Norway Chess Round 3: Viswanathan Anand up to the task as Sergey Karjakin tests his memory, preparation
In Anand's defense, he was playing with the black pieces, with which, it is difficult to press for a win at such elite level. And more importantly, having already lost a game in the previous round, being on the wrong end of a sharp tactical position would only have increased the damage.
Round three at the world’s strongest tournament this year, the Altibox Norway Chess, looked like a seemingly uneventful affair at the outset as all of the games were drawn.
But a closer look at the games unveils an entirely different picture. Viswanathan Anand, who sat down to play against Sergey Karjakin, chose the Berlin Defence to answer the Russian’s king’s pawn opening. Of course, playing the Berlin was Anand’s way of regaining composure. The opening is well known – or maybe, rather notorious – at the highest level because of the tepid positions it mostly leads to. But in his defense, he was playing with the black pieces, with which, it is difficult to press for a win at such elite level. And more importantly, having already lost a game in the previous round, being on the wrong end of a sharp tactical position would only have increased the damage.
Another interesting encounter was the one between the Russian veteran, Vladimir Kramnik and Wesley So. Kramnik, with his win against Anand in the last round, has moved up to the world number two spot in live ratings. And incidentally, So is the player whose rating he has surpassed to become the world number two! They played a long, tenacious game which lasted more than five hours in which Kramnik kept pressing with the white pieces for almost the entire game but Wesley never really let his position go out of hand.
Fabiano Caruana chose to kick off with the Petroff Defense against Maxim Vachier-Lagrave’s 1. e4. The two Grandmasters fought a 51-move-battle until there were only two kings left on the board. Compared to the other games of the round, this one was a bit dull.
Levon Aronian and Anish Giri fought a fierce duel which cropped out of a Queen’s Gambit Declined. On move 15, Giri, playing with the black pieces, made a covert draw offer by moving his queen back and forth. However, Aronian chose not to repeat moves and soon the game turned sharp as both players attacked their opponent’s king. By move 30, queens were exchanged and a few moves later Aronian found himself in horrible time trouble.
At one point he had to make five moves with just nine seconds left on his clock with no increment. It must be mentioned at this point that the time control for the tournament is 100 minutes for the first forty moves. After 40 moves are played, another 50 minutes are added for 20 moves. And if the game goes even longer, 15 minutes are added for the rest of the game, starting from move 61. Aronian, in this case had made 35 moves when he had 9 seconds remaining. Giri tried to put pressure on him but the Armenian turned out to be resourceful. And once he’d reached move 40, the worst was over for him and the players drew by repetition in 53 moves.
The game between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura was probably the sharpest and the most entertaining. Playing a modest fianchetto with the white pieces against Nakamura’s Sicilian Najdorf, Carlsen played 11. b3 to stop the black knight from reaching the active c4 square. But it didn’t take him long to realize that he had completely missed the idea behind Nakamura’s tenth move, 10…Nd7. Soon Nakamura began playing enterprisingly, throwing all of his king-side pawns forward to attack Carlsen’s king but the World Champion defended formidably to hold to a draw after 40 moves of play.
Saturday is a rest day in Stavanger. Round 4 will begin on 10 June, 2017 at 7:30 PM IST. After the rest day, Anand will have the black pieces yet another time against Anish Giri who is at the bottom of the table along with Anand with a score of 1.0/3. Nakamura and Kramnik are still leading the tournament with 2.0/3 while six players are tied for the second place with a score of 1.5/3.
Aditya Pai is an editor for ChessBase India
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