Li Chao replaces Karjakin at the Norway Chess 2016

4/9/2016 – One of the strongest elite tournament for the year Norway Chess 2016 is scheduled to begin from the 18th of April. Just 12 days before the start of the event Sergey Karjakin withdrew his name, citing tiredness and preparation as reasons for his inavailability. Two days later the organizers have found a replacement in the form of world number 15 and China number two, Li Chao. Addendum to the Karjakin's withdrawal article.

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Addendum: Just two days ago we reported that Sergey Karjakin has withdrawn his name from the Altibox Norway Chess 2016 (you can read the full report below). With ten days to go for the start of the event, the organizers have found a replacement in the form of Li Chao. The organizers made a press release on 8th of April 2016 stating that the Chinese grandmaster Li Chao will replace Sergey Karjakin:

Li Chao substitutes Sergey Karjakin in Altibox Norway Chess tournament 2016

Li Chao, born in 1989 takes on the challenge from Altibox Norway Chess. Li Chao is the second highest rated player in China and at present number 15 on the live rating list. Among his earlier victories are Graz Open with 8 points out of 9. He also won the European Club Cup together with Kramnik, Aronian and Grischuk.

After thorough discussions with his family, Li Chao is now postponing his wedding in order to participate in Altibox Norway Chess. The Altibox Norway Chess board are very happy that Li Chao has accepted participation on such a short notice and look forward to a spectacular tournament.

We only need to go back three months to remember what a brilliant game Magnus played against Li Chao
in the Qatar Masters 2015. The two will meet once again at the Norway Chess 2016 [picture by Amruta Mokal].

