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Nakamura Beats Carlsen On Time To Close Gap, Muzychuk Takes Sole Lead
Anna Muzychuk took the sole lead by becoming the first player to beat Ju Wenjun in Norway. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Nakamura Beats Carlsen On Time To Close Gap, Muzychuk Takes Sole Lead

Colin_McGourty
| 44 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Hikaru Nakamura closed the gap to Norway Chess 2024 leader GM Magnus Carlsen down to to half a point after winning an armageddon thriller on time. World Champion Ding Liren ended his losing streak to draw against GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, but missed a trick and lost the armageddon. GM Fabiano Caruana's knight sacrifice against GM Alireza Firouzja almost backfired, but he escaped in classical chess before Firouzja gave no chances in the decider.

GM Anna Muzychuk has taken over as the sole leader of Women’s Norway Chess after becoming the first player to win a mini-match against Women's World Champion Ju Wenjun. GM Vaishali Rameshbabu's title hopes suffered a blow as she lost in classical chess to GM Koneru Humpy, while GM Lei Tingjie defeated GM Pia Cramling in armageddon.

Round eight starts Tuesday, June 4, at 11 a.m. ET / 17:00 CEST / 8:30 p.m. IST.

Norway Chess Round 7 Results

Open: Nakamura, Praggnanandhaa, Firouzja Win In Armageddon

Carlsen came agonizingly close to opening up a 1.5-point lead against Nakamura, but in the end it was Nakamura who moved to within just half a point of the leader with three rounds to go.

Standings After Round 7 | Open

Nakamura 1.5-1 Carlsen 

Nakamura went into this matchup as the only unbeaten player in classical chess in the open section in Stavanger, but he also knew that the only way he could overtake Carlsen was with a three-point classical win. That explained the aggressive 4.f3 line of the Nimzo-Indian that he played, an opening that brought back some memories of what he once called "my most painful loss" from Zurich 2014, when he had the world champion on the ropes

"I just wasn't in blitz mode, unfortunately," said Carlsen about losing on time. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen recalled that game and another when he entered the confessional: "So I actually mentioned to Peter [Heine Nielsen] I think last night that there was a possibility he would go for the f3 Nimzo. He’s done that a couple of times against me in the past, not with success, but that’s not because of the opening."

Carlsen concluded, "To some extent he’s won the opening battle, but I don’t think it’s a big deal," which he went on to prove as the players made a 20-move draw by repetition.

That was just the warmup to the feast of chess we got to witness in the armageddon. Carlsen switched openings, but Nakamura tricked him in the middlegame with a pawn sacrifice and then found the move 22.Qb3! that forced the world number-one to give up his queen.

Nakamura then didn't put a foot wrong in the conversion that followed, until 36.Qb4? (36.Kf1! was the winning move Nakamura had seen but misjudged) allowed the brilliant 36...Rd4!


The only square for the queen to stay on the e1-a5 diagonal, preventing Re1+, would be c3, but then the knight would come to e2, forking the king and queen. Instead Nakamura had to give up his queen on d2, and try to win the game all over again.

He came close on the board, as you'll see in the analysis below, but Carlsen was surviving in the final position when, with just a second added after each move, he lost on time. His furious reaction was understandable, though he was able to smile a few seconds later.

That's our Game of the Day, which GM Rafael Leitao has analyzed below.


Nakamura confessed afterward that in the final position he was only offering to let Carlsen play 51...Rxg3 since he'd planned 52.Rxc5?, which actually loses.

The Norwegian grandmaster in fact tried to play 51...Rg5+, which is also good, but didn't press the clock in time.

Here's Nakamura's take on the day's action:

Praggnanandhaa 1.5-1 Ding

Anna Muzychuk expressed the feelings of most of the chess world when she ended a confessional appearance by wishing the world champion well. 

For most of the day, things looked much better for the Chinese star, and the main thing was that he avoided slumping to a fifth loss in a row. The classical game left a sense of what might have been, however, since Ding was much better until the final couple of moves.

Ding and Praggnanandhaa have shared armageddon wins in Stavanger. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Ding had beaten Praggnanandhaa in armageddon with the white pieces earlier in the tournament and it seemed he would do the same with Black. The fast pace of play perhaps helped the world champion as he struggled with his nerves, but then, in a completely winning position, he overlooked a devastating "quiet move" and was suddenly lost.

It was a tough finish, though there were some signs of hope in how Ding had fashioned winning or close-to-winning positions in both games.

