Norway Chess Round 3: Aronian Teaches Duda An Endgame Lesson
Aronian plays his final move vs. Duda. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Norway Chess Round 3: Aronian Teaches Duda An Endgame Lesson

| 13 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Levon Aronian is tied for first place at the Altibox Norway Chess tournament after outplaying GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda in a rook endgame. The Armenian grandmaster caught GM Fabiano Caruana, who lost an armageddon to GM Alireza Firouzja.

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You can follow the games here as part of our live platform. Besides the official broadcast, daily commentary is provided on GM Hikaru Nakamura's Twitch channel starting at 8 a.m. Pacific / 17:00 Central Europe.

GM Magnus Carlsen climbed to third place, thanks to beating his nine years younger compatriot, GM Aryan Tari. The pairings in round four (Thursday) are Carlsen–Caruana, Aronian–Firouzja, and Tari–Duda.

2020 Norway Chess | Round 3 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts
1-2 Caruana, Fabiano 2828 . . 1 3 3 7
1-2 Aronian, Levon 2767 . 1 . 3 3 7
3 Carlsen, Magnus 2863 . 1.5 1.5 . 3 6
4 Firouzja, Alireza 2728 1.5 . 1 3 . 5.5
5-6 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 2757 0 0 . 0 . 0
5-6 Tari, Aryan 2633 0 0 0 . . 0

Carlsen's win, his 124th classical game in a row without a loss, was quite an adventure. He played the slightly risky Classical Sicilian, to which the Rauzer attack with castling queenside for White, as played by Tari, is the standard and potentially dangerous response.

After the opening, Carlsen entered the confessional booth—the option to give the viewers of the TV broadcast some insight during a game is still popular in Norway—and said he had "done everything wrong" having "destroyed his pawn structure" and castled queenside where his king is not safe. He added that he was putting his bets on his bishop pair. 

That was at move 15, and chess pundits were quick to point out that this is still a theoretical position. But there's nothing wrong with dramatizing things a bit in front of a TV audience, now is there?

While Tari was playing the opening and early middlegame well, Carlsen took the dramatization a step further as he voluntarily went for tripled f-pawns, something that has been given the jolly name of the "Irish pawn center."

Irish f-pawn Tripled f-pawn Tari Carlsen Norway chess
Carlsen's "Irish pawn center." Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Not only did the evaluation of the engines jump to over +2 for White but to humans, it also looked very dangerous for Black.

"First I thought I was worse, but that it was complicated," said Carlsen. "As the game happened, I realized I had been too optimistic, and I think I was probably more or less lost. But as long as there are no forced lines, it's not easy."

It looks like Tari went for the f-pawns too quickly. Both Aronian and commentator GM Vladimir Kramnik suggested the prophylactic plan connected to 22.b4 in order to first stabilize the king's position before taking action on the kingside.

Tari played 22.h3 where 22.b4! would have been strong.

"I saw b4, but I didn't think it was so good," Tari commented. "My position looked fantastic, but somehow it wasn't easy to make a choice."

Carlsen: "The thing about the white position is that it's extremely good, but you have to win it somehow."

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

Tari made the wrong decision to put his knight on the rim and attack f6, and from that point it went downhill for him. Carlsen created counterplay along the b-file and then decided the game with the very nice 26...Re1.

Carlsen's 26...Re1!! was the move of the day.

This killer move allowed Black to crash through on b2. Then White's king was weak forever, combined with a serious disharmony of his pieces. On top of that, Black's bishop pair was very strong, so Carlsen's prediction in the confessional booth came true.

"It was something I was only dreaming of, to be honest," said Carlsen about the pretty rook move. "I didn't expect it to happen."

Carlsen Tari TV2
Carlsen and Tari in the TV2 studio with GM Jon Ludvig Hammer, who did manage to beat Carlsen in the 2015 edition of the tournament. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Aronian scored a nice victory that looked like a game played in the first round of a Swiss tournament where the amateur player plays for a draw against the grandmaster, who then grinds down his inexperienced opponent deep in the endgame.

Because, what else could Duda's Four Knights, and especially 5.e5, have been—other than a way to get rid of his zero on the scoreboard and head straight to the armageddon?

"I thought it was going to be a very quick draw," said Aronian. "I was just thinking this is equal, and I am just going to play normal moves."

When Kramnik called it an "unexpected victory," Aronian replied: "My every victory is unexpected!"

The rook endgame is very instructive for several reasons:

  • Black's typical pawn breaks 34...a4 and 40...h4 created dynamic chances.
  • 37.Ra3 was too passive; correct was giving up a pawn with a more active rook.
  • The white king was unnecessarily placed on the back rank.
  • Having to choose a side for his king, Duda chose wrongly.
Aronian Norway Chess
Great endgame play by Aronian, who kept pressing but also needed a lot of help from his opponent to win this endgame. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

For the third day in a row, one of the three matchups was decided in the armageddon. Before that, Caruana had missed a chance in the classical game.

Firouzja Caruana 2020 Norway Chess classical
Firouzja and Caruana discussing their draw. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

The armageddon game saw a sideline of the Colle System that can be better described as the Noteboom Variation with colors reversed. The idea is that White gives up the center but gets two passed pawns.

The position after 11.b5.

Kramnik was surprised that Caruana took on d7 with his queen as the b8-knight really belongs there. As it went, Firouzja had the better chances and made just one mistake on move 26 that Caruana didn't capitalize on.

In what was still a very sharp position on move 28, Carlsen had joined the commentary and said: "I would bet on Firouzja. Fabiano is gonna get tricked... he's gonna get tricked to the moon here!"

And that happened more or less right away.

Firouzja Caruana 2020 Norway Chess armageddon
Firouzja playing 32.Qc8. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Firouzja won a piece for a pawn, but it still wasn't easy as Caruana managed to trade all the pawns on the queenside. At the start of the endgame RB vs. R with three pawns for White vs. four for Black, Caruana had 13 seconds left against 31 for Firouzja with a one-second increment each.

Firouzja: "At the end, I just didn't want to lose on time. I didn't care about the moves!"

Firouzja Caruana armageddon 2020 Norway Chess
A sigh of relief for Firouzja as Caruana stops the clock. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

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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