The Consequences of a Chance

Время публикации: 20.06.2015 17:09 | Последнее обновление: 20.06.2015 22:46

Stavanger: Topalov becomes the sole leader. Carlsen's catastrophic series continues

There is an opinion that chess imitates life. Not everyone agrees with this, but the tournament in Stavanger seems to give the supporters of this theory an additional argument.

We enjoy to plan our lives carefully and can easily forget that a weird accident could destroy all our meticulously prepared and almost carried-out plans, as well as a single lucky chance is able to change quiet and not very promising existence dramatically for the better. And these key events are not necessarily as outstanding as winning a million in a lottery or getting in a car crash. The real significance of a seemingly minor event can often be realized only in hindsight.

In the first round of the Norway Chess 2015, Magnus Carlsen played against Veselin Topalov. In his usual style, technical and relentless, he gradually achieved a winning position and, after Topalov's 60th move, started to calmly calculate a long and difficult winning line. What happened next is well known. The explanation is simple: people are not machines, and memory or attention can let down absolutely anyone. What is much more painful is that a human error or an unfortunate combination of circumstances may not just happen, but happen at the most inappropriate moment. No one, even a genius, is immune from this and the possible avalanche effect.

Now it turns out that the first round accident, which Carlsen seemed to have endured relatively calmly, had a huge psychological impact on both of the rivals. It was destructive to Carlsen (in terms of this tournament) and, on the contrary, very positive for Topalov. Could anyone guess, even after the first round, that they would end up at the opposite poles of the crosstable three more rounds later, with 3.5 for Topalov and a unbelievably disastrous half-a-point for the world champion?

Of course, there are still 5 rounds to go and, as they say in such cases, "things can change". However, even the most optimistic fans of Carlsen are unlikely to argue that the undisputed No.1 in the world, whose lead over closest rivals in the ranking list is huge, will be still able to compete for his "legitimate" first place.

* * *

In round 4, Magnus lost to his old rival Viswanathan Anand, and, given the course of the game, the outcome was logical. Anand played a great game, while the Norwegian was just a shadow of himself. In the Ruy Lopez, Carlsen deviated from the Berlin version, where he suffered a painful defeat against Caruana two days ago. After a lot of tricky opening maneuvers the game suddenly came to one of the key positions of the Breyer, where instead of the usual 16...h6 17.Be3 Nc5 (or a number of other known alternatives such as 16...Be7) Carlsen chose 16...Bg7?!, allowing White's main idea of supporting the g5-bishop with the queen.

Carlsen's decision on the 19th move is hardly anything but a mistake, even though Anand assumes that "Magnus didn't play badly, he was rather very provokative, trying to win a game somehow."


White has just played 19.Nf3-h2 with the obvious idea of 20.Ng4, and Black had to unpin his f6-knight, for example: 19...Qc7 20.Ng4 Nxg4 21.hxg4 Nc5. White's position is more pleasant, but Black also has his ideas.
19...Bc8? A serious positional error of a kind that is atypical to Carlsen, to put it mildly.
20.Ng4 (according to Anand, 20.axb5 axb5 21.Ng4 was even more precise) 20...Nc5 If 20...h5 then 21.Nh6+ Kh7 22.Nxf7 Qe7 23.Bxf6! and the f7-knight escapes (Anand).
21.Nh6+! (inaccurate is 21.axb5? Bxg4! 22.hxg4 axb5), and Black are facing an extremely unpleasant choice - either to allow the knight on h6 with his king on f8, or to weaken the dark squares near his king forever. Carlsen chose the latter and ended up in a dour position where White could develop his attack easily. Moreover, the ex-world champion was extremely accurate - one example is below:

In search of counterplay, Carlsen is offering White a pawn, but the Indian doesn't accept the gift, choosing a very subtle 29.Qd1!
White prepares 30.Qg4 and doubling the rooks on the f-file at the same time. Meanwhile, 29.Qxd3 could be met with 29...Qb6+ 30.Raf2 (30.Be3 Ba6!) 30...Ba6 31.Qd1 Bxf1 32.hxg6 hxg6 33.Qg4. White's attack looks decisive, but 33...Kh7 34.Qh4 Rh8! solves all the problems, because after 35.Be3+ Kg8 the white queen is also under attack.

Before the time control, it could seem that Anand didn't get the most out of his position, allowing Carlsen to liquidate into an endgame.  But no - everything has worked perfectly.

41.Nf5! Qg6 42.Qxg6 Rxg6 43.Ne7! The only winning move. The idea is that 43...Rh6 fails to 44.Rf8+ Kg7 45.Rc8!, and there is no defence against 46.Nf5 and 47.Nxd6.
43...Kg7 44.Nxg6 Kxg6 45.Rf8 a4 46.c4 h5 If 46...Nxe4 then 47.Ra8 Nc5 48.Kf2, and after 49.Ke3 Black will lose either the d6-pawn or the kingside pawns soon.
47.Kf2 1-0

* * *

Carlsen's incredible misfortune is overshadowing even the brilliant Topalov's performance, not to mention other interesting things the Stavanger supertournament is rich in. The Bulgarian has become the sole leader after beating Levon Aronian in an impressive technical style, although not without the help of his opponent.


