Caruana's London Redemption and Yu Yangyi's Stirring Finish!
by Tanmay Srinath - 15/06/2019
Fabiano Caruana grabs the spotlight today! The World No.2 handed Magnus his only loss of the tournament in the Armageddon, after missing a simple win in a crazy classical game, and thus finished 4th on the table after a disastrous start. Yu Yangyi commemorated his Norway Chess finish with a thumping of Mamedyarov within a mere 30 moves! He finished an impressive tied 2nd with Levon Aronian, who managed to get past Anand in the tiebreakers. So and Grischuk ended their tournament with unorthodox wins over MVL and Ding Liren. A massive report from Norway Chess by Tanmay Srinath.
Yu Yangyi provided solace for the classical format by destroying Mamedyarov's scotch 4 knights defense in quick time . Caruana was incessantly defending against Carlsen, but missed a chance to mate the World Champion when it came his way. The rest of the games were drawn out and ended level, but only MVL had some chances as Black against So. In the Armageddons, better placed players dominated, winning 3 out of the 4 games, with Aronian, So and Caruana being the beneficiaries. Alexander Grischuk ended a disappointing tournament with a wonderful win as Black in the fianchetto Grunfeld against Ding Liren. Let's now get into the thick of things:
Classical: Yu Yangyi's Scotch and Caruana's Bungle!
No, the Chinese didn't invent a new drink! Yu Yangyi's impressive opening preparation confused Mamedyarov, and the latter ended up playing average chess to lose in just 30 moves! Let's have a look:
Yu Yangyi's impressive Norwegian sojourn ends with a bang, while Mamedyarov's struggles in classical chess continue. | Photo: Norway Chess
The Scotch Four Knights variation is not the first thing that comes to your mind if you want an opening advantage, and that is precisely what Yu was counting on.
9...Bg4 is a rare move, that recently received a lot of attention after Nakamura and Vidit used it in some of their games.
After ending their opening preparation, the players reached this position. It seems much easier for White to play, so I wonder why the engines recommend this line.
Not much seems to have changed from the previous diagram, but this is the most critical juncture of the game. What would you do as Black here?
Mamedyarov chose the wrong move in the previous diagram, and he had to suffer the consequences. He is considerably worse, but not lost. Here he had an opportunity to set things right, but failed to find the move that starts the damage control. Can you do better? Mind you, a pawn down endgame needn't necessarily be lost!
Black is down in the dumps, but he a last chance to complicate matters. Can you find it?
The final picture is beautiful! Black has no way to counter White's various ideas.
Fabiano Caruana committed a surprising blundering, missing a mating opportunity against Magnus Carlsen in time trouble:
The brave Nf5! would have forced immediate resignation, as Black has to give up his queen to avoid getting mated, after which White will have an overwhelming advantage. Instead, Nf3? took Caruana into an abyss, and he only managed to escape because of mutual mistakes.
In the other games, MVL had a chance to torture So in a long endgame where he would have had a nagging edge:
So's good spirits got him out of trouble, and he managed to make it count in the Armageddon. | Photo: Norway Chess
So - MVL
Rxe1! was necessary, trading off White's best piece, and after Nxe1! Be3! is best, trying to exploit White's undefended queenside. Instead, the immediate Be3!? didn't have the desired effect, and So managed to defend successfully.
Anand - Aronian was an interesting Italian Game, where Vishy won the bishop pair soon. He had the chance to make better use of them deep into the middlegame:
It was a lackluster finish for Anand in the tournament as he went on to lose the Armageddon. | Photo: Norway Chess
Anand had to try Bg5! aiming to distract the queen from its good posting in the Black position. After Qf7 it was best to swap out the Black rook with Rxe6! Qxe6 Qb1 retaining a slight advantage in the late middlegame. Instead, Re2!? allowed Levon to liquidate successfully.
