The sixth edition of the ‘Norway Chess’ Super GM Tournament, opened in Stavanger on Sunday 27th May, with its trademarked blitz round robin. It will run until Sunday 10th June. The field this year comprised (ratings taken from FIDE May ratings list): Magnus Carlsen (2843), Fabiano Caruana (2822), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2808), Ding Liren (2791), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2789), Sergey Karjakin (2782), Wesley So (2778), Hikaru Nakamura (2769), Levon Aronian (2764), Viswanathan Anand (2760).
This being said, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov turned out to be suffering from toothache and his participation was looking a little shaky, as reported by Tarjei Svensen:
Mamedyarov said the chance of him playing the tournament is “50-50”. #NorwayChess
— Tarjei J. Svensen (@TarjeiJS) May 27, 2018
As you will probably know, the blitz mini-tournament on the first day, decides the draw for the main tournament. Basically, the top finisher of the blitz can choose his draw number. The second placed player then gets the highest (1-10) available number remaining; the 3rd the next highest and so on. I really like this format and I wish that more tournaments would use it. I think it is a very appropriate way to kick off a tournament in the right fighting spirit.
In the end, Mamedyarov did play and didn’t do too badly, with a 50% score. The same went for Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
World Champion, Magnus Carlsen kicked things off with 1.e3 as White against his former challenger, Sergey Karjakin. It was an interesting game, but Magnus did not get great play really and it was no surprise when it ended in a draw. In round seven he faced his next challenger, Fabiano Caruana, also as White and pulled off a nice win.
But can he do it on a cold November night in London?
— Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) May 28, 2018
Unfortunately, Magnus was unable to capitalise on this win. Playing Levon Arnonian in round 8, he went on to play one of the worst moves I have seen him play. In the diagram position, below, again as White, rather than the equal 52.fxg4, Magnus evidently suffered a brain fart and went for 52.hxg4 instead. One really can’t give this enough question marks, it simply allows Aronian to queen after 52…h5-h4!
Despite this glitch, Carlsen would finish in fourth place, which he was content with by all accounts, although he was disappointed with his play overall. As for Aronian, this would be one of his two wins in the blitz. The other was against Mamedyarov in the third game. A finish of 3/9 for Levon is something that I find quite surprising, personally. While he is perhaps not as at ease with blitz as the likes of, say Anand and Nakamura, I certainly expected him to be a little higher. However, his play was very lack-lustre. The same goes for Ding Liren, who also finished on this score. He didn’t play very well and this was just the beginning of his nightmares in this tournament as it would turn out.
By contrast, the blitz went extremely well for Wesley So, who dominated and finished on a very strong 6/9. So notched up wins against Caruana, Mamedyarov, Karjakin and Ding. He only dropped one point, in fact, to Magnus Carlsen in round 3. Just behind So, were the afore-mentioned likely suspects of Anand and Nakamura, who finished on 5.5/9.
Blitz Round Robin, Final Standings*
Wesley So (3) – 6/9
Hikaru Nakamura (1) – 5.5/9
Viswanathan Anand (2) – 5.5/9
Magnus Carlsen (4) – 5/9
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (5) – 4.5/9
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (6) – 4.5/9
Fabiano Caruana (7) – 4.5/9
Sergey Karjakin (8) – 3.5/9
Levon Aronian (9) – 3/9
Ding Liren (10) – 3/9
*draw numbers in brackets.
As you will see, the pairings saw things start with a bang, as Magnus Carlsen faced his World Title Challenger, Fabiano Caruana in round 1. And in the very next round, would take on his former challenger, Sergey Karjakin with Black. Caruana vs Karjakin will come in round 5 and could be interesting!
Round 1: Nakamura vs Ding, Anand vs Aronian, So vs Karjakin, Carlsen vs Caruana, Mamedyarov vs Vachier-Lagrave.
Round 2: Ding vs Vachier-Lagrave, Caruana vs Mamedyarov, Karjakin vs Carlsen, Aronian vs So, Nakamura vs Anand.
Round 3: Anand vs Ding, So vs Nakamura, Carlsen vs Aronian, Mamedyarov vs Karjakin, Vachier-Lagrave vs Caruana.
Round 4: Ding vs Caruana, Karjakin vs Vachier-Lagrave, Aronian vs Mamedyarov, Nakamura vs Carlsen, Anand vs So.
Round 5: So vs Ding, Carlsen vs Anand, Mamedyarov vs Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave vs Aronian, Caruana vs Karjakin.
Round 6: Ding vs Karjakin, Aronian vs Caruana, Nakamura vs Vachier-Lagrave, Anand vs Mamedyarov, So vs Carlsen.
Round 7: Carlsen vs Ding, Mamedyarov vs So, Vachier-Lagrave vs Anand, Caruana vs Nakamura, Karjakin vs Aronian.
Round 8: Ding vs Aronian, Nakamura vs Karjakin, Anand vs Caruana, So vs Vachier-Lagrave, Carlsen vs Mamedyarov.
Round 9: Mamedyarov vs Ding, Vachier-Lagrave vs Carlsen, Caruana vs So, Karjakin vs Anand, Aronian vs Nakamura.