Magnus Carlsen Wins 2021 Norway Chess
Magnus Carlsen wins his fourth Norway Chess. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Magnus Carlsen Wins 2021 Norway Chess

| 73 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen won the Norway Chess tournament for the third time in a row, and the fourth in total. Like in the first half of the tournament, the world champion won the armageddon game against world title challenger GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, who came fourth.

GM Alireza Firouzja ended up beating and overtaking GM Richard Rapport to finish in second place, just like last year. GM Sergey Karjakin, who won the first two editions of Norway Chess, came fifth after beating GM Aryan Tari in the armageddon.

How to watch?
The games of Norway Chess can be found here as part of our live events platform.

Final Standings

# Fed Name Rating Classical Armageddon Total
1 Magnus Carlsen 2855 12 7.5 19.5
2 Alireza Firouzja 2754 15 3 18
3 Richard Rapport 2760 12 4.5 16.5
4 Ian Nepomniachtchi 2792 3 9 12
5 Sergey Karjakin 2758 3 7 10
6 Aryan Tari 2642 3 4 7

"It feels even better this time," said Carlsen after his fourth title in Stavanger. "It was really tough this year and frankly, at the halfway point, it didn't seem likely, at all. It's a really satisfying victory."

It's a really satisfying victory.
—Magnus Carlsen

The world champion has had many tournaments in his career with a slow start, and this was another one. "I was not really rusty, I was just not getting anywhere," he said about that disappointing first half where he scored four draws and one loss in the classical games. The four armageddons he played were all won, though.

But how did he turn it around?

Carlsen: "First and foremost, I feel like I just worked really hard during the games. I didn't have so much to work with; it seemed that every game was tough, every victory I had to grind out. But of course, it makes it even more rewarding to succeed. It wasn't sparkling at all but I think under the circumstances I came away with absolutely everything I could have hoped for."

Magnus Carlsen 2021 Norway Chess
Carlsen: "It wasn't sparkling at all but I think under the circumstances I came away with absolutely everything I could have hoped for." Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

In their classical game—the last before their world championship—Nepomniachtchi chose a line in the Italian that has been quite popular in the many online blitz events recently. Carlsen knew it of course and decided to follow a blitz game he had played with GM Wesley So, which meant accepting a slightly worse but fairly solid middlegame.

"I chose a line which is a little bit worse for Black but nothing too special," he said, adding: "I think I held it quite nicely." With that, he referred to his moves 28...Kh7, 29...Qf5, and 30...Rd5.

Nepomniachtchi: "I felt like I had some good advantage after I took the e-file but somehow it's not so easy to exploit this so I guess he just played well. Once he found this idea 30...Rd5, and sometimes ...Rb5, you know, it was never a one-sided game as I wanted it to be, so I guess a draw is a more or less objective result."

Carlsen Nepomniachtchi 2021 Norway Chess
Two classical draws between Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi in Stavanger. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

For the must-win armageddon, Nepomniachtchi played a Vienna and won a pawn in the opening, but Carlsen trusted his bishop pair. How tired the players really were after 10 rounds became clear when both completely missed the simple, exchange-winning 16...Ba6. After that, Nepomniachtchi couldn't manage to get a tangible advantage and, having to press, eventually lost.

This way, both clashes between the two players in the 2021 world championship ended in an armageddon win for Carlsen, who commented: "It's nice, but I was so tired in the armageddon, I felt like I expended so much energy over the last few days that I didn't have a lot left in the armageddon. I was just so blind tactically, but… bishops are very strong, that saved me in the end!"

"I think this game had quite a symbolic meaning because I think at the same time Richard [was] not doing too good with Black so since he is not going to win his game, the game was not that important," said Nepomniachtchi. "I think at some point it was some good edge for White but anyway, these two bishops… always a chance to make a draw."

Carlsen Nepomniachtchi armageddon 2021 Norway Chess
Another armageddon win for Carlsen vs. Nepomniachtchi. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

His compatriot Tari was impressed about Carlsen's tournament victory and the four-game streak: "It's incredible to do that in such a field. He's really good at coming back after losing so it's just very impressive."

Understandably, Nepomniachtchi wasn't too thrilled about his tournament: "The result is disgusting, completely disgusting considering all the chances I spoiled, especially these two games against Firouzja and Aryan, but at the same time it was, I believe, quite useful."

