Carlsen vs. Norway (With Some Help): Draw

  • PeterDoggers
  • on 5/9/14, 1:56 AM.

On Thursday a chess game between Magnus Carlsen and “Norway”, played in a shopping center in Oslo, ended in a draw. The World Champion each time had only one minute to move, while his opponent(s) - online chess fans, helped by three grandmasters - had five, and could even consult a computer.

Images courtesy of VG

The special game between Carlsen and “Norway” was held at the Oslo City kjøpesenter (shopping center), where VG (Verdens Gang, Norway's biggest newspaper and co-sponsor of Carlsen) had set up a special studio. 

Elsewhere in the mall there was a small studio with commentators, including Hans Olav Lahlum, the famous Norwegian historian, crime author, chess player/organizer and politician.

Before the game, Lahlum was lucky enough to face Linni Meister | Photo © Tarjei J. Svensen
Commentary during the game | Photo © Tarjei J. Svensen

Right next to the commentators was a team of three experts: grandmasters Simen Agdestein, Leif Erlend Johannessen and Jon Ludvig Hammer. Based on their recommendations, the online chess fans could suggest a move, and the most suggestion move was played.

In fact everyone was allowed to suggest moves online, not just Norwegians, but the event was only advertised in Norway.

Norway's moves were executed by a mysterious man in a red morph suit. After the game his identity was revealed: cross-country skiing legend Oddvar Brå.

Carlsen only had one minute to make his moves while his opponents had five. There was a special rule: his opponents had to possibility to consult the Houdini chess engine three times during the game.

Here's the game:

In the end the experts only consulted Houdini once The grandmasters were allowed to use Houdini three times each, so nine times in total. This affected the game especually on move 23, when Carlsen had a very promising position and threatened to win an Exchange. “We had lost otherwise,” admitted Hammer. 

The computer simply sacrificed that Exchange, and the resulting position wasn't clear at all. Carlsen then decided to pull the emergency brake.

Carlsen's manager Espen Agdestein described it as follows: “It's like meeting a quiz master who can use Google. And with additional help from the audience.”

“One minute thinking time for me was fine, as long as they did not use the computer,” said Carlsen. “But when ‘Norway’ came up with an unexpected, computer-inspired move, it became worse. Then I would have liked to have more time to think. So next time maybe I should have a kind of ‘wild-card’ with the time that I could use when I needed it.”

It was mostly a fun game, but some extra training at the same time. I eventually took this as a serious tournament game. So this was a useful day for me,” said Carlsen, who also said he wants to have the white pieces if such a game is organized another time!

Info based on this VG article which has a number of nice videos.

After the game there were some sponsor activities.

22100 reads 31 comments
9 votes


  • 19 months ago


    Only one computer (Houdini) consultance for the whole game could assure a more fair game.

  • 19 months ago


    Excellent result for Magnus Carlsen

  • 19 months ago


    Maggie cant beat the computer...ever...loser.. ;-))

  • 19 months ago


    When you're playing 2600+ ELO opposition as black, and they have a significant time advantage on every move + the option to use an engine rated a few hundred points above you (~3200 ELO), a draw is always a great result, especially from a position of strength.  

    I like it that they didn't ostracize engine use (putting it down as a threat or unethical), but embraced it as an option.  A good approach to work through many kinds of challenging issues in life.

    Excellent result for Magnus!

  • 19 months ago


    alot of people complained that "we" were alloved to use the computer, but look at the board when "we" first use it. We had all realized that a loss was iminent and any other player would have resigned at that position. Newsstations and especialy Vg does alot to promote chess in Norway with the result that people with near to nill interest in chess sat and watched a four houre game. The challange is that people with only limited experience of chess would not be able to see the defeat and could weary well be disapointed by resigning after watching for many houres. On the other hand  the people with knowlege of chess (inkluding the 5 GMs involved not counting Carlsen) would find it tidius to suffer throught the final moves knowing how it would end. 

    As a final addition I can say that even if Norway used hodini more then once, it was only used for real once (the bishop move) the other times it was more for fun, since the moves were already clear. 

  • 19 months ago


    ...and only one minute to make a move!  ..."no problem"  he says...  this kid is incredible!

  • 19 months ago


    Looks like IBM will have to destroy him like they destroyed kasparov...

  • 19 months ago


    They gave the WC all the disadvantages! 

  • 19 months ago


    The most amazing feat for Magnus was not the draw, but that he was not distracted by that rediculous red suit.

  • 19 months ago


    good marketing for chess

  • 19 months ago


    The article says that the public could suggest moves, which is not the case. The public could vote for one of  3 moves suggested by the grandmasters Agdestein, Johannessen and Hammer.

  • 19 months ago


    It was realy nice following this match on VG, and be able to vote for the GM's suggestions for free =)

    On the other hand, the total 9 houdini moves that was availble for the GM's i think was abit too much, and people on the chat was complaining it was to much of an advantag.

    There is very high chanse Magnus taking a rematch, then as White ;)

  • 19 months ago


    Carlsen said he doesnt like playing houdini, how disrespectful of them to use the engine against him

  • 19 months ago


    Why would you pull an emergency break in a friendly game? Play on next time...

  • 19 months ago


    Original, indeed!

  • 19 months ago


    SO COOL!

  • 19 months ago


    And Magnus Carlsen is doing a superb job as WC. Not only in events like this, of course, but also in top level tournaments. I hope he wins Norway Chess this year (last year, he got second place). 

  • 19 months ago


    This was a great event. Thanks to VG and Lahlum and everybody else involved.

  • 19 months ago


    A clever and entertaining event.  I think next time, ditch the computer.  :)

  • 19 months ago


    Norway got assistance from Houdini on move 19, 22, 23, 24, 26 and 28 if I remember correctly. 

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