Black is passive, and one can recommend to drop off the weak c5-pawn: 37...Rab5 38.Nxc5 Nxc5 39.Rxc5 Rxc5 40.Rxc5 g5! (after 40...Rxb3 41.Rc7+! Kf8 42.Rc8+ Ke7 43.Rg8 Black will lose the h6-pawn too). The possible lines are 41.Rc3 Rb5 42.Re3 Kd7 with activity and good chances for a draw, or 41.hxg6 fxg6 42.Rc7+ Kf8 43.Rh7 Rxb3 44.Rxh6 Kg7 45.Rh4 g5, and the 3 vs 2 ending is probably drawn.
37...Kd7? 38.b4! cxb4 39.Rc8! Nd8 (the only reasonable way to avoid checkmate) 40.R1c7+ Ke8 41.Nc5, and Black has to give up the exchange in view of the threat 42.Rd7. 1-0 on move 58.

Alexander Grischuk won his first game in the tournament, defeating Jon Ludvig Hammer quite easily with White and upsetting the Norwegian fans even further. The games Giri - Nakamura and Caruana - Vachier-Lagrave were drawn.

This round was played in ancient Utstein monastery in the vicinity of Stavanger, as had been planned by the organizers. The venue for all the subsequent rounds will be Scandic Stavanger Forus hotel, as usual.

