Despite a penultimate round setback, there was no holding back World Champion Magnus Carlsen, as the Norwegian finally claimed home glory for his loyal fans and supporters with a convincing last round win to clinch a deserved outright victory on Friday in the 4th Altibox Norway Chess Tournament in Stavanger, Norway.
“I’m incredibly delighted to be able to win here,’ claimed a jubilant Carlsen, with the only decisive game of the final round giving him the title by a half point margin over nearest rival Levon Aronian of Armenia, who in the penultimate round ended the world champion’s personal unbeaten run of 42 games without a loss.
But Carlsen - after winning the pre-event blitz tournament - had the advantage of White in the final round as he came up against tail-ender Pavel Eljanov. Carlsen then proceeded to outplay his opponent with a trademark squeeze-win from a seemingly innocuous position, ending his campaign with a +3 winning score of 6/9. Carlsen is now dominating the chess scene once again with a renewed vigour that was largely missing throughout most of 2015, with the 4th Altibox Norway Chess Tournament now being his fourth successive tournament win.
Carlsen has also now won 7 out of the last 9 tournaments, and has now claimed the 27th super tournament win of his career - but arguably this one meant the most of all to the 25-year-old, with previous tournament’s in Norway having ended for him in failure in front of his home crowd.
Photo © | Altibox Norway Chess/Joachim Steinbru
Carlsen 1-0 Eljanov
Topalov draw Kramnik
Li Chao draw Giri
Harikrishna draw Aronian
Grandelius draw Vachier-Lagrave
1. Magnus Carlsen (Norway) 6/9; 2. Levon Aronian (Armenia) 5.5; 3-5. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France), Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria), Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) 5; 6-7. Li Chao (China), Pentala Harikrishna (India) 4.5; 8. Anish Giri (Netherlands) 4; 9. Pavel Eljanov (Ukraine) 3; 10. Nils Grandelius (Sweden) 2.5.
GM Magnus Carlsen - GM Pavel Eljanov
4th Altibox Norway Chess Tournament, (9)
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7 6.Bg2 0-0 7.0-0 c6 8.Qc2 Nbd7 9.a4 Magnus said his game plan was to get into mutually unknown territory and just (out)play his opponent - and the Neo-Catalan fits the bill perfectly for the job at hand. 9...a5 10.Rc1 Ne4 11.Be1 f5 12.Nbd2 This seems to be the wrong square for the knight against this Stonewall set-up by Eljanov. And indeed, Carlsen even works this out by going back soon to b1-a3. Luckily, there's was damage done with this waste of time, as both players were indeed in "mutually unknown territory" as Magnus described his game-plan. 12...Bd6 13.e3 Ra7 You may wonder why this, and why now? The reason is that, in the Dutch Stonewall, often Black's worse piece to develop is his white-squared bishop, so Eljanov want's to play ...b6 and ...Ba6 - but with the rook on a8, after...b6, Carlsen will play cxd5 and Qc6 winning. Also, on a7, the rook could swing into action along his own second rank. 14.Qd1 b6 15.cxd5 cxd5 16.Nb1! Realising the knight was achieving nothing on d2, Carlsen quickly switches it to a3-b5, and suddenly he has a little somthing to work with; a typical Carlsen squeeze of his opponent with next-to-nothing to work with. 16...Ba6 17.Na3 Qa8?! The right idea, but perhaps not here. I liked the idea of 17...Qb8 and contesting the c-file; perhaps looking at all the rooks being swapped off - this might have offered more of a challenge for Magnus to convert to a win. 18.Nb5! Bxb5 19.axb5 Rc8 20.Bf1 Rxc1 21.Rxc1 Rc7 22.Rxc7 Bxc7 23.Qa4! With no challenge of Eljanov's queen down the c-file to worry about, Carlsen has something now to work with: the threat of b4 and his bishops suddenly coming to life, picking off the chronically weak pawn on b6. I think around here, Eljanov had to have realised this was going to be difficult now - and more so, as about this time also, Aronian had drawn his game and Magnus realised he only needed to win for his first victory on his home turf. 23...Qb8 24.b4 axb4 25.Bxb4 h6 26.Qc2! (See Diagram) Now Qc6 and hitting e6 is the threat. 26...Bd6 27.Qc6 Ndf6 28.Bxd6 Qxd6 With just a few accurate moves from Carlsen, Eljanov's position has collapsed. Here, he had to play 28...Nxd6 29.Ne5 Qd8 and hope his Black queen marooned on the back rank can keep his position together. However I don't think Carlsen would miss ideas such as h3 and g4 to now bring his white-squared bishop into the game, and with it will come the winning breakthrough. 29.Qc8+ Kh7 30.Ne5! The threat is Nf7, Qh8+ and Ne5+ snaring Eljanov's king in a mating net. 30...Qe7 31.Qc6 Game over - b6 soon falls and Carlsen's b-pawn will decide the day. 31...Ng4 32.Nxg4 fxg4 33.Bd3 g6 34.Bxe4 dxe4 35.Qxb6 1-0