Alexander Grischuk had a chance to turn a drab draw into something interesting against Ding Liren:
Grischuk's torrid run ended with a morale boosting win in the tiebreakers. | Photo: Norway Chess
Ding Liren - Grischuk
A careful study of position shows that White has overextended to win a pawn. With so many pieces on the board, the game takes a lot of middlegame characteristics. So, Ne4! was best, targeting the loose bishop on c3 and forcing White to exchange one of his pieces in order to keep it. After Nxe4 Bxe4 the pawn minus is not felt at all, and Black's pressure against d4 will soon pay off. After winning the d-pawn he can start pressing.
Armageddon: Caruana does a 'Carlsen', Aronian's practical draw offer!
Fabiano Caruana played a clean positional game in the Armageddon to get the better of his strongest rival Magnus Carlsen. The choice of opening and the manner of victory was Carlsenesque, showing how big an influence the current World Champion has on the styles of his compatriots. A deeper look at some of the fascinating moments:
Fabiano's confidence in himself must have helped his stunning run in the latter half of the tournament! | Photo: Norway Chess
Carlsen plays an interesting variation in the Rossolimo Sicilian with 3...Nf6.
The dream position for any White player in an Armageddon - a static weakness that can be harassed to no end!
Caruana played b3!? here, treating the position slowly. However, it is clear from the diagram that there is something inherently wrong with Carlsen's pieces - he is severely underdeveloped. Fabiano had a logical strike in this position, which he didn't play. Can you find it ?
Magnus is preparing to free his position with e5, so White must open up his bishop. Which knight move is the best?
Magnus chose the wrong recapture and was worse. Can you do better and reverse the assessment?
Fabiano's play from here on is nearly perfect. The following diagrams will serve to illustrate how well he played. White is clearly better here due to the superior minor piece and the fact that Black has two weaknesses on b6 and e6.
Caruana wins a pawn, though after Re6! the conversion process is not at all simple.
White has two ways of going into the rook endgame. Choose the correct one and check the annotations for the answer.
Fabiano has erred and Magnus has realistic chances of holding this endgame. Find the only move to ensure drawing chances, at also prevents White from consolidating.
Magnus failed to find the most accurate setup to hold the game. With b4! Caruana attacks the root of Black's strong hold and forces heavy material loses. The game is finished in a few more moves.
Vishy Anand was outplaying Levon Aronian in an Italian game, and had the Madras Tiger found the best move in the following critical position he wouldn't have lost:
Qc3! was best, seemingly playing for mate. After Black's best reply Qg6! White has Nd4! Rfb8 Bb5, soon winning two pieces for a rook. That position that could have been reached is shown in the following diagram.
It is not yet clear that White can win this, but what can be given in writing is that Black will have to suffer for a long time.
Instead, Anand played Bd5?, got into a jam, and lost, as he accepted a draw offer by Levon in a completely lost position. A disappointing end to the tournament for Anand, who has to share second last place with MVL.
Wesley So played the e3 poison against the King's Indian Defense, but struggled to come up with something useful. MVL took over, and soon had a chance to take a decisive step towards victory:
Had MVL talked to his pieces, he would have definitely gone Kg7! improving his last piece, and threatening devastation on the c-file. Instead, Nh5?! still maintained an edge, but allowed So to slowly wriggle out, after which the American used his extra time well to win.
Alexander Grischuk played a fine game with the Black pieces and had Ding Liren staring at defeat, one way or another:
Grischuk's Ne6! was the best way to ensure the win, as White has absolutely no swindling chances left, and must soon acquiesce to a draw, losing the match.
The final standings doesn't fully reflect how the players played. Magnus was unstoppable, but Levon got all of his wins in the Armageddons and so did So. Ding Liren and Caruana played a great Classical portion, but couldn't capitalise on the opportunities in the Rapids.
About the Author:
Tanmay Srinath is an 18-year-old chess player from Bangalore, Karnataka, currently pursuing both chess and engineering at BMSCE Bangalore. Tanmay is also a Taekwondo Black Belt, who has represented the country in an International Tournament in Thailand. He is a big fan of Mikhail Tal and Vishy Anand, and sincerely believes in doing his bit to Power Chess in India!