Caruana, Gukesh Defeat World Numbers 1 and 2 To Take Early Lead

Caruana, Gukesh Defeat World Numbers 1 and 2 To Take Early Lead


GMs Fabiano Caruana and Gukesh D, respectively, defeated the world number-one and number-two, GMs Magnus Carlsen and Alireza Firouzja, in the first round of Norway Chess 2023. With wins in the classical portion, they lead the tournament with 3 points each.

After draws in the classical games, GMs Anish Giri, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and Wesley So won in the armageddon segment, respectively, against GMs Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Aryan Tari, and Hikaru Nakamura. Winners of the armageddon finish on 1.5 points, while the players who lose finish on 1.

Norway Chess continues on Wednesday, May 31, starting at 8 a.m. PT/17:00 CEST

A decade after its inaugural event in 2013, this annual super-tournament returns to Stavanger with the promise of decisive chess games every round. Its unique format adds extra incentives, at least theoretically, for participants to play for the win in the classical portion. If the classical game is drawn, players must decide a winner with an armageddon game. 

Players earn 3 points for a win in classical,1.5 for a draw and armageddon win, 1 for a draw and armageddon loss, and 0 for a loss. They also cannot draw by agreement in the classical portion before Black’s 30th move.

Stavanger, Norway. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

This year’s Norway Chess showcases an illustrious field of established and up-and-coming stars. Carlsen, the world number-one but no longer world champion, hopes to score his sixth title (and fifth consecutively). One fan-favorite pairing will be Carlsen against Nakamura, which will occur in round three on Thursday.

The popular streamer, despite coining the infamous phrase, “I literally don’t care,” has made gains in classical chess since returning after a two-year hiatus and was the world number five going into the event.

Firouzja, who’s 19 years old, recently regained his world number-two spot after beating World Champion Ding Liren in the Superbet Chess Classic Romania. There is an entourage of other young grandmasters: Tari (23), Gukesh (turned 17 yesterday), and the blitz event winner Abdusattorov (18). 

Giri (Tata Steel Chess 2023 champion), Caruana (Superbet Chess Classic Romania 2023 champion), So, and Mamedyarov represent the rest of the “older guard” (although their average age is 31). The first three are in the world’s top 10, while the formerly 2820-rated and tactically venomous Mamedyarov is currently at number-17.

All the players playing blitz on Monday. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Pairings were determined after the blitz event the day prior. Now, let’s dive into the chess.


Five years after their 2018 world championship encounter, this matchup will likely continue to be a headliner for the rest of their careers. It was Carlsen’s first classical game since Tata Steel Chess 2023—and his first loss.

Always an epic handshake. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Perhaps inspired by Ding’s opening choice in game seven of the recent world championship, Carlsen opted for a fight on move one with 1. e4 e6, the French Defense. He’s also played it in several online games.

“I was surprised by it, but I wasn’t surprised that I was surprised,” said Caruana about the opening after the game.

In the middlegame, Carlsen’s pieces were concentrated on the queenside, but stiflingly so. Caruana pressed an advantage with 22.f5!, taking aim at a potentially trapped rook on c7 and opening the game.

Despite the advantage on the board, Caruana’s clock dwindled, and by move 32, he had under 10 minutes with no increment for another eight moves. “It was a very tough game, especially with the time control,” he would say after the game. He was “very happy with” his tactical shot 32.Nd7!! and supposed Carlsen missed the (only) winning move 34.Re5, two moves after which Carlsen resigned.

Any victory over Carlsen is commendable, and in classical chess, it is a career achievement. With this win, Caruana leapfrogs GM Ian Nepomniaachtchi as number four on the rating list. This is our Game of the Day, annotated below by GM Rafael Leitao.


In the all-American matchup, both players played their cards close to the chest in the Berlin Defense, perhaps the most solid opening in chess. Nakamura was the first to invent with the novelty 10…Ne8!?. This was the most evenly matched classical game, and the players steered the ship confidently to the dark waters of armageddon.

So would have the white pieces and 10 minutes against Nakamura’s seven minutes. A one-move increment is only added after move 40. 

Nakamura seemed to be cruising to at least equality. On move 20, he was already on the verge of having an advantage, and Caruana (in the commentary booth) expressed confidence that Nakamura would hold. 

The master of the squeeze, Wesley So. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

In the endgame, So had the imbalance of a knight against Nakamura’s three pawns. But after a cunning move by White, Nakamura blundered a pawn. Although the engine claims he could have defended close to the very end, in a practical game, it was too much. He resigned with four seconds on the clock.

