In the Confession Box

Recently on the ChessBase site the Norwegian journalist Thomas Robertson explained how it was possible that Norwegian TV networks competed hard for the rights to broadcast all tournaments in which Magnus Carlsen is playing. No silly jokes in Norway about paint drying and grass growing, but full coverage from the first move till the last. 

It was, according to Robertson, because Norway was a pioneer of slow TV. A camera on a train that rides for seven hours through a pleasant scenery, that has been done by German TV also. But in the last years there has been much more slow TV in Norway. 24 Hours of salmon fishing, 12 hours of wood burning during the national wood burning night, 132 hours of broadcasting a coastal liner going from Bergen to Kirkenes and a non-stop 30 hours interview with Hans Olav Lahlum, who is described as politician, chess organizer, author and cult figure. After all this, the nation was ready for chess television. 

Purists of Zen TV may not be completely satisfied, as the chess broadcasts are enlivened by conversations, interviews and expert commentary. And during the recent Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger, which was won by Veselin Topalov, TV 2, the biggest Norwegian commercial network, introduced a novelty that they named the Confession Box.

During the game the players, if they felt like it, could address the TV audience, telling what they had done right or wrong and how they assessed their chances. 

I don’t know if Magnus Carlsen confessed, but he was certainly not without sin. The story of how he lost his first round game against Topalov by overstepping the time limit in a winning position, just because he wasn’t aware of the pertinent rules, has been all over the internet. But that was not all. After four rounds Carlsen was in last place with a half-point. One of his losses had been against Anand. Later he won two games, but in the last round he was beaten by his long-term second Jon Ludvig Hammer, and he finished with a score of 3½ out of 9.

Will the Norwegians keep up their chess frenzy after such a bitter disappointment and will TV 2 continue with its confession box? Carlsen bears the fate of a small industry on his shoulders. 

Few people would have predicted that in the last round the two old hands Topalov (40) and Anand (45) would be playing against each other for the tournament victory. Topalov was a half-point ahead of Anand and he had white. It was not to be expected that Anand with black would go all-in, and indeed a draw was agreed after 18 moves. 

We Dutch were cheering for Anish Giri. He played a good tournament, beating Alexander Grischuk and Topalov and not suffering a loss. He won quite a lot of rating points, which is especially important because two places in the candidates tournament of next year will be allocated on rating. One of these places will almost certainly go to Topalov and for the other one Giri and Grischuk are the most serious contenders; but nothing is settled yet. 

In this respect the game between them that is given in the game viewer may be quite important for their future career.

Click to view the annotated game:

Norway Chess 2015