Nakamura-Carlsen Fischer Random Chess Tied After Day 1
Game 2 of the Nakamura-Carlsen match starts. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nakamura-Carlsen Fischer Random Chess Tied After Day 1

| 52 | Chess Event Coverage

The unofficial Fischer random (chess960) world championship match between "reigning champion" Hikaru Nakamura and "challenger" Magnus Carlsen started with two draws. In the first half of the match the games count double and so the score is 2-2.

After a hiatus of 8.5 years, Fischer random at the highest level finally returned to the chess arena. Nakamura defeated  Levon Aronian in the last edition of the annual Mainz in 2009, but then the tournament ceased to exist.

Today the tradition was picked up again.

The organizers dubbed their match the "unofficial world championship," and therefore Nakamura's invitation was logical—as was Carlsen's. After all, we're talking about Norwegian organizers!

Chess is big in Norway, as long as Carlsen is involved. And so, on the day when the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang were opened, national broadcaster NRK had a five-hour live show focused on just one table, two chairs, two players and a chess set.

But this time, it was all a bit different for the Norwegian viewers. Not only were the players in a museum (surrounded by photos of Dag Alveng, Norway's most famous photographer), but they were also playing a different kind of chess.

Half an hour before the start of game one, the position of the pieces was decided randomly by computer. Fifteen minutes before the start, Carlsen and Nakamura were told about it. After winning the drawing of lots yesterday, it was the Norwegian who played as White, with little time to prepare.

This first game of the match was rather timid, as the players quickly reached a symmetrical pawn structure, and as early as move 23, only four bishops were still on the board.

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov

Erna Solberg, Carlsen-Nakamura Fischer Random

Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg makes Carlsen's first move. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

After the first game, there were about 1.5 hours until the second. This meant that both players had more time to prepare the (same) position, and this time Nakamura got to play it with the white pieces.

Only in chess960 do you get to see a white rook on d4 after three moves, which is what happened! Soon after, Nakamura's other rook developed via h3, and the American player continued energetically. On move 21 he missed an excellent chance to maybe take the lead in the match.

Annotations by GM Dejan Bojkov

"I thought I played reasonably well," said Nakamura afterward. "In the first game, I wasn't really happy with my opening play. But again, it was the first game; you don't really have time to prepare, not just prepare, but you don't even have time to feel the position that much."

The American GM also revealed that he had played some Fischer random games the night before and even in the morning. He used his own account, so don't be surprised if he shows up on tomorrow again!

On Norwegian television, the fans could also keep an eye on the heart rates of the players. For the next four days, the live broadcast will (most probably) also have access to this data.

The Nakamura-Carlsen Fischer random match will see three more days 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 1 | Part 1.

Nakamura-Carlsen 960 Fischer Random Match, Day 1 | Part 2.Carlsen-Nakamura Chess960 Fischer Random Fischer's Grave

Carlsen and Nakamura play next to a photo of Bobby Fischer's tombstone. Their table has been made of the same marble as the tombstone. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ Fischer Random Game 1

The players agree to a draw in game one... | Photo: Maria Emelianova/, Nakamura analyzing Fischer Random

...and exchange some variations at the board. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/øran Aulin-Jansson with Anna Rudolf

Jøran Aulin-Jansson with Anna Rudolf in the studio. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/ Olav Lahlum with Carlsen and Nakamura

Chief arbiter Hans Olav Lahlum at the start of game two. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/, Carlsen interviewed by NRK

Nakamura and Carlsen interviewed by NRK. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Related story:

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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