Norway Chess: American trio challenges Carlsen

by André Schulz
6/7/2018 – Fabiana Caruana defeated Viswanathan Anand today with his dangerous Petroff Defence and Hikaru Nakamura also scored — his first full point came at a crucial moment against Sergey Karjakin. Thus, before the last round, Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura all lead the bottom half of the field. | Photos: Lennart Ootes / Norway Chess

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Caruana and Nakamura with wins in Round 8

After the forced withdrawal of Ding Liren from the Altibox Norway Chess tournament, the standings table became a bit hard to judge. Some players had already had their 'free' day — the day they did or would have played Ding — others not yet. Only tomorrow after the ninth and final round will all players have played the same number of games, finally setting the table back to normal.

Before today's eighth round, Wesley So, Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian and Viswanathan Anand were all at 3½ points. Wesley So had the best second place tiebreak after Sonneborn-Berger, but if there is a tie for first place it will be settled by a playoff over the board. Of the four leaders Aronian had already played one more game. He, therefore, did not play Wednesday.

With Carlsen, So and Anand today, three of the players fighting for tournament victory had the white pieces. 

playing hall

The stage in Stavanger

Magnus Carlsen's "Ding game" was Tuesday, so he presumably started today well-rested for his game against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. The Azerbaijani was apparently so impressed by Anand's victory Tuesday against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave that he tried his hand at the Open Spanish himself against the World Champion. Until the 13th move, the gmae was in fact identical to a very old one, as shown by MegaBase: Dawid Janowski-Paul Lipke from the Vienna Jubilee Tournament in 1898!

 

Did the players realize that?

Mamedyarov then managed to relieve the pressure with the advance d5-d4, after which some pieces were exchanged leading to a rook and bishop endgame. Mamedyarov had no worries there. The Azeribaijan number one then headed for a pure opposite coloured bishops ending and the game ended soon draw.

Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen: Draw

Wesley So met Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who was coming off that loss to Anand yesterday. So faced a Najdorf variation of the Sicilian and chose the quiet system with 6.Be2. The French grandmaster answered in the spirit of Najdorf, that is, with 6...e5. After the opening, So stormed the queenside with his pawns, while Vachier-Lagrave countered in the centre.

 

However, White's progress stalled and So even lost a pawn on the transition to the endgame. In the resulting rook ending So had to fight for the draw, which he reached in the end:

 

After a nice win over Vachier-Lagrave, Anand had white against Fabiano Caruana who once more relied on settled on his trusty Petroff Defence. In a symmetrical structure, the upcoming world championship challenger suddenly advanced on the kingside with his g- and f-pawn against the 15th World Champion.

 

At first glance it looked risky for Caruana, but he had a good grip on the kingside and, with space to manoever, even managed to place an annoyinng knight on e3.

 

Anand immediately eliminated the intruder, giving Caruana an exchange for two pawns. Materially that was adequate, but the white king soon became exposed. Caruana pushed Anand's king with his queen, driving him across the board, where he was ensnared by Black's heavy pieces.

 

Could you finish off Anand from here? Try!

In the hands of Caruana, the Russian defense is a dangerous opening!

Caruana

Who wouldn't be all smiles after winning such a game! | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The fourth game of the round took place between Hikaru Nakamura and Sergey Karjakin. Both occupied the middle of the field with 3 points, together with Caruana and Mamedyarov, but in such a compressed tournament cross table it only takes one win to get back into contention for the top places. In the English opening, the two players followed the game Aronian vs Anand, Saint Louis 2015 for a long time, until Nakamura innovated in the 14th move.

 

Shortly thereafter, White had built up an impressive attacking front against the black king.

 

19.Rf2 is also good. Want to try the attack yourself? Play for Nakamura on the live diagram!

White won an exchange and then had no trouble exploiting his advantage in the endgame.


Round 8 round-up show

Standings after Round 8

 

Note that Mamedyarov has already played eight games and will therefore not play Thursday.

All games of Round 8

 

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson

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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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