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A respectable 50% for Hari in Norway

by Sagar Shah - 01/05/2016

Harikrishna is just seven points away from Anand in the live Elo list. With a rating of 2763 it was extremely important for Hari to prove that he could fight it out with the absolute elite players in the world. And he did pretty well. 4.5/9 with wins over Anish Giri and Li Chao and draws against Eljanov, Topalov, Aronian, Vachier-Lagrave and Grandelius. Indian fans will be looking for more such appearances by Hari so that his experience of playing at this level can match his undeniable talent. 

The last round of the Altibox Norway Chess 2016 was a crucial one for Harikrishna as a win would have propelled him to the top of the standings list. However, Aronian playing with the black pieces gave the Indian player absolutely no chances and the game ended in a draw. Very interesting to note is the relatively new idea in the opening employed by Levon.

Usually Black retreats his bishop to e7. However, Aronain played it to d6. This gives options of playing N to c6 and going for the e5 break. A move which should be looked into.
[Event "4th Norway Chess 2016"]
[Site "Stavanger NOR"]
[Date "2016.04.29"]
[Round "9.4"]
[White "Harikrishna, Pentala"]
[Black "Aronian, Levon"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "E21"]
[WhiteElo "2763"]
[BlackElo "2784"]
[Annotator "Sagar Shah"]
[PlyCount "77"]
[EventDate "2016.04.19"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 b6 5. e3 Bb7 6. Bd3 O-O 7. O-O c5 (7... d5
{is the other main move in this position transposing to the Petrosian
Variation.}) 8. Na4 {White threatens to disturb the bishop with a3.} cxd4 9. a3
Bd6 $5 {This has not been played by too many top players but you can be sure
that when someone plays the Candidates they always have a bagful of ideas with
themselves. The idea is to go Nc6 and prepare the move e5.} (9... Be7 {is the
more normal way to play.} 10. exd4 Nc6 11. b4) 10. exd4 Nc6 {After this move
the placement of the bishop on d6 doesn't look highly relevant.} (10... Bxf3
11. Qxf3 Nc6 {Looks like a plausible way to play as e5 is coming up.}) 11. Nc3
(11. b4 e5 $1 {This shows the main idea of the move Bd6.} 12. d5 e4 $1 $11)
11... Rc8 12. Bg5 h6 13. Bh4 Be7 {You can say that White has in some ways won
the opening battle because he forced Black to go back to e7. But for a move or
two when Black was threatening e6-e5, White had to remain careful and that was
the main idea of Bd6.} 14. Re1 (14. Bc2 Nh5 $1 15. Qd3 f5 $11) 14... d5 (14...
Na5 {Putting extra pressure on c4 was also an interesting idea.}) 15. cxd5 Nxd5
16. Nxd5 Bxh4 (16... Qxd5 17. Be4 Qd7 18. d5 exd5 19. Qxd5 Qxd5 20. Bxd5 Bxh4
21. Nxh4 $11) 17. Ne3 Bf6 {Black has absolutely no problems out of the opening.
} 18. Be4 g6 19. Qa4 a6 20. Rad1 b5 21. Qb3 Qb6 22. Ng4 Bg7 23. Qe3 Kh7 24. h4
f5 $1 {Forcing the pace of play} 25. Bxc6 Rxc6 (25... fxg4 26. Bxb7 Qxb7 27.
Ne5 $11 {is also a playable position for both sides.}) 26. Nge5 Rd6 27. Qf4
Bxf3 28. Nxf3 Rfd8 29. Rc1 Bxd4 {Mass exchanges take place and the game is
drawn.} 30. Nxd4 Qxd4 31. Qxd4 Rxd4 32. Rxe6 Rd1+ 33. Rxd1 Rxd1+ 34. Kh2 Rd2
35. Rxa6 Rxb2 36. Ra7+ Kg8 37. f3 b4 38. axb4 Rxb4 39. Kg3 {In a must win game
Harikrishna wasn't able to pose any problems to Levon.} 1/2-1/2

Final standings

Seventh place and 50% score, Hari can be quite satisfied with his performance. After all he was playing a super tournament after nearly two years! [picture by Joachim Steinbru]
A relief for Magnus Carlsen as he finally won on home soil in the fourth edition. Previous winners were Karjakin (twice) and Veselin Topalov.

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