The Asnières chess club, in partnership with the city, organized on June 27 a « Trophée MVL », held in the heart of Asnières’ castle. This event was meant to close the chess season, and all afternoon long, pupils who learnt chess in school, members of the club, and various personalities, gathered inside the historic walls.
Simultaneous displays against children, and then against adults, prize-giving of the scholarship tournament, photo sessions, small private masterclasses, a busy program was awaiting Maxime, who was the patron of this sunny day in honor of chess.
Maxime all over the place !
Maxime will have done a bit of everything during this afternoon. And you could even find him where least expected, that is helping to record the results of the schools tournament, and operate as a deputy arbiter !
You need a proof ? Here it is !
In this kind of festive event, the result itself is generally irrelevant, but it still has to be noted that Maxime won all of his games. The ones of the simultaneous display against the children, but also the 26 against the adults, where you could find a few players rated around 2000 Elo.
A few personalities had decided to join the show and to play against Maxime, among them Jean-Daniel Belfond, boss of the Editions de l’Archipel, Laurent Baumel, former Parliament deputy, Faycal Douhane, Bobigny sub-prefect, as well as representatives of HP-BTP and Sepur, the club’s partner companies.
Asnières will play the Top 12 with Maxime
Asnières mayor, Manuel Aeschlimann, was also expected to play, the more so as he used to play competitive chess; but he finally declined, choosing to remain on the delicious memories of a fighting draw he earned in simultaneous against Karpov, back in his prime !
By the way, here is a nice tactic picked up from one of these 26 games…
But this festive day was also a good opportunity to officially announce the arrival of Maxime in Asnières’ club, for whom he will play next season 2018-2019. Indeed, Asnières just won its N1 group a few weeks ago, and will thus access the Top 12 next year.
With GMs Jules Moussard and Matthieu Cornette, whose arrival in Asnières was also announced, these are three prominent squad additions for an Asnières team which, no doubt about it, will aim for the national title as soon as it appears in the Top 12 Elite division, scheduled in May 2019.
Maxime is currently enjoying some well deserved holidays.
We will be back on this website at the beginning of the Biel tournament, on July 22.
Asnières Famous video about Asnières (in french) https://www.ina.fr/video/I06268515/ In the days prior to the « Trophée MVL », Asnières’ castle saw all the Grand Chess Tour players coming. Some of them, Maxime included, honored with their presence the « Rencontre des 400 », organized for the school audience by the Ligue d’Ile-de-France des Echecs. And all of them were there for the Paris Grand Chess Tour prize-giving ceremony.
For its part, the French Chess Federation, besides its own installation in the castle attic, organized at the same time two national finals, a few hundred meters from there, in Asnières’ Petit Théâtre.
I arrived in Leuven after a quick stop in Paris, on my way back from Norway Chess. I was eager to be back on track after a poor showing in Norway.
A slow start, as I have to admit I was in dire straits in all three games of the day ! I was obviously not very proud of myself, as I managed to pull through and earn three draws quite miraculously.
For sure, I was dead lost in the endgame against Karjakin.
Then, Caruana missed a win…
And to finish the day on a high note, with white I had to defend a pawn-down Rook ending against So !
I approached this second day with the firm intention to do something else than defending inferior endgames !
Against Grischuk, at last I gained an advantage, but a detail escaped my mind…
Thus the position became balanced, except for the fact that I was carried away by a transposition into a Bishop endgame, as I simply forgot about 42…Be8.
And here I am again, forced to defend a difficult endgame, for the fourth time in a row ! I haven’t verified yet, but I guess I was probably lost. However, I’m sure that the pawn endgame which followed was a draw.
Then against Nakamura, I erred in the opening, but he let me back in the game by allowing a very interesting positional piece sacrifice. I got an initiative by sacrificing my Queen!
In the final position, I decided to take the perpetual, as I didn’t see any clear way of playing on without great risks. For sure, the dynamics of the game were a clear incentive to play on, but the position remained particularly unclear.
