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World Number-2 Caruana Leads By 4, Gukesh Sacrifices Queen Vs. Carlsen
Gukesh sacrificed his queen in a near masterpiece against the world number-one. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

World Number-2 Caruana Leads By 4, Gukesh Sacrifices Queen Vs. Carlsen

AnthonyLevin
| 40 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Fabiano Caruana continues to surge in Norway Chess 2023 and in the world rankings after with Black defeating GM Alireza Firouzja in the classical game. He leads the tournament by four points (!) with 10.5/12 and overtakes Firouzja as number two in the world with a 2787.9 rating.

All other games were decided in armageddon. GM Hikaru Nakamura with Black beat GM Anish Giri, GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov won with White against GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov, and GM Wesley So drew with Black to lock down victory against GM Aryan Tari. In each of the latter two games, there was an instance of mutual blindness, where a one-move blunder could have decided the game in the opposite direction.

In an epic faceoff, GM Gukesh D sacrificed his queen for two minor pieces against GM Magnus Carlsen in an armageddon game for the history books. Yet the former world champion defended tenaciously and won the game.

Nakamura is in second place with 6.5 points, followed by Firouzja in third with 6.

Norway Chess continues on Sunday, June 4, 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.

During the rest day on Friday, the grandmasters put their fashion skills to the test and worked in teams to design knittable sweaters.

Team Giri and Abdusattorov won the event (despite Firouzja's claim: "They stole our idea"). The Dutch number-one (and former CEO of Chess.com) said: "We don't follow people. We make fashion."

Going into the round on Saturday, Caruana led the tournament by 1.5 points. Under normal circumstances, this would be a significant lead, but it was still within the margin of one classical victory. 

Caruana-Firouzja

With regard to tournament standing, this was the most important game of the day: tournament leader against his closest pursuer, world number-three vs. number-two, experience vs. youth.

Going into the game, Caruana led their head-to-head classical encounters +3 -1 =6. In rapid, too, he led +4 -1 =3. After the game, Caruana said he would have been satisfied with a draw with Black, but Firouzja was gunning for more.

Despite their ratings on paper, Caruana had a pleasant lifetime score against Firouzja going into the game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Curiously, the French Defense has had a bit of a renaissance in recent years. Most recently, GM Ding Liren tried it at the last world championship, Carlsen played it earlier in the week (against Caruana and lost), and the U.S. champion had a crack at it himself on Saturday. "I surprised him in the opening for sure," said Caruana after the game.

The confident American grandmaster went for materialism out of the opening: give me the pawns. He swallowed Firouzja's queenside and said, "Show me the compensation" with 13...Kd8 (having used under four minutes for the entire game until then). 

Firouzja later thought for 11 minutes before playing 17.Nd6?. Caruana said: "He played this crazy move Nd6.... I didn't understand. I'm not in danger after that.... I'm two pawns up and I didn't see his compensation." As he pointed out, castling instead would have been better, and Caruana planned 17...Qc4 to trade queens for an equal endgame.

After 19...f6 was on the board, Polgar announced Firouzja was already in damage-control mode. With nothing short of flawless play, Caruana sacrificed his full rook on h8 for the attack and won what Polgar called it the "game of the tournament so far," adding that she still expected more exciting games to come. 

(Our Game of the Day came later in the evening.)

Caruana is the world number-two for the first time since 2021. His peak rating was 2844 (in 2014), the third-highest achieved ever (behind only Carlsen and GM Garry Kasparov).

Gukesh-Carlsen

This cross-generational pairing had a little bit of recent history; Gukesh with Black defeated Carlsen in the blitz event on Monday. In their second classical game to date (they drew in Tata Steel Chess earlier this year), the colors were reversed.

Each player was motivated to win. Carlsen has yet to win a game in the classical portion of this tournament, and Gukesh for his part had an opportunity to upset the highest-rated player in history.

The classical game was a long, 82-move struggle. Gukesh had a slight advantage out of the opening in an Italian after improving on previous play by countryman GM Arjun Erigaisi. But starting with the cunning 13...Bg4, Carlsen muddied the waters with a pawn sacrifice. 

The former world champion takes a risk (off the board). Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Gukesh had just one opportunity to keep a small advantage in a complex position, but after missing the subtle 19.Bg3, Carlsen had full compensation for the pawn. At one point, he shared his optimism in the confessional booth (in Norwegian) during the game:

The world number-one reached an equal queen endgame and pressed as long as he could (they were the last classical game in the playing hall), only agreeing to draw when it was unavoidable.

The second game started as another slow-burner Italian, but it didn't remain pianissimo for long. Gukesh fought with all his heart for the win on Saturday.

