Stavanger 2017 – Round 4
Well, who would have thought that milking cows and driving tractors helps produce decisive games? In case you are wondering, those were some of the activities the players undertook during the rest day yesterday. The best cow-milkers were So and Kramnik, the best tractor driver Caruana. Draw your own conclusions folks!
Round 4 produced 3 decisive games and all of them were won by White. Aronian produced a wonderful effort and applied enormous pressure that even the World Champion couldn’t sustain. First it was a not-at-all obvious novelty in a very-well known position (on move 10!) that Aronian had discovered in 2003. Then there was an exchange sacrifice for domination, then the classical sacrifice of the bishop on h7 and finally the World Champion cracked even though he did have one final chance. A very impressive tour de force by Aronian and to make it even more impressive he did it against the World Champion! Worth noting is that Aronian only played 1 d4 in this tournament, switching from his almost exclusive use of 1 c4 in his previous tournaments.
Nakamura won his second game in the tournament and now leads with 3/4. He beat Vachier in a 6 Bd3 Najdorf. This is curious as in my last tournament I also had to face it and I came to the conlcusion that 6…g6 is the best way to meet it. Vachier’s 6…e5 (which seems to be played against everything except 6 Bc4 and 6 Bg5 in the Najdorf nowadays) should be OK, but then he let himself be overrun on the queenside while his kingside attack was non-existent. I find it strange that he didn’t play the typical prophylactic 12…a5. Here’s the game with light comments.
Giri is coming back from his knock-down. He beat Anand today and slowly it seems that the tournament is becoming a very bad one for the former World Champion. Anand improved on Grischuk’s play (against the same Giri) in his so-far lucky 2…Bb4 in the English Opening and got a very good position. Soon Giri’s bishops were fighting Anand’s knights and Anand is perhaps the best player with knights in recent history. It was complex and double-edged, but then some of Anand’s decisions turned out to be below par and he allowed Giri a strong initiative. All this culminated in a blunder by Anand on move 31. He resigned 2 moves later. After the loss to Kramnik another bad day for Anand and now he is dead last with -2 (1/4).
So had (Minister of Defence) Karjakin on the ropes for a long time, but he failed to find the win. His best chance was before the time control on move 34, when he hastily took the pawn on c4 instead of a preparatory move preventing the activation of the black knight – after that Karjakin held firm for more than 30 moves.
Kramnik was another player who held firm and saved a lost position against Caruana. In answer to my question in my last post, no, he didn’t repeat the Arkhangelsk against Caruana, switching back to his trusted Berlin. Caruana varied from his game against Xiong from the last US Championship but Kramnik was well-prepared as always and got a good position, only to blunder a few moves later and find himself in a prospectless endgame a pawn down. Caruana was certainly winning already around move 30, but he allowed activation of the black king and then suddenly things weren’t that straight-forward. Eventually Kramnik managed to scare Caruana off and salvaged the draw. I have already written about Caruana’s problems in converting winning positions and it seems the problem is still ongoing.
Tomorrow’s round sees angry Carlsen meet resurgent Giri. Place your bets gentlemen.