Norway Chess: Caruana Sole Leader After Round 2
Caruana defeated Duda in round two. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Norway Chess: Caruana Sole Leader After Round 2

| 21 | Chess Event Coverage

With his second win in a standard game, GM Fabiano Caruana grabbed the sole lead at the Altibox Norway Chess tournament. GM Magnus Carlsen won his second armageddon game as GM Alireza Firouzja flagged in what should have been a drawn rook endgame.

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Caruana defeated GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda after 94 moves, the longest game of the day. GM Levon Aronian beat GM Aryan Tari from the white side of a Marshall Ruy Lopez, an opening he has played numerous times with the black pieces.

2020 Norway Chess | Round 2 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts
1 Caruana, Fabiano 2828 . . . 3 3 6
2-3 Firouzja, Alireza 2728 . . 1 3 . 4
2-3 Aronian, Levon 2767 . . 1 . 3 4
4 Carlsen, Magnus 2863 . 1.5 1.5 . . 3
5-6 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 2757 0 0 . . . 0
5-6 Tari, Aryan 2633 0 . 0 . . 0

On what was his 38th birthday, Aronian decided to test Tari in his 1.e4 repertoire. This was also a sign that basically the whole field is coming for the 21-year-old Norwegian. Everyone wants to beat the lowest rated player in what is Tari's first major tournament.

It's hard to say whether the Marshall was a good choice against the world's biggest expert. On the one hand, the opening line has been analyzed to death and is basically a draw everywhere, but on the other hand, you need experience and a fantastic memory for it.

"I was thinking my opponent plays the Marshall for the first time in his life, so I should play something structural, that he would have to think how to attack," said Aronian, for whom it was only the fourth time to face the gambit as White and the first time with a long time control.

Aronian Tari Norway Chess 2020
Aronian-Tari. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

That "something structural" involved the sideline 12.Re1 and 13. g3 after which Tari started thinking indeed. He didn't react in the most common way, but the computer approved his play.

It was only from move 27 onwards that Aronian tactically outplayed his opponent, thereby also using a positional idea he had seen in computer games: pushing h2-h4 and putting the knight on f1.

Caruana chose a modest opening against Duda: the Exchange Slav. Also rare was that the American GM developed his bishops before his knights—usually it's clearer where the knights belong, so you start with them.

Duda chose a solid but slightly passive setup that became even more passive when he refrained from the pawn push ...b5 on two occasions. When the Polish grandmaster finally played his b-pawn, it was a big positional error.

Duda Norway Chess 2020
Duda's 23...b6 was a big mistake. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Thereafter, White completely dominated the position and soon won two pieces for a rook. When the queens were traded, the end seemed near.

"I expected to end the game immediately, and then I didn't see a way to do it," said Caruana, who faced stiff resistance from Duda. In that final phase, the players were more or less playing on their 10-second increments. 

At the same time, there were never serious drawing chances for Black. As GM Judit Polgar put it: "I think it's almost impossible to defend because it's lost!"

"I always like playing here," said Caruana. "I don't even know how many times I've played here; it's been so many already. I feel good. When the chess is going well, it always boosts your morale a bit. The first few rounds you're not sure what form you're in, but starting well really helps."

Fabiano Caruana Norway Chess 2020
Caruana: "Starting well really helps." Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

The two games between Carlsen and Firouzja were both fascinating. To some extent, this is a clash of styles between the reigning world champion and one of the most promising players of the new generation—one who might well be a future challenger.

Carlsen missed a win in the standard game after which Firouzja had the Norwegian GM on the ropes in the armageddon.

"I feel like I missed too many things today. It's about the opponent as well since he has a very tricky style. He always plays for some little tactics," said Carlsen.

Both games saw the Queen's Gambit Declined, the opening that has been the most played in world championship matches. In the first, Carlsen held an advantage in a queenless middlegame and could have finished it on move 35. He didn't see it because he misjudged the position after the move that he chose instead. 

Carlsen Firouzja Norway Chess 2020
Carlsen and Firouzja agreeing to a draw. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Carlsen played more aggressively in the armageddon as he castled queenside and weakened his pawn structure. This totally backfired, and by move 20 he was strategically lost.

"I was completely outplayed," he admitted later.

The key moment was move 31 for Black. With two minutes and 16 seconds on the clock (vs. 1:07 for Carlsen), the inexperience of the young player showed as Firouzja needed 15 seconds to take on g3, when he had more than one clear win.

Black has several winning moves instead of 31...Nxg3, the simplest being 31...Rxf3 32.Qxf3 Qxh2+ followed by 33...Qxg3!.

Carlsen escaped into a drawn rook endgame that ended dramatically. With both players having just five seconds on the clock (and that one-second increment), Firouzja failed to execute his final move in time.

After months of online chess, mouse skills are suddenly completely irrelevant in this tournament.

Carlsen Firouzja armageddon Norway Chess
Carlsen points towards Firouzja's clock. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

As Carlsen pointed his index finger to the clock, Firouzja had a brief rage of anger. Before he stood up, he smashed his rook on the board one more time, hitting the c5-pawn that flew off the board while the rook tumbled.

Originally, the increment after move 40 was three seconds, but this was changed to one second during the players' meeting on Sunday afternoon as they thought Black would have too big an advantage. "That cost him in this game," said Caruana.

Carlsen called his armageddon win "obviously pretty undeserved." That had been before he saw that Firouzja's intended final move turned out to be losing.

Pairings round three: Tari–Carlsen, Duda–Aronian, Firouzja–Caruana.

The Norway Chess tournament is a double round-robin with six players taking place October 5-16, 2020, in the Clarion Hotel in Stavanger, Norway. The time control is two hours for all moves with a 10-second increment per move after move 40.

In the case of a draw, the players play an armageddon game about 20 minutes after drawing their standard game. The colors remain the same, and the time control is 10 minutes for White vs. seven minutes for Black (who has draw odds) with an increment of one second per move starting on move 41. 

The points system is as follows:

  • Victory main game: 3 points
  • Loss main game: 0 points
  • Draw main game & victory armageddon: 1.5 points
  • Draw main game & loss armageddon: 1 point

See also:

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