Magnus Carlsen Doesn't Know Time Control, Loses On Time

Magnus Carlsen Doesn't Know Time Control, Loses On Time

| 75 | Chess Event Coverage

Norway Chess saw a shocking end of the first round as GM Magnus Carlsen lost on time to GM Veselin Topalov in a winning position, unaware of the time control.

Earlier, GMs Anish Giri, Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had won their games. To sum it up, one could say that the round saw three wins, a draw and a loss.

It's hard to think of a similar case where a chess world champion lost in such a remarkable way as Carlsen did today — by not knowing the rules. 

The Norwegian was about to win a “typical Carlsen game,” grinding down Topalov in a deep ending that looked quite drawish. Then, suddenly he lost on time on move 60, not realizing that he wasn't getting extra time on the clock.

The time control in Norway is 40 moves in 2 hours followed by 1 hour to finish the game, and 30 seconds per move from move 41. It's a bit of an odd combination of the classical time control and the FIDE time control, never used before at top events.

The moment when Carlsen was told that he lost on time.

It is mentioned in the players’ contract, and just to be sure, the chief arbiter announced it to the players at the start of the first round. However, one player arrived late for that first round: Magnus Carlsen.

Carlsen said this in the TV2 studio where he joined the show for about 20 minutes despite the horrible experience at the board. He blamed himself, but also felt that the organizers could have made it more clear that they were using a completely new rate of play.

Norway Chess is one of the few strong tournaments that does not have a technical meeting for the players before the start. “They are boring, but now we know why they exist,” Levon Aronian said.

As it turned out, Carlsen had a forced checkmate in 32 moves in the final position starting with 61.Bc4+. Not all checks are obvious, so besides the shocking result, it's a pity that we didn't get to see the remainder of the game.

A dramatic start for Carlsen and his opponent Topalov.

“We are missing one player,” said organizer Jøran Aulin-Jansson at the start of the round. As said, Carlsen arrived late (some 30 seconds), just when Garry Kasparov was going to perform the ceremonial first move on his board. “Maybe Garry has to make a few more moves!” joked Aulin-Jansson.

Gazza clearly enjoyed JJ's joke!

The start of the tournament is definitely lustered by the presence of The Boss. On Tuesday he gave several interviews, and appeared both on Norwegian TV and the commentary on the tournament website.

For TV2, which is freely available on TV but only for premium members online, Kasparov for instance said that he did not subscribe to the theory that Carlsen could improve if he focused more on opening preparation. “These days preparation is dominated by computer. Now it's much more important to get a position that you're comfortable with.”

He also discussed the different styles of the modern players, saying that this is the case in all sports. About Carlsen he said: “Karpov never had a performance like Magnus. I always say that Magnus' playing style combines Karpov and Fischer.

“He may be looking like Karpov, playing very positionally, but you can feel Fischer, with his passion, his fight till the last pawn. Karpov never had it.”

Garry Kasparov sharing his thoughts in Stavanger.

As the ambassador of the new Grand Chess Tour, Kasparov seems to have a strong influence on this new initiative. Speaking with Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam, he underlined that he wants to have all the top players participating.

“They don't have to play all six,” said Kasparov. “We're going for the top 10, although with six tournaments you can go to 12.”

That sounds a lot like the old FIDE Grand Prix Series, which also had six tournaments and everyone played played only four. “There must also be a chance for other players to qualify,” added Kasparov. “Other tournaments can function as potential qualifiers.”

Tomorrow Kasparov is off to the U.S. where he'll have another training session with young talents as part of the St. Louis prodigy program. He'll be working with Sam Sevian, Kayden Troff and Jeffery Xiong.

Kasparov with Yasser Seirawan in the playing hall.

The first game to end was GM Viswanathan Anand vs GM Fabiano Caruana, a Berlin Ruy Lopez with 4.d3 where Anand did manage to get an advantage.

Caruana was one of the first players to go to the “confession box,” where he mentioned that his opponent could force a draw on move 11. After the game he explained that he had seen that during his preparation.

Anand played on, but at some point he realized that the most he could get was an opposite-colored bishop ending with an extra pawn. Instead, he preferred to go for a draw right away.

Seeing no way to win, Anand forced the draw.

The first winner of the day was Dutch GM Anish Giri, who was also one of the players who visited the confession box — but only when he had a winning position!

