Carlsen Wins 2019 Norway Chess With Round To Spare
Magnus Carlsen was interviewed after he secured the tournament victory in Stavanger. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Carlsen Wins 2019 Norway Chess With Round To Spare

| 30 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen secured tournament victory in the penultimate round of the 2019 Altibox Norway Chess tournament. The world champion has a four-point lead after beating Yu Yangyi in the standard game, while Levon Aronian lost to Fabiano Caruana.

“I’ve been influenced by my heroes recently," said Carlsen, "which is AlphaZero and also one of my seconds from the world championship, [Daniil] Dubov, who has a lot of these ideas with sacrifices in the opening. In essence I’ve become a very different player in terms of style than I was a bit earlier and it’s been a great ride."

This was one of several insightful remarks by Carlsen after he had beaten Yu convincingly in their standard game to take the full two points in the eighth round. While analyzing his game with Judit Polgar and Anna Rudolf, the camera feed showed Aronian's resignation, which was the moment Carlsen scored his second tournament victory in Stavanger, after the first in 2016.

The reason for Carlsen's great form, which has been there since the World Blitz in December 2018, is a combination of factors. He noted that he is still benefiting from the work he did for the 2018 world championship: 

“In terms of ideas it’s been great," said Carlsen. "I feel like there are still a lot of ideas from the world championship match and almost in every game I get to use a little piece of it.”

And then there was the bad period Carlsen had before he started winning all those tournaments, which provided plenty of motivation to find new challenges:

“It’s been easy this year," said Carlsen, "since I played so badly most of 2017 and 2018 in classical so I really wanted to regain my position in the rankings. The motivation part has not been a difficult thing at all. I still feel like I can do better!” he said. 

Carlsen Polgar Rudolf 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Carlsen was interviewed by Judit Polgar and Anna Rudolf. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Where can he do better? Well, classical chess, as he pointed out himself. Carlsen felt his classical games were “not that convincing,” as he was not dealing well with some of the interesting positions he got, and he admitted that he hasn't been fully focused on this part of the tournament.

“Clearly at some point I didn’t care so much about classical since I knew that I was winning the Armageddon games," said Carlsen.

Thursday's game was an exception, though. Surprised by Yu's opening choice of the Slav, Carlsen chose a side variation, then capitalized on a positional blunder by his opponent to obtain a very promising endgame that he converted with impeccable technique. 

Carlsen Yu 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Carlsen: "In essence I’ve become a very different player in terms of style." | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The only player who could still catch Carlsen was Aronian, but for that he needed to win his standard game as well to keep hopes alive for a playoff on the last day. Instead, he lost.

Caruana played his best game of the tournament, which he said himself: “I don’t want to sound immodest but I was quite proud of my play.”

By now the American GM knows all the intricacies of the English variation in which he lost a tiebreak game against Carlsen in November, and he got to use his knowledge and understanding to full effect.

Aronian Caruana 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Aronian resigns in a lost position, one second before flagging. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Vishy Anand got an easy draw against Alexander Grischuk using the Open Spanish (“I was happy to get in some preparation. I checked exactly this line till the very end."—Anand) and then won his third Armageddon game. He had a hard time calling it a win though, because he felt that Grischuk had to commit suicide on the chessboard because of the Armageddon rules.

Grischuk Anand 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Anand: "In the chaos I somehow survived." | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Anand went as far as saying that there are no victories in Armageddon unless White wins. “Because White is playing under this pressure he is often taking quite unjustified risks, so it’s not a normal victory in any sense.”

The five-time world champion argued that the scoring system used for the Armageddon system is not perfect:

“I think it’s slightly unfair that the tournament ranking is plus-one, plus-one, 50 percent, plus-two," said Anand. "My whole life, you think: If you work for four hours that should count for more than if you work for 20 minutes. For me, my scales are a bit confused, let’s say.

“Having said that, if this is a better format for television or something, then fine. But I am used to seeing it as some kind of injustice. It feels wrong that Ding is in fourth place, with plus-two. Then again, I am not saying it’s unfair, because we knew what we were getting into, but something feels wrong," Anand said. 

Grischuk Anand 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Anand expressed his doubts about the points system. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Anand also joined the ranks of chess fans being impressed by Carlsen's recent achievements.

“Magnus is showing that colors don’t matter," said Anand. "If you’re strong enough, you’re winning with both colors. All these colors, it’s only for the other guys; Magnus just keeps on winning. Very impressive, especially given that he has made something like plus-17 this year,” he said. 

Carlsen 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Carlsen is now undefeated for 67 classical games in a row. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was not happy with his preparation for the standard game with Ding Liren.

“I was begging for the draw at some point,” he said.

The Armageddon went better, although the Chinese GM was still quite close to the draw at several moments.

Vachier-Lagrave Ding Liren 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Vachier-Lagrave wins his Armageddon vs. Ding Liren. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was better in both of his white games against Wesley So, but eventually only got half a point out of the two games. In the Armageddon he especially had winning chances (up to 80 percent according to Caruana) but he misplayed it. Kudos to So for not stumbling in those difficult positions.

Mamedyarov So 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
A disappointing round for Mamedyarov. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ 

2019 Altibox Norway Chess | Round 8 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts
1 Carlsen 2875 ½ 1 2 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 2 13.0/16
2 Aronian 2752 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 2 ½ 1 9.0/16
3 Yu Yangyi 2738 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 2 8.5/16
4 So 2754 ½ 0 ½ 0 2 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 8.5/16
5 Caruana 2819 2 ½ 0 ½ 0 0 2 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 8.5/16
6 Ding Liren 2805 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 2 ½ 0 ½ 0 2 8.0/16
7 Vachier-Lagrave 2779 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 7.5/16
8 Anand 2767 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 0 ½ 1 7.5/16
9 Mamedyarov 2774 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 0 ½ 0 2 ½ 0 5.5/16
10 Grischuk 2775 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 4.0/16

The pairings for the last round are Caruana vs. Carlsen, Yu Yangyi vs. Mamedyarov, Anand vs. Aronian, Ding Liren vs. Grischuk and So vs. Vachier-Lagrave. 

Grischuk Aronian chat 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
A chat between Grischuk and Aronian before the round... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Carlsen Heine Nielsen 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
...while Carlsen and his second Peter Heine Nielsen went for a stroll along the water. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Oyvind Von Doren 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Oyvind Von Doren of Von Doren watches, one of the sponsors, making the first move for Carlsen. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Carlsen interview 2019 Altibox Norway Chess
Carlsen was interviewed by TV2. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The Altibox Norway Chess tournament takes place June 3-12 in the Clarion Hotel Energy and June 12-14 in the Stavanger Concert hall in Stavanger, Norway. New this year is that players who draw their game will play an Armageddon game right after (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 three seconds increment per move.

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

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

The games start 5 p.m. local time (CEST), which is 11 a.m. Eastern and 8 a.m. Pacific. You can follow the games here as part of our live portal with daily commentary by the Chessbrahs.

The round eight coverage by the Chessbrahs.

Previous reports:

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