Norway Chess Round 7: Firouzja Maintains Lead As Aronian Flags
Aronian lost on time in the armageddon. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Norway Chess Round 7: Firouzja Maintains Lead As Aronian Flags

| 28 | Chess Event Coverage

With a bit of luck, GM Alireza Firouzja maintained his lead at the Altibox Norway Chess tournament after GM Levon Aronian lost on time in their armageddon game in round seven. GM Magnus Carlsen was under pressure vs. GM Fabiano Caruana but survived the standard game and drew the armageddon as Black.

GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda scored his second win in a standard game, this time vs. GM Aryan Tari, who played the Delayed Janisch/Schliemann.

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2020 Norway Chess | Round 7 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts
1 Firouzja, Alireza 2728 1 1.5 1.5 1.5 3 3 3 14.5
2 Carlsen, Magnus 2863 1.5 1.5 3 1.5 0 3 3 13.5
3 Aronian, Levon 2767 1 1 1 3 0 3 3 12
4 Caruana, Fabiano 2828 1 0 1 0 3 3 3 11
5 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 2757 0 3 0 0 0 1 3 7
6 Tari, Aryan 2633 0 0 0 0 0 1.5 0 1.5

"I guess you should lose on time one game, and then you understand what is one second," said Firouzja after he beat Aronian in another wild armageddon game. "He should just press the clock. He was not concentrated on the clock, I think."

Referring to his armageddon loss to Carlsen (his only loss in 11 games), the Iranian teenager emphasized the importance of clock handling when the increment is just one second. While that allows you to increase your time quickly a bit in online chess, in over-the-board chess it's just about enough time to reach out and press the clock.

Firouzja Aronian armageddon Norway Chess
A tough finish of the game for Aronian. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

The armageddon came after an interesting classical fight (see the game viewer below) where Firouzja held a slight edge in an Exchange Grunfeld, and Aronian defended well.

In the next game, Firouzja switched from 1.d4 to 1.e4. Making the point that openings are less important in faster chess, he played the Four Knights with the very rare pawn move 4.h3.

Eventually, the players reached an endgame with a rook, a knight, and five pawns each when Firouzja blundered into a tactic. With a minute and seven seconds (vs. 23 seconds for Firouzja), Aronian saw the knight fork but as it turned out, there were two ways to execute the tactic, and he chose the wrong one.

The Armenian GM was still better and ended up winning a pawn but by then, the only question was: Who is going to lose on time? Although he had nine seconds compared to Firouzja's four at one point, that player was Aronian.

Firouzja: "I got lucky, of course, but I'll take it!"

Firouzja Norway Chess round 7
Firouzja is still in the lead, but he will be facing Caruana and Carlsen next. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Winning this tournament would be sensational for Firouzja. "I have three tough games, so I'm thinking about the games and not anything else," he said. Tomorrow his opponent is Caruana. "Every time I play against him, it's an interesting game so I look forward to it."

A day later he will face Carlsen, his main rival at this point. The world champion is still a point behind as he also won his armageddon—by comfortably holding the draw as Black against Caruana (see below).

Caruana Carlsen Norway Chess
In the standard game, Caruana definitely had chances vs. Carlsen this time. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

That was after surviving a scare in the standard game. "I thought for sure that it was extremely dangerous," said Carlsen. "The fact that I'm holding after all this 29.Ne5 Qc8 stuff is a bit of luck, I would say. Sometimes these things just collapse but fortunately, they didn't today."

Caruana has been waiting for five years to beat Carlsen in a classical game. It was close this time. How much Carlsen was under pressure showed from the fact that after move 19 he had about an hour less on the clock, something that rarely happens in his games.

Magnus Carlsen thinking
Carlsen in the tank. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Carlsen: "It was a very difficult decision; I wasn't so disappointed after the opening, but then I went wrong with 17...Na5 and after that, it was just horribly difficult. I think it's a typical situation. When you have a lot of poor choices, then you spend a lot of time on them."

Carlsen TV2 studio
Carlsen in the TV2 studio with host Fin Gnatt and GMs Jon Ludvig Hammer and Nils Grandelius. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

The only decisive standard game was also the wildest of them all. Trying the Delayed Janisch/Schliemann (3...a6 4.Ba4 f5!? in the Ruy Lopez) was a brave choice by Tari, while Duda didn't shy away from the most critical moves, thereby sacrificing his "Spanish" bishop.

By move 10, that bishop got trapped in the pawn chain a6-b5-c4, but funny enough it only got captured 10 moves later. By then, Duda was two pawns up.

Tari has been having a rough tournament. His next opponent is Carlsen, who said: "Obviously I'll try to win tomorrow. There's no mercy... I hope!"

Duda-Tari Norway Chess Schliemann
The rare but interesting Schliemann in Duda-Tari. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Round 7 | All games

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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