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3 Americans Lead In Norway; So, Giri Pick Up First Wins; Carlsen Struggles Vs. Firouzja
A clash of generations, Carlsen vs. Firouzja. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

3 Americans Lead In Norway; So, Giri Pick Up First Wins; Carlsen Struggles Vs. Firouzja

AnthonyLevin
| 52 | Chess Event Coverage

After seven rounds, the top three spots are taken by three American grandmasters at Norway Chess 2023. GM Fabiano Caruana continues to lead by 2 points despite losing on time in armageddon against GM Gukesh D with a winning position on the board.

GM Hikaru Nakamura remains in second with 12.5/21 after testing GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in deep Queen's Gambit Accepted theory. After reciting 28 top engine moves and making a draw in the classical, Mamedyarov also lost on time in armageddon after achieving a drawn position with Black.

GM Wesley So scored his first classical win after 14 consecutive draws against GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov. GM Anish Giri also netted his first 3-pointer against GM Aryan Tari with exceptional technique in a rook endgame. Finally, GM Magnus Carlsen failed to convert a winning position against GM Alireza Firouzja and nearly lost but went on to win the tiebreaker.

So jumps into third place with 10.5 points, while Giri and Gukesh are half a point behind that.

There are two rounds left for Caruana's competitors. After the last rest day, Norway Chess continues on Thursday, June 8, 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 Sunday's tournament, hosted by GMs Judit Polgar, David Howell, and IM Jovanka Houska.

The clock is ticking for the pack as Norway Chess races to the final two rounds. Even on Tuesday, the commentators mentioned Caruana is within striking distance of clinching the title early. 

By official rating lists, the last time Carlsen was rated under 2840 was the year 2018.

Caruana-Gukesh

The players had an even score in classical chess after two previous encounters but no draws. Gukesh, on his way to an incredible 8/8 winning streak at the 2022 Chess Olympiad in Chennai, defeated the U.S. Champion. But Caruana had his revenge with a victory in Tata Steel Chess this year.

Considering the tournament situation, a draw was an acceptable result for the American grandmaster in the classical. Gukesh's memory was scrutinized in a line of the Berlin, but he passed the test.

In his own words, the Indian grandmaster said: "It was just good prep. I equalized quite easily, but after the opening, okay, he was trying for some chances, but... it was just a draw."

The armageddon game didn't go so smoothly. Gukesh put it this way: "In armageddon, he deviated from the classical game with [7.] h3. I could not remember what to do and I got a bit of an unpleasant position, especially in this time control, where there is no clear plan."

By the time 16.Qg3 was on the board, Gukesh said he was worried and that Caruana had a clear plan of attack. Soon enough: "He got everything he could have hoped for and of course, I was lost."

Gukesh added, though: "When it came down to 10 seconds, I thought I might have a chance." In a winning queen endgame, but with just a one-second increment, Caruana lost on time.

A fortunate break for Gukesh. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

This is not a catastrophe for the American grandmaster, who still has a healthy lead in the tournament. It's also a promising result for the Indian number-two who remains in the top half of the scoreboard—at age 17 in an elite event.

Nakamura-Mamedyarov

Nakamura enjoyed a +2 lifetime score and their last classical meeting was at the FIDE Grand Prix, the event Nakamura won to qualify for the 2022 Candidates tournament. While other games were still in the early days, this encounter moved at a breakneck pace as the players blitzed out over 20 moves of theory. 

Although Mamedyarov sacrificed a knight in the opening (top engine move), Nakamura explained during his in-game confessional that he predicted the game to end in a quick draw. His opponent had done his homework. Nakamura later said: "I basically hoped that Mameduyarov wouldn't know the line to the end."

At the half-hour mark, Nakamura's prediction materialized: a draw indeed. It was the first game to finish.

A sharp game turns out to be a memory test. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

The armageddon game was a rollercoaster. After a brilliant bishop sacrifice, Mamedyarov was winning but played hesitantly. Nakamura pointed out that the Azerbaijani grandmaster tried too hard to play for the draw when he had a winning position.

On the live broadcast, Nakamura would say: "We both probably had chances... but you keep the game going and things sort of work out," adding, "I think the main thing was finding ways to pose practical problems."

... you keep the game going and things sort of work out.

—Hikaru Nakamura

"At the end, of course, I blundered right back with this Nc3 move... it was wild." Although Mamedyarov played the correct 68...Ra2!!, just like the Caruana game, by the time he reached for the clock the game was over. 

