Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov needed just a draw against Vishwanathan Anand in their last match to take the top spot in Norway Chess Tournament. On the other hand, the only way Anand could reach tournament summit; was to beat the Bulgarian. But the Indian Grandmaster played with a handicap of Black Pieces and had to follow the opening move made by Topalov. After the jewel of the ninth round ended in a draw in double quick time, it was Topalov, who emerged victorious to clinch the $75,000 first prize at Norway Chess. USA’s Hikaru Nakamura also shared the second place with Anand riding on an impressive 9th round win over Levon Aronian. But the most surprising result was delivered by Norwegian Grandmaster Jon Ludvig Hammer, who created a sensation by outlasting his illustrious compatriot and world champion Magnus Carlsen. It ended the agony for Carlsen, who endured his worst tournament in a decade and lost an unprecedented 22.7 rating points in just one tournament.
Veselin Topalov has known Anand for a number of years and his uncanny ability to throw in surprises. In many ways, the showdown between Topalov and Anand was reminiscent of the 2010 World Chess Championship final, where Anand had defeated Topalov with Black-Pieces. One billion Indians, who follow Anand, would have hoped for the repeat of that match. But every day is different and this time the Bulgarian probably didn’t want to lose from the position of advantage. Also since Topalov only needed a draw, he didn’t do anything adventurous even if he had the White pieces. Topalov played the Queen’s Gambit and Anand declined it by using the Ragozin variation. Therefore it transpired that Anand had adopted a defensive approach from the start. In the eighth round, Anish Giri had presented the gift to Anand and a chance to win but the Indian was not taking that. On the 13th move, Topalov took both of Anand’s knights since the Indian is known for using his knights to cause potential dangers to his opponents. In the next move, Anand attacked the white queen in the hope that Topalov might commit some error, but the Bulgarian was alert and the two older champions quickly agreed for a draw even before the sandwiches arrived.
Unbeaten after nine rounds, USA’s Hikaru Nakamura scored an impressive win over Levon Aronian in an interesting game. Aronian’s 19.Rc1 was a very poor move and Nakamura took full advantage of it. The victory meant that Nakamura was the joint second in the tournament with Vishy Anand. In the other two matches, Fabiano Caruana and Anish Giri finished a drawn game after an interesting Open Ruy Lopez and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave also drew with Alexander Grischuk.
But the surprise came in the match between two Norwegians. World champion Magnus Carlsen began the tournament with a shock and finished it with another shock. Carlsen made a bad opening and his compatriot Jon Ludvig Hammer took full advantage of it. If Carlsen thought he could win against his friend on bad moves, he was sadly mistaken. The quality of his moves in middle and end games kept worsening and the early risks that he took boomeranged on him. It was a rare loss for the world champion and he would quickly want to forget the tournament.
As the event ended, there were only three undefeated players; India’s Vishy Anand, USA’s Hikaru Nakamura and Netherlands’ Anish Giri. The next Grand Tour event will be the Sinquefield Cup beginning in St. Louis from August 21, 2015.