Carlsen Wins Norway Chess With Round To Spare As Firouzja Blunders In Pawn Endgame
The moment Firouzja blundered vs. Carlsen. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Carlsen Wins Norway Chess With Round To Spare As Firouzja Blunders In Pawn Endgame

| 37 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen has secured victory at the Altibox Norway Chess tournament one round before the end. The world champion won his standard game with GM Alireza Firouzja, who blundered in a basic pawn endgame.

With one round to go, Carlsen is now four points ahead of Firouzja and will win the top prize of 700,000 Norwegian kroner (63,803 euros/$74,746).

GM Levon Aronian and GM Fabiano Caruana are still in third and fourth place after they won their armageddons against GM Aryan Tari and GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda respectively. The pairings for the final round are Carlsen – Aronian, Caruana – Tari, and Firouzja – Duda.

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2020 Norway Chess | Round 9 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts
1 Carlsen, Magnus 2863 1.5 3 1.5 3 1.5 0 3 3 3 19.5
2 Firouzja, Alireza 2728 1 0 1.5 1.5 1.5 1 3 3 3 15.5
3 Aronian, Levon 2767 1 1 1 3 0 3 1 3 1.5 14.5
4 Caruana, Fabiano 2828 0 1 1 1.5 0 3 3 1.5 3 14
5 Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 2757 3 0 0 0 1.5 0 1 1 3 9.5
6 Tari, Aryan 2633 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.5 0 2.5

Many fans still remember the world champion as the amazing prodigy who stormed the chess world as a teenager. It might come as a surprise that this prodigy will be turning 30 on November 30 this year.

The roles were reversed for his game with Firouzja, now the biggest talent and a potential future world championship opponent. "It's a difficult situation," said Carlsen. "I mean, he's 17 years old, and he's playing such a game for the first time. It's not easy."

Namaste Carlsen Norway Chess
With handshakes ruled out, Carlsen has been greeting his opponents with a "namaste" each round. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

It was a mixture of nervousness and time pressure that made Firouzja spoil an otherwise decent game. He had defended "perfectly up until the last move," as Carlsen put it.

Commentator GM Vladimir Kramnik: "It's a very good experience for him. This kind of things, especially when they're painful; it can be very useful."

Carlsen agreed: "Certainly I had many experiences like this. I lost two rook endings against Levon for absolutely no reason. It's part of the growing process. But he's so strong; he's gonna be around for a long time. It's nice to be the wise old man!"

It's nice to be the wise old man!
—Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen wasn't too happy out of the opening when Firouzja chose a rather drawish line as White. Kramnik still saw some chances for a slight advantage, but soon (with 15.Bg5) it became clear that Firouzja was playing for a draw.

Out of almost nothing, Carlsen managed to squeeze a tangible advantage but then spoiled it at move 36. Although he ended up with an extra pawn, it was a draw again. Firouzja was getting low on time, though; at one point in the game, he had exactly an hour less on the clock.

Chess clock Firouzja-Carlsen
Firouzja was exactly one hour down on the clock here. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Eventually, the players reached the following basic pawn endgame on move 61. At that point, Firouzja had just 22 seconds left on his clock vs. 35 minutes for Carlsen, with a 10-second increment.

Position after 61...Kxh5.

Many of our readers will recognize "distant opposition" as the main theme here—something most of us learn when we're young. Firouzja must have learned it as well but under the circumstances, he failed to execute it correctly.

"At the end, he didn't give the appearance of somebody who was sure about everything, so I had some minor hopes about fooling him somehow by moving the king around, but obviously that was a bit much," said Carlsen.

"Basically you just need distant opposition; that's kind of child's play. But he was shaking his head. He was so nervous, that I felt at some point, where he was gonna put his king was probably gonna be a bit random, to be honest, because he was shaking so much. In that sense, I had some hopes but obviously, that was lucky."

Carlsen wins Norway Chess
Carlsen wins with a round to spare. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

A employee quickly sent out the following tweet:

After the game, Carlsen hadn't immediately realized that he had won the tournament. He said he was "very happy with the result" and that he was "pleasantly surprised" with his play after such a long gap from over-the-board chess: "I'm getting used to the wooden screen."

I'm getting used to the wooden screen.
—Magnus Carlsen

In a later interview, he repeated his statement that Firouzja is going to be around for a long time, adding: "Giving him a bit of an unpleasant memory, I think that's not something that's a bad thing for me."

Carlsen Firouzja Norway Chess
A painful (but valuable?) moment for Firouzja. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

While the Firouzja-Carlsen game was the story of the day, Tari-Aronian was the Game of the Day. The reason is Aronian's very creative play, which eventually wasn't rewarded with a win. In fact, it was Tari who took over but then also failed to convert.

The fun started with Black's 10...g5 move, especially surprising because he had played the pawn to g6 first, seemingly to fianchetto his bishop. Tari took the pawn and accepted the pressure on his king along the g-file.

As the analysis shows, Black's attack was good enough for a draw, but Aronian went astray and was down two pawns. Tari's lack of time on the clock combined with Aronian's defensive skills led to an adventurous draw.

Tari-Aronian Norway Chess
Tari-Aronian. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

The armageddon game saw the Mieses Variation of the Scotch, where Tari tried an early h2-h4, which was also played by a young Aronian as early as 2003, by the way. It was GM Alexander Morozevich who truly popularized it in 2015-2016.

Aronian steered the game away from theoretical waters with his ninth move and soon after, Tari chose an interesting way of play that involved a double pawn sacrifice. There was a rather ingenious way to win one back and get compensation for the other, but when the young Norwegian didn't find it, he was busted.

The standard game between Duda and Caruana was not too exciting until the American GM suddenly played an amazing rook sacrifice. It was fully correct but not more than a draw after Duda's reply.

Duda-Caruana Norway Chess
Duda-Caruana. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Duda tried the Benko/Volga gambit with colors reversed in the armageddon but was slowly but surely outplayed:

The Norway Chess tournament is a double round-robin with six players taking place October 5-16, 2020, in the Clarion Hotel in Stavanger, Norway. The time control is two hours for all moves with a 10-second increment per move after move 40.

In the case of a draw, the players play an armageddon game about 20 minutes after drawing their standard game. The colors remain the same, and the time control is 10 minutes for White vs. seven minutes for Black (who has draw odds) with an increment of one second per move starting on move 41.

The points system is as follows:

  • Victory main game: 3 points
  • Loss main game: 0 points
  • Draw main game & victory armageddon: 1.5 points
  • Draw main game & loss armageddon: 1 point

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