Norway Chess 2015 – Round 9

The tournament ended as expected, Topalov winning it comfortably. Anand didn’t show much ambition and Topalov chose a safe drawing line in the Ragozin (already seen in Ivanchuk-Carlsen, Wijk 2015), thus ending the intrigue very early. An understandable decision by both – Anand didn’t want to ruin his tournament by risking and losing in the last round, while Topalov was happy to secure clear first.

Carlsen started the tournament with a shock and finished it with a shock. Just when it seemed that he can swim back to 50% he played atrociously and lost to his second Hammer. His bad opening showed his desire to get his opponent off the well-trodden paths with the hope to outplay him later on. But as Petrosian said, it is easier to win a game from an equal position than from a bad one. Carlsen’s burning desire to win didn’t go well with his bad play – when the desire and the quality of the moves are not in sync, the results are disappointing. A tough period for the World Champion, ending on a minus score is a record he’ll probably want to forget about.

Vachier and Grischuk followed the Ragozin from Vachier-Aronian in Round 1, only this time Grischuk refreshed his memory of the lines and went for the superior 11…Qf6. They followed an obscure online game until move 18, but by that time the position was equal and subsequent play didn’t change the verdict.

Caruana and Giri played the Open Spanish, a rare guest at this level (or at any level, for that matter – I can only remember GM Korneev who used it as his only weapon against 1 e4 in the 90s and 00s, but he only played opens). They followed a correspondence game until move 22 when Caruana deviated, but black was fine by that point. Caruana even got into some trouble, but Giri quickly let him off the hook, hence a draw. I was wrong about Caruana (and right about Nakamura) doing well in this tournament, perhaps a question of energy or oversaturation, but he will be back. His next tournament starts in a few days, in Dortmund, so we will see if he suffers from either.

Aronian’s shared last place is a new low for the former number 2. Today (another English Opening!) he didn’t manage to keep things under control against Nakamura and was quickly dispatched, being lost with white on move 20. It was a typical game when off form – Aronian is an ambitious player and went for an ambitious setup, but being ambitious when not in form (like Carlsen) always leads to disappointment. Taking his form in consideration perhaps he should have gone for something simpler, but it’s always easier to be wise after the fact (I know this from personal experience!) He then spent masses of time in order to keep Nakamura’s counterplay at bay, failed, and was quickly lost. A massive meltdown for Aronian, who played his last 11 moves a-tempo, he must have been disgusted with himself, not only in this game, but in the tournament as a whole.

Norway Chess ended with surprise winners – the oldest participants were the most convincing ones. I still think that this is rather an exception primarily because of Carlsen’s result. I expect the young cohorts to be back very soon, but before that happens, we should acknowledge one more time how strong Topalov and Anand are.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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