The timeless Vishy Anand continues to defy all the age-gap odds, as the 52-year-old five-time ex-world champion beat the player who took his crown, Magnus Carlsen, in a thrilling Armageddon tiebreaker in round five to narrowly retain the sole lead in the 10th Norway Chess Tournament in Stavanger – and the veteran could be on-course now for the remarkable feat of a sensational late-life elite victory.
It was an emotional rollercoaster ride between these two title titans, respectively the 15th and 16th World Chess Champions. Anand looked set to win the classical game by outplaying Carlsen, but the Norwegian staged one of his truly amazing great escapes to somehow salvage a draw to extend the thrilling clash into overtime.
It all came down to an Armageddon-decider that proved to be an equally gripping and thrilling contest, first swinging one way then another, before Anand – who narrowly lost out to Wesley So in the previous round in the Armageddon-decider – profited big-time by a time-trouble mistake at the end from Carlsen. And even in victory, Anand readily admitted that beating Carlsen in Armageddon “feels like a defeat.”
Now, as Anand retains a slender lead going down the home-stretch of the final four rounds, many pundits are calling not so much for the veteran to retire but rather “retiger”, a clever play on his old “Tiger of Madras” nickname before his birth capital city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu was officially renamed Chennai in 1996, a year after his unsuccessful first title challenge against Garry Kasparov in New York.
There’s full live coverage of the final four rounds of Chess Norway each over on Chess24, with commentary from GM Jan Gustafsson and IM Jovanka Houska. Play starts at 11AM ET | 5PM CEST.
1. V. Anand (India) 10/16.5; 2. M. Carlsen (Norway) 9½/16.5; 3-4. W. So (USA), S. Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) 8½/17; 5-6. M. Vachier-Lagrave (France), A. Giri (Netherlands) 7/16.5; 7. A. Tari (Norway) 6/16.5; 8. V. Topalov (Bulgaria) 4½/17; 9. T. Radjabov (Azerbaijan) 3/16; 10. Wang Hao (China) 3/16.5.
GM Vishy Anand – GM Magnus Carlsen
10th Norway Chess, (Armageddon), (5.1)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 The name Giuoco Piano – one of the oldest recorded openings in chess, played in the 16th century – means ‘quiet game’ in Italian. And like its name, it is initially very quiet with a slow build-up as both sides position their pieces for the ensuing middlegame battle. 3…Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.Nc3 d6 7.a4 0-0 8.a5 Bg4 9.h3 Bxf3 10.Qxf3 Nd4 11.Qd1 c6 12.0-0 b5 13.Ba2 Ne6 14.Be3 a6 15.Qf3 Qd7 16.Ne2 d5 17.c3 Bc5! If anything, Carlsen can be said to have ‘won’ the opening, as he transitions into the middlegame by taking control of the centre of the board. 18.exd5 cxd5 19.Bxc5 Nxc5 20.d4 e4 21.Qe3 Nd3 The knight slides into a seemingly strong outpost right in the heart of White’s position – but the knight can easily be undermined with f3 and a possible tactic on e4. 22.Qd2 Rae8 23.f3 Nf2! The tactics though are all working in Carlsen’s favour. 24.fxe4 N2xe4 25.Qd3 Qd6 26.Rf3 Better was 26.Rf5! looking to follow up with 27.Nf4 and a possible tactic on d5 – but it is easy to see why Anand plays what he plays, as he goes about his business of doubling his rooks on the f-file. 26…g6 27.Raf1 Nh5 28.g4 Nhf6 29.Nf4 Ng5 It’s not bad per se, but on reflection, better and stronger was 29…Re7 with the idea of …Rfe8 first before coming in with …Ng5. 30.R3f2 Nge4 31.Rg2! The Armageddon scenario dictates that Anand has to win as a draw will see Carlsen winning the match – and what Carlsen played only used up more time on his already depleted clock, as it allows Anand a free move to play the move he wanted to play anyway, as a full-scale kingside attack is his only hope now. 31…h6 32.h4 g5 The only move to stop Anand playing g5 himself winning the d5-pawn – but for Carlsen, it comes at the price of opening up lines of attack to his king. 33.hxg5 hxg5 34.Nh3 Also possible was 34.Qh3!? forcing 34…Kg7 otherwise there will be carnage down the h-file. And now 35.Nh5+ Nxh5 36.gxh5 with a promising attack brewing on the kingside. 34…Kg7 35.Rf5?! A tempting move to play in the heat of the battle, but better and stronger first was 35.Qe3! as now 35…Kg6? 36.Rf5! is crashing to victory with g5 falling. But this is Armageddon, and even Carlsen and Anand can’t see every possibility in this double-edged position. 35…Rh8! Just in the nick of time! And with it, Carlsen now should be winning – but he’s very low on time. 36.Nxg5 Rh4? It’s Armageddon, and Carlsen is very low on time, so anything can happen – but it is not like the world champion to miss what the engine quickly spots, that now 36…Nxg5! 37.Rxg5+ Kf8! 38.Qf1 Re6 and his king is safe and he’s in total control; one likely scenario from the silicon beast running 39.Rf5 Qe7 40.Rgf2 Re1 41.Rxf6 Rxf1+ 42.Kxf1 Rh1+ 43.Kg2 Qe4+! 44.R2f3 Rh7 45.R6f4 Qc2+ 46.Rf2 Qc1 and White is never going to find a safe haven for his king. 37.Bxd5! [see diagram] The thunderbolt missed by Carlsen – and with it, this wildly fluctuating game begins again to swing Anand’s way. 37…Nxg5 What Carlsen had missed was that 37…Nxd5 38.Nxe4! Qh6 39.Ng3! defends h1 and threatens also a possible Nh5+ disconnecting queen and rook, or possibly even a fork trick. 38.Rxg5+ Kf8 39.Bf3?! Tick-tock and all that, as Anand misses the stone-cold killer of 39.Qg3! that would have forced the trade of queens. 39…Qf4?! It’s the never-miss-a-check principle – Carlsen would have saved the game with 39…Re1+! 40.Kf2 Rhh1! and it is hard for White to avoid anything other than a “losing” draw with the rooks doubled on the back-rank. 40.Re5! Once again the pendulum swings Anand’s way – and this time he makes no mistake to take maximum points to retain the tournament lead. 40…Rxe5 No better was 40…Qc1+ 41.Qd1! Qf4 42.Rxe8+ Nxe8 43.Qe2 Nd6 44.Rf2! Nc4 45.Bg2! Qxg4 46.Qxg4 Rxg4 47.Kh2 and Black is in big trouble in the ending with all of his pawns now on white squares. 41.dxe5 Qxe5 42.Kf2 Rh3? The final mistake – Carlsen may well have hung on with 42…Rh1! 43.Qd2 but he was in dire time trouble by this stage, with the flag on his digital clock metaphorically hanging and ready to drop. 43.g5 Nh5 44.g6! fxg6 And no better was 44…Qc5+ 45.Qd4 Qxd4+ 46.cxd4 Nf4 47.g7+ Kg8 48.Rg1 Rh6 49.Ke3 and White is easily winning. 45.Qd8+ Qe8 46.Qxe8+ Kxe8 47.Rxg6 With the queens now off and Anand effectively hoovering up all of Carlsen’s remaining pawns, resignation is not far off. 47…Nf4 48.Rxa6 Nd3+ 49.Ke3 Ne5 50.Re6+ 1-0