At the conclusion of the seventh round of the Altibox Norway Chess, two more leaders were added to the tournament. After Wesley So, it was Indian chess legend, Viswanathan Anand and the Armenian number one, Levon Aronian, who joined shared first place with Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen had a rest day on Wednesday due to Ding Liren’s withdrawal from the tournament. As for Levon Aronian, he has played a game more than the rest of the leaders, so he will be at a disadvantage. That’s not however the case with Anand. With six draws and a win, he is on equal footing with Carlsen and So. In round seven, he scored an emphatic win over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to step up the leaderboard.
In the game, Anand brought back some memories of the past by going for the Open variation of the Ruy Lopez. Vachier Lagrave responded well in the opening. Preceding thematic play on the kingside with rook maneuvers on his 14th and 16th move was quite an interesting idea by the Frenchman. But Anand has known these positions since before Vachier-Lagrave was born. Anand, too, came up with a very innovative exchange sacrifice that gave him a pleasant edge in the position.
Anand said after the game that he felt the position changed quite suddenly. "At the board, this sensation of the position taking a violent turn is what I remember," Anand said explaining how he felt his position suddenly changed from being almost equal to fighting for an advantage in a span of merely four moves.
Further, to keep pressure on the position Anand came up with a very nice exchange sacrifice that liquidated the position into a won endgame for the Indian ace.
All other games of the round were drawn. The first one to finish was Sergey Karjakin’s game against Levon Aronian. The game did last 39 moves but nothing much happened in the game for quite a while. Queens were traded quite early in the game – on move 14 to be exact – and this was followed by a sequence of a few more exchanges. By the 32nd move, an endgame with black having a bishop against the white knight arose. But with three pawns each on the same side of the board, there was hardly anything to play for. About seven moves later, Aronian gave up his bishop for white’s last remaining pawn to force a draw.
After the game, Aronian said that he knew the line well. I was familiar with this line. After all I was the first player to play it,” he said.
The game between Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Wesley So was much shorter in terms of the number of moves played but lasted only a few minutes longer than the game between Karjakin and Aronian. In a closed Catalan the game followed the footsteps of the game between Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Anish Giri from the Shamkir chess tournament held earlier this year in April. Mamedyarov deviated from the above mentioned game on his 13th turn but, a couple of moves later exchanged rooks and decided to accept a draw by repetition by the 26th move.
"I had no ideas. Sometimes when you plan a bad tournament you just want to play fast and attack. It’s the only chance," Mamedyarov said after the game, explaining his short draw.
Fabiano Caruana’s game against Hikaru Nakamura lasted about fifty minutes longer than the two quick draws of the round. But the result in this game wasn’t different than the other two. In the Mikenas variation of the English Opening, the players had swapped queens already by the 10th move. What transpired was an endgame with Caruana having a bishop pair as compensation for the weaknesses in his pawn structure.
An interesting moment sparked on the 20th move in what looked like a barren position when Caruana sacrificed a rook. But this was a mere mirage as all it led to was more exchanges. Returning his extra material, Nakamura entered an endgame where white had an extra pawn which wasn’t going to last on the board for too long. After it was hacked off the position was repeated thrice to sign peace.
Seven rounds into the tournament, Anand has managed to make it to the top of the leaderboard. With just two more rounds to go this is quite a welcome development. What remains to be seen is if he will be able to keep up this fantastic run and win the event after all.
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Updated Date: Jun 06, 2018 20:05:05 IST