Caruana Wins Again, Leads by 1.5 Points, Rises to World Number-3

Caruana Wins Again, Leads by 1.5 Points, Rises to World Number-3

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After winning his second classical game, against GM Aryan Tari, GM Fabiano Caruana extends his lead in Norway Chess 2023 to a point and a half above the field with 7.5/9.

Besides the aforementioned game, Thursday was a good day to play the black pieces. GM Alireza Firouzja defeated GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov with Black in his second consecutive classical win and is in sole second on 6/9, while the three other games were decided in favor of Black in armageddon.

After drawing their first classical game in four years after about 10 minutes of play, GM Magnus Carlsen beat GM Hikaru Nakamura in the tiebreaker. GM Gukesh D slipped out of a worse/losing position against GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and won with Black, while GM Anish Giri took advantage of a blundered one-move fork to win against GM Wesley So (a draw was agreed, which is equal to resignation).

Norway Chess continues on Saturday, June 3, starting at 8 a.m. PT/17:00 CEST after a rest day.

Chess fans were treated to another day of fighting, decisive, and at times jaw-dropping chess. For those not in Stavanger themselves, you can take a look at the quick venue walkthrough below.

Nakamura-Carlsen

This was the first classical encounter between these two heavyweights in four years—their last game being at the Sinquefield Cup in 2019. Although their more recent head-to-head encounters in speed chess have been more evenly matched, Carlsen boasts 14 wins against one (25 draws) in classical.

So, Gukesh, and Giri spectate during their games. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Hours before this anticipated matchup, Nakamura spoke at the Norway Summit, presenting: “Building a Winning Strategy: Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura’s Insights on Branding, Content Creation, and Monetization.” One of the points he mentioned might be termed the “I literally don’t care” philosophy, which has been psychologically liberating for him.

The first game ended in 10 minutes. The players rehearsed their opening knowledge in the Marshall Attack, Carlsen played a new move on the 29th turn, and they shook hands two moves later after a threefold repetition.

Carlsen said after the game: “If you gave me a list of ways that the first game would finish, like the very way it finished would be at the very top of the list.”

Now, the armageddon was much more exciting. We usually don’t see the King’s Gambit, a throwback to the Romantic era of chess, but Nakamura attempted to bring us back to the gold ol’ days. 

“I don’t think you ever expect the King’s Gambit, but it was not an unpleasant surprise,” said Carlsen afterward.

“I don’t think you ever expect the King’s Gambit, but it was not an unpleasant surprise,

—Magnus Carlsen 

“There are other ways to play, there are other ways to surprise that are less pleasant for sure. The thing is also the King’s Gambit is not that bad. With good preparation, you can make it at least semi-playable for White, but the thing is Black has so many good ways to play and it’s not particularly difficult to play for the Black pieces. I think that’s the main issue for White there.”

Repeating the same line that he recalled he played in 2004 to earn his final GM norm (included below), Carlsen was unchallenged in the opening and went on to win a nice attacking game.

You can listen to Nakamura’s thoughts about the game in his recap below:

Caruana-Tari

Caruana, who called it an “ideal start” to the tournament, racked up another win in the classical game. His score against Tari is now +3, with two draws and no losses.

The tournament leader (before and after the round) said that his opening after 4.dxc4 was designed to ensure a long game with a fixed pawn structure. He mentioned that his opening was inspired by this Carlsen-Aronian game from Norway Chess 2020 (analyzed by GM Dejan Bojkov).

“I was just trying to get a very long game with the fixed pawn structure,” said Caruana. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen, who already finished both his games and joined the broadcast, was critical of 10…0-0 (“castling into it,” GM Bobby Fischer would say), saying that Tari was probably nervous about Bh6 but that “the cure is worse than the disease.” Although the engine believes Black is fine, it cannot speak to the factor of psychological discomfort in one position or another.

By move 13, Tari overreacted with 13…c5?!, going for activity but ultimately giving himself an isolated pawn. Caruana played a model game against the weakness, at one point even declining to capture it and following Aaron Nimzovich‘s advice: “The threat is stronger than the execution.” 

The game ended with a memorable queen sacrifice. Since capturing the isolated pawn on d5, Caruana used about 10 minutes total in closing out the last eight moves.

