On Chess: Super-GM event has surprising result
The annual Super-GM event in Norway began in 2013 and continues to get stronger each year. This year’s edition held June 6 -16, had 10 players, including the “Big 3” American players: St. Louis resident Fabiano Caruana; 2017 PRO Chess League Champion with the Saint Louis Arch Bishops and reigning U.S. Champion Wesley So; and several time U.S. Champion Hikaru Nakamura.
The event was played in a round-robin format, where each player plays all other participants. With 10 participants, each player plays nine rounds, hoping to score the most points to win the tournament.
This year, Armenian Grandmaster Levon Aronian won the tournament with an undefeated six points out of nine games (three wins and six draws). The tournament was very disappointing for World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who clearly hoped to win the event on his home turf, but instead started with two losses (to Aronian and former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik) and five draws in his first seven games. His only victory was in round 8 against Sergey Karjakin, who himself came in last place with zero wins.
The tournament was very difficult for all the players, because every player was in the World’s top 10 when invited, so there were no easy games. World number 2, Wesley So, had an unusual event, drawing all nine of his games. Fabiano Caruana was having a so-so event, losing one game and drawing seven until the last round. But, the 2016 U.S. Champion had a huge impact on the event by beating fellow American Hikaru Nakamura in the last round which was Nakamura’s only defeat in the event and Caruana’s only win. This made Aronian the clear winner.
Normally, at the very top level, the players are happy to draw with the black pieces. But Nakamura went all out for the win with the complex Najdorf Sicilian, knowing he needed a victory to tie Aronian for first place and force a playoff. Caruana was very well prepared, played an excellent game and was in control all the way. As a result, Nakamura scored five points along with Kramnik, with Nakamura getting second place on tie break.
To show the enormous strength of this event, the players who competed for the 2016 World Championship in New York City last November, Carlsen and Karjakin, came in ninth and 10th (out of 10 players) and won only one game total.
The next Super-GM event played at a classical time control will be the Sinquefield Cup held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis in August. Caruana will try to repeat his performance from the 2014 Sinquefield Cup where he started with seven out of seven. Most grandmasters feel this was the greatest performance in chess history.