After lots of excitement and drama the Armageddon games delivered something else in round six of the 2019 Altibox Norway Chess tournament: big blunders. Magnus Carlsen maintained his 1.5-point lead going into the second rest day.
With a shortened time control the quality of play automatically drops, but in round six that development hit rock bottom. It’s not even clear whose blunder was bigger: Ding Liren dropping a rook, Wesley So allowing a mate in one, or Alexander Grischuk putting a bishop en prise.
Missing mate in one doesn’t seem so outrageous anymore, does it? It’s all relative!🍿 #NorwayChess
— Anish Giri (@anishgiri) June 10, 2019
The players can hardly be blamed for making what looks like a rookie’s mistake. They have been put in a relatively new situation, where having to win as White or to a draw as Black can disturb the mindset.
And while several players are somewhat under the weather, the clock pressure can be huge as well, especially because today’s top grandmasters are used to getting increment, even in blitz. In these Armageddon games they get three seconds per move but only starting from move 61.
Today’s Armageddon games are really making me feel good about my own chess #perspective
— Tatev Abrahamyan (@Tatev__A) June 10, 2019
In Grischuk’s case something else was going on. Playing Fabiano Caruana, he made his blunder with eight minutes on the clock, so here it was a rare case of chess blindness for a man who stated that he has already given up on his tournament. Grischuk is just completely out of it, and wants it to be over as quickly as possible.
The classical game went quite alright for him, as he ended up with an extra pawn from the old 11.c3 mainline of the Sveshnikov. With all pawns on one wing, it was tough to win and at the end Caruana claimed the draw based on a position going to appear for the third time:
What happened in the Armageddon was just out of this world. It was something you’d only see in an online game, and then really only in bullet.
Thinking his queen was protecting his bishop, Grischuk decided to trade the dark-squared bishops, but right after 17…Bxh6 the shocking realization came to him that there was a knight in between Qc1 and Bh6…
— ChesscomNews (@ChesscomNews) June 11, 2019
So’s blunder was a big one as well, but still more common, even at this level. After an uneventful draw in the standard game, the American grandmaster had defended well against what looked like dangerous attacking chances for Levon Aronian.
Trading queens, the Armenian grandmaster kept the initiative as he was still holding the enemy king in some sort of bind. However, it wasn’t an easy win yet when So suddenly had himself checkmated.
“Yet another stellar performance… what can I say?” smiled Aronian when he entered the commentary studio. “At least I controlled the game more today than I controlled it yesterday.”
Meanwhile, more drama was seen in the match between Vishy Anand and Yu Yangyi. Not getting anything against his opponent’s Petroff in the standard game, Anand tried 2.Bc4 in the Armageddon and that went pretty well.
Yu was pretty much outplayed when he went he tried to create some chaos with the pawn break 32…f4. Having played so well before, Anand must have seriously underestimated the strength of the black queen on h3, because allowing that was suicide:
Magnus Carlsen vs. Ding Liren was a great minimatch, but also a very disappointing one for the Chinese player. He was much better in the first game, and was about to draw his Armageddon to obtain 1.5 points when he blundered as well.
Carlsen is still in the habit of sacrificing pawns early in his games, and Aronian approved of his 5.Qb3 in the standard game one as long as White keeps the queens on the board. Also without queens Carlsen kept some pressure, but in the long run Ding solved his problems, remained a pawn up and forced the world champion to the limits of his defensive skills.
Carlsen managed to hold, and thereby kept his long running undefeated streak which is now 65 games.
Carlsen had won his four previous Armageddon games, but this time it seemed to be going the wrong way for him. Ding successfully defended against his aggressive tries and was even a pawn up in an endgame with rooks and opposite-colored bishops, where a draw was the logical outcome. Also here, a blunder turned everything around:
Among all this drama, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave‘s two draws with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was as quiet as an unused confession box. For starters, the Azerbaijani didn’t really try in the standard game.
MVL: “I guess Shakh was not feeling too well, he was coughing, so maybe that was the reason he didn’t try as hard as usually does.”
(In his comments for TV, Carlsen compared the playing hall to a hospital as more players seem to be suffering from a cold.)
In the Armageddon game the Frenchman had all the chances where a draw was enough:
2019 Altibox Norway Chess | Round 6 Standings
|1||Carlsen||2875||½ 1||½ 1||½ 1||½ 1||½ 1||2||9.5/12|
|2||Yu Yangyi||2738||0||½ 1||½ 1||½ 1||½ 1||2||8.0/12|
|3||Aronian||2752||½ 0||½ 1||½ 1||2||½ 0||½ 1||7.5/12|
|4||So||2754||2||½ 0||½ 0||½ 0||½ 1||½ 1||6.5/12|
|5||Ding Liren||2805||½ 0||½ 0||½ 0||½ 1||½ 0||2||5.5/12|
|6||Anand||2767||½ 0||½ 0||½ 1||½ 1||0||½ 1||5.5/12|
|7||Mamedyarov||2774||½ 0||0||2||½ 1||½ 0||½ 0||5.0/12|
|8||Caruana||2819||½ 0||½ 0||0||½ 0||2||½ 1||5.0/12|
|9||Vachier-Lagrave||2779||½ 0||½ 0||½ 1||½ 0||½ 1||0||4.5/12|
|10||Grischuk||2775||0||0||½ 0||½ 0||½ 1||½ 0||3.0/12|
The Altibox Norway Chess tournament takes place June 3-12 in the Clarion Hotel Energy and June 12-14 in the Stavanger Concert hall in Stavanger, Norway. New this year is that players who draw their game will play an Armageddon game right after (with the same colors).
Armageddon at Norway Chess
White gets 10 minutes on the clock; Black gets seven minutes but has draw odds. Only after move 60 the players get three seconds increment per move.
- Win, main game: 2 points
- Loss, main game: 0 points
- Draw, main game and loss, Armageddon: 0.5 point
- Draw, main game and win, Armageddon: 1.5 points
Also new is a shorter the time control in the classical games: two hours for the whole game, with an increment of 10 seconds after move 40.
The round six coverage by the Chessbrahs.