Caruana And Nakamura In Final Round Decider; “Competitors Not Rivals”

Caruana And Nakamura In Final Round Decider; "Competitors Not Rivals"


GM Fabiano Caruana increased his lead to 2.5 points after outwitting GM Wesley So through the armageddon tiebreaker to move on to 16 points with just one round to go at Norway Chess 2023. In the crucial final round on Friday, he will face another fellow American GM Hikaru Nakamura, who lost to GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov via the tiebreaker but still climbed to the second position with 13.5 points thanks to the draw in the classical game. Caruana enjoys the draw odds in their final round encounter, as Nakamura needs to win with the white pieces in the classical time control to score the full three points to capture the title.

It is ironic that the three American grandmasters in the fray are battling it out between themselves in the race for the tournament title, all being at the top of the table in the final stages of the event. 

GM Gukesh D played a delightfully imaginative game to outwit GM Aryan Tari in the only decisive game of the round in classical time control and jumped to the third position in the standings with 13 points.

It was another day of excitement at Stavanger, Norway, as four games were decided via tiebreaker with their own share of thrills and excitement, especially GM Magnus Carlsen and GM Anish Giri winning their games in contrasting styles. Carlsen has won all his seven Armageddon games in the event but has been winless in classical time control, and has just the last round left to score at least one victory.

The final round of Norway Chess will be played on Thursday, June 9, starting at 8 a.m. PT/17:00 CEST.

As an exciting penultimate round started at Stavanger, Norway, the very first spectacle we got to see was the “Walking Video,” and it was Carlsen and Caruana who seemed the most active, pacing up the playing arena in the very initial hour of the round. And it did seem that Carlsen was taking quite some interest in the Firouzja-Giri game:


In their classical encounter, Caruana seemed to be on the better side of equality throughout the game and even had an extra pawn in the rook ending, but So defended stubbornly to force a draw. However, Caruana played an impressive Armageddon game with “exceptional technique” as praised by GM Judit Polgar:


The classical game between the players was an even encounter that did not create much interest, but Nakamura appeared twice in the confession booth and briefed the online spectators with his views on the games. The professional streamer in Nakamura delighted the audience by talking about the unusual 10…Nc4!? from his own classical encounter game:

Nakamura had interesting views on the move: “…Moving this knight all over the board—this is of course using computers (preparation). You don’t care about wasting time because your opponent is pushing pawns. Probably the most obscure, the most unnatural move. So that’s why I chose to play (it) out of (all the) four possibilities in this position. I am pretty happy with what I have done.”

Nakamura: Delighting the audience with insights even while playing classical games. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

However, it was Abdusattorov who dominated the armageddon encounter in a surprisingly one-sided game:


In the most interesting game of the day, young Gukesh started seemingly slow with the London System, a choice which came for praise from Nakamura during his confession booth appearance: “Gukesh has played the classic London System. He is basically trying to get Tari out of theory, out of preparation. Just play chess. No computers, no prep. None of this nonsense that modern chess generally is!”

Just play chess. No computers, no prep. None of this nonsense that modern chess generally is!

Hikaru Nakamura, on Gukesh’s game against Tari.

But Gukesh seemed to slowly accelerate his pace of conducting the game and continued aggressively in the middlegame to take his knight to the c6-square and plant it there. And when he unleashed 17.e4!! it was obvious that this is a position for record books for quite a long time:

Acknowledging Gukesh’s brilliant play but at the same time noting Tari’s indifferent form in the tournament, GM David Howell remarked, “Poor Aryan—when it rains, it pours.”

Gukesh encouraged by his second, Polish GM Grzegorz Gajewski, before the game. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

This delightful effort by Gukesh is analyzed by GM Dejan Bojkov in our Game of the Day: Game of the Day Dejan Bojkov


“Nice short day of work!!” was how Carlsen described his draw in the classical encounter and the win in armageddon against GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, sounding unenthusiastic to fight for placings anymore in the tournament: “Today I felt like I’d had enough. The game against Alireza was really the last straw, and I was happy to have a short game.” 

Both the players seemingly decided to take it easy in the classical game, in view of their tournament standings, as it ended in a listless draw in under an hour of play. When they returned to the board to play the tiebreaker armageddon, Carlsen seemed to be doing a good job outplaying his opponent with trademark logical play before he allowed the game to get complicated, by his own admission:

World’s highest-rated player arrives for the game with a curious hairdo and colorful dress. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

When Carlsen won the Armageddon, his remarkable feat in the tournament was highlighted:

An intriguing reaction came from you-know-who:


Giri and Firouzja, too, had marginal chances to fight for the top place and hence battled intensely. After their classical game ended in a draw, the armageddon got intense quickly but proved to be a topsy-turvy affair, considering that it was a game played in quick time control:

Firouzja-Giri: an intense armageddon encounter. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Round 8 Scores

Round 9 Pairings

Bo. Rtg White Black Rtg 
1 2760 Wesley So Gukesh D  2732
2 2775 Hikaru Nakamura Fabiano Caruana 2764
3 2853 Magnus Carlsen Nodirbek Abdusattorov 2731
4 2768 Anish Giri Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2738
5 2642 Aryan Tari Alireza Firouzja 2785

All seem to be set for a crucial encounter between Nakamura and Caruana in the final round on Friday, where Nakamura has a slim yet existing chance of finishing on the top if he manages to win. Chatting about the last round with the commentators, Caruana remarked, “Yeah, I have to draw… It’s a classic, right?! (Nakamura) has to win. The onus is on him. And it’s usually not easy to win on demand. Especially these days”, when Polgar quipped, “Especially against you!”

Then, Caruana was shown a clip where Nakamura talked about their rivalry, “Rivalry… is too strong a word. We all know each other too well by this point… Competitors is the way of putting it right…” So, they were not rivals but simply competitors?

Caruana replied with a chuckle, “What’s the difference?”

The 2023 Norway Chess is an elite over-the-board tournament in Stavanger, Norway. The event started on May 29 with a blitz tournament, followed by a classical event beginning May 30. 

In the tournament, 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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