I closed the day against Anand, and things didn’t really go my way, as I found myself in a sub-optimal version of the « Berlin endgame ». But over time, Vishy let me do what I wanted, and had to transpose into a pawn-down endgame : at last, I was on the right side ! Nevertheless, he defended accurately for a long time, before to stumble in the Rook ending.
He could draw with 46…Rh4, and probably also with 46…bxa4, even if a lot of accuracy would still have been required. But he chose the neutral 46…Kb8?, which clearly is not the solution, as after 77.a5, white is already winning.
Just before the Rapids last day, I had mixed feelings. Certainly, I was at +1, unbeaten, and that was the good side of it. But it was not in a pretty way, which was a bit worrying.
Against Mamedyarov, I easily drew with black. Maybe I could even have stopped him from giving back the exchange and levelling the position.
Against Giri, I succeeded in putting pressure all way long, and that was a rather nice game. My advantage was maybe not tangible, but Anish was suffering in the tournament, and he was calculating less and less accurately.
After 28.Nxb5, he was not forced to take, even if after 28…axb5 29.Bxb5, instead of choosing 29…Rxd6 30.Bxa4 Rd4 with chances to resist, he opted for 29…Ra7?, which leads to a lost ending after 30.Rc1 Nb6 (30…Bd7 31.Rc7! Rxc7 32.dxc7 Bc8 33.Bxa4 gives no hope whatsoever) 31.Rxc8+! (the point which he probably missed) 31…Nxc8 32.d7 Rxd7 33.Bxd7 Nb6 34.Bxe6+.
I ended the Rapid portion with a black draw against Aronian, after a game both very interesting and full of dynamic and complicated options. He took the upper hand, was much better, and probably even winning at some stage. But after I exchanged Queens by 35…Qg6!, although still in danger, I managed to draw somehow.
Beginning of the blitz portion, and things started rather well, with a solid draw against Grischuk, and a win against Giri, who once again made a tactical mistake at the end of a game he had slightly dominated.
After 50.Bxc4? (50.Rxe5 =), the intermediate 50…Ra3+! takes it all: 51.Kb2 Bxc4 52.Kxa3 Bxd5 53.exd5 Kc5.
Next round, I faced a Nakamura who went all in, I don’t know why. After all, he still had 15 games to play afterwards ! So he gave me a pawn for no apparent reason.
I just had to consolidate the position, and convert the pawn advantage. After two uneventful draws against Caruana and Mamedyarov, I managed to cause problems to long time leader Wesley So in a technical position. Unfortunately, this type of tiny edge is difficult to convert in a blitz game, because you need utmost precision, and I finally had to share the point once again.
This first day of blitz ended badly, with a 0.5/3 relegating me far away from leader Wesley So… At first, Karjakin didn’t let me any chance, despite minor compensation for my sacrificed pawn. Then, a Queenless middle game played inaccurately put me on the verge of disaster against Aronian.
Finally, against Anand, I had the confirmation that I was not up to the task for a few rounds already, and he never let me escape…
In spite of a good beginning, this first day of blitz was a disappointment, the only good news being that Wesley’s lead in the rankings was slightly narrowed before money time..
The morning of the last and decisive day, I decided to play more quickly, in order to increase the pressure on the clock. Of course, this strategy is always risky as you play without safety net in tactical phases. But it worked out pretty well, as soon as in the first game against Grischuk, where I could make a mess with my two minutes vs ten seconds.
Against Giri, I won a pawn at the end of the opening, but contrary to appearances, it was not easy to convert, and I even went through an inferior position, before things settled down. Against Nakamura, I messed my opening up, and white got a nice edge.
After I went back into the game with the exchange sacrifice 23…Rxf4, the American collapsed. Against Caruana, when I got a new opportunity to part with an exchange in order to play for a Kingside attack, I didn’t hesitate for a second !
Afterwards, I think I played the best attacking moves.
I took one minute to play 29…Nd4!, and I calculated the whole line until the winning endgame after 38.gxh5. Against Mamedyarov in the next round, I was a bit unlucky in the critical position.
