The top tournaments are coming thick and fast now, whether they be rivalling Tours or even a major on the more traditional elite-level circuit, with the Chessable Masters and Superbet Warsaw both ending, and now the 10th Norway Chess Tournament about to kick-off in Stavanger, that will run May 31 to 10 June.
World Champion Magnus Carlsen heads the field in his homeland, which also includes Wesley So (USA), Shakhriyar Mamedyravov (Azerbaijan), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Teymur Rajabov (Azerbaijan), Viswanathan Anand (India), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria), Wang Hao (China) and Aryan Tari (Norway).
With other tournaments clashing (not to mention the Candidates looming large on the horizon) and the reluctance to invite Russian players, the 10-player field is a little weaker than in recent years – but nevertheless an interesting and eclectic mix that will make for interesting games. And as is the tradition in Norway Chess, there’s a twist where if the standard time control game ends in a draw then there’s an Armageddon game to produce a decisive result. It also starts with the warm-up of an eve-of-tournament blitz.
Several in the field competed in both recent legs in the $1.6m Meltwater Champions Chess Tour and the $1.4m Grand Chess Tour. We left our coverage of the Superbet Warsaw with veteran Anand rolling back the years to win the rapid tournament – but the five-time ex-World Champion’s lead just wasn’t enough to carry over to the blitz, which was won by Duda, with the Pole top-scoring on 12/18 in his own homeland to capture – by a narrow half-point margin – the overall title and $40,000 first prize.
Superbet Warsaw Rapid & Blitz (final standings):
1. Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland) 24/36; 2-3. Levon Aronian (USA), Vishy Anand (India), 23.5; 4. Fabiano Caruana (USA) 23; 5. Wesley So (USA) 20.5; 6. Richard Rapport (Romania) 19.5; 7. Radoslaw Wojtaszek (Poland) 13.5; 8. Anton Korobov (Ukraine) 12.5; 9. Kirill Shevchenko (Ukraine) 11.5; 10. David Gavrilescu (Romania) 8.5.
GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda – GM Viswanathan Anand
Superbet Warsaw Blitz, (10)
Petroff’s Defence, Modern Attack
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 When Anand was in his pomp in the mid/late 1990s, the solid Petroff was the Berlin Defence of it’s day by being a notoriously tough-nut to crack. 3.d4 The Modern Attack is now a popular sideline against the Petroff, rather than getting sucked into the mainline with 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 etc. 3…Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5 5.Nxe5 Nd7 6.0-0 Nxe5 7.dxe5 Nc5 8.f4 There’s nothing much in the position, but White does have a little niggling space advantage – and Duda uses this pressure well! 8…g6 9.Be2 c6 10.Nd2 Be7 11.Nf3 0-0 12.Be3 Ne6 13.c3 It’s tempting to lash out with 13.f5 but after 13…Bc5! 14.Bxc5 Nxc5 15.fxg6 fxg6 Black has extinguished the attack with complete equality. 13…Bc5 14.Nd4! A resource not possible in the above note, as the end White’s f5 pawn would be hanging. 14…f6 15.Kh1 A prophylaxical move, just sidestepping out if any embarrassing pin down the a7-g1 diagonal. 15…Bb6 16.Bd3 Duda has managed to hold onto his space advantage – but can he now turn it into a meaningful attack? 16…fxe5 17.fxe5 Rxf1+ 18.Qxf1 Bd7 19.Qf3 Qh4 20.Nxe6 Bxe6 I can only imagine here that Anand would have been pleased that he has safely negated Duda’s space advantage and possible attack – but a wrong follow-up soon spells trouble for the five-time ex world champion. 21.Rf1 Bxe3 Another good, solid move was 21…Re8 with the idea of tying Duda down to defending his e-pawn. 22.Qxe3 Rf8? [see diagram] A costly mistake from Anand tht sees the overall title slipping through his fingers – and I can only imagine he assumed that Duda couldn’t safely snatch the a7-pawn. 23.Qxa7! Rxf1+ 24.Bxf1 Qe1 25.Qa8+ Kg7 26.Qxb7+ Kh6 27.Qa6 Bf5 Anand now realises he’s blundered big-time, so he decides to hang for the sheep than the lamb by playing in hope for some spurious trick that just isn’t there, rather than going down supinely with 27…Qxe5 allowing the better regrouping move 28.Qe2 and a winning advantage. 28.Qe2 Qa1 29.a3 Kg7 30.Kg1 Duda now brings his king back across to protect the bishop, freeing his queen to come in for the kill. 30…Kf7 31.g4 Be6 The alternative of 31…Be4 loses in much the same way as in the game. 32.Qf2+ Ke8 33.Qf6 Bxg4 34.e6 1-0 And Anand resigns faced with losing his bishop with 34…Bxe6 to avoid being mated.