Carlsen vs Nakamura: 'Black Sunday' Delivers Exciting Fischer Random Chess
A large crowd preferred the match over a typical Norwegian Sunday in the snow. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen vs Nakamura: 'Black Sunday' Delivers Exciting Fischer Random Chess

| 24 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen continues to lead in the unofficial Fischer random (chess960) world championship match against Hikaru Nakamura after both games on Sunday ended in a win for the black player. The score is now 7-to-5 in favor of Carlsen. The first player to reach 12.5 points wins.

Fischer Random Nakamura Carlsen score

For the third day of the match, the position that the players were given (NQBNRBKR) wasn't that odd. The bishops were on the same squares as in regular chess, and a fianchetto on the kingside followed by castling would quickly lead to a very normal position, as Nakamura noted.

"I felt like it was pretty standard." (Nakamura)
"I thought it was a good one." (Carlsen)

There happens to be a database (in Excel here) with all 960 starting positions of Chess960 and their evaluations, as calculated by the Norwegian "supercomputer" Sesse. This particular position was evaluated "0.27" compared to e.g. regular chess (RNBQKBNR), which is given 0.22. 

The computer considers 27 positions to be totally equal, and whereas not a single position is considered to be better for Black. On the other end of the scale, one position (BBNNRKRQ), has an evaluation as high as 0.57.

Back to the human part of the game (isn't that the idea of Fischer random?), where we saw two chess stars play two more very interesting games that advertised this variant of chess further.

In game five, once again, the first thing Nakamura did was develop his rook to a central square. Carlsen then made it a gambit by giving up his e-pawn, not expecting his opponent to hang onto that pawn. But it worked for Black, and Carlsen was soon in trouble. He managed to reach the endgame, but he was still worse, and in time trouble it was impossible to hold.

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov

Carlsen vs Nakamura, game 5 Fischer Random

Carlsen about to resign in game five. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Despite getting a rather normal starting position, Nakamura noted that this was the first time the game was "completely different" from what he normally sees. He was content to play accurately in the final phase of the game. Here's Nakamura explaining his game afterward in the live broadcast with GM Yasser Seirawan:

During this match, the heart rates of the players are monitored and shown in the live broadcast of both NRK and's own show. So far, the conclusion is that Carlsen's heart rate has been slightly lower than Nakamura's, but that cannot be compared one-to-one, obviously, as the lows and highs of the players are not known.

However, it does seem that there are fewer spikes in Carlsen graph than in Nakamura's; the Norwegian seems to stay a bit calmer in difficult situations.

Asked about this, Nakamura rightly suspected that his heart rate has been higher most of the time than Carlsen's. "But of course I've also had a lot more worse positions for a prolonged period. I think if you're suffering for a few moves or something and it changes, it shouldn't be a big deal but if you're suffering for 10 or 15 moves and time pressure comes and all these things, then bad things happen."

Hear rate wrist band Polar Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen getting his wristband before game five. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Before the sixth game, Carlen's wristband for measuring his heart rate wasn't switched on. (He wasn't aware of that.) The organizers were planning to ask him to activate the device when he had stepped away from the board (for a drink, or a toilet visit) but Carlsen never left the board and won the game in "zombie mode"— a pulse of zero.

With early central aggression, Nakamura seemed to be taking more risks, just like Carlsen had predicted after game four. The American player got a powerful pawn center but erred when he regrouped his pieces. Carlsen countered strongly, won an exchange and then the game.

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov

Nakamura resigns game six, Fischer Random vs Carlsen

Nakamura resigns game six. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen was clearly enjoying the chess on this day. "I thought the games were very interesting, very unusual, nothing too similar to what I have seen in classical chess. It was a lot of fun," he said.

He explained why chess960 is difficult for him: "Especially yesterday I felt at a number of points that, yeah, I can see many different moves but I have no idea how to evaluate the resulting positions. That makes it very hard to play, especially for somebody with my style."

Here's Carlsen explaining his game afterward in the live broadcast, and the full interview with IM Anna Rudolf:

The Nakamura-Carlsen Fischer random match will see one more day of two long games, and on the final day, the two will play eight faster games. The (impressive) prize fund is just under $200,000.

You can follow the match on the official website, or each day starting from 4:50 p.m. CET (10:50 a.m. Eastern, 7:50 a.m. Pacific) with commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan and IM Anna Rudolf.

Nakamura-Carlsen 960 Fischer Random Match, Day 3.

Carlsen arrives for Fischer Random matchCarlsen arrives at the Henie Onstad Art Center for another day of Fischer random. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/, Nakamura see new position Fischer Random

Fifteen minutes before the game the players get to see the new position. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ Alveng at work Fischer Random match Carlsen Nakamura

Dag Alveng, whose photo exhibition of graves of chess world champions is hanging in the playing hall, behind his Rolleiflex camera for some more pictures. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ camera Fischer Random Carlsen Nakamura

Sometimes a phone will do too. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ Carlsen Fischer Random

Carlsen realizing he is about to lose game five. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ Nakamura with Yasser Seirawan

Nakamura in the studio with Seirawan. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ Dyhre Breivang at the Fischer Random match

Also in the studio: former handball Olympic and world champion Karoline Dyhre Breivang, who now works for Polar and arranged the wristbands for measuring the heart rates of the players. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ before game six Fischer Random

Carlsen during the opening phase of game six. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ vs Nakamura Fischer Random

Carlsen not allowing his opponent's h-pawn to go any further. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ writing down moves Fischer Random Carlsen Nakamura

The arbiter writing down the moves for the players, who are allowed to check the scoresheet five times during each game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

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Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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