Norway Chess R8: Carlsen Beats Rapport In Top Clash
Rapport resigns his game with Carlsen. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Norway Chess R8: Carlsen Beats Rapport In Top Clash

| 33 | Chess Event Coverage

The Norway Chess tournament is wide open again as leader GM Richard Rapport lost his first classical game, to runner-up GM Magnus Carlsen. The Hungarian GM still leads but only by half a point, so anything is possible in the final two rounds.

In another round without armageddons, GM Alireza Firouzja moved to third place as he won his second game in a row, vs. GM Sergey Karjakin, whereas GM Aryan Tari scored his first win in the tournament, against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi.

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Round 8 Standings

# Fed Name Rating Classical Armageddon Total
1 Richard Rapport 2760 12 3.5 15.5
2 Magnus Carlsen 2855 9 6 15
3 Alireza Firouzja 2754 9 3 12
4 Ian Nepomniachtchi 2792 3 6.5 9.5
5 Sergey Karjakin 2758 3 5.5 8.5
6 Aryan Tari 2642 3 3 6

The first half was a very slow start for Carlsen, who couldn't win a single classical game. The second half is a difference of night and day, with three straight victories for the world champion. Beating the tournament leader was important today.

Carlsen was surprised early in the opening, though, when Rapport went for the somewhat new and slightly odd 4...Ne7!? move in the 4.d3 Anti-Berlin.

The tactical point of this move is 5.Nxe5?? c6 and when the bishop moves, 6...Qa5+ picks up the knight on e5.

"I wouldn't say it was an unpleasant surprise," said Carlsen. "I actually thought about it before the game that he's insane enough to maybe play this move so I should check it but then I forgot about it, I didn't actually check it. Frankly, I just decided we should just play a normal game. You can just get a position after this."

I actually thought about it before the game that he's insane enough to maybe play this move so I should check it.
—Magnus Carlsen

And indeed, a rather normal middlegame position arose where Rapport always looked very solid. Both Tari (who finished his game around move 32 of Carlsen-Rapport) and Firouzja (who talked about the position after move 44) expected the game to end in a draw.

Carlsen Rapport 2021 Norway Chess
Carlsen vs. Rapport. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

"It felt like it was very hard for me to find a plan and make progress," Carlsen admitted. "I was just kind of shuffling around. Then I thought his plan with 22...Nhf4 and so on was a bit dubious because I don't think the knight does anything there at all, but still, it was solid for him and it was very hard to break down."

The turning point came around move 32, according to Carlsen: "I was very happy to exchange light-squared bishops. I thought after that I had reasonable control over the position. Probably a bit like Aryan yesterday, he should not have allowed 43.h5. Then I get some more possibilities. I assume he had chances later on to make a draw as well but it was not easy."

Magnus Carlsen selfie
Carlsen, after today's win: "It's getting better each day. I'm just happy that I'm still in the tournament. I worked very hard in the last few days so I'll have to work in the last two days as well." Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Firouzja hadn't played against Karjakin yet before this tournament, and therefore his victory today was automatically his first win ever against the Russian GM. "It feels great to win with black," he said. "It's not every day you win with black against such a top player so I'm happy to get the win."

Firouzja scored from the black side of a very interesting, creative, and thematic Najdorf where the central theme was the fight for the d5-square. GM Dejan Bojkov explains:

Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

Karjakin Firouzja 2021 Norway Chess
Karjakin vs. Firouzja. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

While the world champion won his third game in a row, Nepomniachtchi is suddenly having a bad streak with first an armageddon loss (to Karjakin) and then two classical losses. Today the world championship challenger unexpectedly lost to tail-ender Tari, who received a congratulatory tap on the shoulder from Carlsen in the playing hall when the game finished.

"I'm very happy for him," said Carlsen. "This makes such a big difference for him and I hope he will gain a lot of motivation for the last two rounds."

Carlsen Tari 2021 Norway Chess
Carlsen checking on Tari's game. He later tapped his compatriot on the shoulder after Nepomniachtchi resigned. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Tari: "It feels really amazing, especially since I lost three games in a row before this game. Yesterday I was really sad and depressed. Today, with black against Ian, I was thinking: I'm definitely going to do my best but if I lose again it will be so bad, four losses in a row."

He added: "I also missed so many chances. Against Magnus, I lost a dead-drawn game yesterday, against Alireza I was winning, and against Magnus in the first game I was winning. So I feel like I missed a lot of points so this win really means a lot to me."

Aryan Tari smile Norway Chess 2021
A happy Aryan Tari leaving the playing hall. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

That feeling seems justified because the Norwegian GM, as commentator GM David Howell put it, "outmaneuvered" the winner of the Candidates, who played f2-f4 too early and later missed the one chance he unexpectedly got to force a draw:

Nepomniachtchi Tari 2021 Norway Chess
Nepomniachtchi vs. Tari. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.
  • Round nine pairings (Thursday): Carlsen-Karjakin, Rapport-Nepomniachtchi, Tari-Firouzja.
  • Final round pairings (Friday): Nepomniachtchi-Carlsen, Firouzja-Rapport, Karjakin-Tari.

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 followed by a victory in the armageddon, 1.5 points; and a loss in the armageddon, one point.

Earlier reports:

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