It is hard to say that double rounds do not affect the quality of play. Often the players who are the fittest will be able to deal with the double rounds best. There are several strategies on how to stay fit or not to lose too much energy. That is why there are often quick draws in either the morning round or the afternoon round. When others, often slightly more respectable, fight until they look like zombies pushing wood. Having a double round in the middle of the tournament lets us see a clear distinction who the leaders are. So let us see what has happened in all groups in the first few rounds.
The Elite group only had one round, very beneficial for the level of chess and the ones who are not as fit as others. Besides Tari, who brilliantly beat Urkedal with Black, we have a clear group chasing Tari at a point distance. The group is led by Kristian Stuvik Holm, who has played against most of the grandmasters in the tournament and he did not lose a single game! He sadly has not made it to my game analysis because his style is very efficient in drawing, and the neutral public sadly takes less interest in draws. Holm is on the right course to score a GM norm at the moment, good luck in the last four rounds.
When the players woke up there were two clear leaders in the Mester group: Anders Hobber and Lars Even Andersen both on three out of three. They were followed by Lars Johan Brodtkorb on two and a half points, and don’t forget the ton of eager piranha’s with two points. In the morning round the two leaders were facing each other, or did they? They used the quick draw technique, a way to save energy. Actually the first six boards were drawn, maybe it is contagious! This meant that the standings did not change too much. Only the two most eager piranha’s Thanke and Huse managed to join Brodtkorb in the group of pursuers. Hobber managed to win the afternoon game in the standard London system attack, which if one would have told me the game was 1+0 I would have believed it. It is a very fine example for everyone who would like to study the London. You can check it in the live games.
Andersen however was playing an incredibly peculiar game against Brodtkorb in the Knight’s Tango. When I came at the board to watch it Andersen was completely winning, but I am quite surprised to learn he did not win. It turned out there were three different successful piece sacrifices at that exact moment when I watched. But he did not play one of them, before he had played the manoeuvre Qe8-c8-e8-c8-e8-c8 to get to that better position (strange right? Although it is very, very psychological). Probably it was fatigue causing the chess machine to shut down at some point. But Brodtkorb managed to take the point home and stay within a half point of the leading Hobber.
Before the long day there was already a lonely leader at the mountain top of Gruppe 1. But in this group not everything is as it seems. Hans Arild Runde had already agreed to have only play seven of the nine rounds. For the two rounds bye he will get in total a half point. This means the others will be able to catch up! Fortuantely for Runde, they did not. Most of the top boards ended in draws. This means that Runde maintained the lead!
In the second round of the day there were serious casualties. Audun Engeset, the son of the organizer Bjarte Engeset was surprised by Another Audun, Audun Hoem played the Ng4 trick in the accelerated dragon. After taking on g4 and Black taking on d4 White needs to make a very unnatural move Qg1-d1 back. At any level those moves are difficult to find. Engeset did not manage to find it, his pieces lost coordination and Hoem finished the game with fine technique. Then sitting next to the Auduns on board two there were two players fighting for a long time. Runde was playing White against Per Kr Vigdal. After a while Runde had a lot of pawn weaknesses, the position was tenable but the mental strain of playing with weaknesses is often too big. Runde could did not manage to save his position against the long manoeuvering of Vigdal. This means Gruppe 1 has a two new leaders after round five: Audun Hoem and Per Kr Vigdal.
68 players make quite a large group in this NM. That means that contrary to the other, smaller groups, we still have five leaders after round three. David Grøndahl, Daniel Sinnes, Ole-Kristan Nergård, Mark Akali and Lars-Arne Oldernes. This day will decide who will have the best position to go into the last four rounds. Akali played White against Oldernes, the higher rated Akali goes blindly for the kill. His will to win translates into an all out attack with poor concern for his own King. Tables turn and Oldernes gets the attack picking up the point quite effortlessly. Nergård on board three joins the lead winning with Black as well. They get company from Grøndahl who knows how to use the dynamic aspects of the Sveshnikov, Whereas his opponent Sinnes could not keep the game peaceful despite his peaceful setup. Opposite coloured Bishops, and a loose White King decided the game.
There was a chance that the day would see two grand leaders with 100%. Oldernes must have been impressed by what he was seeing on the board next to him. The god of dynamic chess was with Grøndahl again, this time he crushed Nergård in 21 moves. The game will be featured in the game section. When Grøondal left the board after signing the scoresheet he must have thought Oldernes would join him in the lead. Oldernes was playing an improvised version of the four pawns attack with the Bishop on g5. Big centres are impressive but they can fall apart like stars blasting apart in a supernova explosion. A few inaccurate moves can trigger this supernova and that is exactly what happened. Fortunately enough Oldernes managed to cling on to a draw before it was too late. This leaves David Grøndahl as the leader, his attractive aggressive chess will be hard to deal with in the upcoming rounds.
