Norway Chess: So, Anand score three-pointers

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/1/2022 – Wesley So and Vishy Anand grabbed an early lead at the Norway Chess super-tournament in Stavanger. So beat Teimour Radjabov, while Anand got the better of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov drew their classical encounters and went on to win the Armageddon. All five decisive games seen on Tuesday favoured the player with the white pieces. | Photos: Official site

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Anand fully back

Despite barely failing to win the Superbet Poland rapid and blitz tournament in Warsaw, Vishy Anand has shown — yet again — that he has what it takes to compete on an equal footing with his younger, elite opponents. In Warsaw, the 52-year-old won the rapid portion and climbed to 14th place in the world ranking; now, his first-round win over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in Stavanger has left him in 11th place in the classical live ratings list.

The former world champion was not the only player to win his first classical game in the event, though. Wesley So, who comes from outscoring Magnus Carlsen in the blitz tournament, defeated Teimour Radjabov in convincing fashion.

Three players, who all had white much like Anand and So, first drew their classical encounter and then went on to win in Armageddon. Carlsen, Anish Giri and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov scored 1½ points in the super-tournament’s first round.

Anish Giri, Veselin Topalov

Anish Giri facing Veselin Topalov

Facing MVL with the white pieces, Anand decided to enter a Maroczy structure. The Frenchman placed his pawn on e6, creating a permanent weakness on d6. Looking to create a more dynamic fight instead of struggling from a rather cramped position, Vachier-Lagrave chose to sacrifice a pawn in the middlegame.

 

17...b5 gave way to 18.cxb5 Nxd4 19.Bxd4 Bxd4+ 20.Rxd4 axb5 21.Qd2, and Black cannot defend both the pawn on b5 and the one on d6.

 

MVL’s strategy did not bear fruit, as he soon found himself struggling to find counterplay while a pawn down. A ruthless Anand slowly but surely increased his advantage until scoring a fine 40-move win.

 

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Viswanathan Anand

Colleagues, friends, chess fans — Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Vishy Anand

In So vs Radjabov, the former gained both a positional edge and a major advantage on the clock. Much like MVL, Radjabov pushed a pawn to b5, giving it up to get more dynamic chances. Unlike his colleague, though, by that point, the Azerbaijani was already in deep trouble against an in-form opponent.

 

After 28.Qxb5 Nd6 29.Qd3 it is tough to find an effective defensive strategy for Black. So upped the pressure, until Radjabov failed tactically in a sharp position.

 

So here found the one winning move in 35.Re2. With little time on the clock — there is no increment before move 40 in Stavanger — Radjabov further deteriorated his position with 35...Re8, when after 36.Nxc4 exd3 37.Rxe6 Rxe6 38.Nxa3, White has an easily winning endgame. Black resigned.

 

Wesley So

Wesley So

Endgame analysis by GM Karsten Müller

Above we saw how Anand got a clear edge in the early middlegame. Endgame expert Karsten Müller looks at the conversion phase, in which the Indian showed great technique to secure the victory. GM Müller’s analysis begins in the following position.

 

Anand’s 31.Qd4 forces a queen exchange, after which his queenside pawns will decide the day in the long run.

 

Standings after round 1

  Name Points
1 Viswanathan Anand 3
2 Wesley So 3
3 Magnus Carlsen
4 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
5 Anish Giri
6 Wang Hao 1
7 Veselin Topalov 1
8 Aryan Tari 1
9 Teimour Radjabov 0
10 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 0

All games

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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