Former world champions tend to largely become forgotten figures in chess – but despite many rumours over the years in the media of his ‘imminent retirement’, Vishy Anand shows no sign of ever doing so, and he continues to defy the odds by showing that he’s still a force to contend with by turning in a remarkable ‘Indian summer’ performance in Norway!
At the age of 52, and despite a pandemic-induced hiatus from chess for the past two years, the five-time ex-champion continues to defy the generation gap as he makes all the early running in the 10th Norway Chess Tournament in Stavanger, showing no rust whatsoever as he storms into the clear lead at the top after three rounds.
In the opening two rounds, Anand scored back-to-back classical wins over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Veselin Topalov, to take a maxim um 6-points – and keeping his unbeaten run going, Anand then followed up with an Armageddon win over Wang Hao to stretch his lead at the top to 7½/9.5, a full 1½-points clear of his nearest rival, US champion Wesley So.
Remarkably, Anand graciously declined his team selection for India in the coming 44th Olympiad (which starts in his hometown of Chennai, in late July,) in order to make way for the legion of younger Indian player’s coming through – but in superb form in both the Superbet Rapid & Blitz in Warsaw and now here in Stavanger (and back in the World’s Top-10 in the unofficial live rating list in the process), already there’s calls that Anand should consider reversing his decision.
By stark comparison, the man who in 2013 dethroned Anand, Magnus Carlsen, is a notoriously slow-starter in big classical tournaments – but after a lacklustre start, the current World Champion has finally sprung to life with his first classical victory, beating Candidate-wildcard Teimour Radjabov to make his move up the leaderboard.
There’s full live coverage of Chess Norway each round over on Chess24, with commentary from GM Jan Gustafsson and IM Jovanka Houska. Play starts at 11AM ET | 5PM CEST.
1. V. Anand (India) 7½/9.5; 2. W. So (USA) 6/10; 3. M. Carlsen (Norway) 5½/10; 4. M Vachier-Lagrave (France) 4½/9.5; 5-6. A. Giri (Netherlands), S. Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) 4/10.5; 7. Wang Hao (China) 3/10.5; 8-9. V. Topalov (Bulgaria), A. Tari (Norway) 2/10; 10. T. Radjabov (Azerbaijan) 1½/9.5.
GM Magnus Carlsen – GM Teimour Radjabov
Norway Chess, (3.1)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 Be7 5.Bg2 0-0 6.0-0 dxc4 This approach is the so-called Semi-Open Catalan and one of the the most popular systems. 7.Qc2 By far the most dynamic move is 7.Ne5 that often leads to mutual crippled pawn structures. 7…b5 8.a4 White has to play actively in the Catalan, first sacrificing a pawn and then undermining Black’s pawn structure. 8…Bb7 9.axb5 a6 10.bxa6 Nxa6 Radjabov returns the pawn quickly and sacrifices one of his own in the process, and he’s instead putting his faith in the speedy development of his pieces to fight for equality. 11.Qxc4 Bd5 12.Qc3 c5 As the game opens up, White lack of development offers Black good counter-play for the pawn. 13.Bf4 Ne4 14.Qc1 cxd4 15.Nxd4 Nec5 Another path was 15…Bf6!? all but forcing 16.Nc6 Qb6 17.Ne5 Qb7 and with …Rfc8 coming, Black has more than enough compensation here for the pawn. 16.Bxd5 Qxd5 Radjabov’s play will revolve around his active piece-play on the queenside and undermining White’s b-pawn. 17.Be3 Qb7 18.Nd2 Rac8 19.Qb1 Nb4 20.N4f3 Qb5 21.Re1 Rfd8 22.Kf1 The game is finely balanced with an intriguing struggle ahead – but it only takes a couple of inaccurate follow-ups from Radjabov for him to be on the back-foot. 22…h6 23.Rc1 Bf8 Too cautious. Better was 23…Nd5 24.Bd4 Bf6 and taking a more pro-active stance. 24.Ne4 Nb3 25.Rxc8 Rxc8 26.Nc3 Qb7 27.Ra4! [Carlsen finds the most accurate move, though not the most obvious one at first sight, as 27.Ra7? would have walked into the very fiendish table-turning trap of 27…Nd2+!! and Black is winning. 27…Nd5 It’s at this point that Radjabov lets the game inexorably slip out of his hands with a series of little mistakes that all build up. The best solution, as the engine quickly spots, was 27…Bc5! that leads to a series of trades after 28.Qd1 Nc6 29.Qd3 Ne5! 30.Qe4 (Not 30.Nxe5?? Qh1#!) 30…Qxe4 31.Nxe4 Nxf3 32.Nxc5 Nxc5 33.Rc4 Rb8 34.Rxc5 Nxh2+ 35.Kg2 Ng4 36.Bd4 Rb7 and while White has much the better of it with the bishop and the passed b-pawn, in reality, with careful play, Black should easily be ale to hold this. 28.Nxd5 Qxd5 29.Kg2 Qc6 30.Ra7 g5?! Another mis-step – again the solution was 30…Bc5! 31.Bxc5 Nxc5 32.Qc2 Qb5 and with the extra b-pawn, White holds an advantage, but lots of work still will need to be done to convert for a full point. 31.Qd3 Nc5 32.Qc4 Qb6 33.Qa2! Carlsen paves the way to start running the b-pawn – and this is what compounds Radjabov’s problems. 33…Qc6 Better was 33…Qb5 that at least avoids White’s next move – but you have to ‘mix it’ with 34.Ne5 Qxe2 35.Rxf7 which all looks good for White – but Black is not completely lost, as the engine points out that 35…Qc2! 36.Rf3 Qe4 37.Bxc5 Qxe5 38.Bd4! (Not the obvious 38.Bxf8?! as Black has the intermezzo 38…Qe4! 39.h3 Rxf8 40.Qb3 Rf7 41.Qd3 Qxd3 42.Rxd3 Rb7 43.b3 h5 and the R+P ending is not going to be easy to win.) 38…Qd5 39.Qxd5 exd5 40.Rc3! and White has seized the advantage but, once again, a lot of works still needs to be done to convert for a win. 34.b4! Nd7?! Again wrong, better was 34…Nb7! 35.Qa6 Qxa6 36.Rxa6 Rc4 and saving chances. 35.b5! [see diagram] Carlsen makes it all look so easy, with the running b-pawn taboo as 35…Qxb5 walks into 36.Nd4! and Black’s …Nd7 is lost. 35…Qd6 36.Qa6 1-0 Radjabov resigns in view of 36…Rd8 [No better was 36…Qxa6 37.bxa6 Nc5 38.Ne5 f5 (If 38…f6 39.Ng4! Bg7 40.Bxc5 Rxc5 41.Rb7 easily wins) 39.Ng6 Bd6 40.Bd4 Bf8 41.Nxf8 Kxf8 42.Rh7! also easily winning.] 37.Qxd6 Bxd6 38.b6 g4 39.Ne1 and after Nd3, with Black all tied up, the supported b-pawn will quickly win a piece.