Stavanger 2017 – Round 3
Modern elite chess resembles computer chess – the games are getting longer (the average length from the first 3 rounds is 53 moves), the winning positions are incredibly difficult to win because the level of defence is very high and the defenders keep posing continuous problems, and the number of draws is increasing.
Anand showed his brilliant preparation against Karjakin’s attempt to sharpen things up in the Anti-Berlin with 5 Re1. I would bet his preparation was well until the position became a stale draw. An important theoretical game because Black now showed a clear way how to deal with one of White’s last possible attempts to play more actively in the 5 Re1 line.
In Round 1 against Aronian Caruana played the QGA against 1 d4. Today we saw what he prepared against 1 e4 – the Petroff! Not the most exciting opening, but I think it was still a surprise for Vachier, who probably didn’t take this possibility very seriously in spite of Caruana playing it last year in a rapid game against Anand. Vachier did achieve a small plus after some 20 moves of theory (these guys remember their theory even when surprised) but Caruana didn’t have much trouble neutralising it. It’s notable that he used the line with 6…Bd6 instead of the formerly more popular, but currently under a cloud 6…Nc6.
Aronian and Giri played a wild game in the Ragozin.
Kramnik played 1 e4 and the Giuoco Piano for a second time in this tournament and he got the slightest possible advantage. So didn’t even have to be extremely precise to neutralise it, but this led to the game lasting 71 moves! I already wrote about Kramnik’s troubles after long games. His maximalism is to be lauded, but let’s see if this time he manages these problems better.
The derby of the round didn’t disappoint. I think Nakamura’s choice of the 6…g6 line against 6 h3 in the Najdorf was largely based on psychology – in his only win against Carlsen he also transposed to a Fianchetto Dragon, only there it was via a Closed-Sicilian move-order. But Carlsen isn’t one to be scared away easily, so he boldly went for the Fianchetto Dragon again by choosing 7 g3 himself!
A well-fought game, I admire Nakamura’s courage to go for the sharp and uncertain kingside attack instead of the positionally solid 21…a4. He could have been punished, but in practice his choice was justified. Perhaps he understood that against Carlsen one must go for that kind of openly-aggressive choices? After all, Carlsen didn’t manage to find his way in the complications. An intriguing psychological battle between these two players!
Tomorrow is a rest day and then the battles continue. I am curious if Kramnik will repeat the Arkhangelsk lines against Caruana.