Blunders Galore In Norway Chess Round 6
Wesley So makes a move that allows mate in one. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Blunders Galore In Norway Chess Round 6

| 48 | Chess Event Coverage

After lots of excitement and drama, the Armageddon games delivered something else in round six of the 2019 Altibox Norway Chess tournament: big blunders. Magnus Carlsen maintained his 1.5-point lead going into the second rest day.

With a shortened time control, the quality of play automatically drops, but in round six that development hit rock bottom. It's not even clear whose blunder was bigger: Ding Liren dropping a rook, Wesley So allowing a mate in one, or Alexander Grischuk putting a bishop en prise.

The players can hardly be blamed for making what looks like rookie mistakes. They have been put in a relatively new situation, where having to win as White or draw as Black can disturb the mindset.

And while several players are somewhat under the weather, the clock pressure can be huge as well, especially because today's top grandmasters are used to getting increment, even in blitz. In these Armageddon games, they get three seconds per move but only starting from move 61.

In Grischuk's case something else was going on. Playing Fabiano Caruana, he made his blunder with eight minutes on the clock, so it was a rare case of chess blindness for a man who stated that he has already given up on his tournament. Grischuk is just completely out of it, and wants it to be over as quickly as possible.

Grischuk Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Depicting Grischuk's suffering would have been a grateful task for Rembrandt. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The classical game went quite all right for him, as he ended up with an extra pawn from the old 11.c3 main line of the Sveshnikov. With all pawns on one wing, it was tough to win and at the end Caruana claimed the draw based on a position about to appear for the third time:

Grischuk Caruana draw claim Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Caruana could claim a draw as he planned on making the move 43...Qd7. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

What happened in the Armageddon was just out of this world. It was something you'd only see in an online game, and then only in bullet.

Thinking his queen was protecting his bishop, Grischuk decided to trade the dark-squared bishops, but right after 17...Bxh6 the shocking realization came to him that there was a knight in between Qc1 and Bh6...

So's blunder was a big one as well, but still more common, even at this level. After an uneventful draw in the standard game, the American grandmaster had defended well against what looked like dangerous attacking chances for Levon Aronian.

Trading queens, the Armenian grandmaster kept the initiative as he was still holding the enemy king in a bind. However, it wasn't an easy win yet when So suddenly had himself checkmated.

"Yet another stellar performance…what can I say?" said Aronian when he entered the commentary studio. "At least I controlled the game more today than I controlled it yesterday."

Aronian Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Aronian: "Yet another stellar performance…what can I say?" | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Meanwhile, more drama was seen in the match between Vishy Anand and Yu Yangyi. Not getting anything against his opponent's Petroff in the standard game, Anand tried 2.Bc4 in the Armageddon and that went pretty well.

Yu was pretty much outplayed when he went he tried to create some chaos with the pawn break 32...f4. Having played so well before, Anand must have seriously underestimated the strength of the black queen on h3, because allowing that was suicide:

Anand Yu Altibox Norway Chess 2019
A dejected Anand resigns his game with Yu. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Magnus Carlsen vs. Ding Liren was a great mini-match, but also a very disappointing one for the Chinese player. He was much better in the first game, and was about to draw his Armageddon to obtain 1.5 points when he blundered as well.

Carlsen is still in the habit of sacrificing pawns early in his games, and Aronian approved of his 5.Qb3 in the standard game one as long as White keeps the queens on the board. Also without queens Carlsen kept some pressure, but in the long run Ding solved his problems, remained a pawn up and forced the world champion to the limits of his defensive skills.

Carlsen managed to hold, and thereby kept his long-running undefeated streak, which is now 65 games.

Carlsen Ding Stalemate Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Oddly, the players played out a basic king-and-pawn ending but then shook hands one move before the actual stalemate. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen had won his four previous Armageddon games, but this time it seemed to be going the wrong way for him. Ding successfully defended against his aggressive tries and was even a pawn up in an endgame with rooks and opposite-colored bishops, where a draw was the logical outcome. Also here, a blunder turned everything around:

Carlsen Ding Armageddon Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Another great escape by Carlsen, while Ding cannot believe what just happened. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Among all this drama, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's two draws with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov were as quiet as an unused confession box. For starters, the Azerbaijani didn't really try in the standard game.

MVL: "I guess Shakh was not feeling too well; he was coughing, so maybe that was the reason he didn’t try as hard as usually does."

(In his comments for TV, Carlsen compared the playing hall to a hospital as more players seem to be suffering from a cold.)

In the Armageddon game, the Frenchman had all the chances where a draw was enough:

Mamedyarov Vachier-Lagrave Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Vachier-Lagrave confidently won the 1.5 points vs. a coughing Mamedyarov. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

2019 Altibox Norway Chess | Round 6 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts
1 Carlsen 2875 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 2 9.5/12
2 Yu Yangyi 2738 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 2 8.0/12
3 Aronian 2752 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 2 ½ 0 ½ 1 7.5/12
4 So 2754 2 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 6.5/12
5 Ding Liren 2805 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 2 5.5/12
6 Anand 2767 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 0 ½ 1 5.5/12
7 Mamedyarov 2774 ½ 0 0 2 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 5.0/12
8 Caruana 2819 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 2 ½ 1 5.0/12
9 Vachier-Lagrave 2779 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 0 4.5/12
10 Grischuk 2775 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 3.0/12
Carlsen TV 2 studio Altibox Norway Chess 2019
Carlsen in the TV 2 studio. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

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 six coverage by the Chessbrahs.

Previous reports:

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