And on the Seventh Day, They Rested

Call it chance or call it kismet, but it is immensely useful to this writer that both the Altibox Norway Chess and Women’s Candidates Tournaments share a rest day today, June 7th. With the temporary cessation of hostilities comes a chance to check in with both events, and have a look at where things stand.

Magnus Carlsen is leading in Stavanger after three rounds of play with 5 points out of a possible 6. He has won one game at classical time controls and two Armageddon blitz tie-breakers. Carlsen is followed by Liren Ding, Levon Aroninan, and Wesley So, each with 4 points out of 6. Fabiano Caruana is currently in seventh place with 2.5 points.

Norway Chess Standings after Round 3, courtesy Mark Crowther / TWIC

Meanwhile, Aleksandra Goryachkina has taken a commanding lead in the FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament, defeating second place Nana Dzagnidze in round 6 to jump to a 1.5 point lead over the field at 5/6. Dzagnidze and Kateryna Lagno share second place with 3.5 points.

Women’s Candidates Standings after Round 6

The quality of play has been quite high in both tournaments, as we see in our round-by-round wrapup.

Norway Chess

Round 2

Levon Aronian            0.5-1.5             Magnus Carlsen
Yangyi Yu                  1.5-0.5               Liren Ding
Fabiano Caruana         2-0                   Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Viswanathan Anand   0-2                   Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
Alexander Grischuk    0.5-1.5             Wesley So

Caruana defeated blitz winner Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a well-fought matchup. Caruana introduced a new move in a topical variation of the Poisoned Pawn Najdorf, and while Vachier-Lagrave reacted poorly to the novelty, he still might have had chances to hold the draw had he found some very precise moves. Both players joined the livestream after the game, and their analysis was both cordial and instructive.

It looked like Levon Aronian might join Caruana and Mamedyarov in the winner’s column, but Magnus Carlsen wiggled and wormed his way to save the half-point.

Aronian concedes to Carlsen in the Armageddon game (photo Ootes / FIDE)

Carlsen went on to win the Armageddon game despite the time handicap enforced through his having Black.

Round 3

Magnus Carlsen                      2-0                   Alexander Grischuk
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov        0-2                   Levon Aronian
Liren Ding                              2-0                   Fabiano Caruana
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave      0.5-1.5             Viswanathan Anand
Wesley So                               2-0                   Yangyi Yu

It is far too early to see the effect of the Armageddon add-on on the level of fighting chess in Norway, but something seems to have nudged the players into battle mode. Four of the five classical games in this round featured decisive results.

Carlsen-Grischuk (photo Ootes / FIDE)

After forcing an insipid draw in round two, in part due to the mental anguish caused by his Armageddon loss to Aronian in round one (where pieces flew in extreme time trouble), Alexander Grischuk was rewarded by Caïssa with this punishing loss to Carlsen.

Caruana lost to Ding Liren in a game where he was already significantly worse by move thirteen, and Ding displayed fantastic technique in winning a fascinating game. Well-known chess historian Olimpiu G. Urcan went so far as to call it one of the best games of the year thus far.

Wesley So (photo Ootes / FIDE)

Wesley So also broke his classical duck, grinding out a long win over Yangyi Yu.

The Norway Cookoff

Rest days at elite tournaments often include some kind of activity for the players to “enjoy,” and this year marked the second annual Norway Chess cooking competition. Anand was last year’s surprise winner – his wife, Aruna Anand, has described his lack of culinary panache – and against all odds, today he managed to repeat his victory with new teammate Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Women’s Candidates

Round 6

Anna Muzychuk                     1-0       Valentina Gunina
Mariya Muzychuk                  1-0       Alexandra Kosteniuk
Nana Dzagnidze                     0-1       Aleksandra Goryachkina
Tan Zhongyi                           0-1       Kateryna Lagno

The Women’s Candidates has been an amazing display of fighting chess thus far, with 14  decisive games out of 24, and all four games in yesterday’s Round 6 featured decisive results.

The key matchup of the round was the meeting between Dzagnidze and Goryachkina. It looked for many moves like Dzagnidze might take the full point and leap into first place, but things went horribly wrong for Dzagnidze in the endgame. She overpressed, and Goryachinka took control of the position and the game.

Kateryna Lagno (photo Kublashvili / FIDE)

Kateryna Lagno continued her recovery, winning against Tan Zhongyi to climb into shared second place. Lagno nicely converted a long-term advantage to earn her victory, but Tan missed a miracle line in the final moves that would have stolen a draw from the jaws of defeat!

Back to work…

Both Norway Chess and the Women’s Candidates Tournament resume on Saturday, and both offer live coverage via the Internet.

Norway Chess: Live coverage is available each day at the Norway Chess website, and their livestream with GM Judit Polgar and IM Anna Rudolf is available free of charge. Newly crowned U.S. Champion Hikaru Nakamura is also covering some rounds on his Twitch channel.

Women’s Candidates: GM Evgenij Miroshnichenko and IM Elisabeth Paehtz offer live commentary via the FIDE YouTube Channel. Rounds will be played daily through June 17th, with rest days on June 11th, and June 15th. Tie-breaks, if needed, will be contested on June 18th along with a Closing Ceremony.

A complete set of games is available at Chess24 (with embedded YouTube coverage) and at The Week in Chess. Popular Twitch streamer Alexandra Botez is also offering a livestream of each round’s games.

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