Caruana Wins Norway Chess
Wesley So resigns the game and makes Fabiano Caruana the winner. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Caruana Wins Norway Chess

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
Jun 7, 2018, 11:35 AM |
169 | Chess Event Coverage

Fabiano Caruana won the €75,000 first prize at the Altibox Norway Chess tournament after beating Wesley So and seeing his main rivals draw their games. In the last round, Vishy Anand won against Sergey Karjakin.

"I'm thrilled," said Caruana. "It's actually my first time winning here. I played here many times but never managed to even make a plus score. I think it's a big deal; it's not often that you win a tournament with all the top players in the world."

After Grenke, Caruana finished another tournament ahead of Carlsen, his opponent in the world championship match in November. The American GM lost the individual battle this time, but then won excellent games against Karjakin and Anand to share the lead going into the final round.

Today's win against So was actually not great, and he had his share of luck, but it cannot be denied that Caruana keeps on performing when it matters.

Caruana Agdestein Rudolf

Caruana in between Simen Agdestein and Anna Rudolf. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The final round started with four leaders, two playing each other. All three American players (Caruana, Nakamura and So) were still in contention, together with Carlsen. A tie for first place would lead to a blitz tiebreak.

About 20 minutes into the round, the first game suddenly ended in a draw. Barely out of the opening, a 6.d3 Ruy Lopez, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Magnus Carlsen repeated three times.

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The start of what would be the shortest game of the tournament. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen: “I was very unsure of what to do. Basically I just decided in the car on the way here to play my normal stuff and see what happens. And as you could see, nothing happened.”

“I didn’t actually expect Magnus to go for this line,” MVL said. “In case he went for something sharper, where I had a few ideas in mind, I would probably have tried to play. At the same time, considering the tournament and how I played so far, a draw is OK to finish the tournament and not to add any more injuries.”

Carlsen said that he wasn’t thrilled about this outcome, but that he couldn’t avoid the repetition without taking risks.

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MVL and Carlsen right after the game. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

But that was not the end of the story. As it turned out, the players had analyzed this specific line together when Carlsen was preparing for his world-title match with Karjakin. “We analyzed a lot of variations in the Ruy Lopez. It’s not the first time that we actually play a line that we analyzed together,” said Vachier-Lagrave.

Carlsen MVL Norway

Smiles on the players' faces afterward. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The next game to end was Levon Aronian vs Hikaru Nakamura, which was another draw. Aronian didn’t mind entering a line of the 5.Bf4 Queen’s Gambit Declined in which his opponent had huge experience already. Nakamura had held draws against players like Carlsen, Karjakin, Ding, Mamedyarov and Aronian himself, last year in London.

Aronian: “My view is that it’s easier to play as White. But this didn’t get confirmed in this game.”
Nakamura: “I trust in the position.”

The highlight of the post-mortem was Simen Agdestein discussing modern preparation methods with the players. At some point he asked: “How can I improve my computer?” (In order to have it produce better analysis.) Aronian duly replied: “Did you try hitting it with a hammer?”

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Nakamura finished on an undefeated plus one; Aronian scored 50 percent. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Luckily, this was only the start of what eventually became a very exciting final round. Caruana and So were playing a sharp battle with opposite castling, and so were Sergey Karjakin and Vishy Anand. Like Aronian and Nakamura, they had a 5.Bf4 Queen's Gambit Declined on the board.

Anand showed some absolutely fascinating lines in the post-mortem, which demonstrated once again how complicated this game had been. "Today was just a difficult game. It could easily have gone the other way," he said.

Anand Norway

Anand finished on plus-one and won 9.3 Elo points in Stavanger. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

By this time it was clear that if there would be a playoff, it would be a five-player playoff and it would be held the next day in the hotel. The organizers had everything prepared for that, but in the end it wasn't necessary, and the tournament was decided in the Stavanger Concert Hall.

Fabiano Caruana admitted that his win vs Wesley So wasn't a good game from start to finish. He didn't get much in a 4.d3 Berlin, and then started drifting. "I started to play horribly; I can't even explain playing my moves so I won't try to," he said.