With 21.c4, Gukesh committed to an exchange sacrifice (though he gained two pawns for it). But the most impressive moment was, of course, when he sacrificed his queen on move 27, a decision that took all three commentators by surprise.

The ensuing complications were just maddening. It was easier to play for White, then for Black; then White was winning; then he wasn't. Nothing was clear. Gukesh had just one clear win with 41.e6!, but with 52 seconds on the clock, he can be forgiven for missing it. 

After tremendous defense, Carlsen won the game with a knight fork when the players each had four seconds.

This commendable fighting spirit by both players earns our distinction of Game of the Day, annotated below by GM Dejan Bojkov. 

Chess.com Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

Giri-Nakamura

Nakamura leads their classical encounters with five wins to two, but on Saturday they made their 27th draw in the classical portion.

The first game was an exercise in recalling opening theory, and both players were up to the task.

In addition to making daily recap videos, Nakamura has also provided commentary during his games from the confessional booth. Around the end of the opening moves (somewhere by 15...Ra6), he believed Giri looked frustrated that his opponent knew the whole line.

Despite any frustration in terms of gaining an advantage, Giri was never worse. The pieces flew off the board and they finished the first game of the day. Draw.

Demonstrating his knowledge of the position, Nakamura mentioned the predecessor game, Firouzja-Praggnanandhaa 2022, off the top of his head in the interview later.

Giri decided to challenge Nakamura in the Berlin endgame in game two—an interesting choice of opening, as trading queens on move eight has clear downsides in a must-win situation. However, our perception is colored by the result: a win for White would have swung opinions the other way. 

Nakamura said he was "not super surprised" by the opening choice actually. He added that it would have been more favorable with less time; for example; five minutes vs. four minutes, instead of 10 vs. seven.

 

A stable result with the black pieces for Nakamura. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

He explained the critical moment: "When I played this whole ...b5 ...c6, all my moves I could play in one second." Although the engine disagrees with his assessment of 29...b5, it did the trick in the game. 

You can watch Nakamura's recap video and his interview below.

Mamedyarov-Abdusattorov

Despite having played each other 14 times in faster time controls, this was the first classical game between the Azerbaijani and Uzbek grandmasters. Both were coming off losses in the previous round—the former in armageddon, the latter in classical.

Mamedyarov earns his second victory in the tournament. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Mamedyarov paused for a 14-minute think on move 27. Although the evaluation bar didn't steer far from equality, the commentators believed there was certainly some danger for White—if not objectively, at least practically.

Still, the Azerbaijani grandmaster held the balance, and the players agreed to draw after 48 moves.

Mamedyarov won his second game in the tournament in the armageddon. In a slow squeeze, he was able to plant a knight on c6; the engine isn't impressed, but the commentators pointed out the difficulty of defending the position in human terms.

He went on to win a clean-looking game, blasting open the center with 35.e4! and devouring the black king. But a closer look also reveals that there was a hidden "cold shower" on move 31, where Abdusattorov could have won on the spot with Rxc6!, a missed opportunity.

After the game, Mamedyarov reflected: "Tournament's not going very well, but still to win some match is very good." He went on: "I don't win any games in classical. I mean, my feeling is just normal. I hope I can win some games in classical."

He remains in second-to-last with 4/12.

Tari-So

Both Tari and So "stopped the bleeding" with a draw in the classical portion—their fourth draw with no decisive games to date. Tari was on 1/9 going into the round, while So had 3/9, not having won a game since beating Nakamura in the armageddon on day one.

The first game was not as interesting as the second. The players marched down the heavily theoretical paths of the Marshall Attack, and on move 18 Tari decided to give the pawn back and trade queens. So had the better side of the equal position, but it was a draw nevertheless.

The King's Gambit made its second appearance this tournament in the armageddon, this time Tari taking up the mantle (the first was Nakamura)—but just as on Thursday, it didn't work out for the white pieces.

Although the opening didn't go so well, Tari did have an instant winning position after So blundered with 26...h6??. With more than five minutes on the clock, the Norwegian grandmaster took just 10 seconds to play 27.d4 and missed the opportunity. So had missed this too and was surprised when told in the interview about the hidden tactic.

So finished the game with a pretty and efficient stalemate.

So wins the match with two draws. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

After the games, So explained: "It's very difficult to get a playable position to play for a win with either color. Like, Aryan is very well-prepared with White. I considered several openings, but unless you play every single opening... sometimes you're just not going to get enough playable positions to play for a win."

Round 4 Scores

Round 5 Pairings

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


The 2023 Norway Chess is an elite over-the-board tournament in Stavanger, Norway. The event started on May 29 with a blitz tournament, followed by a classical event beginning May 30. 

In the tournament, 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.

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