Norway, as the outspoken English grandmaster Nigel Short once sniffily described it, is a “small poxy chess nation with almost no history of success.” But genius can appear almost anywhere at any time, and the meteoric rise to the top of World Champion Magnus Carlsen has brought with it in his wake a massive chess boom in the tiny Nordic country that ought to have the former world title challenger well and truly eating his words by now.
Like everyone else, Short once perceived Norway to be full of “woodpushers”. But the way things are shaping up right now, they could well be on the cusp of becoming a nation not of woodpushers but world champions! Carlsen holds the world title in Classical chess, and now another Norwegian is getting in on the act, as GM Aryan Tari, 18, could well be about to be crowned the World Junior Champion!
The young Norwegian is having what could well be a career-defining moment in the ongoing World Junior U-20 Championship in Tarvisio in Italy, as he’s taken the tournament by storm with big wins over the two Russian frontrunners, Grigoriy Oparin and Kiril Alekseenko, who, alongside Dutch top seed GM Jorden van Foreest, were among the big pre-tournament favourites for the coveted junior world crown, won in the past by luminaries such as Spassky, Karpov, Kasparov and Anand, who all went on to become the World Champion.
In round 9, Tari was held to a spirited fighting draw by the 12-year-old Indian sensation, IM R.R. Praggnanandhaa – who in the process, now has his first GM norm with a performance rating of 2749 – and shares the lead on 7.5/9 with Alekseenko, going into the penultimate round. But with those vital wins over the two Russians, the Norwegian holds what could well be a huge tiebreak advantage going down the home straight of the final two rounds over the weekend.
If Tari holds his nerve to win the title, and hot-favorite Carlsen wins the world rapid and blitz titles in Saudi Arabia over the Christmas period, then by the end of the year, it is quite conceivable that Norway could have on their books the World Classical, Rapid, Blitz and Junior Champion!
Photo | © Ruggero Percivaldi (Official site)
GM Grigoriy Oparin – GM Aryan Tari
World Junior Championship, (8)
Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.g4 Typically a player who opts for the Caro-Kann is looking for some quiet positional struggle, however, in this game, it is anything but! Along with 4.h4, the early 4.g4 falls into a category known as the “Caveman Caro-Kann”, where Black has to be extremely careful. 4…Bg6 A brave choice played with the exuberance of youth! That said, there’s a school of thought that Black’s best option – and one favoured by four-time US champion Alexander Shabalov – is the retreat with 4…Bd7, the idea being that Black will retain a solid position and look to later exploit White’s early aggressive advances. 5.e6!? And now the main point behind the über-aggressive 4.g4, as this attempts to throw a spanner into Black’s hopes of developing his pieces. 5…Qd6 Accepting the pawn sacrifice with 5…fxe6 is fraught with danger, as it allows White to continue with 6.Nf3 and then play Bd3 with the plan of putting long-term pressure on e6. 6.exf7+ Bxf7 7.f4 Nf6 Black’s plan is simply to ‘get on’ with developing his pieces and later try to undermine White’s early pawn advances on the kingside. 8.Nc3 Nbd7 9.Bh3 g5!? Ahead in development, Black’s counter-punch leaves White the one now with the awkward doubled pawns. And with it, Tari shows he is a free-spirit, willing to ‘mix it’ in sharp positions against the top seeds – and this seems to work, as from here Oparin seems to get caught up in his own complications. 10.fxg5 Ne4 11.Nge2 Better was 11.Nxe4 dxe4 12.Ne2 but after 12…0-0-0 Black will have more than enough compensation with ideas like …Bg6 followed by …e5 looking to burst open the position for his active pieces. 11…Bg7 12.0-0 0-0 If the game does open with …e5, White could well find himself in difficulties – and this is exactly what happens in the game. 13.Be3 White really now had to play 13.Nxe4 dxe4 14.c3 Bc4!? – as it is, Oparin seems reluctant to ‘mix it’ with his opponent, and he soon lives to regret his decision. 13…Nb6 14.Bf4?! Oparin now simply collapses under the pressure, and indecisive in his play – but there’s nothing indecisive at all from Tari, who successfully opens the game up to his advantage with some clever tactical play. 14…Nxc3! 15.bxc3 White would like to recapture with the knight, but even this is problematic: 15.Nxc3 Qb4! 16.Ne2 Bg6! and White’s position is beginning to strain at the seams. But defending this difficult position might be better as White’s position rapidly collapses as the position opens to Black’s advantage. 15…e5! The bottom line is that the best White can hope for now is to be left with a chronically weak pawn structure. 16.Bg3 Nc4 17.Rf5 Oparin had pinned his hopes on an exchange sacrifice that seeks to offer some compensation by undoubling his pawns – but Tari has seen a little deeper. 17…Bg6 18.Qd3 Qe7 19.dxe5 Nxe5 20.Qe3? It is obvious by now that Oparin had simply missed Tari’s tactical sting in the tail. 20…Bxf5 21.gxf5 Qxg5!! [see diagram] An easy move perhaps to miss, as the knight fork on f3 leaves White poleaxed with a hopelessly lost position. 22.Nf4 Rae8 23.Qe2 Ng6! The Norwegian throws more wood on the fire, as the tactical tsunami now hitting Oparin forces an early resignation. 24.Ne6 Nf4! 25.Qg4 Nxh3+ 26.Qxh3 Qxf5 0-1