Highpoints & Heartbreaks In Stavanger
Vachier-Lagrave struck against So in round seven. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Highpoints & Heartbreaks In Stavanger

| 21 | Chess Event Coverage

As the World Champion Magnus Carlsen on Tuesday struggled in yet another armageddon duel, losing his fourth of the kind, the situation at the top of the leaderboard is making us eager to see the players return from their day off to finish the tournament. 

With GM Viswanathan Anand winning his armageddon game along GMs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov defeating their respective opponents in their classical games, it is clear that the winner of the event will be one of these four players. Round eight will begin on Thursday, June 7, at 8 a.m. PT / 17:00 Central Europe.

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In the previous round, it was the players at the bottom of the standings who made moves to change their fate; in Tuesday's round, it was decided which players will play for the tournament win in the last two rounds of the tournament. With up to three points being awarded per game, many things can change and Carlsen's narrow lead over Anand with Vachier-Lagrave and Mamedyarov breathing hard right behind them, anything can happen. 

Vachier Lagrave-So

Prior to this round, it seemed as if GM Wesley So would be the only player aside from the two leaders to contend for the tournament crown, whereas the French grandmaster had struggled a bit to get his game flowing, particularly in the classical games. Both of those things would change by the end of round seven.

Against Vachier-Lagrave's Ruy Lopez, So went for his usual, solid Berlin Variation, indicating that he would be okay with a draw. Rather than entering the Berlin Wall Variation that Vachier-Lagrave has eagerly combated on the white side in the past, he went for the more patient but still enormously popular 5.Re1 which leads to a different type of chess: fewer exchanges, more maneuvering, and resembling more a Petroff (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6) than a Ruy Lopez.

The Frenchman deviated from established theory on move 16, but already two moves later So made a serious mistake when he played 18...Ne4 which cost him a couple of tempi, resulting in a passive position.

Wesley So struggled after several uncharacteristic mistakes and lost. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

A little combination netted White a pawn but when So uncharacteristically made a calculation mistake. After a forcing sequence, the game entered an endgame game where White, through relatively simple means, could convert his advantage into a win. Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov


Top of the standings vs. the bottom, hot streak vs. struggle, White vs. Black. All the pre-game indicators would tell us that Anand would be the favorite vs. GM Teimour Radjabov who is having a nightmare of dress rehearsal for the Candidates tournament which starts less than a week after the conclusion of this tournament. But things are rarely that simple in chess, and believing them to be simple is usually a gross miscalculation, something that an old experienced fox like Anand is unlikely to make.

In an Italian Game, White seemed to get an edge through a space advantage. However, through careful play in the middlegame, Radjabov neutralized White's pressure and was never really in any kind of trouble.

Next up was the armageddon game, and here has Anand been incredibly effective throughout this event, including taking down Carlsen in their face-to-face encounter. Here, in another Italian Game, Radjabov quickly solved his opening problems and after a mistake from Anand, Black was even better causing White serious trouble on the kingside. 

The king of the armageddon: Anand. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

However, after one slip-up by Black, the tiger from Madras pounced on its prey, like Hobbes on Calvin in the classic comic strip, and it was instantly over.

Topalov-Wang Hao

Against GM Wang Hao, former FIDE World Champion GM Veselin Topalov tried his hardest, nearly succeeded, and then collapsed. It was utterly heartbreaking to see, but also a demonstration of what happens if you keep trying to create problems for your opponents to solve, even when you are much worse: sometimes they fail to solve them and then you get your chances.

In a Sveshnikov Sicilian, Topalov went for the harmless 6.Nde2, which allows Black to equalize rather smoothly. This, however, did not deter the players from continuing for a long time, with mainly Topalov pushing for more.

The rook ending was tragically poorly played by both players with more mistakes and blunders than should be allowed by such strong players, but both were clearly tired, Wang was in time trouble, and Topalov played a little too fast in an attempt to take advantage of it and stay ahead on the clock. Topalov missed many, very simple wins and in the end, when he had to find that one single move that would let him win, 80.h4!, he failed to do so and Wang got away with a draw.

