GM Magnus Carlsen won the Norway Chess tournament for the third time in a row and for the fourth time overall. As in the first half of the tournament, the world champion won the Armageddon game against World Cup challenger GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, who finished fourth.
GM Alireza Firouzja defeated and overtook GM Richard Rapport and finished second like last year. GM Sergey Karjakin, who won the first two editions of Norway Chess, finished fifth after defeating GM Aryan Tari in Armageddon.
“This time it feels even better,” said Carlsen after his fourth title at Stavanger. “It’s been really tough this year and to be honest it didn’t seem likely at all at halftime. It’s a really satisfying win.”
It’s a really satisfying win.
The world champion has had many slow start tournaments in his career and this was another. “I wasn’t really rusty, I just couldn’t get any further,” he said of the disappointing first half, in which he recorded four draws and one defeat in the classic games. However, the four Armageddons he played were all won.
But how did he turn it around?
Carlsen: “First of all, I feel like I worked really hard during the games. I didn’t have that much to do, it seemed like every game was tough, every win had to be won. But of course it makes it even more rewarding to be successful. It wasn’t sparkling at all, but I think, given the circumstances, I’ve achieved absolutely everything I could have hoped for. “
In their classic game – the last one before their World Cup – Nepomniachtchi chose an Italian variant, which has recently been very popular at the many online blitz events. Carlsen knew this, of course, and decided to follow a blitz game he’d played with GM Wesley So, which meant he had to accept a slightly worse but pretty solid middlegame.
“I chose a line that’s a little worse for Black, but nothing special,” he said, adding, “I think I kept it quite well.” He was referring to his moves 28 … Kh7, 29 … Qf5, and 30 … Rd5.
Nepomniachtchi: “I felt like I had a good advantage after taking the e-file, but somehow it’s not that easy to take advantage of so I think he just played well. When he got that idea has found 30 … Rd5, and sometimes … Rb5, you know, it was never the one-sided game I wanted it to be, so I think a draw is a more or less objective result. “
For the must-win Armageddon, Nepomniachtchi played a Vienna and won a pawn in the opening, but Carlsen trusted his pair of bishops. How tired the players really were after 10 rounds became clear when both completely missed the easy, swap-winning 16 … Ba6. After that, Nepomniachtchi could not gain a noticeable advantage and finally lost because he had to push.
In this way, both of the players’ encounters at the 2021 World Cup ended with an Armageddon win for Carlsen, who commented, “It’s nice, but I was so tired in Armageddon, I felt like I had so much energy over the past few years Having spent days running out of Armageddon. I was just so tactically blind, but … bishops are very strong, that saved me in the end! “
“I think this game was pretty symbolic because at the same time I think Richard [was] not too good with Black, since he won’t win his game, the game wasn’t that important, “said Nepomniachtchi.” I think it was a good advantage for White at some point, but still, these two bishops … chance of one Draw.”
His compatriot Tari was impressed by Carlsen’s tournament victory and the four-game streak: “It’s unbelievable to do that in such a field.
Understandably, Nepomniachtchi wasn’t too enthusiastic about his tournament: “The result is disgusting, absolutely disgusting given all the chances I lost, especially those two games against Firouzja and Aryan, but at the same time I think it was quite useful.”
The tournament lasted just a few rounds too long for Rapport, who lost the game and his second place in the final round to Firouzja. His comment: “It’s finally over. This is always my favorite part of every chess tournament when the misery ends!”
This is always my favorite part of any chess tournament when the misery ends!
It also meant that, like the tournament winner, Firouzja could win four games in a row. “Two wins out of four wins in the second half are 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 in the tournament and second place is fine after losing to Magnus, so I couldn’t imagine it. I lost almost six or seven points.”
Beating Rapport was a wild affair, worthy of a clash between two very interesting players who both made it into the top 10 in the world thanks to this tournament.
The game started with a fun line in Rossolimo and got razor sharp when Firouzja decided to give up his rook on a1 – an idea he hadn’t prepared. “If he plays that line, he should have prepared [it] because I find this rook sacrifice very interesting, “said Firouzja.” I didn’t see it prepared beforehand, I made it up 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 locomotives favored black on one of the critical lines. However, the defender (as is so often the case in Tal’s games) could not find his way through the complications and Rapport soon ran into serious difficulties, also because Firouzja’s moves had a strong tactical foundation:
The two-time winner Karjakin finished fifth this time – not the best result like his compatriot, and maybe it was also because the two Russians did not have a day off. Karjakin himself also mentioned that he did not feel fully recovered from the World Cup.
Commenting on his final match with Tari, he said: “I just wanted to play, have fun playing because I don’t know when I will next play a tournament game, so I tried to be creative in the classic game.”
Tari: “I think I played well. It was a very complicated game, maybe at some point I could have put a little more pressure on.”
Karjakin switched to 1.b3 for Armageddon and at one point faced an interesting and pretty good pawn sacrifice from Tari. In the end, however, experience prevailed.
“In Blitz you have to be precise and he made a few imprecise moves and then I got a healthy pawn and I think it was a lot better for me,” said Karjakin.
Tari on his tournament: “It’s at least much better than last year. I’m very happy that I won a game here. It’s very hard to beat these guys, so I won against Ian when I was Black a great achievement. A lot of things to learn and I’m excited about the experience. “
Firouzja’s next tournament will be the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss, which starts at the end of October. Carlsen and Tari are already traveling to North Macedonia for the European Club Cup next Sunday.
And then, at the end of November, there is this world championship. A former participant commented on some of the comments – Karjakin: “I think it’s going to be a very interesting game. It will be very important who comes in better shape. I think Ian should rest.
“I don’t know with Magnus whether he wants to rest or play another tournament. For me I would definitely go to rest and prepare. But basically he showed in this tournament that he is strong, but he made mistakes If he makes the same mistakes in the game, I think Ian would be ready and take his chances. “
He’s strong, but he’s made mistakes. If he makes the same mistakes in the game, I think Ian would be ready and take his chances.
Norway Chess took place from September 7th to 18th, 2021 in Stavanger, Norway. The format was a double round robin among six players. The time control was 120 minutes for the entire game with a 10-second step from move 41. In the event of a tie, the players played an Armageddon game with the same colors. A victory in the main game gave three points; one loss in the main game, zero points; a tie in the main game followed by a win in Armageddon, 1.5 points; and one loss in Armageddon, one point.