About his tournament situation, Caruana said: “It’s so far pretty much ideal… Still, I’m not relaxed. It’s still six rounds to go and six very tough ones. And I had two of my Whites at the start.”

Caruana climbs to world number-three. Image: 2700chess.com.

Abdusattorov-Firouzja

Firouzja scored his first win in classical over Abdusattorov on Thursday. Their single previous game, the Aeroflot Open in 2019, was a draw.

It was a tense struggle arising from the Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav Defense. Firouzja would later say: “He played great, I think, with White and it was just a moment that he should have played solid or go for the advantage and he chose going for advantage, which was very brave but he miscalculated some things.”

Abdusattorov and Firouzja, giants of the next generation. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

He didn’t elaborate on what point exactly Abdusattorov could have “pulled the breaks,” so to speak. Despite mutual mistakes by both sides, Firouzja emerged from the smoke with a winning position. He demonstrated strong technique in a not-so-trivial queen and extra pawn vs. rook and knight endgame to score the difficult 3 points.

This hard-fought encounter between two next-generation grandmasters is our Game of the Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao below.

Asked to assess his level of chess, Firouzja responded: “It was shaky the first rounds, but today I am very happy with my game. Against Mamedyarov, was lot of ups and downs, but in general, I think it’s decent but could improve.”

In 2023, he has played 12 games so far, nine decisive ones and three draws, with a 2806 performance.

Mamedyarov-Gukesh

The 17-year-old Indian prodigy won this clash of generations in the armageddon game after an uneventful draw with Black. 

Mamedyarov was unable to prove an advantage with White in the first game. In a Symmetrical English Opening, Gukesh was the first to bring a new idea with 12…Qd7 (not the only move), and White had to liquidate his isolated c-pawn before it became a weakness. The players vacuumed the pieces off the board after that.

The players finished with over an hour on the clock each. Their classical record is equal, with two draws after each of them had a try with the white pieces.

In the armageddon, it was Gukesh who deviated from the first game with 2…Nc6 and then he determined a different structure with 3…e5. He said the new opening was “not part of the plan, but I guess it worked out well.”

The Indian grandmaster missed 6.h4!?, after which Mamedyarov had a promising attack. 

Asked about how he feels about playing Carlsen on Saturday, Gukesh responded: “Let’s see. I didn’t really think about the game yet, but when I’m preparing I’ll make a call… I treat it as a game against the best player in the world and I try to give my best, and let’s see what happens.”

A huge relief on Gukesh’s face as he beats Shakh in a nailbiting Armageddon. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

So-Giri

In classical chess, these players have been evenly matched. With three wins apiece, they made their 22nd draw on Thursday. 

So was unable to prove an advantage against the Semi-Tarrasch Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, and although the engine nitpicks 30.Re7 as a missed opportunity, it likely would not have changed the result of the game.

The second game was a heartbreaker for So. After revealing an opening novelty with 12…c4, Giri went on to outplay his opponent with Black. He played a nice exchange sacrifice on move 25 and, a few moves later, had more than enough compensation with the extra pawn and play against White’s king plus pawn weaknesses.

But none of that mattered in the end. So, with four minutes against three, blundered a one-move fork with 35.Qe3??, and although the position was just “equal” before that, there really was no more hope after a one-move slip.

Both players smile despite the catastrophe. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Asked about how he’s feeling about the tournament so far, Giri responded: “I think it’s fine… there are some moments to improve here and there… More importantly than chess level, I think the score is very good so far. The last two days the classical portion was tough, so I was just defending… but again we just started.”

On the value of these extra half-points earned in armageddon games, he said: “I think in the end, a half-point will determine you know whether you are a place, let’s say, whether you are third or fourth, second or third, first or second as well.”

Round 3 Scores









Board Rtg  White

Black Rtg
1 2732 Gukesh D

Magnus Carlsen 2853
2 2768 Anish Giri

Hikaru Nakamura 2775
3 2642 Aryan Tari

Wesley So 2760
4 2785 Alireza Firouzja

Fabiano Caruana 2764
5 2738 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Nodirbek Abdusattorov 2731

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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