Stavanger 2017 Starts
Isn’t it beautiful when you can invite the first 10 players of the rating list and have them play each other? That is exactly what the organisers of this year’s edition of Norway Chess in Stavanger did. To be entirely precise, they contracted the first 10 players of the rating list some time ago; in the meantime Karjakin and Giri fell out of the Top-10, but that doesn’t make the tournament less strong. After all, both Karjakin and Giri are incredibly tough to beat, as proven on many occasions.
Speaking of tough to beat, apparently that doesn’t apply to blitz. If Carlsen was his usual imperial self in the opening blitz (which was used to determine the starting numbers), winning with 7.5/9, Giri managed to lose 5 in a row without winning a single game (and finishing dead last with 1.5/9). Of course, that doesn’t mean anything for the main event. Or perhaps it does?
The subsequent rounds will show whether it does, but in Round 1 the only decisive game involved Giri and he was again on the losing end. Together with the last 5 games in the blitz, this is his 6th loss in a row! Perhaps he is feeling a bit Taimanov-ish now, he even played a line in the Grunfeld which Fischer used in the 5th game of his match with Taimanov. True, Taimanov was White in that game while Giri was on Fischer’s side, but that didn’t help him. Nakamura played a brilliant technical game, in the analysis below I only managed to find one inaccuracy by Giri!
The other games were drawn. Carlsen tried to squeeze water from stone against So but he didn’t come close. The opening was a Giuoco Piano, the same as in Kramnik-Karjakin. Kramnik has started to play 1 e4 more often and what was curious in this game was that Karjakin didn’t go for the most straight-forward drawing line, as already shown in more than one computer game. This gave Kramnik one chance (on move 20), but unfortunately he wasn’t precise.
A new tournament usually means some surprises, especially when these people are playing each other all the time – they need to keep things fresh and keep their opponents guessing. Anand prepared the Caro-Kann for Black (instead of the trusted Berlin) and drew without much trouble against Vachier. Caruana prepared the Queen’s Gambit Accepted for Black and drew with Aronian after coming very close to losing. I am curious to see what the others have prepared and the next rounds should provide some answers to my curiousity.