Former world champion Viswanathan Anand’s plans worked to perfection as he put it across Jon Ludvig Hammer of Norway to jump within striking distance of Veselin Topalov after the end of the eighth and penultimate round of Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger.
On what turned out to be a good day for Anand yet again, the Indian ace used the hidden dynamics out of a decent opening to beat Hammer, who was outdone under pressure.
Grandmaster Anish Giri of Holland threw the tournament open for Anand as he beat Topalov in a long drawn game.
In the other decisive game of the day, World champion Magnus Carlsen found his winning touch against Levon Aronian of Armenia. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France held Hikaru Nakamura to a draw, while Alxander Grischuk signed peace with Fabiano Caruana of Italy.
Bulgaria’s Topalov, on six points, still enjoys a half point lead over nearest-rival Anand and it will be a showdown between the two in the final round in Stavanger.
Topalov needs a draw with white but his style of chess is uncompromising, which might give Anand a chance to have a go against his 2010 world championship rival.
It may be recalled that Anand had beaten Topalov with black in the famous 12th and final game of the 2010 world championship.
Nakamura and Giri share the third spot on five points each, while Carlsen improved his statistics to jump to joint fifth along with Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave on 3.5 points each. Aronian and Grischuk are joint eighth on three points, a full point ahead of last-placed Hammer in this 10-player round-robin tournament that is a part of the Grand Chess tour.
The confession box again came to the fore and it was graced by none other than Carlsen in the penultimate round. This is a unique concept in Stavanger that allows players to share their thoughts during the course of the game.
Carlsen referred to an interesting conversation with Hammer, who said he didn’t understand why everyone was playing the English opening with him. As he confessed, Carlsen told him: “Everyone will play the English with you”, to which Hammer said “not Anand, he never plays bad openings”.
As it happened, it was the English by Anand that floored the Norwegian for the fourth time in the tournament.
“You have to play the English with Jon. I didn’t want to be the only one not to do it,” said Anand in the post-game chat. “More to the point, it is the opening where he has shown his guts.”
The middle game was akin to the Sicilian Dragon with the extra move for Anand. Hammer initially reacted well, and was fine after 24 moves. At this point Anand inverted the move order and found Hammer struggling.
Hammer spent 25 minutes before making the decisive mistake. White ended up with an extra pawn, a better bishop and potentially a better rook, too. In growing time trouble Hammer quickly lost.
Carlsen agreed he stood worse but Aronian, like on many previous occasions could not control the game. Carlsen said, Aronian is one player who outplays him many times but he wriggled out of complexities one more time.
Giri showed his true mettle in a thematic squeeze out of a level-looking endgame. Topalov decided to be combative when passive play might have yield the draw and the Dutchman gobbled a pawn to seal the game.