burmakin. Estonian GM Kaido Kulaots got the 3rd place ahead of Burmakin on tie breaks. FM Øystein Hole scored his third and last IM norm.

In the end, he missed the 2600 mark by five points, but with 8 points out of 9, and a rating performance of 2792, it was the tournament of his life. Magnus was surely not complaining anymore. What seemed to be a bad first start of 2005, looks to be a very impressive finish.

Besides from currently playing in the Second Samba Cup, Magnus now is ready for the FIDE World Cup in Khantiya Mansiysk in the end of November, after qualifying from the European Championship in June. The Norwegian chess people are crossing their fingers already.


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