I saw 30.Nxf6 Kxf6 31.Be5+ Kg5 (31…Ke6? 32.Bc3+) 32.Rg3+ Kh6 33.Rg4 with perpetual.
So I tried to make Nxf6 work better, and I included 30.h4. Unfortunately, I underestimated his counterplay on the Queenside, which is very quick; by the way, I probably should have stopped it with 36.b4 instead of 36.h5.
After a quick draw against an unambitious Wesley So, I got what I wanted to get against Karjakin, namely a position with slight pressure, where you can ask concrete questions. But he defended very well, and I ended up losing my edge, then going for a poker strike in the Bishop endgame.
After 50…c3?? (50…Bc6 =) 51.d7!, a white pawn queens ! (51…Ke7 52.f6+).
In the penultimate round, I had up to a three-minute edge against Aronian, which helped me a lot. I could counter his Kingside attack and counter-attack on the other wing, in a game that went perfectly well all way long.
Therefore, before the last round, three players stood within a half-point (So 22, Karjakin and Mvl 21.5). And the most unlikely scenario occured, all three leaders losing to players of the second half ! For my part, I had decided I would have to play for the win against Anand. By the way, the opening went fairly well, and I even got a crushing position.
But in the critical position, I looked at 24.Bb4 Qf6 without seeing any decisive blow, although the crushing 25.Bxb7! Nxb7 26.Rc6! was there ! A small detail which costs dearly…
Anyway, there’s no time for lamentations, as the Grand Chess Tour caravan goes on, with a next step in Paris Canal + offices, as early as Wednesday, June 20th.
Autour du tournoiThe games broadcast had a hiccup for the very last round, as at the beginning, Mvl-Anand (0-1) and Mamedyarov-Karjakin (1-0) games were inverted. Those who followed Maxime’s game without having refreshed their browser may have believed that he had won the game and the tournament ! Which, unfortunately, was just a mirage…
After three draws in the first rounds, another challenge was awaiting me during the first rest day. Indeed, after farm work last year (in french), the Norwegian organizers, who undoubtedly don’t lack imagination, had planned a cooking challenge, worked up with the Clarion Hotel crew !
Spread over five teams of two, we players had to cook a specific recipe. I thought I got a good draw with Levon Aronian who, like me, has a bit of a cooking experience. But in the end, we messed it up, and it didn’t work as it should have. As I wrote on social networks, I would have done better alone in my kitchen !
Anyway, it was rather fun, the more so as half the players (won’t name them…) were probably for the first time in their life behind the stoves !
Round 4: Karjakin-Mvl
The next day, I was again in some sort of kitchen, but on the board… Facing me was Karjakin, who challenged one of the Grunfeld variations I had analyzed in detail some six or seven years ago. In the first instance, I reacted correctly, and I remembered what was to be done. Unfortunately, I got carried away with the exchange sacrifice 24…f4?!, very tempting from a practical point of view, but probably slightly inaccurate.
Karjakin didn’t miss taking advantage of the breach, and I couldn’t do much afterwards.
Round 5: Mvl-Aronian
I tried 1.d4, but I’ve got to apologize to my helpers for not being able to remember the details of the prep’.
After 13…Bxc3! 14.bxc3 Qa5, I land with a misplaced Bishop on b2, and I’m the one who has to fight for equality. Which I did quite adequately, but it was surely not my initial intention !
Round 6: Nakamura-Mvl
Hikaru decided to take over the idea Nc3/Qxd4 followed by b3/Bb2 against the Sicilian, which gave Carlsen a win over Wojtaszek a few weeks ago in Shamkir (Azerbaijan). I thought I could clarify the position with my move 10…e5, but the reality is that I’m slightly worse in the ensuing ending. My life could have been more complicated if, instead of the bad 21.h3?, he had chosen the variation 21.f4 Bg4 22.fxe5 dxe5 23.h3 Rxd3 24.hxg4 Rxd1+ 25.Rxd1 Nc6 26.Rd7 Bb6 27.Rxb7, even if I would have kept good drawing chances after 27…Rd8!. Maybe I could have been greedier afterwards, with a more concrete approach, in order to try getting the advantage. The game finally concluded in a fortress position, erected by both camps !
