Norway Chess, Round 6: One-move blunders

by Antonio Pereira
6/11/2019 – The sixth round of the Altibox Norway Chess Tournament saw all match-ups decided on Armageddon, as all the "slow" encounters finished drawn. Magnus Carlsen was close to lost in both his games against Ding Liren, but eventually managed to defeat the Chinese nonetheless. Meanwhile, Yu Yangyi and Levon Aronian also won their match-ups, thus staying in sole second and third places, respectively. Round recap by GM ERWIN L'AMI. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / norwaychess.no

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Draws in Classical

For a third time in Stavanger, all five classical encounters finished drawn, which meant sudden death games would decide the outcome of the mini-matches. Three slow games, coincidentally, lasted exactly thirty-one moves, with only Carlsen v Ding Liren and Grischuk v Caruana going the distance. 

Results of Round 6 - Classical 
 

The world champion had the white pieces on Monday, but faced a well-prepared Ding Liren. Staying true to his '2019 style', Carlsen gave up a pawn in the opening, but this time could not make much of his initiative. When the position was simplified, Ding Liren found himself in a better rook endgame with material equality:

 

Not only does Black have the better pawn structure, but also will get his king active after 36...c5 37.bxc5+ xc5. Nonetheless, winning rook endgames is always a tough task, especially against someone like Magnus. Black's advantage slowly evaporated until the draw was signed on move 60, with one black pawn still alive but unable to promote.

Ding Liren

The third highest-rated player in the world, Ding Liren | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Meanwhile, Alexander Grischuk could not convert a rook and queen endgame with 4 v 3 on the same flank against Fabiano Caruana. The 43-move draw meant the Russian needed a win in Armageddon to get 1½ points.

Armageddon scrambles

Monday's round saw three players, perhaps already tired before the second rest day, making incredible mistakes in the blitz deciders.

Results of Round 6 - Armageddon
 

This was not the case of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who got a clean draw with Black against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in Armageddon. Yu Yangyi, also with the black pieces, even managed to defeat Vishy Anand, after the Indian did not make the most of his initiative in the middlegame:

 

Yu Yangyi is undefeated in Armageddon encounters so far, as he won all four match-ups that were decided in this phase against higher-rated opponents. The Chinese also defeated Grischuk in Classical, but lost against Wesley So in round three. Nonetheless, he is in clear second place with three rounds to go, and will have a chance to take down the leader in round eight, when he will have the black pieces against Magnus.

Yu Yangyi

In second place — Yu Yangyi | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The other three match-ups were decided after one of the players blundered in unexpected fashion. The first one to do it was Wesley So, who, playing Black, was struggling throughout the game against Levon Aronian's active play. The Armenian was a pawn down but had the black king cornered on h8. After having endured the pressure for around thirty moves, Wesley forgot White had a mate-in-one threat along the seventh rank:

 

46...f5? allowed White to go 47.h7# immediately deciding the game. Wesley So was so shocked he even forgot to shake his opponent's hand when he left the board.

Levon Aronian

Levon Aronian had the better position nevertheless | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The next player to give up the game in one move was Alexander Grischuk. Right out of the opening against Fabiano Caruana, he forgot his knight was sitting on d2 and simply hung his bishop on h6:

 

Sasha resigned after 17.h6? xh6. Incredible.

Fabiano Caruana

2018 World Championship challenger Fabiano Caruana | Photo: Lennart Ootes

In the last game of the day, Magnus Carlsen was trying to keep the game complicated against Ding Liren, as a draw would give the Chinese overall victory in their match-up. Once again, the world champion gave up a pawn and had the initiative on the kingside, but Ding defended accurately — much like in their classical encounter — and was in the driver's seat after some simplifications. While a pawn up, the Chinese grandmaster missed a chance to simplify into a clearly better endgame:

 

Black could have forced a series of exchanges with 40...♝e6, as the game would have followed 41.♖e3 (or 41.♖c3, which does not make much of a difference) ♝xb3 42.♖xb3 ♜xb3 43.♕xb3 ♛xe4+ 44.♕f3 ♛xf3 45.♔xf3 when Black is two pawns to the good in a bishop v knight endgame.

Ding Liren chose 40...♝xf5 instead and went into a balanced endgame with rooks and opposite-coloured bishops. Ten moves later, however, he failed to see one of White's threats and lost the game:

 

Black needed to play 50...♝e3 instead of 50...♝d2. The point is that after the bishop went to d2 White had 51.g6+ f4 52.g4+ (here Ding Liren resigned) ♚f3 53.♖xg3+ winning the rook. Had the bishop been on e3, the rook would not have been skewered in this line.

Tuesday is a rest day in Stavanger. 

Magnus Carlsen

World champion Magnus Carlsen is having a great year | Photo: Lennart Ootes


Round 6 round-up show

GM Erwin l'Ami recaps the action from round five


Standings after Round 6

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

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.