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Abdusattorov Wins Without Castling, Nakamura Outplays Gukesh With Black
The young Uzbek prodigy didn't need to castle to win in round two. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Abdusattorov Wins Without Castling, Nakamura Outplays Gukesh With Black

AnthonyLevin
| 31 | Chess Event Coverage

After both winning with Black in their classical games, GMs Nodirbek Abdusattorov and Hikaru Nakamura are half a point behind GM Fabiano Caruana, who takes the sole lead in Norway Chess 2023 with 4.5 points after defeating GM Anish Giri in armageddon.

Abdusattorov committed to not castling as early as move seven against GM Aryan Tari and was rewarded for it in the wildest game of the round. In their first-ever classical matchup, Nakamura got the better of GM Gukesh D in a complicated game when both players were low on time.

GM Alireza Firouzja won his classical game against GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and bounced back to the top half of the standings after losing in round one. GM Magnus Carlsen defeated GM Wesley So in the armageddon after being gifted a draw offer in a pawn-down position in the classical game.

An exciting pairing on Thursday will be Nakamura vs. Carlsen in round three.

Norway Chess continues on Thursday, June 1, starting at 8 a.m. PT/17:00 CEST

How to watch?
You can watch the live broadcast of Norway Chess 2023 on Chess.com/TV. You can also enjoy the show on our Twitch channel and catch all our live broadcasts on YouTube.com/ChesscomLive. The games can also be followed from our Events Page.

Live broadcast of Monday's tournament, hosted by GMs Judit Polgar, David Howell, and IM Jovanka Houska.

At the end of the broadcast, Polgar concluded that this round featured some of "the most interesting, exciting games of my commentary career."

"We could barely take a moment to catch our breaths. There was just action, tactics, tricks on all the boards," said Howell.

Houska summed it up herself in one word: "Wild!"

Let's jump in.

Synchronous handshakes in the playing hall. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Gukesh-Nakamura

Although these two players have played seven games at faster time controls (online and over the board), they'd never played a classical game. Nakamura was surely looking to recover from an armageddon loss against So on the previous day, and a win with Black in the classical was the best possible result.

The first encounter in classical chess. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In the early middlegame, Nakamura expressed satisfaction with the opening outcome after giving his opponent an isolated pawn, stating that he had a similar position from the white side in the past and felt discomfort. Because Gukesh paused to think (taking 11 minutes on 14.a4), Nakamura also felt optimistic that he'd evaded preparation.

As the game developed, Nakamura made the committal 22...f5?!, an interesting (even if a little dubious) positional concession that led to double-edged play. 

"We both had chances at some point," said Nakamura, and he explained that he took over in the time trouble phase. Precisely around move 36, where things went south for White, the grandmasters were essentially playing a blitz game with close to five minutes on the clock.

But the single most interesting move of the game was move 48, where Nakamura went from completely winning to flat-out losing in one move. After shaking hands, the players discussed the arising branches of variations after 48.Bf1!! after the game, which was indeed Gukesh's only chance to not just survive but even win.

A strong recovery for the American grandmaster after a disappointing first day. You can hear his thoughts on the game here:

Nakamura will be speaking at the Norway Summit just a few hours before his big game with Carlsen in round three.

Tari-Abdusattorov

The first classical encounter between these two captivated the commentators' attention. Nakamura, who had the energy to talk about not only his game but others in the confessional booth, expressed shock that Abdusattorov went all out so early. Abdusattorov won in the end, but (as commentators and yours truly often say, but sincerely believe) it could have gone either way.

All out on day two. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The crude 7...Rg8 catches any chess player's attention, but it isn't a novelty. It was played for the first time in 2022, but not by grandmasters. The move, which loudly announces Black's intentions, caused ceaseless laughter from Polgar for a good few minutes.

Abdusattorov would say after: "The opening went well for me, but maybe I should have played [14...]Bg7 instead of [14...]Qa5, not allowing Nc3 and e5." My electric pet super-grandmaster totally agrees.

The position from the very opening was difficult to understand, and Tari in the confessional booth said as much: 

 

Abdusattorov in his interview continued: "After ...Qa5 Nc3 I realized that my position is very difficult. Then, I got this [23...]d3 and [24...]e6 tricks... his king is weak." The Uzbek grandmaster admitted he saw 27.Qb4+! was winning the game for White later on, but after that was missed, the counterattack took over.

Read all about it in our Game of the Day annotations, provided below by GM Rafael Leitao.

Giri-Caruana

The two experienced grandmasters had a plethora of games between them and yet an even score: three wins a piece, 30 draws. Giri won the last decisive game in this matchup, with Black at the 2022 Tata Steel Chess Masters. Their classical record remained the same, but Caruana won the armageddon.

NES sponsor representative Katrine Pedersen makes the ceremonial first move. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

"I think I had the upper hand in both games and I couldn't really make the most of it in the classical game," said Caruana after the games. 