Ronde 7 : Mvl-Anand
Round 7 : Mvl-Anand
It is no mystery that I was surprised by his choice of the Open Spanish. But I had good recollections of my old analysis in this opening, and I even had two lines to choose from. I opted for the c3/Nbd2/Re1 arrangement, and I thought I was taking a slight edge. Therefore I became a bit too optimistic about my chances, and I didn’t anticipate properly his 21…f5! counterplay. My position went downhill after his nice exchange sacrifice 24…c5!. Even so, I could still have earned a draw, had I found 29.a3!, instead of the terrible 29.Rxb4?. It leads to a drawn Rook endgame after 29.a3! Nc5 (29…dxe3? 30.axb4 exf2+ [30…e2 31.Re3 Nd4 32.bxa5! +-] 31.Kf1 a4 32.Re3 with a clear white advantage) 30.Rxb4 axb4 31.Bxd4 Nb3 32.Rd1 Nxd4 33.Rxd4 bxa3 34.bxa3.
But I completely forgot about 29.a3!, and it was the same for his 30…b3!, which shuts down any further debate in the game.
Round 8 : So-Mvl
A remake of what is now called the « French Najdorf », an idea of Laurent Fressinet found for Magnus. You play 6.Be2 e5 7.Nf3, then Bg5 and Nd2. A lot of French players have taken up the idea, with pretty good results. I was not unhappy with this choice, as I felt the variation was at the same time balanced and dynamic. Even if I was clearly not in the best shape, I could at least rely on my instincts in this type of position, which I handle fairly well. Then I found myself with an entrenched Knight on d3, and the possibility of playing 27…Qe7 before he could launch any play on the Queenside. I don’t know if the decision to force an endgame by 31…Qc7 was good from a practical point of view, even if it earned me a pawn.
I have not had time to double check, but it looks as if this endgame is a draw, even if it holds by a hair’s breadth. So I cannot even speak of a missed opportunity; it’s just a half-missed one, and it’s the only one I got in the whole tournament…
Round 9: Mvl-Carlsen
I admit that before this game against the World champion, I had the thought that it was time to look towards the next tournament, unless he would try something special, in which case I would have gone and fought. But in a « normal » variation, I didn’t wish to use an idea I had in store, for a rather low-stakes game from a sporting point of view.
I would like to conclude with huge congratulations to Fabiano Caruana, who wins yet another top level tournament, and proves to be the indisputable World #2 and Challenger.
On my side, a winless 3/8 forces me to admit that this 2018 Norway Chess tournament was no picnic at all. For sure, it is not a glorious result for what was meant to be my first major goal of the year…
Now, I have to quickly move on to something else, and get back into the swing of things. Fortunately, the 2018 Grand Chess Tour starts pretty soon in Leuven (Belgium), with the first rapid games scheduled on Tuesday, June 12
ActivitiesThe Norway Chess tournament has taken the habit of offering the players non-chess activities outside the tournament itself and the other chess commitments (opening blitz, meetings with schools…). The cooking challenge for instance, that Maxime evokes above. But also a yacht journey during the second rest day, or a walk around the town before the closing ceremony. And the evenings in the hotel were not forgotten, as you could see regular players, among them Maxime, contesting fierce Avalon games…
And to avoid unwelcome gossip, Caruana was participating in all of these activities, with the result in the tournament everybody knows !
With these words, and a picture taken from the plane about to land, Maxime announced on Twitter his arrival at the 2018 Norway Chess. A tournament self-proclaimed the « Strongest in the World » on its website homepage, although organizers of the 2018 Grand Chess Tour, as well as those of the powerful Isle of Man Open in october, could very well have a say on the matter…
Beyond semantics, it is obvious that Norway Chess is in any event the first great rendez-vous of year 2018 for the world elite. Ten of the thirteen best players are there, only #4 Kramnik, #9 Giri and #11 Grischuk, are missing.