Of course after three rounds there are three leaders in group three, that’s meant to be (rhyme intended). Robin Wullum, Stein Ivar Røste and Alexander Johansen were all three on three out of three, what a trinity (rhyme intended). Johansen was facing Wullum, all seemed to go well for Johansen playing the White side of the Grünfeld Indian. Two pawns up and an attack on the enemy King is something I would like every day. Until he compromises his own King with the pawn launch f4. Black slowly gets coutnterplay and in time-trouble White is unable to finish his attack. A lost position is the result, and Wullum takes the full point in fighting style. Røste was facing a 2.c3 Sicilian, yet he was perfectly able to accumulate small advantages step by step. Until the advantage grew into an extra minor piece! Both players faced each other in the afternoon, both after a very long fighting game.
Again Wullum somehow gets the worse position out of the Nimzo-Indian against Røste. After a brilliant piece sacrifice by Røste he forgets to fatally prepare e6. After missing a shot on an open goal in winning position the tables turn and the extra material starts to matter. After winning two losing positions with Black Wullum leads the field, and I am interested to talk to his guardian angel about mutual beneficial possibilities 😉 Wullum is trailed by Roy Drange Hansen who is half a point behind.
Even when you have 100% like Jørgen Nordløv and Martin Skretteberg, a day with two games can change everything. But did it?
Well obviously round 4 saw them play each other. Nordløv was pressing from the opening making a lot of pwn moves and taking more space. Then suddenly Skretteberg’s Rook payed a visit with his Rook on h2, just saying hi, I’m here :). The position seemed to turn around when Skretteberg suddenly drops the Rook. A dramatic way of deciding who should lead the field.
Round 5 Skretteberg who was clearly still affected by the previous game lost again on board two. One bad day can do a lot of harm, but let’s hope for him he makes his way back to the top. Nordløv has the other side of the coin in the afternoon he beats yet another one of his direct opponents. Losing a pawn does not really matter for Nordløv because he creates a lot more threats than his opponents, and when there is more pressure there are more chances to win. That’s why statistically the outcome of 5/5 is quite expected. And even more fortunately he has taken a point distance from the rest just like Tari.
One of the biggest successes of the NM is that there are groups for real chess lovers who, are able to win some games against people with similar playing strengths. On the other hand there will also be a lot of unrated players who do not have the slightest clue about their playing strength. After round three there is a group of five (!) leaders with 100%: Aleksander Kjærstad, Tom Dalbak, Mads Tollefsen, Karl Wallevik and the local player from Larvik Even Svindal. The local hero actually managed to win twice, and this might be due to his double fianchetto setup he is playing with both colours. He knows what moves to play for most of the game and he hardly gets in trouble because no one knows exactly how to punish this unusual playing style. After this day Svindal is leading his group, keeping his 100% score. He is followed on half a point distance by Mads Tollefsen.
The Señors must have their way of dealing with the heat, although slow manoeuvering positional games is actually not the best way to save energy on such a tough day. It seems that the best is to play the London system. With one and a half point out of two Gunnar Stake-Larsen took the lead. We have already seen one of his Greek gift sacrifices in the game of the day, and he does not stop to impress. Will he be able to keep this level up, or will Ole Smeby following on four out of five put too much pressure on the leader?
I do not believe there is any group with such a clear clear favourite as Peter Fossan from Stavanger in the 50+ category. He could have played in Mester, but this is of course a lot of fun as well. It would be surprising if he would have given away any points, which he did not. Still, getting five points out of five games against any opponents is something to be proud of. The fight for second place is between Svein Hansen and Ole Jørn Guldenås. Both on three and a half points.
This category is probably one of the biggest successes. Actually a lot of 65+ players have joined this group in order to have more chances for nice games. And rightly so, the rating categories are designed to have more exciting games more participants and more happiness. Before this day Harald Mottang and Alte Stærli went to bed with three points (Assuming they did not go to any wild Larvik parties). They would meet each other the next morning to decide who the true leader should be.
Mottang started out energetically against the Slav/Grünfeld hybrid. launching his f-pawn to create an impressive centre. Unfortunately the Grünfeld players get very happy when they see big centres against them. And surely enough Stærli won the game in a counter where White blundered the exchange and he was gentleman enough to resign immediately.
Stærli being a point ahead does not manage to keep that lead into the end of the day. In a Fianchetto King’s Indian the slow positional game, even a pawn up is too much of a strain. In the Queen+Minor piece endgame matters get so difficult that the question becomes: Who blunders first? Well Oddvar Kristiansen was very happy he could collect the minor piece, he managed to prolong the fight and got rewarded for his tenacity. This means we have three leaders after day four. All on four points. Kristiansen, Stærli and Eirik Kyrkjebø making a nice comeback after his loss in round two.
