Stavanger 2016 – Rounds 7-9 – Carlsen Wins!
It started with the smoothest win over Kramnik he will ever achieve. It was one of those rarest cases when Kramnik was caught in the opening (and in an endgame at that!) and didn’t react correctly. The game was practically over very quickly even though it lasted 50 moves.
In the next round Carlsen was in Kramnik’s shoes. He lost very easily to Aronian, even not taking his best chance when it was offered.
This win put Aronian equal first with Carlsen with one round to go (and the tie-breaks were in his favour!) But then Carlsen got himself our of the hole he put himself in by nicely beating his former second Eljanov.
Coupled with Aronian’s draw against Harikrishna this win secured Carlsen’s first win in the Norwegian supertournaments. Probably a weight off his chest as well, as failing to win at home 3 years in a row must have been a burden. Except for his off day against Aronian Carlsen played really well and maybe this will be an extra motivation for him to get back the rating he lost last year.
Aronian’s second place wasn’t impressive – he got there by winning his two whites in a row, beating Eljanov after blundering first and then being the right man in the right place at the right time for the Carlsen’s off day. But after the disappointment in the Candidates this must come as some sort of a sweetener.
Vachier, Topalov and Kramnik shared 3rd with +1. The Frenchman continues his constant good form when playing the elite tournaments while for Topalov this result after the Candidates is even sweeter than for Aronian. He was probably so happy to finish on a positive score that he even played 1 e4 against Kramnik in the last round! The last time that happened in a classical game was in 2005, at the Sofia MTel Masters, when they were still on speaking terms! Of course he played 1 e4 expecting Kramnik’s Berlin, which he avoided by 4 d3, but all this made sure that he wasn’t risking and played safely throughout. Kramnik, like Carlsen, had one off day, otherwise he was in good shape as his win against Harikrishna showed.
The rest were on 50% or below. Worth noting is Giri’s minus score. Probably a variant of the famous rule that a long series of draws ends in a loss, in this case a long series of solid tournaments ends in a bad tournament. But it’s Giri, so I expect him to be back with more social media trash-talking and Najdorfs.
A few words about the blitz show in St. Louis. All eyes (mine included) were on Kasparov and he didn’t disappoint. He was outplaying his younger opponents, but when you blunder nothing can save you. What is worrying for the current state of chess is that a player who retired 11 years ago is still by far the biggest crowd puller, I’d say even bigger than Carlsen. The world is begging him to play more, but that won’t happen. The show is over and it’s time to switch our attention to Carlsen again.