As usual, it’s a blitz tournament which served as the drawing of lots ceremony, in order to determine whose players will get five whites and whose will get five blacks. This little game was won by Wesley So with 6/9, while Maxime got the worst place (6th) with 4.5/9, but behind Mamedyarov on tiebreaks.
In the evening preceding the beginning of the tournament itself, uncertainty prevailed about Mamedyarov effectively playing, because he was suffering from an intense toothache. It’s the next morning, only a few hours before the launch of round 1, that Maxime learned his opponent would be present in front of him à 4,30pm !
Round 1: Mamedyarov-MVL
Probably not having completely recovered yet, the Azeri chose to counter the Grunfeld with the modest e3/Bd2 variation, but Maxime opted for a more flexible, though more risky option (6…dxc4 7.Bxc4 Nbd7), rather than going for the principled and logical 6…c5. In order not to become worse, he decided to part with his c5 pawn by 16…Be6!, getting quite a long-term compensation. Without us knowing if it had something to do with his teeth, Shak lowered the temperature, and provoked a draw by repetition.
Round 2: Ding Liren-MVL
Round 2, and second black in a row, against the new strong man of the chess elite, World #4 and unbeaten for 73 games, Ding Liren. The Chinese also opted for a modest variation (e3/Be2), but with the Knight still on b1, so as to discourage the Grunfeld ; 5…d5 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.e4 forcing 7…Nb6, is indeed not to everyone’s taste. With 6…Bf5 and 7…a5, Maxime immediately took the game to a virgin and theory-free territory. And thanks to a clever arrangement of his heavy pieces afterwards (…Rf7-Qf8-Rd8), he could act in the center and equalize the position with …c6-d5.
The nice 30…e4!, leading to liquidation or a perpetual, sealed a serious and diligent game.
Round 3: MVL-Caruana
Round 3, facing Caruana’s Russian defense, a weapon which significantly contributed to the American winning the Candidates Tournament, Maxime arrived at the board armed to the teeth… With the Bishop pair and despite a slightly damaged pawn structure, white has a tiny advantage. But you still have to prove it !
As suggested by Caruana during the analysis, white could have taken the opportunity to play 27.a6 (an option black could have avoided on the previous move by playing himself 26…a6 instead of 26…Rd8, but both players didn’t like it because of 27.Bf4).
But Maxime who, by his own admission, was preparing to press in a long game, chose another way down the road. Unfortunately for him, he hadn’t anticipated the manoeuver …Ng8!-e7-f5, which forced the exchange of white’s white-squared Bishop, and a transition to a drawn opposite-coloured Bishops endgame.
For the time being, only Carlsen won games (2), and so he heads the field with a one-point lead after only three rounds. After the first rest day on Thursday 31, round 4 is scheduled at 4,30 pm on Friday, June 1st; Maxime will be black against Karjakin.
AdgesteinFor a long time Norway #1 player, and once #16 in the world rankings, Simen Agdestein, 51, is a chess trainer and commentator, when he’s not involved in the Norwegian version of « Strictly Dancing » tv show, or busy singing with a wacky pop music band ! Indeed he does the official Norway Chess commentary on their website. Maybe the younger ones ignore the fact that he became in 1985 the first Norwegian Grandmaster, while turning professional football player in Oslo ! He also has 8 caps in the national Norway team (1 goal), of which one was against the French squad of Didier Deschamps, Eric Cantona and Jean-Pierre Papin, for his last appearance ! (1-1 in the 1990 World Cup Qualifiers).
(On this excerpt of archive video footage, you can see Agdestein on the left, congratulating the goalscorer who just equalized against France.)
Unfortunately for him, he had to stop instantly his career at 25, after a knee ligament rupture. Is it a unique case in international annals, in so distinct sport disciplines ?