Stavanger: Directing the last round

The director of the last round did not embrace diversity. Once again, we had the standard four draws and one decisive result, so common nowadays in super-tournaments. But the last round is the last round, and the questions posed at the start were answered. The main one was whether Magnus Carlsen could conquer the demons which had prevented him for three years in a row from winning the tournament on home soil. 

This was the question which concerned most fans, not just the Norwegians. Those who supported the champion were encouraged by his personal score against Eljanov - three out of three. But statistics do not always predict results. Even so, this time, things passed without any unnecessary drama.

«….the world champion won his game and settled the question of first place. How he did it is a complete mystery, given the position after 20-25 moves, and is also totally obvious, given that this is how he wins most of his games.» (Mikhail Krasenkov). But if it was not clear to a professional, then what chance doesthe amateur have of understanding it? White's play contained many mysteries: his queen calmly went to c2 then back to d1, and his knight to d2, then back to b1. Yet despite all this, Black did not fully equalise. 

Carlsen - Eljanov

23.Qa4 Qb8 24.b4 axb4 25.Bxb4 h6 26.Qc2 Bd6

27.Qc6! – Now the result of the game starts to become clear. 27…Ndf6 28.Bxd6 Qxd6 – Stockfish recommends taking with the knight, but this is far from a panacea. 29.Qc8 Kh7 30.Ne5 Qe7 31.Qc6 Ng4 32.Nxg4 fxg4 33.Bd3 g6 34.Bxe4 dxe4 35.Qxb6Black resigns (1:0). A win could have been the prelude to a blitz tie-break. For this to occur, the aesthete and artist needed to win his game - Levon Aronian. 

The black pieces are not the best encouragement for playing for a win, and in the attempt to complicate things, Levon at one moment even stood very suspiciously:  


The sacrifice on g6 hangs in the air. Tal's recipe in such situations was universal: "Sacrifice first and calculate afterwards". But Pentala could not be sure of success and such play is not his style. He chose instead  23.Qe3 and the conflict soon died down.  Draw (½ : ½).

So, the winner was decided, but who would be second? Three further candidates were after that role. Given the sharp personal relations and absence of draws in their games, serious danger for the Armenian came from this game: 

Topalov - Kramnik

28…g5 29.Ng4 Be7 30.h4 gxh4 31.Re1 Re8 32.Bh6 Kg6

30-40 years ago, Efim Geller would have used all his remaining time and then, with flag hanging, played 33.Bh6-g5!? with incredibly sharp and confusing variations. The matter would then have been the subject of analytical disputes and polemics for months afterwards. But nowadays, the computer gives the answer in seconds… 33.Re5 Bd8 34.Qd3 f5 35.Bf4 – The tension could have been mainatined by ChessPro commentator Mikhail Krasenkov's suggestion 35.f4!? «Now, with the dark-squared bishop, Black has nothing to fear».35…Kg7 36.Rxe8 Bxe8 37.Ne5 Qe6 38.Qd2 Qe7 39.Bh6 Kh7 40.Nf3 Qe4 41.Ng5 Bxg5 42.Bxg5 h3 and the players soon agreed a draw (½ : ½).

Grandelius - Vachier-Lagrave

The French challenger got a nice position and after the calm retreat of the rook to the eighth rank, he could have made White suffer for a long time. This is surely what Kramnik would have done, and gone on to demonstrate the strength of his two bishops. But Maxime forced matters with 25…Rcxe3 and later, despite huge efforts, he could not break the Sweede's defences.   Draw (½ : ½). Thus, third place was shared by Kramnik, Topalov and Lagrave, but Berger went in favour of the Parisian.  



Giri made desperate attempts to win, and almost did the impossible and got water from a stone: 

Li Chao - Giri

After Black's 48th move

Anish managed 11 moves later to reach this:

After Black's 59th move

He has an extra pawn, but too few pawns remain. if only there were a pair of pawns on the kingside...But he had to agree a darw  (½ : ½).

The fourth Norwegian supertournament is over:

We look forward to the fifth!

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