Photo: Tarjei Svensen

[Event "3rd Norway Chess 2015"] [Site "Stavanger NOR"] [Date "2015.06.19"] [Round "4.3"] [White "Anand, Viswanathan"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C84"] [WhiteElo "2804"] [BlackElo "2876"] [PlyCount "93"] [EventDate "2015.06.16"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 d6 7. c3 O-O 8. Nbd2 Re8 9. Re1 b5 10. Bc2 Bf8 11. Nf1 g6 12. h3 Bb7 13. Ng3 Nb8 14. d4 Nbd7 15. a4 c5 16. d5 c4 17. Bg5 Bg7 18. Qd2 Rb8 19. Nh2 Bc8 20. Ng4 Nc5 21. Nh6+ Bxh6 22. Bxh6 bxa4 23. Ra2 a3 24. bxa3 Nfd7 25. f4 a5 26. Rf1 f6 27. f5 Nd3 28. Bxd3 cxd3 29. Qd1 Re7 30. Raf2 Rf7 31. Qxd3 Nc5 32. Qf3 Ba6 33. Qg4 g5 34. h4 Bxf1 35. Rxf1 Qd7 36. hxg5 fxg5 37. Qh5 Kh8 38. f6 Rg8 39. Bg7+ Rfxg7 40. fxg7+ Qxg7 41. Nf5 Qg6 42. Qxg6 Rxg6 43. Ne7 Kg7 44. Nxg6 Kxg6 45. Rf8 a4 46. c4 h5 47. Kf2 1-0 [Event "3rd Norway Chess 2015"] [Site "Stavanger NOR"] [Date "2015.06.19"] [Round "4.1"] [White "Topalov, Veselin"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D38"] [WhiteElo "2798"] [BlackElo "2780"] [PlyCount "115"] [EventDate "2015.06.16"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bxf6 Qxf6 7. Qa4+ Nc6 8. e3 O-O 9. Be2 dxc4 10. O-O Bd7 11. Bxc4 Bxc3 12. bxc3 Rfd8 13. Be2 Be8 14. Qa3 Qe7 15. Qb2 Na5 16. Qb4 Qxb4 17. cxb4 Nc6 18. Rab1 a5 19. bxa5 Nxa5 20. Rfc1 Rdc8 21. Ne1 Ra7 22. Nd3 Nc6 23. Bf3 Nd8 24. Nb4 Ra5 25. h4 Kf8 26. Rc3 c6 27. Bd1 Ke7 28. Bb3 c5 29. Nd3 b6 30. dxc5 bxc5 31. f3 Rc7 32. e4 Nb7 33. Rbc1 Ba4 34. e5 Rc6 35. Kh2 Rb6 36. h5 Bxb3 37. axb3 Kd7 38. b4 cxb4 39. Rc8 Nd8 40. R1c7+ Ke8 41. Nc5 Rxc5 42. Rxc5 b3 43. Rc1 Kd7 44. R8c7+ Ke8 45. Rc8 Kd7 46. R8c3 Ke7 47. Rd3 Nb7 48. Rdc3 Nd8 49. f4 f6 50. Rc7+ Ke8 51. Rxg7 fxe5 52. Rcc7 Kf8 53. Rh7 Kg8 54. Rcg7+ Kf8 55. Rd7 Kg8 56. Rxh6 Nf7 57. Rg6+ Kh8 58. Rf6 1-0 [Event "3rd Norway Chess 2015"] [Site "Stavanger NOR"] [Date "2015.06.19"] [Round "4.2"] [White "Giri, Anish"] [Black "Nakamura, Hikaru"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C78"] [WhiteElo "2773"] [BlackElo "2802"] [PlyCount "117"] [EventDate "2015.06.16"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 Bc5 7. c3 d6 8. a4 Rb8 9. d4 Bb6 10. Na3 O-O 11. axb5 axb5 12. Nxb5 Bg4 13. Bc2 exd4 14. cxd4 d5 15. e5 Ne4 16. Ra3 f6 17. exf6 Qxf6 18. Nc3 Bxf3 19. gxf3 Nxc3 20. bxc3 Qxf3 21. Qxf3 Rxf3 22. Kg2 Rbf8 23. Bb3 R3f5 24. Ra2 Na5 25. Bc2 R5f6 26. Bd3 Nb7 27. Re1 Rf3 28. Rd2 Ba5 29. Bb2 c5 30. Ba6 Nd6 31. dxc5 Ne4 32. Rxd5 Rxf2+ 33. Kg1 Rxb2 34. Bc4 Kh8 35. Rxe4 Rc2 36. Rf5 Rd8 37. Rd5 Rf8 38. Bd3 Rxc3 39. Kg2 h6 40. Ra4 Bd8 41. Re4 Bf6 42. Re6 Kg8 43. c6 Rc8 44. Rdd6 Rc5 45. Ba6 Ra8 46. Be2 Kf7 47. Re3 Ra2 48. Kh3 Rac2 49. Bf3 R2c3 50. Bd5+ Rxd5 51. Rxf6+ Kxf6 52. Rxc3 Rd8 53. Kg4 Rc8 54. c7 Ke6 55. Kh5 Kd6 56. Rd3+ Ke6 57. Rc3 Kd6 58. Rd3+ Ke6 59. Rc3 1/2-1/2 [Event "3rd Norway Chess 2015"] [Site "Stavanger NOR"] [Date "2015.06.19"] [Round "4.4"] [White "Grischuk, Alexander"] [Black "Hammer, Jon Ludvig"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A20"] [WhiteElo "2781"] [BlackElo "2677"] [PlyCount "97"] [EventDate "2015.06.16"] 1. c4 e5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Nc3 Nb6 6. d3 Be7 7. Nh3 g5 8. Ng1 h5 9. h3 Nc6 10. Bxc6+ bxc6 11. Nf3 f6 12. Be3 Bxh3 13. Rxh3 g4 14. Rh1 gxf3 15. exf3 Bb4 16. Qb3 Nd5 17. Bd2 Bxc3 18. Bxc3 Nxc3 19. Qxc3 Qd5 20. Rc1 h4 21. gxh4 O-O-O 22. Qxc6 Qxc6 23. Rxc6 Rxd3 24. Ke2 Rhd8 25. Rc2 R3d4 26. h5 R8d7 27. h6 Rh7 28. Rc6 Rd6 29. Rxd6 cxd6 30. f4 Kd7 31. fxe5 dxe5 32. f4 Ke6 33. fxe5 fxe5 34. Ke3 Kf7 35. Ke4 Kg8 36. Kxe5 Rd7 37. Rg1+ Kh8 38. Rg7 Rd2 39. Rb7 a5 40. a4 Kg8 41. b3 Rh2 42. Rb6 Rd2 43. Rb5 Rd3 44. Ke4 Rh3 45. Kd4 Kh7 46. Kc4 Rh4+ 47. Kc3 Rh3+ 48. Kb2 Kxh6 49. Rxa5 1-0 [Event "3rd Norway Chess 2015"] [Site "Stavanger NOR"] [Date "2015.06.19"] [Round "4.5"] [White "Caruana, Fabiano"] [Black "Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B90"] [WhiteElo "2805"] [BlackElo "2723"] [PlyCount "84"] [EventDate "2015.06.16"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nde2 h5 8. g3 Be6 9. Bg2 b5 10. O-O Nbd7 11. Be3 Be7 12. Nd5 Nxd5 13. exd5 Bf5 14. f4 Qc8 15. Rc1 O-O 16. b3 exf4 17. Bxf4 Qc5+ 18. Nd4 Bf6 19. Be3 Rfe8 20. Nxf5 Rxe3 21. Kh1 Re5 22. c4 b4 23. Qxh5 g6 24. Qg4 Rxf5 25. Rxf5 Ne5 26. Rxe5 Bxe5 27. Rf1 Qd4 28. Qxd4 Bxd4 29. Bf3 Re8 30. Kg2 Re3 31. Rd1 Bc5 32. h4 Kg7 33. g4 Rc3 34. Rd2 Be3 35. Re2 a5 36. Be4 Bd4 37. Bf3 Bf6 38. g5 Bd4 39. Be4 Be5 40. Bf3 Bd4 41. Be4 Be5 42. Bf3 Bd4 1/2-1/2

Today is the only rest day at the tournament. The 5th round will start tomorrow at 17.00 Msk.

Norway Chess 2015: all the information


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