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Norway Chess R1: Rapport Early Leader As Firouzja-Carlsen Goes To Armageddon
Magnus Carlsen (left), Alireza Firouzja (right), and Richard Rapport (middle). Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Norway Chess R1: Rapport Early Leader As Firouzja-Carlsen Goes To Armageddon

PeterDoggers
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23 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Richard Rapport is the early leader at the Norway Chess tournament which took off on Tuesday. The Hungarian GM beat Norway's GM Aryan Tari in the classical game to score three points, whereas GM Magnus Carlsen got 1.5 points for his armageddon win against GM Alireza Firouzja after the two had drawn before.

The third game, between GM Ian Nepomniachtchi and GM Sergey Karjakin, will be played on the rest day as Nepomniachtchi could only arrive in Stavanger in the morning of the first round after having visa issues.

How to watch?
The games of Norway Chess can be found here as part of our live events platform. Games are starting daily at 8:00 a.m. Pacific / 17:00 Central Europe.


The ninth edition of Norway Chess is, like last year, a six-player, double round-robin. Half of the field is the same: Carlsen, Firouzja, and Tari. Karjakin returns after playing last in 2018; he won the first two editions in 2013 and 2014. Both Nepomniachtchi and Rapport are making their debut in Norway.

The most interesting twist is the fact that Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi are going to be playing their last two classical games before their world championship match in November. The first of these two clashes will be in the fourth round, coming Friday.

Nepomniachtchi arrived at the Clarion Hotel Energy in Stavanger about an hour before the start of the first round, so theoretically he could have played. However, it had already been arranged that he'll play his game with Karjakin on the rest day, which is Saturday.

Media Norway Chess 2021
Media gathering for the start of the round. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

In the end, we did get to see three games today: two classical and one armageddon. Firouzja and Carlsen started with a draw in what was a Rossolimo Sicilian, which saw an interesting opening phase.

Firouzja came with a novelty at move seven and, as so often in modern chess, it involved a push of the h-pawn, despite White having already castled. Carlsen's reply led to a lot of trades after which the remainder was fairly equal:

Firouzja Carlsen Norway Chess 2021
Firouzja and Carlsen posing for the photographers. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

The specialty at Norway Chess is that players who draw their game, play an armageddon game next (after a break of about 20 minutes) where the winner gets 1.5 points for the overall standings and the loser one. For such a game, White gets 10 minutes and Black gets seven minutes and draw odds. There is a one-second increment starting from move 41.

Firouzja, therefore, had to win as White for this one and he came very, very close. Admittedly, it was Carlsen who stole the show first with a flashy and well-calculated exchange sacrifice but the world champion missed a strong follow-up.

Firouzja could consolidate, with an exchange for a pawn, and then took over with a tactical shot on move 34 that must have come as a surprise. The French-Iranian grandmaster got a winning position but lacked the time to finish things off. With just a few seconds on the clock, he let Carlsen escape:

Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

Firouzja Carlsen armageddon 2021 Norway Chess
The Firouzja-Carlsen armageddon game. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

That means Firouzja has one point and Carlsen is currently in second place on 1.5 points, which is still half of what Rapport got for his classical win over Tari.

Somehow Tari's opening didn't work at all. The delayed exchange vs. the French isn't super ambitious but not bad in itself (as Rapport had shown himself in a quick win with the white pieces—see the annotations). 9.Be2 and 10.Nh4 was not a great combination though as afterward Black got a long-lasting positional advantage: good knight on c4 vs. bad bishop on c1.

Eventually, Tari had to give up that bishop and actually got three pawns for it, but Black was still dominating positionally:

Richard Rapport 2021 Norway Chess
Richard Rapport, the leader after the first day. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

It doesn't say much with the Elo ratings of the players being so close to each other, but Rapport is virtually a top 10 player now:

Richard Rapport Top 10 live ratings
Rapport entered the top 10 in the live ratings. Image: 2700chess.

The second round is on Wednesday with the games Carlsen-Tari, Nepomniachtchi-Firouzja, and Karjakin-Rapport.

Norway Chess takes place September 7-18, 2021 in Stavanger, Norway. The format is a double round-robin among six players. The time control is 120 minutes for the whole game, with a 10-second increment starting from move 41. In case of a draw, the players play an armageddon game with the same colors. White has 10 minutes and Black has seven minutes with a one-second increment starting from move 41. A victory in the main game gives three points, a loss in the main game zero points, a draw in the main game & victory armageddon 1.5 points, a loss in the armageddon one point.

Aryan Tari 2021 Norway Chess
Aryan Tari, sporting a Superman-like "kiss-curl," couldn't start with a super game today. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.
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