You can listen to Nakamura's analysis in the video below.

The players did not shake hands after the game, but likely not out of malintent. The end of the game was rattling even for spectators, let alone the players.

About his overall performance in the tournament, Nakamura assessed: "I think overall my score now at least reflects how I've played." The only game he was unhappy with was his armageddon loss to So in round one after spoiling a great position.

Sharing a hot take when he joined the live broadcast, Nakamura also advocated for making it mandatory for players to share their thoughts in a confessional booth at tournaments.

Carlsen-Firouzja

This was one of the most anticipated matchups in the round. Over a year ago, the former world champion expressed his desire to play a world championship match with the youngest player to reach the 2800-rating threshold. Carlsen had never lost a classical game to the French number-one and enjoyed a +4 score with two draws.

As Nakamura's game reached move 22, Carlsen and Firouzzja made just four moves. From the confessional booth, Carlsen said he thought about every possibility in the opening except what happened in the game. He was out of his preparation by move three.

As other players joined the commentary team after their games, each of them had something to say about the exciting game. Gukesh thought 3.Bd3 led to "a completely random position," while So joked: "I thought Magnus pre-moved Bd3."

I thought Magnus pre-moved Bd3.

—Wesley So

Nakamura summarized the middlegame developments in favor of Carlsen: "He provoked Alireza to play this ...g5-g4 and I love his position now." He added: "Magnus likes king safety,"  also pointing out that Carlsen likes to provoke pawn moves because pawns cannot go backward. Nakamura predicted a Carlsen win.

Carlsen gradually outplayed his younger opponent but then started to slip. A clear moment was 23.Qc3?, where Gukesh saw the refutation instantly on the live broadcast. After Black missed it, Polgar concluded: "Basically we can say White is winning, strategically." 

The world number-one started to lose control after 39.Rxe4 and all mayhem broke loose. As the evaluation bar read 0.00, the Norwegian grandmaster's position seemed harder to play, and soon he was completely lost.

A missed opportunity for both players. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Caruana was in the Twitch chat at this time and pointed out that there was an underpromotion tactic for mate—just before Firouzja went for a draw by repetition.

This intense battle is covered by GM Dejan Bojkov in our Game of the Day below.

Chess.com Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

The armageddon game had a funny start as Carlsen played 5.Bd3 against the Petroff, the same quirky maneuver as their first game but in a different opening.

The critical moment came on move 22, where instead of moving his queen Carlsen opted for the sharp counterattack 22.Ba6!. It immediately provoked a mistake (while Polgar announced the correct 22...Nxc5 immediately) and Carlsen went on to win a nice attacking game, his sixth armageddon victory out of six.

So-Abdusattorov

Before this game, the two players made two draws in classical chess. So now leads +1 in their encounters after a tough, second consecutive loss for the Uzbek talent.

Black played an offbeat move early on, 6...Qf6, a "risky move" according to So that took him by surprise: "I think I checked this once in my life, maybe a year ago." 

"[13...] Ng4 was a bad move," said So, after which he had an advantage. He also correctly identified a place where he could have been more accurate: "Maybe [13.] Rc1 was not good," identifying the better 13.Bxc6 on the live broadcast after his game.

Abdusattorov vs. So. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

After 14 consecutive draws in classical chess, he won his first one. About the rook endgame, he mentioned: "I know there's a good chance I could mess this up, but this position looks like 1-0 to me" and, more light-heartedly, "If I can't win this game, I will never ever win a game."

If I can't win this game, I will never ever win a game.

—Wesley So

In the commentary room, So grinned from ear to ear: "It's very nice to know I can still win a game after 14 classical draws in a row... The only thing I hate more than drawing is losing a game. It's always an issue: you want to win games, but at the same time it's hard to get a position where you get too many chances."

Giri-Tari

Giri won both of their previous classical games, the most recent one being in the 2022 edition of Norway Chess. The two are friends and have trained together. As Tari gave an interview before his game, Giri quickly entered the video and playfully flicked the top of Tari's head.

The jokes were left off the board. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

The friendly pair went into a topical line of the Catalan Opening where Giri won a sacrificed pawn but Black, with best play, should have enough activity to hold the balance. The Dutch number-one steered the game to a pawn-up rook endgame, where despite inherent drawish tendencies he was able to notch another one for the endgame manuals.

Giri earns his first classical win of the tournament in style, while Tari remains in last place with 3 points out of 21.

Round 7 Scores

Round 8 Pairings

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


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.

Email:  anthony.levin@chess.com

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