Norway Chess: Caruana Beats Carlsen In Last Round Armageddon
In the very last game of the tournament Carlsen resigns for the first time. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Norway Chess: Caruana Beats Carlsen In Last Round Armageddon

| 53 | Chess Event Coverage

Fabiano Caruana played an excellent Armageddon game to become the only player to beat Magnus Carlsen at the 2019 Altibox Norway Chess tournament despite missing a study-like win in the standard game. Levon Aronian and Yu Yangyi shared second place.

“It’s nice to have the tournament victory in hand but it’s a huge game tomorrow," Carlsen said, the day before the last round. ”We play for pride, we play for rating points…. It’s a big deal always to play Fabi so I am looking forward to it.”

The world champion had expected Caruana to be motivated as well because with a win he would overtake Carlsen in the classical tournament.

Caruana Carlsen 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Another "huge game" between Caruana and Carlsen. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

At the end of their classical game, Caruana got a golden opportunity to do so. Had he found the beautiful idea behind 50.Nf5, he would have ended Carlsen's 67-game unbeaten streak and tied for first place with Ding Liren in the classical tournament with 5.5/9. (As it went, Carlsen tied with Ding there.)

“It weirdly feels like I won today even though I did miss a huge chance. I’ll probably be kicking myself later tonight,” Caruana said.

There were smiles on the American's face nonetheless, as he had finished his tournament with good play in the last three rounds. “All I needed was for Grischuk to give me a free bishop!” he quipped.

Caruana TV2 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Caruana interviewed by TV2. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

We pick up the game at the moment Caruana had that beautiful win. (Note that more comments from Caruana have been added earlier in the notation.)

He played 50.Nf3 with 4:03 left on the clock while Carlsen had 1:18. The players were getting 10- second increments per move at that stage:

Although Carlsen had a promising position for most of the game, Caruana felt he had lost more in this game because it was, after all, a checkmate. It was his opponent who told him about it after the game.

Caruana vs. Carlsen 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Carlsen pointed out the winning line to Caruana afterward. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Therefore, it wasn't easy at all to go into the Armageddon, but somehow Caruana managed to hold his nerves and play a good game. In a fun opening, where Carlsen played his first 12 moves with pawns and knights only, he didn't manage to keep his high level of play that he had shown in his first six Armageddon games.

Caruana Polgar Rudolf 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Caruana joined Judit Polgar and Anna Rudolf after playing Carlsen. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen had already secured the 75,000-euro first prize but wasn't too happy with his play on the final day. He won his seventh tournament in a row but, always seeking further improvement, duly remarked: "I have to play better." 

Yu Yangyi was the surprise of the tournament, finishing in a tie for second place with 10.5 points—an excellent result for the strongest tournament that he had ever played. He takes home 32,500 euro, half of the sum of 40,000 (second place) and 25,000 (third place).

In the last round Yu didn't need an Armageddon to beat the underperforming Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who played the trendy 9...Bg4 in the Scotch Four Knights.

Yu Yangyi Mamedyarov 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Yu Yangyi vs. Mamedyarov. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Yu's prepared improvement over his game from two days before worked out perfectly when Mamedyarov allowed a white rook to d7. A remarkably smooth win for the Chinese player, who said he was "very happy" as he had expected to draw and play an Armageddon.

Yu Yangyi Polgar 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
An excellent performance for Yu Yangyi at his strongest tournament ever.

The other player sharing second place and also winning 32,500 euro was Levon Aronian. It must be said that he had been somewhat fortunate in his classical game with Vishy Anand and even more in the Armageddon, where Anand blundered a piece in a promising position.

Anand Aronian Armageddon 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Carlsen, So and the arbiter watching the end of Anand-Aronian. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Off the board, Aronian was in top shape, as always. For example, his reply to the question how he deals with blunders was priceless and perhaps useful for some of our members reading this. This author is definitely going to try it out:

“I have this routine. I tell myself that I’m an idiot, I accept it and I just live with it. Knowing that you’re an idiot is kind of relieving. You relax and you just have to play chess.”

Aronian idiot 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Aronian: "I tell myself that I'm an idiot." | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Alexander Grischuk managed to avoid finishing all alone in the cellar to his own surprise: “I was content with last place after two rounds.”

When the Russian GM joined the commentary studio and was congratulated on finishing his tournament on a high note, he countered: “First of all, congratulations with the end of the tournament!”

He illustrated his bad form with the following moment in his classical game with Ding Liren.

White has just played 14.cxd5.

Grischuk: “I almost had a heart attack. To show you what kind of shape I am in: for one minute I was considering 14...Rxb3 15.axb3 Qb5 16.Rxa8+ and I had a ghost rook on b8. So for one minute I was thinking I was completely winning. That's kind of a shame.“

He is not the kind of guy to come with excuses, but Grischuk did mention the tough Moscow Grand Prix that he had played shortly before Norway Chess. “I didn’t feel it but I guess I was just completely exhausted. Sometimes it happens like this, you don’t feel [it] but you’re extremely tired.”

Ding Grischuk 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Ding vs. Grischuk finishing their classical game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The tournament ended in another disappointing Armageddon game for Ding, who blundered in the opening. As several players have pointed out, it feels strange to see him finish in sixth place while he tied for first (!) with Carlsen if you look at only the classical scores.

Ding Grischuk 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Grischuk points out to the arbiter that the classical game ended in a draw. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Wesley So couldn't complain about the 1.5 points that he got from his match with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. His draw in the classical game was one where his opponent had the better chances, and MVL was actually just winning in the Armageddon (showing at this level, even devoted Gruenfeld players master the King's Indian pretty well!).

