Norway Chess: Carlsen and MVL score, Anand still leads

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/3/2022 – Vishy Anand is still the sole leader at the Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger. The Indian beat Wang Hao in Armageddon, while his closest chaser, Wesley So, also won in the sudden-death decider against Anish Giri. Magnus Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won their classical encounters to grab three points in Thursday’s round. | Photos: Norway Chess

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No signs of rustiness

Vishy Anand’s run of good form continues in Stavanger. The 52-year-old has not shown any signs of rustiness in his first classical tournament since the 2020 Tata Steel Masters (he only played a few Bundesliga games since January 2020). After three rounds at the Norway Chess event, he is the sole leader in the standings table with 7½ points. On Thursday, the Indian drew Wang Hao in the classical game, and then beat him in Armageddon.

In sole second place stands Wesley So, who twice had the black pieces against Anish Giri on Thursday. Two draws granted him 1½ points, since a draw in the sudden-death decider favours the player who has the black pieces.

Magnus Carlsen and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave were the two players who scored classical wins in the third round. The world champion got the better of Teimour Radjabov in a 36-move game, while the Frenchman defeated Aryan Tari after the latter played a sharp novelty with white out of a Sicilian Defence.

Viswanathan Anand

In the sole lead — Vishy Anand

Besides using a unique scoring format, the Norway Chess tournament has once again included a confessional booth in this edition — if players want, they can talk about their games in front of a camera. Tari, who stepped in to replace Richard Rapport shortly before the event began, shared his thoughts after playing the novelty 8.Nh4 in his game against MVL.

The young Norwegian confessed that his second had found this move, which would likely lead to a sharp struggle. MVL was surprised by the novelty, as he spent almost a half hour in his next three moves. Things got even sharper after Tari’s 14.g4

 

This is a tough position to defend with black, especially when you did not prepare to enter such a setup beforehand. However, White needs to be precise to make the most of his initiative, as he has irrevocably weakened his kingside.

As the game went on, MVL handled the complications more ably. After 14...Ne6 15.g5 Be7 16.fxe5 dxe5, White’s 17.Nxe7+ was not the most precise.

 

Instead of grabbing the bishop, Tari could have kept the tension with 17.h4 or 17.Qg3, getting better prospects than in the game. Instead, the text move saw Black untangling his position with an eventual 18...f6.

Once the structure opened up and the players entered a position with queens, rooks and opposite-coloured bishops, it was Black who broke through along the light squares. Tari resigned in the following position.

 

MVL is threatening 30...Qg2+, and after 31.Qxg2 fxg2+ the rook joins the attack via f1. In case of 30.Qg3, Black wins by force with 30...Qxg3 31.hxg3 f2.

 

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

A Sicilian-Defence expert — Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Meanwhile, Carlsen saw Radjabov playing a theoretical line of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted in which Black gives up a pawn in the early middlegame. The world champion was excellently prepared, as his plan of simply defending his extra material worked wonders. As he put it:

It’s very rare that you follow a plan from move 1, and it just works perfectly. I took a pawn and defended it in a very ugly way, and that passed pawn won me the game, so I’m very happy with that.

Carlsen was in the driver’s seat, and correctly managed to avoid a trap on move 27, as was pointed out by Geir Sune Tallaksen on Twitter — yes, the same player who held the world champion to a draw five months ago.

 

White played 27.Ra4 instead of the tempting 27.Ra7, which remarkably fails to 27...Nd2+, when 28.Nxd2 does not work due to 28...Qh1#, so White is forced to give up material.

In the game, things went from bad to worse for Radjabov, who was also clearly down on the clock. It did not take long for the Azerbaijani to resign.

 

34...Nd7 leaves Black in a dire situation after 35.b5 (34...Nb7 is better). Radjabov threw in the towel after 35...Qd6 36.Qa6.

 

Magnus Carlsen, Teimour Radjabov

Magnus Carlsen defended his extra pawn and won the game

After drawing the slow game with white, Anand showed his usual great understanding — and marvellous handling of a pair of knights — in the Armageddon decider.

 

21.b3, restricting the black knight while offering a queen sacrifice, is the kind of move we can expect to see played by an in-form multiple world champion. Capturing on a1 would simply leave Black too vulnerable to an attack along the dark squares.

Wang did not take the bait, but soon found himself on the defensive side of a position with rook and knight against queen.

 

On the day that saw Queen Elizabeth II missing her Platinum Jubilee, Anand magnificently used his queen to outplay Wang and get a win that left him 1½ points ahead of his closest chaser in the standings table.

 

Standings after round 3

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

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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