[Event "Qatar Masters Open 2015"] [Site "Doha QAT"] [Date "2015.12.24"] [Round "5.1"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Li, Chao B"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D70"] [WhiteElo "2834"] [BlackElo "2750"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "71"] [EventDate "2015.12.20"] {If there was a competition for the most entertaining game of the Qatar Masters 2015 until round five, it has to be this duel between the World Champion and Li Chao. Let us dive in to this beautiful game.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. f3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nb6 6. Nc3 Bg7 7. Be3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. O-O-O f5 10. e5 Nb4 11. Nh3 {In this position Be6 is the main move, but Li Chao played a novelty with Qe8. However it doesn't really alter the nature of the position and hence the impact of the new move is not so great.} Qe8 (11... Be6 12. Kb1 Qd7 13. Nf4 {is how play usually proceeds.}) 12. Kb1 {With this move starts some sort of a tempo war. White would like to play Nf4 but only when Black goes Be6. Hence both sides keep making improving moves and not committing to Nf4/Be6.} (12. Nf4 Qf7 13. Kb1 g5 $5) 12... a5 13. Be2 c6 {In the post game interview Magnus said that c6 was a good move but he was happy to see it because now the queen on e8 cannot really go to a4 and there will be no mate!} 14. Rc1 Kh8 15. Ka1 {All the useful moves have been made and Black has to play Be6 finally.} (15. a3 {is possible but Magnus didn't really want to create a target on the queenside.}) 15... Be6 16. Nf4 Qf7 {[#]} 17. h4 $1 {Once you see how interesting this move is you really go for it, although the consequences are not at all easy to calculate.} (17. Nxe6 Qxe6 18. h4 Rfd8 19. h5 g5 $11 { With Bxe5 coming up Black should be alright here.}) 17... Bxa2 (17... Rfd8 { could have been a much more safe way for Li Chao to play.} 18. h5 g5 $1 19. Nxe6 Qxe6 20. f4 (20. Bxg5 $2 Bxe5 $17) 20... gxf4 21. Bxf4 c5 $132) 18. h5 $1 Kg8 (18... g5 19. Ng6+ $1 {Of course this is the point. If the rook was not on f8 this was not possible and hence Rfd8 instead of Bxa2 could have been better. }) 19. hxg6 hxg6 20. g4 $1 {As Magnus rightly said, "It clearly feels that White should be the one coming first." Although for a normal player a4-a3 looks just as threatening.} Bb3 {Black now has the deadly threat of a4-a3. How do you deal with it?} (20... a4 21. gxf5 a3 22. b3 $1 {Closing things down.} Qxb3 23. Nxg6 $18) 21. Bd1 $1 {A great move that was missed by Li Chao. Well, truth be told it has only one purpose: to clear the second rank for the white queen to go to h2 and mate the black king. So Bf1 would also have worked but on d1 the bishop stays in the thick of things.} a4 22. Qh2 Rfd8 23. Qh7+ Kf8 24. d5 $1 {The idea of this move is to sever the connection of the queen on f7 and the bishop on b3, and also to open an attack on the knight on b6. But the main thing is the interference. So now if a3 then the bishop on b3 is hanging. Also the move e5-e6 becomes a killer move.} (24. Nxg6+ Ke8 {is not at all clear because how do you continue your attack? And at the same time a3 looks pretty strong.}) (24. e6 $2 Bxe6 $19) 24... Nc4 {A very interesting move by Li Chao. He is ready to even give up his queen if he can get in the move a3.} ( 24... a3 25. Bxb3 $1 {That was the point of 24.d5: to cut the communication between the bishop on b3 and the queen on f7.}) (24... N6xd5 25. e6 $1 Qf6 26. Nxg6+ Ke8 27. Qg8+ Bf8 28. Rh8 $18) (24... Bxd5 25. Bxb6 $18) (24... Bxd1 25. Ne6+ (25. e6 $6 a3 $1 26. exf7 axb2+ 27. Kxb2 Nc4+ 28. Kb1 Na3+ 29. Kb2 Nc4+ $11) 25... Ke8 26. Nxg7+ Kf8 27. Qh8+ $18) 25. Nxg6+ $1 Ke8 26. e6 $1 a3 27. exf7+ {A queen falling with check must be taken. Later other things can be thought about!} Kd7 28. Ne5+ $1 (28. f8=N+ $4 {looks cute but truth be told it loses to Ke8 as avoiding mate on the queenside is impossible. But also Magnus didn't want to get up from the board and ask for another knight!} Ke8 29. bxa3 Rxa3+ 30. Kb1 Rda8 $1 $19) 28... Bxe5 (28... Kc7 29. Nxc4 $18) 29. Qxf5+ Kc7 30. Qxe5+ $1 Nxe5 31. Bxb3 axb2+ 32. Kxb2 Nbd3+ 33. Kb1 Nxc1 (33... Ra3 34. Nb5+ $18) 34. Rxc1 {White is now completely winning.} Kc8 35. dxc6 bxc6 36. f4 {A beautiful game with lot of unusual moves. But when you think deeply about it, each and every move had a clear purpose behind it. Computer engines might give White a clear edge since the 17th move, but in a practical game when your king is under such an attack it is not so simple.} 1-0

Li Chao with his wife to be (centre) at the Qatar Masters 2015.
Li Chao has postponed his marriage in order to take part in the Norway Chess Challenge 2016.

Karjakin withdraws from Norway Chess

Our article on 7th of April 2016 

On 28th of March 2016, Sergey Karjakin won the Candidates 2016 and earned the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship Match, that would be held later this year. Chess fans were excited that Magnus and Sergey were going to meet each other over the board at the Altibox Norway Chess 2016.

The impressive line up of Norway Chess 2016. The qualifier (third from left) is Nils Grandelius

The participants for the event are:

1 Magnus Carlsen 2851
2 Vladimir Kramnik 2801
3 Anish Giri 2790
4 Maxime Vachier Lagrave 2788
5 Levon Aronian 2784
6 Sergey Karjakin 2779
7 Pavel Eljanov 2765
8 Pentala Harikrishna 2763
9 Veselin Topalov 2754
10 Nils Grandelius 2649

The Altibox Norway Chess 2016 is going to be held from the 18th to the 30th of April 2016 in Stavanger, Norway. Just twelve days before the tournament began Sergey Karjakin has withdrawn his entry from the tournament.

