Norway Chess, Round 9: Caruana beats Carlsen

by Johannes Fischer
6/15/2019 – The Altibox Norway Chess Tournament ended with a rematch of the 2018 World Championship duel in London: Fabiano Caruana against Magnus Carlsen. But this time Caruana won. In the classical game, Caruana missed the win in a complicated position but in the Armageddon game he outplayed the world champion. Carlsen had already won the tournament on Thursday and in the end finished with 13½ out of 18 points. Levon Aronian and Yu Yangyi followed with 10½ points each, but thanks to a better tie-break Aronian finished second. | Photo: Lennart Ootes /

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Altibox Norway Chess, Round 9

In their World Championship match 2018 in London Carlsen and Caruana drew all their twelve classical games but then Carlsen won the rapid tie-break 3:0. The classical game of the Norway Chess Tournament between Caruana and Carlsen also ended in a draw though Caruana missed a win in a complicated position with little time left on the clock.


With this Carlsen continued his streak of unbeaten games with classical time-control: he did not lose a single one of his last 68 games. But in the Armageddon game Caruana ended a streak of Carlsen: in the previous eight rounds of the Norway Chess Tournament Carlsen had to play six Armageddon games which he all won, but in his seventh and last Armageddon he lost against Caruana.

After an unorthodox opening Caruana had a slight advantage which he was able to increase and to convert to a full point.


Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen

Fabiano Caruana vs Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Three of the four other matches were also decided in Armageddon. Yu Yangyi scored the only win in classical chess and won with White against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.


In their classical game Vishy Anand and Levon Aronian made an unspectacular draw which was followed by an interesting draw in the Armageddon. This draw with Black gave Aronian 1½ points and second place in the tournament — he had the same number of points as Yu Yangyi but the better tie-break.


Altibox Norway Chess 2019

The playing hall | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Wesley So and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave played an unspectacular draw in their classical encounter and then So won the Armageddon game, in which Vachier-Lagrave spoiled a big advantage.


Ding Liren and Alexander Grischuk also finished their classical game with a quick and unspectacular draw. In the Armageddon, however, Ding Liren failed to notice a tactical shot in the opening which gave Black an almost winning position. But in the end Grischuk was content with a draw as that was enough to win the Armageddon.


Results of Round 9 - Classical


Results of Round 9 - Armageddon


Final standings

# Name Country Rating Points
1 Magnus Carlsen Norway 2875 13½
2 Levon Aronian Armenia 2752 10½
  Yu Yangyi China 2738 10½
4 Fabiano Caruana USA 2819 10
  Wesley So USA 2754 10
6 Ding Liren China 2754
7 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave France 2779 8
  Viswanathan Anand India 2767 8
9 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov Azerbaijan 2774
  Alexander Grischuk Russia 2775

All games - Classical


All games - Armageddon



Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".
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KungFuChess KungFuChess 6/21/2019 06:35
@Lilloso Again you don't think things through. Firstly, you're using the world championships vs Caruana as an example to prove your point. Simply, a duel has different strategy than a tournament. Also consider that Caruana is far weaker at shorter time controls than classical. Did Carlsen take advantage of that? Oh yes, yes he did. To reiterate, each contestant knew beforehand the rules of the tournament and accepted it. If YOU don't like the format, fine, say you don't like it and move on. My point stands however, the way Magnus is playing this year what difference does it make what format is used? He is favored regardless. Your post makes it sound as if the tournaments organisers conspired to give Carlsen an advantage to win, as if he needs it! He already has the advantage since he's the better player. How is that not obvious?
jsaldea12 jsaldea12 6/17/2019 01:24
Carlsen played into the hands of Caruana in the armaggedon.
jsaldea12 jsaldea12 6/17/2019 01:21
GM So and GM Caruana played their finest at the last round
lajosarpad lajosarpad 6/16/2019 11:45
Interesting to see that Aronian did not play for the win as Black in a system which aims to pressurize players to play on, paradoxically, because of the system. He banked on his chances on Armageddon with Black, which shows that he thought that he has better chances to win the match with playing Black an Armageddon game against Anand (former king of speed chess) from the starting position than to play for a win from an advantageous position with Black (which shows how unfair the rules really are). He even sacrificed 0.25 points of his potential gains. Under classical rules we would have seen a beautiful and interesting endgame, possibly won by Black, possibly drawn.

