Round 4 of the Altibox Norway Chess Tournament 2016 took place on Friday 22nd April. It would be the last round before the rest day and would see all games drawn.
The Berlin Defence of Vachier-Lagrave–Kramnik was quite interesting. It was Vachier-Lagrave’s second white game on the spin and it was no dull affair. White’s 12.Na3 was an interesting idea, the piece going to c4, e3, and then g4. It didn’t really yield all that much for White, though, the Knight spending some time on h2 before being re-developed to f3.
From the diagram position, there came 26…Nd5 27.Qb3 Nf4 28.Bxf4 exf4 29.Rad1 Rad8 and White pushed on with 30.e5. After an exchange of rooks, Black chose to counter on the flank, working his Queen to f5 and thrusting his g-pawn forward. The game culminated in an endgame in which both players seemed to have everything under control, White obtaining two connected pawns in return for a piece, but his King was over on the other side of the board and unable to support them. Thus, the spoils were shared.
Grandelius-Harikrishna was also an interesting tussle, in which White won a pawn but then struggled with activity. His light-squared bishop became quite the bystander, and Black’s bishop pair and well centralised knight served as extremely satisfying compensation for his pawn.
Black had the upper hand and was pressing, but the turning point came when White was able to give his Queen for knight and rook. When Black then exchanged his remaining rook, all chances had evaporated. It was not long before they were repeating moves and splitting the point.
Eljanov-Topalov was a Queen’s Gambit Declined, in which White was perhaps slightly better. Eljanov managed to establish his knight on the e5-square, and this was a very nice station for it. Unfortunately the position just didn’t have anything in it, niether player could utilise the open c-file, and when the endgame arrived there was very little in it. Quite an uneventful game really and the draw seemed a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.
I am not sure whether Magnus Carlsen came in to the round with aspirations to increase his lead in the tournament, but Li Chao’s choice of the Exchange Slav left the Norwegian little opportunity. The Chinese GM, who replaced Sergey Karjakin of course, was feeling a little under the weather and therefore not up for a tussle with the World Champion, who had played a very nice game in his previous round and looked to be brimming with confidence. Under the circumstances I think a nice easy draw suited both.
White enjoyed the usual spatial advantage that can come with a Queen’s Gambit Declined in Giri-Aronian. Giri’s 21.e4 and 22.exd5 helped Black to breathe a little, however, and I think Aronian would have been quite satisfied. White had a rather nice knight and dark-squared bishop which fired along the h2-b8 diagonal, but an isolated Queen’s pawn, which Black blockaded very nicely. The players steadily exchanged pieces, White unburdening himself of the d-pawn, and the draw was agreed very quickly.
Standings after 4 rounds:
Carlsen — 3
Vachier-Lagrave, Kramnik — 2½
Li Chao, Topalov, Giri, Aronian — 2
Harikrishna, Eljanov — 1½
Grandelius — 1
Round 5: Sunday 24th April
Play begins at 16:00 local time. If you need to, you can check your time, here.
More Information: Atibox Norway Chess 2016 Website