Below you can see Nakamura’s video analyzing his battle against So:


While Firouzja is no longer a “rising star,” seeing as he’s number two in the world, Gukesh seems to be on a similar trajectory to greatness. At just age 17, he’s the Indian number-two (behind GM Viswanathan Anand) and world number-15 after defeating the French-Iranian prodigy on Tuesday.

Firouzja won their only previous classical encounter, at the 25th Abu Dhabi Masters, but that was in 2018. After the game, he said: “I wanted to be solid today to just get the blitz off my mind and to start the tournament in a good mood.” A good mood is surely what he earned!

Gukesh evens the score. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The most natural move is not always the correct one in chess. Firouzja first missed an opportunity on move 20, playing the natural 20.Nxd4 when there was the better 20.Bxh6!! (objectively and aesthetically) to win material.

Soon the position spiraled into a tactical frenzy, and Firouzja again played the most natural move in the position, 28.Bxe6? to capture a pawn with check. Gukesh also identified this as “the critical mistake,” saying afterward: “He could have played Ne4 and I’m guessing Black has something to just be slightly better.”

Ultimately, Firouzja’s chosen move lost time, and the black initiative rolled in like a storm cloud.


All five previous classical games between these two ended in draws, although it’s not for a lack of trying. This sixth classical encounter was no different, but armageddon made sure there had to be a winner, and it was Giri today.

First, the classical game. In a Queen’s Gambit where Abdusattorov took on an isolated queen’s pawn, the game heated up on move 18, where Polgar pointed out that the “safe” continuation would be to force trades with 18…Bc6. Giri instead went for the more complicated 18…Bxg3, and although he won a pawn later in the endgame, he was unable to score the full point (or three, in this case).

A good day with the black pieces for Giri. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The psychological trend continued in favor of the Dutch number one, and he hit the home run in the armageddon, winning with Black. He was the first to introduce the opening novelty, and it was a pawn sacrifice on move 11.

The Uzbek prodigy had just one chance at a win in this game, and he had to find the brilliant 16.c5!!. After this miss, the game was equal for a long time. Two knight retreats on move 30 and 31, and he was already worse. He lost the game four moves later to a flashy, game-finishing tactic.


Although they’ve played a handful of games online, these players met for the first time in a classical game at Norway Chess 2022. That game was a draw, and Mamedyarov won the armageddon.

In their last game, Mamedyarov opened with 1.d4, which led to the Nimzo-Indian Defense, but after 1.c4, we had a new opening, the topical Tarrasch Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

After the powerful maneuver 10…Rb8, telegraphing the natural …b5 followup, the Azerbaijani did not find an appropriate response. Although he was worse out of the opening, he managed to pull the emergency breaks and salvage a draw.

The Azerbaijani grandmaster returned to the armageddon game ready for a fight. His violent intentions were clear when he played 6.g4!?, sacrificing a pawn for the attack. 

The tactical wizard is unafraid of sacrificing pawns. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The players maneuvered in a complicated, opposite-sides castling position for a while, but the decisive mistake came with 22…Qa2+??. A move later, it became clear that Tari would lose his queen. Mamedyarov had no issues winning with the extra queen after that.

Round 1 Scores

Round 2 Pairings

Board Rtg White

Black Rtg
1 2732 Gukesh D

Hikaru Nakamura 2775
2 2853 Magnus Carlsen

Wesley So 2760
3 2768 Anish Giri

Fabiano Caruana 2764
4 2642 Aryan Tari

Nodirbek Abdusattorov 2731
5 2785 Alireza Firouzja

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2738

All Games – Round 1

The 2023 Norway Chess is an elite over-the-board tournament in Stavanger, Norway. The event starts on May 29 at 10 a.m. PT/19:00 CEST with a blitz tournament, followed by a classical event beginning May 30 at 8 a.m. PT/17:00 CEST. 

10 players compete in a single round-robin where they earn 3 points for a win in classical,1.5 for a draw and armageddon win, 1 for a draw and armageddon loss, and 0 for a loss. The player who played White in the classical game plays White in the armageddon.The time control for the classical game is 120 minutes for the entire game with a 10-second increment per move starting on move 41. In the armageddon game, White gets 10 minutes and Black gets seven minutes with draw odds, plus a one-second increment for both players starting on move 41.

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