Re­vived Aro­nian tops stacked field in Nor­way

The Washington Times Daily - - LIFE - DAVID R. SANDS David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email at dsands@wash­ing­ton­

Levon ain’t leavin’. Ar­me­nian GM Levon Aro­nian has long been one of the world’s best play­ers, lead­ing his small coun­try to three Olympiad gold medals and reach­ing No. 2 in the world rank­ings. But at 34, Aro­nian has seemed in re­cent years to have missed his chance, over­taken by Nor­we­gian world cham­pion Mag­nus Carlsen, who turns 27 this year, and a ris­ing gen­er­a­tion of younger stars cap­tur­ing some of the game’s glit­ter­ing prizes.

But in a pow­er­ful field that fea­tured Carlsen, two for­mer world cham­pi­ons and a pas­sel of young guns, it was Aro­nian who shone the bright­est, tak­ing clear first in the 5th Nor­way Chess Tour­na­ment with an un­beaten 6-3 score, in­clud­ing wins over Carlsen and for­mer Rus­sian world champ Vladimir Kram­nik. Cou­pled with his win at the 4th Grenke Chess Clas­sic in Baden-Baden in April (again with Carlsen in the field), Aro­nian is in line for a ma­jor rat­ings boost and a re­stored place in the con­ver­sa­tion over who is the world’s best player.

With three Amer­i­cans in the field in Nor­way, there was a mini­com­pe­ti­tion for the ti­tle of high­est-scor­ing Yank. GM Wes­ley So ran the ta­ble with nine dis­ap­point­ing draws, but GMs Fabi­ano Caru­ana and Hikaru Naka­mura con­tin­ued their ri­valry with an en­ter­tain­ing last-round bat­tle in which some Caru­ana home cooking cost Naka­mura a chance to tie for first.

The Poi­soned Pawn Si­cil­ian (8…Qxb2) is yet an­other sharp open­ing line made fa­mous by Bobby Fis­cher, and here the first real nov­elty comes on 14. g4 h6 15. Rg1!?, invit­ing 15…Nc6 16. Nxc6 Qxc6 17. e5!? dxe5 18. Bf3, with com­pli­ca­tions that Black may have feared to ex­plore. Naka­mura plays it cau­tiously, re­turn­ing the gam-bited pawn with 15…Bd7 16. g5 hxg5 17. Rxg5 Nc6!? (it’s murky af­ter the ma­te­ri­al­is­tic 17…Rh7!? 18. Bf4 e5 19. Nd5 Qa5 [Nxd5 20. exd5 Bxg5 21. Qg6+ Kf8 22. Bxg5 Kg8 is roughly equal) 20. Bd2 Qxa2 21. Rxb7 Nxd5 22. Bh5+ Kd8 23. exd5 Kc8 24. Rb4) 18. Rxg7 0-0-0, but af­ter 19. Ncb5! axb5 20. Nxb5 Ne5 (Qb8 21. Rxe7 Nxe7 22. Nxd6+ Kc7 23. Bf4 is crush­ing), Black is still strug­gling to keep things level.

Naka­mura’s down­fall comes when he misses a com­put­er­like fi­nesse: 21. Nxc7 Nxd3+ 22. cxd3 (see di­a­gram), when the only move to hold the po­si­tion is the brazen 22…Rxh2!!; e.g. 23. Rxe7 Rh1+ 24. Bf1 Rf8!, win­ning back the piece be­cause the pinned bishop on f1 can’t be saved.

In­stead, af­ter 22…Ng8? 23. Na8! Kb8 24. Nb6 Bc6 25. Bf4, White is a pawn to the good and has the bet­ter po­si­tion.

Caru­ana ce­ments his edge with 37. Nc6! Bxc6 38. bxc6+ Kxc6 29. Bf1 — with d7 and d5 de­nied to the Black king, the threat to trade off the knight and check with the White rooks forces Naka­mura’s hand: 39…Rxf2 (Bf4 40. Bxd4 exd4 41. Rc2 mate) 40. Kxf2 Rf8+ 41. Kg2 Be3 42. Rb8, and White’s ma­te­rial edge is over­whelm­ing.

In the fi­nal po­si­tion, White wins eas­ily in lines like 59…Ne5 60. h7 Nf7 61. e5 Kd8 62. e6 Nh8 63. Kg3 Ke7 64. Kf4 Kd8 65. Ke5 Ke7 66. Bc2 Kd8 67. Kf6 Kc7 68. Ke7 and wins; Naka­mura re­signed.

Caru­ana-Naka­mura, 5th Nor­way Chess Tour­na­ment, Sta­vanger, Nor­way, June 2017

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6 8. Qd3 Qxb2 9. Rb1 Qa3 10. f5 Be7 11. fxe6 fxe6 12. Be2 Qa5 13. Bd2 Qc7 14. g4 h6 15. Rg1 Bd7 16. g5 hxg5 17. Rxg5 Nc6 18. Rxg7 O-O-O 19. Ncb5 axb5 20. Nxb5 Ne5 21. Nxc7 Nxd3+ 22. cxd3 Ng8 23. Na8 Kb8 24. Nb6 Bc6 25. Bf4 e5 26. Bg3 Bf6 27. Rf7 Be8 28. Rf8 Bg7 29. Rf2 Ne7 30. Bg4 Nc6 31. Rfb2 Nd4 32. Nd5 b5 33. a4 Bh6 34. axb5 Rg8 35. h3 Kb7 36. Ne7 Rf8 37. Nc6 Bxc6 38. bxc6+ Kxc6 39. Bf2 Rxf2 40. Kxf2 Rf8+ 41. Kg2 Be3 42. Rb8 Rxb8 43. Rxb8 d5 44. Rc8+ Kd6 45. Rd8+ Ke7 46. Rd7+ Kf6 47. exd5 e4 48. dxe4 Bf4 49. h4 Nb5 50. h5 Be5 51. Bf5 Kg5 52. Bg6 Nd6 53. Re7 Nc4 54. Re6 Bf6 55. d6 Ne5 56. Bf5 Nd3 57. Rxf6 Kxf6 58. d7 Ke7 59. h6 Black re­signs

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