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25 Jun

Getting Hammer-ed

We received sad news late yesterday evening from Anthony Saidy that six-time US champion Walter Shawn Browne had died suddenly in his sleep while staying with a friend  in Las Vegas after playing in the National Open.  He was 66. Walter also won major international events at Wijk aan Zee (twice), Lone Pine, and five medals in the Olympiad. And next week we’ll pay a full tribute to the legend that was “Mr Six-Time.”

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Walter Browne crossed the divide with his own final years on the elite circuit also clashing with Viswanathan Anand’s first tentative steps into the magic circle of the elite circuit. And there had to have been a poignant moment for Anand before the final round of the 3rd Norway Chess 2015 Tournament in Stavanger, as last month his mother also died, and he told Yasser Seirawan that the only two players she ever asked about from those early days of his career - when she was with him as his guardian - was England’s Tony Miles, with his long flocking blonde hair, and the other being Walter Browne and his nervous cauldron of built-up energy at the board.

But while at an age when Walter Browne was hanging up his pawns from top-flight chess, Anand has been rolling back the years to turn in his best tournament performance in more than a decade. And in the final round, Veselin Topalov, 40, and Anand, 45, found themselves unexpectedly in the lead ahead of the new, younger generation. And not unexpectedly, the two veterans agreed a quick-ish draw with a repetition to respectively take the two top spots. "Sometimes you have to be practical," mused Topalov at the end. "I think we’ve had enough excitement, sorry we didn’t have any excitement today."

The pre-tournament smart money was all going on local hero Magnus Carlsen - but somewhat embarrassingly for the World champion on his home turf, he turned in his worst tournament performance ever, haemorrhaging an unbelievable 22.7 rating points in the one event. And even more remarkably, in the final round Carlsen figuratively and literally got hammered, when he lost to his fellow countryman Jon Ludvig Hammer - the first time he has lost to his long-time friend and Norwegian No.2 since November 2000, when they faced each other in the Norwegian U-10 championship!

The newer generation’s face was only saved by the wonderful, flawless performances of Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri, who respectively took the honours in the first tournament in the Grand Chess Tour behind veterans Topalov and Anand. For Nakamura, his final round win over Levon Aronian continued his highly impressive series of tournament outings over the past year. And for Giri, he’s now beginning to grow in confidence at the elite level, as he takes a giant step towards clinching the second FIDE rating spot (behind hot favourite Topalov) into next year’s Candidates tournament.

Final Standings: 1st Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) 6.5/9; 2nd Viswanathan Anand (India) 6; 3rd Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 6; 4th Anish Giri (Netherlands) 5.5; 5th Fabiano Caruana (Italy/USA) 4; 6th Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France) 4; 7th Magnus Carlsen (Norway) 3.5; 8th Alexander Grischuk (Russia) 3.5; 9th Levon Aronian (Armenia) 3; 10th Jon Ludvig Hammer (Norway) 3.

Round 9:

Topalov draw Anand
Caruana draw Giri
Vachier-Lagrave draw Grischuk
Aronian 0-1 Nakamura
Hammer 1-0 Carlsen

Levon Aronian - Hikaru Nakamura
3rd Norway Chess 2015
English Opening
1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 Bc5 There's perhaps no American chess fan whose heart doesn't beat faster when seeing this being played against the English Opening, largely due to Bobby Fischer's brilliant win over Tony Saidy in the 1968 Metropolitan League championship match between the two great New York clubs of the Manhattan and Marshall. Fischer treated it just like a reversed Grand Prix Attack by first playing f5, Nf6 and then Bc5, following it up by going for Dr. Saidy's jugular with the pawn sacrifice f4. Vintage Fischer - a wonderful demonstration of how best to activate ALL your pieces. If you have never seen this Saidy-Fischer game, then click the link for a treat. 4.Bg2 d6 5.e3 a6 6.Nge2 And since that aforementioned massacre, English players have wised-up by delaying moves such as d3, keeping their options open to hit back with d4 or even f4. 6...Ba7 7.a3 h5 Nakamura's intentions can't be much clearer here. 8.d4 h4 9.b4 Nge7 10.c5 Bf5 11.Bb2 Qd7 12.Qb3 h3 13.Bf3 exd4 14.Nxd4 The other option didn't bode well 14.exd4?! dxc5 15.bxc5 (There's a fiendish trap after 15.dxc5? Ne5 16.Bxb7 c6!! 17.Bxa8 Nf3+ 18.Kf1 Nd2+ and White can resign here.) 15...0-0 16.0-0 b6! looks very promising for Black. 14...Bg4! Eyeing up the white-square weakness in Aronian’s position. 15.Bxg4 Qxg4 16.Nxc6 Nxc6 17.Qd1?! Aronian really had to take his chances here with 17.cxd6 Ne5 (or even 17...0-0-0) - but rather him than me when facing Nakamura on a high, who - like Fischer - has the potential to swarm pieces around an enemy king. 17...Qg6 18.cxd6 0-0-0! As GM Danny King would say in his very instructive How Good Is Your Chess? feature for Chess Monthly magazine, "Deduct 5 points if you considered any other move." Black's king is castled, he's brought his rook into the game, and he's threatening carnage down the d-file. What's not to like here? 19.Rc1 Rxd6 20.Qc2 Qh5 As castling seems to be out of the question for Aronian, if he wants to eagerly exchange queens, then Nakamura will only do so if the price is right. 21.Qe2 Ne5! (See Diagram) And now the price is right! 22.Qxh5 Nd3+ 23.Ke2 And not 23.Kf1 Rxh5 24.Rb1 as now the bishop comes in for the kill with 24...Bxe3!! as 25.fxe3 allows Nakamura the prosaic win with 25...Rf5+ 26.Ke2 Rf2+ 27.Kd1 Nxb2+ 28.Ke1 Nd3+ 29.Kd1 Nxb4+ 30.Ke1 Nd3+ 31.Kd1 Rg2 and White can resign. 23...Nxc1+ 24.Rxc1 Rxh5 Nakamura is the exchange up, but watch how skilfully he now opens the game up for his rooks to crack through the Armenian’s defences to win. 25.g4 Re5 26.Rg1 Re8 27.Rg3 Bd4! 28.Na4 Bxb2 29.Nxb2 Red8 30.Nc4 Rc6 31.Ne5 Rc2+ 32.Ke1 f6 33.Nf3 Rh8 34.g5 Ra2 35.Nd4 Rxa3 36.Ne6 Ra1+ 37.Ke2 Rh1 38.gxf6 gxf6 39.Nf4 b6 40.Nxh3 Rb1 Now the b- and h-pawns are gone, and with the time control made, Aronian resigned. A wonderful performance and tournament for Nakamura. 0-1

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