Norway Chess Round 5: Duda Ends Carlsen's Unbeaten Streak
Duda defeated Carlen in round five. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Norway Chess Round 5: Duda Ends Carlsen's Unbeaten Streak

| 53 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda achieved a tremendous upset in round five of the Altibox Norway Chess tournament. The Polish grandmaster, who hadn't won a game yet, defeated GM Magnus Carlsen, thereby ending the world champion's unbeaten streak of 125 classical games.

GM Levon Aronian and GM Alireza Firouzja defeated GM Fabiano Caruana and GM Aryan Tari respectively. Halfway through the tournament, Aronian is in sole first place.

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2020 Norway Chess | Round 5 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts
1 Aronian, Levon 2767 1 1 3 3 3 11
2 Firouzja, Alireza 2728 1.5 1 1.5 3 3 10
3 Carlsen, Magnus 2863 1.5 1.5 3 0 3 9
4 Caruana, Fabiano 2828 0 1 0 3 3 7
5 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 2757 0 0 3 0 1 4
6 Tari, Aryan 2633 0 0 0 0 1.5 1.5

Beating GM Mikhail Tal's streak of 95 games without a loss was a milestone for Carlsen. He then bested GM Ding Liren's number of exactly 100 and even GM Sergei Tiviakov's (somewhat debated) 110. By the time the world got into its lockdown due to the pandemic, Carlsen had set the number to 121 at the Tata Steel Chess tournament last January.

Reaching 125 (42 wins and 83 draws) is a massive accomplishment that might never be repeated. Carlsen himself considers the number to be 122 as he is reluctant to count the three games he played in the Norwegian league against rather weak opponents.

A record that is probably impossible to break in modern chess is that of the longest winning streak. It is held by the first world champion, Wilhelm Steinitz, who won 25 games in a row between 1873 and 1882. Also famous is Bobby Fischer's streak of 20 consecutive wins in the 1970s. 

It's ironic but not completely illogical that Carlsen lost his game to the tailender. A loss like this can come when you least expect it.

The following quote, from a interview with Duda from early 2020, is striking:

You read about guys like Magnus who crossed 2880, won so many tournaments in a row, and you see him as this kind of god. It doesn’t help because then you have to face him, and he’s creating pressure with every move. I’ve never won a match against him, but I think I just need to play him more. When I beat him, I will feel like, ‘Ok I’m at the very, very top.’  

Duda-Carlsen Norway Chess
Duda-Carlsen shortly before the end. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

So how did Duda do it? Well, by reacting strongly to an exchange sacrifice from Carlsen, getting the upper hand, then blundering something in time-trouble, but being fortunate that the position remained winning.

"Approaching zeitnot [time pressure], we started to play somewhat randomly, at least I did," said Duda. "I am still not used to this format, that there is no increment. I am thinking a lot, and then I wonder what I spent my time on!"

Here Duda played 30.Qe4 and thought it was a "stupid move." Only after 30...Qg2 came on the board did he discover that there's a slight problem with 31.Qxf4: the b1-square is no longer protected. "I almost blundered checkmate in one move!"

Then after 31.Rhe1 Carlsen played the dangerous-looking 31...Qxa2? missing that White could return with 32.Qc2! when 32...Qxc4 33.Re8+ followed.

Here Carlsen must have noticed 33...Rxe8 34.Rxe8+ Kh7 35.Rh8+! Kxh8 36.Bxg7+ winning the queen. He chose 33...Kh7 34.Rxb8 Qxd5+ instead but eventually couldn't save himself.

Although it couldn't be seen from their faces, both players must have had strong and completely opposite emotions inside. When Carlsen resigned, the two of them completely forgot about anything else and actually shook hands.

Duda thought he didn't play so well and was also disappointed that he hadn't checked the 4...Nf6 Caro-Kann played by Carlsen. "I wasn't very happy with my play, so I thought losing to Magnus is nothing terrible at all. That was kind of relaxing [for] me," said Duda.

Carlsen did not join the official chess broadcast. In the TV2 studio, he said: "It had to happen at some point. But in any case, it's very, very disappointing."

Duda Norway Chess
Duda interviewed after the game. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

A loss by Carlsen is rare, but Caruana losing on the same day is even rarer. According to's IM Rakesh Kulkarni, the last time that happened was in the first round of the 2015 Sinquefield Cup, but back then the American GM was not the number two in the world.

Interestingly, Caruana was following in Aronian's footsteps in what was a 4.f3 Nimzo-Indian. The two followed a recent online game between Aronian as White vs. Grischuk and eventually, Caruana's 10th move deviated from Aronian-Carlsen, Isle of Man 2019.

When he castled queenside, Caruana sharpened up the game further, but Aronian responded well and even after the queens were traded, White was still struggling to develop his kingside. He did so with an exchange sacrifice for a pawn, which was not bad in itself as White also got the bishop pair. However, when Aronian could trade rooks and one of those bishops, it started to go downhill for Caruana.

Caruana-Aronian Norway Chess
Caruana-Aronian. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

For the first time, no armageddon game was played in Stavanger. Thanks to the three points awarded for a win in the standard game, Aronian is the new leader. In second place we find Firouzja, who defeated Tari in an excellent game:

Alireza Firouzja portrait Norway Chess
Firouzja, now in second place. 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

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