The statement of Karjakin's manager

This is what Karjakin's manager Kirill Zangalis said in a telephonic conversation with R sport:

"Karjakin won’t play in the prestigious tournament in Stavanger. It was with great pleasure that Sergey accepted the invitation from the organisers of the Norway Chess, after being the winner in 2013 and 2014. But the explanation for withdrawal put quite simply is: no-one in advance could have guaranteed Karjakin's victory at the Candidates Tournament. Now Sergei has a different status and has decided to concentrate fully on preparing for the match for the world crown. Also the Candidates Tournament cost him almost all his energy."

Manager Kirill Zangalis with Sergey Karjakin after he won the Candidates 2016 [photo by Amruta Mokal]

Press release by Norway Chess

Karjakin's decision to withdraw from the tournament didn't go so well with the Norway Chess organizers who issued a press release entitled "Direspectful of Karjakin". This is what they wrote:

Disrespectful of Karjakin

"The hosts behind the Altibox Norway Chess tournament are surprised that Sergey Karjakin withdraws from the upcoming tournament in Stavanger. Karjakin has a signed contract with us and it does not state that he can withdraw from the tournament if he qualifies for the World Championship in November, states Jøran Aulin-Jansson. – This action feels disrespectful to us as the organizers of the event as well as the other players in the tournament, not to mention the entire chess world that were looking forward to the dress rehearsal for the World Championship match between Karjakin and Magnus Carlsen, says Aulin-Jansson. The message that Karjakin is withdrawing from Altibox Norway Chess was received from the Russian Chess Federation only 12 days before the start of the tournament. Aulin-Jansson makes it clear that the last words in this matter have not been spoken. – Sergey Karjakin is a great chess player and he is still welcome as a participant in Altibox Norway Chess 2016. He has, after all, won both times he has participated, says Aulin-Jansson. – Karjakin obviously has a lot of nerves before his first World Championship match, however, we truly wish Karjakin and his advisors understand that one can not just run away from agreements because it suddenly does not fit in preparation for a match that does not start until about half a year later."

The History

Only three editions of the Norway Chess have taken place in the past. Out of these three Sergey Karjakin has won twice in 2013 and 2014. This is how final standings looked for both the years in which Karjakin won:

Final standings for Norway Chess 2013

Final standings for the No Logo Norway Chess 2014

It was obvious that the two-time winner Sergey Karjakin would be invited to the third edition in 2015. The organizers did invite him but there was no formal contract signed between the organzers and Karjakin. A few months before the tournament Sergey's name was removed from the players list because Norway Chess had become a part of the Grand Chess Tour. Karjakin had not qualified for the Grand Chess Tour and hence could not be a part of the 2015 edition. The organizers asked Sergey to play in the qualifier tournament as there was one spot that was yet to be filled. But Karjakin, of course, found it humiliating that being the two-time winner he was asked to participate in the qualifier event. You can find Karjakin's Facebook post from May 11, 2015 over here.

By withdrawing his name from the 2016 edition is Karjakin going for a "tit-for-tat" approach? Here is what ACP President Emil Sutovsky had to say in his facebook post which is followed and commented upon by many of the leading grandmasters all over the world.

Sergey Karjakin's decision to withdraw from the Altibox Norway Chess in Stavanger just 12 days prior to start of the...

Posted by Emil Sutovsky on Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Who will replace Karjakin?

From Magnus' tweet it seems as if the man who will replace Karjakin will be Jon Ludvig Hammer.

But Hammer is of the opinion that it would be fair to have another qualifier event:

Who do you think will replace Sergey Karjakin as one of the participants in the event?




Playchess commentary schedule for the Norway Chess 2016




Round No.





Round 1

Simon Williams

Klaus Bischoff



Round 2

Daniel King

Klaus Bischoff



Round 3

Yannick Pelletier

Klaus Bischoff



Round 4

Daniel King

Oliver Reeh








Round 5

Simon Williams

Thomas Luther



Round 6

Yannick Pelletier

Thomas Luther








Round 7

Simon Williams

Klaus Bischoff



Round 8

Yannick Pelletier

Klaus Bischoff



Round 9

Daniel King

Klaus Bischoff   


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