Settling down for the armageddon game must have been hopelessly difficult for Topalov, having just blown such a winning position. The play on the board soon became evidence of that. Topalov repeated the 6.Nde2 against Wang's Sveshnikov, but Black tried a different set-up, not feeling like another long squeeze with 30% less time on the clock than the opponent. Black managed to equalize and after a mistake by Topalov, Black even took over the initiative.

After stodgy defense in the classical game, Wang Hao delivered fireworks in the armageddon game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

After more hesitation by Topalov on the queenside, Wang unleashed a ferocious attack on the kingside. Even if Black missed the best continuation, Topalov's rattled mind was no match for the fury it was facing on the board and was soon punched out.

What a game! This could certainly help Wang to forget the struggles of the previous rounds and deliver a good sprint in the last two games.


Norwegian GM Aryan Tari is having the kind of event that he will not forget for a while. After a last-minute withdrawal by GM Richard Rapport, Tari got the opportunity to play in Norway Chess again this year. Ahead of this round, he had won and lost a classical game, drawn four but lost all four armageddons despite having excellent positions in some of them—for instance, in round six against So he had a completely winning position but then missed two simple wins in a row and then ended up losing the game.

Norwegian Aryan Tari has had a memorable event. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

His round seven opponent was none other than the World Champion Magnus Carlsen who would love nothing more than to down his younger compatriot. Well aware of this, Tari chose to play the Four Knights Game with 4.d4, which can easily cause a lot of pieces to get exchanged as Black is trying to equalize. 

Carlsen to his credit tried to stir the pot a little by playing 9...Rb8 and 11...Be6, forcing Tari out of his preparation. He almost succeeded, but the equilibrium was never far away and eventually, the players ran into a repetition of moves.

In any kind of replay, play-off, armageddon, etc, Carlsen would be considered the favorite, but in this event, things have not quite worked out for him in the armageddon games. Before this round, he had only won one but lost two. Tari had done even worse, losing all four of his armageddon games. 

Carlsen opted for a version of the Hippo System, something he regularly plays in blitz, forcing his opponent out of book, while allowing himself an opportunity to play a lot of moves fast. The play eventually transposed into a Paulsen/Kan Sicilian where Black had equalized. 

However, after 13...d5?, White took the initiative again, but Black always stayed in the game, only being somewhat worse. Then, running short on time, Carlsen went for another transformation on the board when sacrificing the exchange. This did not work as well and after further inaccuracies and outright mistakes, Tari was allowed to land a decisive combination.

A sensation in Norway, where Tari immediately afterward was interviewed for television to talk about his first victory against the World Champion.

Carlsen ponders the situation after Tari's Nxf5+. Photo: Maria Emelianova/


In round six, Mamedyarov had been on the defending side of the Carlsen squeeze, in this game he had the opportunity to put his opponent, GM Anish Giri, in the same kind of situation.

After a solid opening by both players, White ended up with an inconsequential extra pawn. Mamedyarov, however, not willing to settle for a draw, kept squeezing. Eventually, small mistakes started sneaking in, allowing Mamedyarov to transform the position into something more tangible.

Mamedyarov had a chance to do his own version of the Carlsen squeeze in his game against Giri. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Black still had drawing chances, but as the players started getting tired, smaller and bigger mistakes crept in, but Giri made the last one, when he, in somewhat unnecessary desperation, decided to sacrifice the exchange, allowing Mamedyarov to convert the advantage rather smoothly.

Round 7 Standings

 All Games Round 7

The 2022 Norway Chess runs May 31-June 10, 2022. The event consists of a 10-player single round-robin in a classical time control of 120 minutes for the game with a 10-second increment after move 40. The scoring system is three points for a win instead of the usual one. If the game is drawn, competitors play an armageddon game with the winner scoring 1.5 points and the loser 1 point. The prize fund is 2.5 million Norwegian kroner (NOK).

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