Caruana vs So Norway

The start of the big game in the last round. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Out of the opening Black's position was more pleasant, but then it was So's turn to play suboptimal moves, such as 18...Bb6 and 22...g4. Caruana got back into the game and even gained the advantage, but the price was time trouble—five minutes on the click without increment against 20 for So, with 10 moves to make.

Luckily for Caruana, his opponent started to spend time as well. In a very complicated position both had less than a minute to make their 40th move. It was there when Caruana almost spoiled everything by the seemingly logical 40.h3. With just seconds on the clock, So found 40...Rxh3+!, and Caruana took the rook.

In this key moment for the tournament, instead of standing up, walking away, getting a drink to clear the mind, So played 41...Rd3? after just four seconds where 41...Rd2! would have forced the draw. (You can try to calculate why, and check in the analysis below.) 

"He was probably still rattled. These were definitely nerve-wracking moments for both of us," Caruana tried to explain. "But it's very strange that he played so quickly."

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Wesley So resigns the game, making Fabiano Caruana the winner. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Caruana said that he was proud of his win at Grenke, but that it was different in Stavanger.

"Here I'm proud of moments in the tournament," he said. "Overall it wasn't really a flawless performance. I played two very good games in this tournament, against Sergey and against Vishy, and I had one big piece of luck and of course one unpleasant moment, losing against Magnus." 

Chess.com's interview with Caruana.

Altibox Norway Chess 2018 | Final Standings*

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Caruana,Fabiano 2822 2875 0 ½ 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 5.0/8
2 Carlsen,Magnus 2843 2828 1 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 4.5/8 18.25
3 Nakamura,Hikaru 2769 2836 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 4.5/8 17.25
4 Anand,Viswanathan 2760 2838 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 4.5/8 16.25
5 So,Wesley 2778 2792 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 4.0/8 15.75
6 Aronian,Levon 2764 2793 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 4.0/8 15.5
7 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2808 2745 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 3.5/8
8 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2789 2703 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 3.0/8 12.75
9 Karjakin,Sergey 2782 2703 0 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 3.0/8 11
10 Ding,Liren 2791 0.0/0

Ding couldn't play the whole tournament and his results are not counting.

It was already the third top tournament won by Caruana this year, after the Candidates' and Grenke. Carlsen won two so far: Wijk aan Zee and Shamkir. Is anyone still in doubt whether Caruana is a worthy challenger of Carlsen in November?

With more than 20 points between Caruana and world number-three Mamedyarov in the live ratings, there's a good chance we'll see the first world number-one vs world number-two world championship match since Kasparov-Karpov, 1990.

Live ratings

The live ratings after the tournament via 2700chess.com.

Obviously, both players have more classical events scheduled before the match. Carlsen will play Biel and possibly the Olympiad and the European Club Cup, Caruana has the Sinquefield Cup, the Olympiad and Chess.com Isle of Man confirmed.

See our new tournament calendar for upcoming events. The next event with top players is the start of the Grand Chess Tour in Leuven, Belgium which takes off in just four days, on June 12.

Caruana with an Avalon reference (after playing the game once again) late at night.

Games via TWIC.

Øyvind VonDoren AsbjørnsenØyvind VonDoren Asbjørnsen of Von Doren watches made the first move in MVL vs Carlsen. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Von Doren watch

A special edition watch with the inscription "Winner Norway Chess 2018" will be given to Caruana at tomorrow's closing ceremony. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Miss Universe 1990 Mona Grudt

Miss Universe 1990 Mona Grudt visited the tournament during the last two rounds. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

MVL signing

MVL signing a board for some young fans. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Magnus Carlsen Norway Chess 2018

Carlsen in the TV2 studio today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Nakamura Aronian Agdestein

Aronian:“Did you try hitting it with a hammer?” | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Chess fan

A young chess fan visiting the tournament today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Hans Olav Lahlum Caruana Salomon

Caruana in the TV2 studio with Hans Olav Lahlum (left) and Johan Salomon. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Caruana interview TV2 smiling

Caruana is having a pretty good 2018 so far. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.


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