The players followed 19 moves of deep theory in the Kmoch Variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defense, but Giri must have forgotten something. After 20.Qc2, a new move but not a good one, he entered a variation where he lost a pawn. Four moves later, all three commentators agreed that Black was for choice. Polgar summed it up: "It's a very dangerous position for White."

Despite the extra pawn, the win wasn't trivial. After the hesitant play by Black, Giri found a pretty knight sacrifice to equalize the game, which ended many, many moves later.

In the armageddon game, Caruana shared that Giri missed the idea of 21...c5! coupled with 22...f5 on the next move, after which he was better, "and it was very, very smooth" from there. Giri did have more chances for equality than that, which is not good enough in armageddon. The position was practically very difficult already and White collapsed in 33 moves.

Carlsen-So

So defeated Carlsen in classical just once in his career, but it was at this very tournament—Norway Chess 2018. Carlsen, on the other hand, boasts five wins with 14 draws.

In both games, we can say that the opening phase was a success for So. Both games featured the reputable Berlin Defense with 4.d3 (declining the endgame). 

So played the rock-solid Berlin in both games. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In the first game, the players followed a path seen in several correspondence games. Carlsen chose a rare expansion with f3-g4-h4 (seen in one correspondence game) and said that he felt his position was slightly easier to play, even if he was not objectively better. Nevertheless, So was never objectively worse.

After winning a pawn on a4, So offered a draw on move 31, the first move players are allowed to offer a draw. Unsurprisingly, Carlsen accepted. 

Although the position may indeed be holdable, commentator Polgar admitted on the broadcast that she would have continued trying in the position.

The armageddon wasn't clean—let's just call it what it is. In Carlsen's own words: "The game that I won was pretty poor, but at least getting to attack him was fun." 

After simply model play by So, Carlsen was losing out of the opening. But he went for a Hail Mary attack with the completely unsound but ultimately successful 15.Qa4, sacrificing the exchange. He was lost anyway, so why not?

Asked about the "up and down" armageddon game, he wittily replied: "Well, it mostly went down. But then it went up."

Carlsen still sits at the bottom end of the scoreboard with 1.5 points out of a total possible 6 and will need a classical win soon to catch up. 

Firouzja-Mamedyarov

Going into this game, Firouzja had an undefeated and positive score against Mamedyarov, with two wins and one draw. On Wednesday, he increased this to a +3 score in the classical portion.

Friendly smiles before a tough fight. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Firouzja would say after the game about the high number of fighting games in this round: "It's not typical, it's a crazy day."

The players followed a Queen's Gambit Accepted line tested recently in Maghsoodloo-Van Foreest Wijk aan Zee 2023, where Mamedyarov came with an improvement, the top engine's choice 9...a6.

Firouzja would smile and say later: "I was probably lost most of the time, but okay, he was very nervous." Indeed, the evaluation bar swung to and fro, and Mamedyarov's clearest miss was 29...Nxg2?!, plunging into complications, when 29.Ne2! was very likely winning.

After escaping that scare, Firouzja outwitted his opponent in a dynamically equal position, difficult to play for both sides. Mamedyarov lost on time just before move 40, but he was lost on the board too by that point.

Firouzja climbs back to the top half of the scoreboard with this important victory.

Round 2 Scores

Round 3 Pairings

Board Rtg  White Black Rtg
1 2738 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov Gukesh D 2732
2 2731 Nodirbek Abdusattorov Alireza Firouzja 2785
3 2764 Fabiano Caruana Aryan Tari 2642
4 2760 Wesley So Anish Giri 2768
5 2775 Hikaru Nakamura Magnus Carlsen 2853


The 2023 Norway Chess is an elite over-the-board tournament in Stavanger, Norway. The event starts on May 29 at 10 a.m. PT/19:00 CEST with a blitz tournament, followed by a classical event beginning May 30 at 8 a.m. PT/17:00 CEST. 

10 players compete in a single round-robin where they earn 3 points for a win in classical,1.5 for a draw and armageddon win, 1 for a draw and armageddon loss, and 0 for a loss. The player who played White in the classical game plays White in the armageddon. The time control for the classical game is 120 minutes for the entire game with a 10-second increment per move starting on move 41. In the armageddon game, White gets 10 minutes and Black gets seven minutes with draw odds, plus a one-second increment for both players starting on move 41.


Previous coverage:

AnthonyLevin
NM Anthony Levin

NM Anthony Levin caught the chess bug at the "late" age of 18 and never turned back. He earned his national master title in 2021, actually the night before his first day of work at Chess.com.

Anthony, who also earned his Master's in teaching English in 2018, taught English and chess in New York schools for five years and strives to make chess content accessible and enjoyable for people of all ages. At Chess.com, he writes news articles and manages social media for chess24.

Email:  anthony.levin@chess.com

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