Norway Chess: Karjakin and Aronian score, Ding withdraws

by Alex Yermolinsky
6/2/2018 – In the first three rounds of the Altibox Norway Chess tournaments, Magnus Carlsen was the only player to win a game, but in round four Sergey Karjakin and Levon Aronian put their first number 1 up on the crosstable. Viswanathan Anand and Wesley So drew, as did Hikaru Nakamura and Carlsen. The game between Ding Liren and Fabiano Caruana was postponed following a serious bicycle accident suffered by Ding, who fractured a hip. Carlsen's lead has now shrunk to half a point. Report and games annotated by GM ALEX YERMOLINSKY. | Photos: Lennart Ootes / Norway Chess

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Two wins but only four games

The big story from Stavanger is, of course, the injury suffered by Ding Liren during the rest day and the subsequent postponement of his fourth-round game. At the time of my writing it isn't clear whether the Chinese GM will be able to return and complete the tournament. [Subsequently, it was announced he will not. -Ed.] In case he's not, the tournament will continue with nine players while Ding's results will be erased from the tournament table. At least, he played all three of his game to draws, so there won't be any complaints from others.

H. Nakamura ½ - ½ M. Carlsen

With only four games remaining, and Caruana sitting this one out, the attention focused on the Nakamura-Carlsen encounter. Along with other numerous fans I hoped for an exciting game, given Hikaru's energetic play in his previous games. Unfortunately, it did not turn out this way.


Nakamura vs Carlsen

Nakamura with a solid draw against Carlsen | Photo: Lennart Ootes

I know it's only four rounds in, but everyone can see Carlsen totally poised to re-establish his domination in the tournament scene he enjoyed some years ago. For the first time in a long time, Magnus started off well. He must be tired of playing catch-up until the last round heroics earn him a first-place tie, followed by the inevitable playoff win. That stuff cost Magnus a bunch of rating points and started all that treacherous talk of the king's decline. Time to set things right in the kingdom!

There has been quite a game of musical chairs around the 2800 mark and the #2 spot in the world rankings. Many people paid a visit there, only to drop out sooner or later. No one was able to establish himself as a threat to Carlsen's leading position. A bad Magnus could drop down to 2830, the plateau a good form challenger can ascend before departing into the 2780 bog. The average rating difference between Carlsen and any given challenger of this generation is over 50 rating points.

However, 50 points is not such a big margin to exclude a possibility of an upset in a World Championship match. Heck, Karjakin almost did it a year and a half ago. I do believe Caruana will have his chances come November, but in all honesty, I also question Fabiano's dual commitment to the usual slate of tournaments in what turns out a very special year for him. Carlsen is skipping the Grand Chess Tour this year, the same thing he did two years ago before the New York match. There must be some reasoning behind this decision, and, perhaps, Caruana should follow suit. Granted the organizers don't like to see people doing this, and there may be some unpleasant talk, but no one ever became a World Champion while trying to please everyone.

V. Anand ½ - ½ W. So

Returning back to the tournament, I must point out Anand's trademark solid play and So's apparent recovery from the indifferent form of late. I really like their game today.


Wesley So

So still looking for his first win in the main event | Photo: Lennart Ootes


S. Karjakin 1-0 M. Vachier-Lagrave

After his incredible comeback in Berlin fell just short of repeating his success in the 2016 Candidates, Sergey Karjakin shows no signs of quitting. Sergey made a statement today that his plans of gaining enough rating points to qualify for the next cycle are for real. It was really refreshing to see him taking chances in the following game.


Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had to solve quite a few problems early on | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Maxime is still to shake off a terrible disappointment of missing out on the Candidates during the great year he had in 2017.

L. Aronian 1-0 S. Mamedyarov

Another game played in round four continued the long-established trend of mini-upsets among the elite. Mamedyarov's rating has been going up for a year or so, while Aronian's did quite the opposite, particularly taking a sharp dive in Berlin. In their head-to-head game, Levon made a big step forward toward reversing his fortunes.



One of those days for Shakh... | Photo: Lennart Ootes

I know all those speculations stated above can turn out to be an idle talk once another round of games is played. That's why we play the game! Go ahead, guys, prove me wrong, and I'll be happy to eat crow.

Update 12:45 CEST - The tournament has posted news that Ding must withdraw:

Ding Liren has to withdraw from the tournament. His surgery went well, but it will take time for him to recover so he is not able to continue to play in the tournament.

Regarding the tournament, as he has completed less than 50% of his games, his results will not be counted for standings and tie break. They will only be counted for rating.
(cf. FIDE Handbook C-  FIDE competition rules – Article 8)

Round 4 round-up show

Standings after Round 4


All games from Rounds 1 to 4



Yermo is enjoying his fifties. Lives in South Dakota, 600 miles way from the nearest grandmaster. Between his chess work online he plays snooker and spends time outdoors - happy as a clam.


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