Ian Nepomniachtchi interview
Nepomniachtchi: "The result is disgusting." Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

The tournament lasted just a few rounds too long for Rapport, who lost the game and his second place to Firouzja in the final round. His comment: "Finally, it's over. This is always my favorite part of every chess tournament, when the misery ends!"

This is always my favorite part of every chess tournament, when the misery ends!
—Richard Rapport

It also meant that, like the tournament winner, Firouzja managed to win four games in a row. "Two streaks of four wins in the second half is pretty sick," said Carlsen, who was impressed by the runner-up: "I didn't see that coming, to be honest, it's an amazing turnaround."

"It feels great," said Firouzja. "After a very tough first half, I'm happy to be back to the tournament, and second place is kind of OK after the loss against Magnus so I couldn't imagine. I was down almost six, seven points."

Alireza Firouzja close-up
A four-game winning streak for Firouzja. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

The win against Rapport was a wild affair, worthy of a clash between two very interesting players who both entered the world's top 10 thanks to this tournament.

Live chess ratings 2021 Firouzja Rapport
The top 15 after Norway Chess. Image:

The game started with a fun line in the Rossolimo and got razor-sharp when Firouzja decided to give up his rook on a1—an idea he hadn't prepared. "If he plays this line he should have prepared [it] because I think this rook sacrifice is very interesting," Firouzja said. "I didn't see it prepared before, I just came up with it during the game. I thought I could just sacrifice; there's no way I could be worse here."

There was a bit of Mikhail Tal-like optimism there as the engines preferred Black in one of the critical lines. However, as it went (and as so often in Tal's games as well), the defender couldn't find his way through the complications and Rapport soon got into serious trouble, also because Firouzja's moves had a strong tactical foundation:

Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov

Firouzja Rapport 2021 Norway Chess
A fourth straight win for Firouzja. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Two-time winner Karjakin ended in fifth place this time—not the best result, like his compatriot, and perhaps one reason was the fact that the two Russian players had no rest day. Karjakin himself also mentioned that he didn't feel he had fully recovered from the World Cup.

About his final-round game with Tari, he said: "I just wanted to play, to enjoy playing because I don't know when I will play a tournament game the next time so I was trying to play creatively in the classical game."

Tari: "I think I played well. It was a very complicated game; maybe I could have put some more pressure at some point."

Karjakin Tari 2021 Norway Chess
Karjakin vs. Tari. Photo: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Karjakin switched to 1.b3 for the armageddon and faced an interesting and pretty good pawn sacrifice by Tari at some point. However, experience prevailed in the end.

"In blitz, you have to play precisely and he played a few inaccurate moves and then I got a healthy pawn and I think it was much better for me," said Karjakin.

Karjakin Tari armageddon 2021 Norway Chess
Karjakin and Tari sharing some thoughts after the armageddonPhoto: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess.

Tari, on his tournament: "It's much better than last year at least. I am very happy that I won one game here. It's very difficult to beat these guys so that I won as Black against Ian was a big achievement. A lot of things to learn and I'm happy for the experience."

Firouzja's next tournament will be the FIDE Grand Swiss, starting late October. Carlsen and Tari will already be traveling this coming Sunday for the European Club Cup in North Macedonia.

And then, in late November, there is that world championship. A former participant gave some comments—Karjakin: "I think it will be a very interesting match. It will be very important who will come in the better form. I feel like Ian should have a rest.

"I don't know about Magnus, if he wants to rest or if he wants to play another tournament. For me, I would definitely go to rest and to prepare. But basically, he showed in this tournament that he is strong, but he made mistakes. If he will make the same mistakes in the match, I think that Ian would be ready for this and to use his chances."

He is strong, but he made mistakes. If he will make the same mistakes in the match, I think that Ian would be ready for this and to use his chances.
—Sergey Karjakin

Norway Chess took place September 7-18, 2021 in Stavanger, Norway. The format was a double round-robin among six players. The time control was 120 minutes for the whole game with a 10-second increment starting from move 41. In case of a draw, the players played an armageddon game with the same colors. A victory in the main game gave three points; a loss in the main game, zero points; a draw in the main game followed by a victory in the armageddon, 1.5 points; and a loss in the armageddon, one point.

Earlier reports:

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