The Junior group is a small group of older youth. Most of them are actually playing in either the Mester and Elite groups, hence the small size of the group! Remember Aryan Tari could have also played this group ;-). A few years ago the k-factor of younger players was changed from 15 to 40. And other players increased from 15 to 20. This means that younger players see their rating fluctuate a lot more these days, which is quite hard, because most chessplayers tend to identify with their respective numbers a lot. It makes for a fascinating group with a lot of fighting spirit. Every game is worth 40 points (as an IM with k-factor 10 I sometimes dream about k40, but then I wake up realizing life without a title is a big nightmare, haha. OK I lied, who actually dreams about having a different k-factors?)
After round three there were two leaders. Isak Sjøberg and Abyl Kizatbay. They met by chance in the fourth round (it is not Swiss) and Sjøberg managed, after being a pawn down, to hold a draw with the longest perpetual check possible (Qh1-a8-h1-a8-h1). The afternoon game made Sjøberg even happier. Around move 15 I passed by to watch, and Sjøberg was making very strange faces. The typical face when someone blunders. I did not see the right continuation but Sjøberg took after a quiet Philidor on f7. Without King safety left it was too hard to hold on later for his opponent Andreas Sebastian. Kizatbay was not that fortunate and lost against Melaa, who is currently making a great comeback after losing round one. Which means Sjøberg is leading the group one point ahead. Will he give it away?
After playing the game of the day Mathias Lind Schouten was leading the table. And as a fighting player he managed to fight his way through the day gaining 1.5 points, maintaining the lead and staying ahead of Sander Fuglestein and Jacob Templen Grave from Tønsberg. Everything is possible in this group with no one taking a big distance and most players able to beat everyone.
After three rounds of warfare, two players were left with 100%. The big favourite and only player with a rating above 2000 Axel Tunsjø and the surprising Larvik player Sivert Ihlen who has around 500 rating points less than Tunsjø. This day turned out to be incredibly intense for both of them. Ihlen tricks Tunsjø in the opening, but forgets to make use of his trickery in a highly complicated Sicilian Taimanov. In the end Tunsjø emerges with a piece versus three pawns. Still with the Queens on the board the position was completely winning for Tunsjø. Slightly irritated and puzzled he did not manage to deliver the final blow, Ihlen exchanged into an endgame with two pawns versus the Knight which was very difficult to calculate. Hence in time trouble they bailed out with a draw, both joining the group behind them.
In the afternoon game it was clear that both gentlemen after playing such a difficult game were not reaching their usual level. Tunsjø played against Amadeus Hestvik Evenshaug, but did not manage to impress. Fortunately in the decisive moments Evenshaug, playing Black missed a lot of tactical possibilities letting Tunsjø escape with a draw. Probably he collected the karma he gained in the morning game.
Ihlen created a winning position out of thin air after manoeuvering in a double Bishop endgame for 80 moves in a dry Caro-Kann against Eirik Strøm Austad. But on the decisive moment Ihlen, who kept one arbiter busy downstairs when the others were eating his pizza, decided to go for a mate which did not work because of a desperado trick. Luckily for Austad, Ihlen blundered a pawn in the process leaving him with a winning endgame, the tired young Austad did not manage to show the precision needed to finish Ihlen in the sixth hour of play. Resulting in a draw and four leaders after round 5.
On three out of three we find Isak Vinh Brattgjerd, Lykke-Merlot Helliesen and William-Alexander Olsen. In the morning Helliesen and Oslen played a tense game. Olsen had the better of the game for quite some time, but then he missed a nice ‘Greek gift sacrifice.’ Which brought victory to Helliesen. Brattgjerd played against Havard Haug, he really got his game in a closed Sicilian. After gaining two pieces for a Rook and two pawns Brattgjerd made good use of them. The pieces worked like a charm and the point was only a matter of time.
In the afternoon Helliesen and Brattgjerd played another dramatic game. This time Helliesen made an opening trick work, yet she took the pawn on d5 one move too late. She assumed she could take on b7, but this gave Brattgjerd a huge counterattack. Through skillful defence the Black initiative slowly died and the game simplified to a draw. Which leaves Brattgjerd and Helliesen in the lead with half a point more than the six pursuers.
And that was it. A long report on a very long day. The tournament still knows four rounds with a lot left to happen. But the potential winners are really showing themselves now. Some had more luck than others, and some were just way too strong. Let’s hope the last games will be rough fights for the top spots. Good luck!