So Vachier-Lagrave 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
So accepts Vachier-Lagrave's resignation while stopping the clock. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

2019 Altibox Norway Chess | Final Standings

# Fed Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts
1 Carlsen 2875 ½1 2 ½0 ½1 ½1 ½1 ½1 ½1 2 13.5/18
2-3 Aronian 2752 ½0 ½1 0 ½1 ½1 ½0 ½1 2 ½1 10.5/18
2-3 Yu Yangyi 2738 0 ½0 ½1 0 ½1 ½1 ½1 2 2 10.5/18
4-5 Caruana 2819 ½1 2 ½0 ½0 0 2 ½1 ½0 ½1 10.0/18
4-5 So 2754 ½0 ½0 2 ½1 ½0 ½1 ½0 ½1 ½1 10.0/18
6 Ding Liren 2805 ½0 ½0 ½0 2 ½1 ½0 ½0 2 ½0 8.5/18
7-8 Vachier-Lagrave 2779 ½0 ½1 ½0 0 ½0 ½1 ½0 ½1 ½1 8.0/18
7-8 Anand 2767 ½0 ½0 ½0 ½0 ½1 ½1 ½1 0 ½1 8.0/18
9-10 Mamedyarov 2774 ½0 0 0 ½1 ½0 0 ½0 2 ½0 5.5/18
9-10 Grischuk 2775 0 ½0 0 ½0 ½0 ½1 ½0 ½0 ½1 5.5/18

Several players gave their comments about the Armageddon system. The general feeling was that it might be worth repeating with some small adjustments.

Grischuk: "The format is nice. I don’t have this habit of blaming the game when you play bad. I think if you play bad it doesn’t mean the game is bad. You are bad. No, it was fine. The only issue was that it almost didn’t leave any place for intrigue in the fight for the first place because Magnus was completely unstoppable with 6/6 in Armageddons."

Grischuk 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Grischuk was hoping for more intrigue. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Grischuk suggested using the National Hockey League system, as he had already told the organizers before the tournament: a win without overtime (Armageddon in chess) scores three points; a win in overtime, two; a loss in overtime, one; and a loss, normally zero. That would mean changing 4, 3, 1, 0 for the current system in Stavanger (everything multiplied by two) to 3, 2, 1, 0. “I think it’s more natural because here the price of Armageddon is very high.”

However, in that case the final standings wouldn't have looked much different:

2019 Norway Chess | Final Standings based on NHL scoring system

# Fed Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts
1 Carlsen 2875 2 3 1 2 2 2 2 2 3 19
2-5 Aronian 2752 1 2 0 2 2 1 2 3 2 15
2-5 Yu Yangyi 2738 0 1 2 0 2 2 2 3 3 15
2-5 Caruana 2819 2 3 1 1 0 3 2 1 2 15
2-5 So 2754 1 1 3 2 1 2 1 2 2 15
6 Ding Liren 2805 1 1 1 3 2 1 1 3 1 14
7-8 Vachier-Lagrave 2779 1 2 1 0 1 2 1 2 2 12
7-8 Anand 2767 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 0 2 12
9-10 Mamedyarov 2774 1 0 0 2 1 0 1 3 1 9
9-10 Grischuk 2775 0 1 0 1 1 2 1 1 2 9

Aronian started by saying with a smile: “What is there not to like when you’re second?“

He did feel the rate of play in the classical games was too fast: “I would recommend 15 minutes after move 40. That would at least give people an opportunity to recover. It’s too harsh.”

The Armenian also suggested a different way of dealing with draws: “Instead of an Armageddon you can have two games at 1:30. If there are two draws, I guess that’s fine.... It’s not really fair towards a guy like Ding who scored plus two and is not going to be in the top three. That’s just crazy, in my humble opinion.”

Aronian 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Aronian felt the classical time control was "too harsh." | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana said that he had to adjust his play significantly for what was basically the fastest time control possible to still call it a standard game (and have it FIDE rated): “I play very quickly. I feel like I have to play intuitively for the entire game, at least until it gets very concrete. You just don’t have time to waste.”

And he agreed with adjusting the points system: “I think the scoring system could be adjusted. It doesn’t feel right that, let’s say you play a perfect game and you get two points, or you could make a bad draw and then your opponent hangs a bishop or something…. I would rate it more in favor of classical.”

Caruana 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Caruana felt he needed to play intuitively. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Carlsen signing chair 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Carlsen signs his chair. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Polgar Rudolf 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Commentators Judit Polgar and Anna Rudolf. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Carlsen standing 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Tournament winner Carlsen: "I have to play better." | Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Juga di Prima 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Juga di Prima again performed at the closing ceremony on Saturday. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The Altibox Norway Chess tournament took place June 3-12 in the Clarion Hotel Energy and June 12-14 in the Stavanger Concert Hall in Stavanger, Norway. New this year was that players who drew their game played an Armageddon game immediately (with the same colors).

Armageddon at Norway Chess
White gets 10 minutes on the clock; Black gets seven minutes but has draw odds. Only after move 60 the players get a three-second increment per move.

  • Win in main game: 2 points
  • Loss in main game: 0 point
  • Draw in main game and loss in Armageddon: 0.5 point
  • Draw in main game and win in Armageddon: 1.5 points

Also new was a shorter time control in the classical games: two hours for the whole game with an increment of 10 seconds after move 40.

The round nine coverage by the Chessbrahs.

Besides the ongoing Women and Junior Speed Chess Championships here on, the next big over-the-board event is the Summer Classic in St. Louis (with Gawain Jones, Jeffery Xiong, Sam Shankland, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Dariusz Swiercz and Le Quang Liem in the top group) running June 18-28.

The next super tournament is the Grand Chess Tour in Croatia June 24-July 9, with Carlsen and Caruana once again as the top seeds. You can find all upcoming events in our tournament calendar.

Previous reports:

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