Carlsen Maintains Lead In Enthralling Round 4 Norway Chess
Carlsen defeated Mamedyarov in the Armageddon. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen Maintains Lead In Enthralling Round 4 Norway Chess

| 21 | Chess Event Coverage

In a round full of fascinating chess and some beautiful opportunities that were missed, Magnus Carlsen maintained his lead at the 2019 Altibox Norway Chess tournament. Only Wesley So is still a point behind the world champion.

Like last year, the players were involved in a cooking competition on the rest day. Again in teams of two, they were this time paired with a top chef, who helped them to cook a dish with Norway's national protein salmon.

Anand Vachier-Lagrave Norway Chess cooking
The winning team Anand and Vachier-Lagrave cooking. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Altibox Norway Chess.

Judged on the dish itself, the plating and on how they worked as a team, Viswanathan Anand retained the title he won with Ding Liren last year, with this time around Maxime Vachier-Lagrave alongside him.

Norway Chess 2019 cooking competition
Players and chefs together. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Altibox Norway Chess.

As if inspired by the competition on the rest day, the players cooked up some great chess the next day. Some of it was actually played, and some of it could have been played. 

Let's start with the second category. After drawing with Wesley So in the standard game, Fabiano Caruana missed several wins, one of which was very pretty. At that point Vachier-Lagrave was sitting in the commentary studio with Judit Polgar and Anna Rudolf, and he quickly pointed out the move 46.Qe5. 

MVL: "Fabi, I give free lessons if you want!"

Caruana So Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Caruana missed several wins in the Armageddon. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The two games between Indian top chef Viswanathan Anand and last year's winning sous chef Ding Liren were both very rich in taste and texture. While the Armageddon was considered to be the top dessert of the day, their main course was chosen as our Game of the Day instead.

In a Giuoco Pianissimo, Ding came up with an early piece sacrifice that Anand had also analysed—it could have happened in the game Van Foreest-Gozzoli from the recent French Team Championship. That's how opening preparation works these days: top players follow all major tournaments, and make notes for every game that is relevant to their repertoire, day in day out.

When the complications ended, Anand got two knights for a rook, but Ding had three pawns for that. The Chinese GM didn't follow up accurately and Anand got a much better endgame, but lacking time on the clock, he couldn't convert.

Anand Ding Liren Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Ding Liren finally accepts the draw vs. Anand. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Changing the course of this game at move 12, Anand then beat Ding with a beautiful mating attack in the Armageddon. It started with a bishop sacrifice on h6, and as Anand explained, he had learnt its strength three years ago when he got a similar position against Hikaru Nakamura in St. Louis. Back then he played too slowly, but this time he just went for it.

"I wasn’t even sure how strong it was but it doesn’t matter, it’s Armageddon—let’s get it over with!" said Anand said. "In this time control I will not pretend that I calculate everything."

The game also had another beauty off the board. As the engine points out, Ding missed a great counter attacking idea, as mentioned in the annotations:

Only one player managed to win his classical game in round four, doing so on his birthday: Yu Yangyi. The Chinese player won as Black against Alexander Grischuk, who has been seriously struggling so far, again managed his time badly and got outplayed from an equal Petroff middlegame:

Grischuk Yu Yangyi 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
More suffering for Grischuk. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Yu Yangyi Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Yu Yangyi (here sitting next to Judit Polgar) beat Grischuk as he turned 25. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Magnus Carlsen got to play white again, and he got to play against the Gruenfeld again. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov deviated from Grischuk's 9...Qa5 with 9...Nd7 instead, but he put his queen on a5 a move later anyway and bluntly took White's a-pawn next.

Like against Grischuk, Carlsen ran with his h-pawn, this time all the way to h6. (Where "Harry the h-pawn" was en vogue for a while, these days everyone seems to be mentioning AlphaZero when the h-pawn moves up the board!)

Carlsen played strongly for a while, but then missed stronger alternatives at least twice, and Mamedyarov escaped.

Carlsen Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Carlsen offering a draw to Mamedyarov in the first game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen then won his third Armaggedon in the tournament as Mamedyarov's three-minute deficit from the start was a decisive factor at the end of the game. His king needed to run into the open field, and still playing without increment (as move 61 hadn't been reached yet) this was practically unplayable for Black.

We pick up the game where Mamedyarov could have found a safe haven for his king on h1—pretty extraordinary by itself:

Carlsen Mamedyarov 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
The body language of the players says it all... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Carlsen TV2 Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Carlsen providing his daily comments to TV2. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Mamedyarov TV2 interview Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Mamedyarov also giving an interview for TV2. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Like So, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave gained 1.5 points for drawing both his games as Black. But unlike So, MVL had been pressing in both games, and only because a draw was enough he didn't push for more in the Armageddon. It was only the first time the French player got more than half a point in the round.

Aronian Vachier-Lagrave 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Aronian vs. Vachier-Lagrave: two draws. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

2019 Altibox Norway Chess | Round 4 Standings

Rk Fed Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts
1 Carlsen 2875 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 2 6.5/8
2 So 2754 2 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 5.5/8
3 Yu Yangyi 2738 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 2 5.0/8
4 Ding Liren 2805 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 2 4.5/8
5 Aronian 2752 ½ 0 2 ½ 0 ½ 1 4.5/8
6 Mamedyarov 2774 ½ 0 0 2 ½ 1 4.0/8
7 Anand 2767 ½ 0 ½ 1 0 ½ 1 3.5/8
8 Caruana 2819 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 2 3.0/8
9 Vachier-Lagrave 2779 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 2.5/8
10 Grischuk 2775 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 1.0/8

The Altibox Norway Chess tournament takes place June 3-12 in the Clarion Hotel Energy and June 12-14 in the Stavanger Concert hall in Stavanger, Norway. New this year is that players who draw their game will play an Armageddon game right after (with the same colors).

Armageddon at Norway Chess
White gets 10 minutes on the clock; Black gets seven minutes but has draw odds. Only after move 60 the players get three seconds increment per move.

  • Win, main game: 2 points
  • Loss, main game: 0 points
  • Draw, main game and loss, Armageddon: 0.5 point
  • Draw, main game and win, Armageddon: 1.5 points

Also new is a shorter the time control in the classical games: two hours for the whole game, with an increment of 10 seconds after move 40.

The games start 5 p.m. local time (CEST), which is 11 a.m. Eastern and 8 a.m. Pacific. You can follow the games here as part of our live portal with daily commentary by the Chessbrahs.

The round four coverage by the Chessbrahs.

Previous reports:

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