Caruana 1-1.5 Firouzja

Firouzja and his second, GM Ivan Cheparinov. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The final match to finish in the open tournament was a ferocious battle, with Caruana sacrificing a knight on g5 in an Italian Game but realizing shortly afterward that 15.h4! would have been a better follow-up than his "soft" 15.h3?!

Firouzja spent 29 minutes but found the best reply, 15...Qg8!, making it possible both to move the f6-knight and to bring the king to f8. 

The verdict, including from Nakamura during the live commentary, was that White was simply busted, but Caruana fought hard and ultimately managed to trade down into an endgame where he had three pawns for a piece. The players soon made a draw.

There was a lot to talk about. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Caruana had dominated Nakamura from start to finish of the armageddon the day before, but this time it was Firouzja who did the dominating. He soon got a position where his opponent had no realistic winning chances, then exploited the situation to get a winning position, and then showed pragmatism verging on cynicism to force off material and make a draw rather than fighting for a win.

That keeps Firouzja within one classical win of second-placed Nakamura, while Caruana is stuck in fifth place.

Women: Muzychuk Defeats Ju, Humpy Picks Up 1st Classical Win

Muzychuk also won on time in armageddon to win the clash of the leaders and edge into the sole lead. 

Standings After Round 7 | Women

Muzychuk 1.5-1 Ju

The women's world champion had looked unshakeable in Stavanger, winning all six of her previous mini-matches. Five of those wins were in armageddon, however, and although Ju had some chances on the black side of a Berlin Defense, her super-solid approach only brought a draw.

Anna Muzychuk talked to commentators Danny Rensch, Anna Rudolf, and David Howell after the game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

An equally solid display with Black in the armageddon would be enough for a win, but this time it was Muzychuk who kept a nagging edge, and though she failed to break through she applied enough pressure that Ju, like Carlsen earlier, lost on time in a drawn position. Ju's reaction was somewhat milder! 

That win gave Muzychuk the sole lead, a huge turnaround after she'd failed to win a game in the FIDE Women's Candidates and then had made a sluggish start in Stavanger.

Humpy 3-0 Vaishali

A first classical win for Koneru Humpy. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Vaishali had been flying since the last five rounds of the Candidates, but she's now suffered two classical losses in a row. Her game against her countrywoman had looked likely to fizzle out into a draw by some complicated sequence of exchanges, but it never happened, and then Humpy found winning tactics in the position with queens and rooks. The final sequence was powerful, and the final move was beautiful—if not strictly necessary!

Curiously that three-point win was neither enough to move Humpy out of fifth or Vaishali out of third—but the young star is still only a classical win away from the sole lead.

Cramling 1-1.5 Lei

This matchup began with a memorable moment.

The classical game, an Exchange Slav, was much less memorable and ended in a 48-move draw. The world number-three then asserted herself in armageddon, with a couple of early mistakes on consecutive moves condemning Cramling to playing a hopeless position two pawns down. Lei can still challenge for the title, but she needs to pick up her first classical win soon.

Lei Tingjie always has the best facial expressions. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Round 8 Pairings

There are only three rounds to go, with round eight seeing the top four players clash in Carlsen-Praggnanandhaa and Firouzja-Nakamura. Carlsen will be out for revenge for his loss to Praggnanandhaa in the first half of the tournament, while a classical winner in Firouzja-Nakamura will also be right in contention to win Norway Chess.

How to watch? You can watch Norway Chess 2024 on the Chess24 YouTube and Twitch channels. It will also be streamed on Nakamura's Kick channel. The games can also be followed from our events page: Open | Women.

The live broadcast was hosted by GM David Howell and IMs Anna Rudolf and Danny Rensch.

Norway Chess 2024 features Open and Women's six-player tournaments for equal prize funds of 1,690,000 NOK (~$160,000). It runs May 27 to June 7 in Stavanger, with players facing their opponents twice at classical chess (120 minutes/40 moves, with a 10-second increment from move 41). The winner of a classical game gets three points, the loser, zero; after a draw, the players get one point and fight for another half-point in armageddon (10 minutes for White, seven for Black, who has draw odds). 


Previous coverage:

    Colin_McGourty
    Colin McGourty

    Colin McGourty led news at Chess24 from its launch until it merged with Chess.com a decade later. An amateur player, he got into chess writing when he set up the website Chess in Translation after previously studying Slavic languages and literature in St. Andrews, Odesa, Oxford, and Krakow.

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