With the rise of Magnus Carlsen, we were told the future for chess would be a young man’s game. And sure enough, roughly in the same age bracket, rising alongside the World champion was Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Anish Giri, Wesley So, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Sergey Karjakin. We were informed by the pundits that veterans, such as Veselin Topalov and ex-champion Viswanathan Anand, had had their day.
But Norway appears to be no country for young men! As yet again in the 3rd Norway Chess 2015 Tournament in Stavanger, it’s timeless wonders Topalov (40) and Anand (45) who continue to drink from the fountain of youth with their amazing comeback run, as they turned in the only two wins of round six.
For Topalov, he easily beat Alexander Grischuk (or, more being the case, Grischuk beat himself) for his fifth win (and more amazingly, his fourth with Black) as he extends his lead at the top now to 1.5-points over his nearest rivals. And with just three rounds to go, Topalov looks set to capture his first major tournament title since Linares 2010. He now also has the highest rating he’s ever had - at 2821 - on the unofficial live ratings, as he consolidates the World No.2 spot, moving now to within 38-points of Carlsen.
And with Topalov now having a lock on the first ratings Candidates spot, and Anish Giri moving into very serious contention for the second spot, there’s now a distinct possibility that, for the first time since the Candidates was created in the early 1950s, there could well be no Russians in the field. Top Russian stars such as Grischuk, Kramnik, Karjakin and Svidler will now have to rely on the wild vagaries of the upcoming World Cup KO to secure a spot for Mother Russia.
And how many times now have we written off five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand? After he lost the title to Carlsen in 2013, many commentators speculated that Anand may well have to retire from top-flight chess. But the Indian ace soon stormed back to sensationally win the Candidates for a second crack at Carlsen - and in this sort of form, I wouldn’t bet against him having a third crack.
Now, after annihilating Vachier-Lagarve, Anand moves into joint second place alongside Nakamura, as he rises to World No.3, just seven points off of his highest ever rating in the game. Age and guile still has a lot going for it.
Carlsen draw Nakamura
Anand 1-0 Vachier-Lagrave
Grischuk 0-1 Topalov
Caruana draw Hammer
Giri draw Aronian
Round 6 standings: 1. Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) 5.5/6; 2-3. Viswanathan Anand (India), Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 4; 4. Anish Giri (Netherlands) 3.5; 5-7. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Levon Aronian (Armenia), Fabiano Caruana (Italy/USA) 2.5; 8-9. Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Magnus Carlsen (Norway) 2; 10. Jon Ludvig Hammer (Norway) 1.5
Viswanathan Anand - Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
3rd Norway Chess 2015, (6)
Sicilian Najdorf, Adams Attack
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.h3 Yesterday's game - Carlsen-Grischuk - saw the quiet line of 6.g3, and now 'MVL' faces yet another of the quiet lines against the Najdorf, though this one does have a pedigree: This is the Adams Attack, named not after Englishman Michael Adams but American master and opening theoretician Weaver Adams (1901-1963) - and Bobby Fischer adopted Adams' line with considerable success after he abandoned 6.Bc4. There's two fantastic wins in this line that you'll find fully annotated in Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games: Najdorf (Varna '62) and Bolbochan (Stockholm '62), the latter for which Fischer won the brilliancy prize.
Despite Fischer's successes, the whole line never really caught on until the early 1990's when White players were running out of ideas on how to play against the labyrinth of the heavily analysed Najdorf variation. 6...e6 7.g4 h6 8.Bg2 Nc6 9.Be3 Be7 10.f4 More common here is 10.Qe2 with ideas of castling queenside before launching the kingside attack. 10...Nd7?! MVL is getting confused, perhaps by Vishy playing the aggressive 10.f4, as the best option here has been 10...Qc7 immediately eyeing up the c7-g3 diagonal. 11.0-0 Vishy doesn't castle queenside, instead he castles short to bring the rook quickly into supporting the rapid advance of the pawns. 11...Nxd4 12.Qxd4 0-0 Either a very brave or stupid choice - and it looks like the latter. MVL truly 'castles into it', and he never gets a chance to create any counter-play as he now gets blown away by the ex-champion - and I wouldn't be at all surprised to discover that Vishy has seen this sort of attack before, as the debacle comes quickly and somewhat ruthlessly. 13.Qd2 Rb8?! In hindsight we can see what follows, but this is just far too slow. Again, 13...Qc7 or even 13...b5 was called for. 14.Ne2 b5 15.Rad1 Qc7 16.f5 Nf6?! MVL goes for a dubious attack on e4 that Anand easily has covered. Perhaps better would have been 16...Ne5. Yet here again, Anand's assault does have a look of inevitability about it. 17.Ng3 Bb7 Now, remember what I was saying earlier, about Vishy perhaps having seen this attack before? Well, guess what? Yes, a similar bishop sacrifice and winning attack was seen last year - and again in Norway! (Must be something to do with the Norwegian air): 17... Re8 18.Bd4 e5 19.Be3 Bb7 20.Bxh6 gxh6 21.Qxh6 Nh7 22.f6 Bf8 23.Qh5 Qc5+ 24.Kh2 Qe3 25.h4 Qh6 26.Qxh6 Bxh6 27.g5 Bf8 28.g6 and White won in Navara,D (2716)-Grischuk,A (2795) Tromso 2014) 18.Kh1 Rbd8? You just can't give a player of Anand's class and experience so many free moves to help him build up an attack. The defence looks difficult regardless, though if he was going to move this rook again, then perhaps best was 18...Rbc8 and trying for a quick Qc4 hitting e4. I'm not saying it saves Black, but it sure as hell will slow up any White attack. 19.Bxh6! (See Diagram) Splat! “I completely missed 19.Bxh6,” said MVL after the game. “I thought I was defending and suddenly I wasn't defending at all. I felt during the game I should be OK.” 19...gxh6 20.Qxh6 d5 21.g5! Now we see the reason for Vishy calmly taking the time to play 18.Kh1 first - if not, then MVL could well have been ‘defending’, with ideas such as ...Qc5+, ...Qe3! (and if Rd3) followed by ...Ng4 and ...Qxg5. 21...Qxg3 22.Rd3! Nh5? This is really, really bad - but then again, MVL only faired a little better going with the other knight move: 22...Nxe4 23.f6 (Not 23.Bxe4 Qe5! and suddenly Black's back in the game, as the queen can come back to g7.) 23...Qxg5 24.Qxg5+ Nxg5 25.fxe7 Rfe8 26.exd8Q Rxd8 27.Rg3 where no doubt the extra rook will come in handy. 23.g6 fxg6 24.fxg6 Rxf1+ 25.Bxf1 Nf6 26.Rxg3 dxe4 27.Be2 e3+ 28.Kg1 Bc5 29.Kf1 1-0