Devangshu Datta | New Delhi
The Norway super GM is intriguingly poised. Two rounds to go and anyone in the 10-player round-robin could win. Four joint “leaders” share first place, and four “laggards” share last. There is just one point separating these “gangs of four”.
Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin and Vladimir Kramnik have all scored 4 points (“plus one” in chess parlance) from seven games. Carlsen is one of two unbeaten players. His compatriot, Simen Agdestein, is also unbeaten, with seven fighting draws. Alexander Grischuk is also on 50 per cent. Veselin Topalov, Levon Aronian, Peter Svidler and Anish Giri share last place with 3 (“minus one”) each.
Sadly, the standard of play has been disappointing. This is odd. Norway doesn’t have the unusual time controls or other tensions that could affect form. Carlsen was lucky to win against Aronian from a position that was just plain lost. Caruana made a huge endgame blunder to drop a point to Kramnik. Kramnik made an experimental exchange sacrifice to gift a game to Topalov. Topalov has also blundered against Giri and Grischuk. Karjakin has received a gift from Giri, who blundered into a mating net around move 130 (!).
As Norway heads to a finish, it seems Sochi will host the 2014 World Title match in November 7-28. This was announced after closed door negotiations between Vladimir Putin and Fide President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov at the venue of a children’s chess tournament.
The match budget will be in the region of $3 million. More details are awaited. Sochi certainly has the facilities since it hosted the last Winter Olympics. The Russian Chess Federation has plenty of resources. Having a pucca venue is a relief, given that there were no bidders initially. This could be a diplomatic coup of sorts for Putin, given the prospect of sanctions after the Ukrainian crisis. It could also get ticklish all round if Ilyumzhinov is ousted in the Fide elections. Ilyumzhinov’s rival, Garry Kasparov, has a very hostile relationship with Putin and is in self-exile from Russia.
In the DIAGRAM, BLACK TO PLAY, (Carlsen Vs Aronian Norway 2014), white is almost helpless. The pressure on f1 is near-intolerable and it can be increased unhurriedly. Lines like 32. – h5 underline the edges by taking away Ng4.
Black played 32. — Qb3 33.Qa1 Qd1+?? This is terrible. Simply 33.–Bb5 34. Re1 a6 (or 34. Rxa7 Bxe2 and white has no meaningful threats) is winning with Qd3 to come. Now the tables are turned.
Play went 34.Qxd1 Bxd1 35.Re1 Bh5 36.g4 Be8 37.Rea1 Rf2 38.Rxa7 Rb2 39.Nf1 Kc7 40.Ra8 Kxb7 41.R1a7+ Kb6 42.Re7 Rbf2 43.Rb8+ Ka6 44.Ng3 Bg6 45.Rxf8 Rxf8 46.Re6 Be8 47.Rxh6 Kb5 and (1-0, 93 moves). White is clearly winning though it took a long time.