“It was a little bit uncomfortable. It's difficult to say anything on camera when you're playing a game of chess. But I'm sure I'd be happy as a spectator when a player does it,” Giri said. 

Giri also said that he used it a bit as an excuse: “In case I wasn't winning, I could blame this!”

It looked like a very strong and smooth win over GM Alexander Grischuk, except for one moment. Giri got a huge advantage after inaccurate opening play by his opponent, but the Russian missed a chance to equalize on move 26.

“I'm not going to be like those players who beat me and then complain. I'm very happy!” said Giri.


Anish Giri starts with a win in Stavanger.

GM Hikaru Nakamura said he was “rather angry” in the opening phase, as he thought he would surprise his opponent with an early b3 in the English. However, GM Jon Ludvig Hammer quickly played all the best moves and didn't need time for it.

The Norwegian, who stated at yesterday's press conference that a good start is very important to him, continued well until move 32. One mistake was enough for his position to collapse — although the computer showed something crazy on move 38.

“I thought I played quite well overall,” said Nakamura. “He thought he was much better, which is probably why he misplayed it.”


Hammer over-pressed as he thought he was much better.

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave boosted his confidence even further with a first-round win over GM Levon Aronian. The winner of the blitz got a promising position right out of the opening, a Ragozin. Aronian said he spent a lot of time on this variation, but it was simply too long ago that he last looked at it.

With a nice intermediate move (20.exd5!), anticipated by Kasparov on Norwegian TV, MVL won a pawn. Aronian gave up another one, hoping that White's doubled g-pawn couldn't get dangerous without weakening the white king, but White's advantage turned out to be decisive.

“I went to sleep before midnight, which for me probably didn't happen for five years or so,” was how Vachier-Lagrave explained his good start.

Vachier-Lagrave couldn't have wished for more so far.

If the day wasn't dramatic enough, half an hour before midnight the hotel's fire alarm went off. Chess players and other hotel guests had to leave the hotel, and stayed outside for about half a hour. As it turned out, one of the guests needed medical assistance.


Norway Chess 2015 | Schedule & Pairings

Round 1 16.06.15 16:00 CET   Round 2 17.06.15 16:00 CET
Giri 1-0 Grischuk   Grischuk - Aronian


Caruana   Hammer - Vachier-Lagrave
Carlsen 0-1 Topalov   Topalov - Nakamura
Nakamura 1-0 Hammer   Caruana - Carlsen
Vachier-Lagrave 1-0 Aronian   Giri - Anand
Round 3 18.06.15 16:00 CET   Round 4 19.06.15 16:00 CET
Anand - Grischuk   Grischuk - Hammer
Carlsen - Giri   Topalov - Aronian
Nakamura - Caruana   Caruana - Vachier-Lagrave
Vachier-Lagrave - Topalov   Giri - Nakamura
Aronian - Hammer   Anand - Carlsen
Round 5 21.06.15 16:00 CET   Round 6 22.06.15 16:00 CET
Carlsen - Grischuk   Grischuk - Topalov
Nakamura - Anand   Caruana - Hammer
Vachier-Lagrave - Giri   Giri - Aronian
Aronian - Caruana   Anand - Vachier-Lagrave
Hammer   Topalov   Carlsen - Nakamura
Round 7 23.06.15 16:00 CET   Round 8 24.06.15 16:00 CET
Nakamura - Grischuk   Grischuk - Caruana
Vachier-Lagrave - Carlsen   Giri - Topalov
Aronian - Anand   Anand - Hammer
Hammer - Giri   Carlsen - Aronian
Topalov - Caruana   Nakamura - Vachier-Lagrave
Round 9 25.06.15 15:00 CET        
Vachier-Lagrave - Grischuk        
Aronian - Nakamura        
Hammer - Carlsen        
Topalov - Anand        
Caruana - Giri        

The Norway Chess tournament runs June 15-26 in the Stavanger region. | Games via TWIC phpfCo1l0.png
No time to watch the games live? No problem! The Norway Chess tournament is covered on with a daily recap show that runs 1.5 hours. The games will be analyzed and there's video material by Peter Doggers, who is covering the tournament from Stavanger. The show starts each day at 11 p.m. Central European time, 5 p.m. New York, 2 p.m. Pacific.

Correction: an earlier version of this report stated that Magnus Carlsen arrived “a few minutes late.”

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