Grischuk was okay with a draw in a better position against Ding in the Armageddon, because in that case there is no difference for Black between a win and a draw.

I disagree with the whole point of draws being a problem in chess to be solved, but here we see that the problem (which does not exist in my opinion) is not addressed properly and new problems are created in the process.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 6/16/2019 08:53
“That and we know Magnus is the highest rated classical player so if they'd only played classical games would THOSE rules be slanted in Magnus' favor? ”

Other tournaments with mixed time control, typically rapid and blitz, commonly have the longer games count more. Not this one.

Grischuk opined on the issue after his last-round win, preferring a 3-2-1-0 scoring rather than the one used, which amounts to 4-3-1-0. So that the usual approach of long games counting double of short ones is maintained.

Draws in blitz tournaments is not known to be a concern, to my knowledge.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 6/15/2019 11:13
Dumkof is right, but this stems from the nature of chess. Look at the draw rate in shogi. That the tournament format favors Magnus is a credit to Magnus's skills. The other players can work on their Armageddon skills.
Lilloso Lilloso 6/15/2019 11:03
@Kunfu I agree: M. Carlsen is the highest rated classical player. But his results in his country were not very convincing so far. Furhermore It seems to me that M. Carlsen has won his last 2 world championships through rapid games. He hasn't even tried to win his last classical game against F. Caruana, relying on his exceptional talent in rapid chess. Use your memory !
KungFuChess KungFuChess 6/15/2019 10:18
Lilloso "These norvegian rules, which seem to have been thought up to favor M. Carlsen, are unfair." Faulty logic presented. All the players knew the rules BEFORE they optioned to play there. Had the rules been different their match strategies would have been different and unless by pure coincidence the outcome would be different. Use your brain. That and we know Magnus is the highest rated classical player so if they'd only played classical games would THOSE rules be slanted in Magnus' favor? Why yes, such rules would have been. Oddly enough the best player wins more often than not, who knew? You infer Magnus needs help winning tournaments but how many has he won in a row now? How many classical matches has he remained undefeated consecutively? Use logic. Use brain. If anyone needs extra help winning tournaments it seems NOT to be the world champion. Duh!
dumkof dumkof 6/15/2019 09:07
It's a mathematical fact that the draw rates increase the stonger the players get. Engine matches prove this also. One day, almost all engine games will end in a draw. And as Mr Friedel perfecty explained it in one of his Chessbase articles, as engines get stonger and approach to a level of ~3900 Elo, they will become unbeatable, because they will be able to deviate from losing lines early enaugh to prevent it. That's why their Elo will reach a limit value, around ~3900, and not higher.

Trying to reduce the draw rates of these elite players, is just a useless attempt. Organizers are trying to "urinate against the wind", as we say. Arbitrary measures like Armageddons, lesser increments etc. wont change their playing styles and draw rates at all. These are universal players, trying to play the most correct moves the position demands.

For more decisive games one has to watch weaker tournaments and games. All sorts of blunders and action guaranteed! Please leave these elite players alone, just watch and enjoy their games without any "creative" interventions!
Lilloso Lilloso 6/15/2019 07:19
These norvegian rules, which seem to have been thought up to favor M. Carlsen, are unfair. Yu Yangyi got + 2 in classical games just like M. Carlsen, i.e 5,5/9 pts. Yet the final ranking is M. Carlsen 13,5 pts and Yu Yangyi ... 10,5 pts ! No wonder that all chess fans supported F. Caruana in the last game of the tournament.
tomk4 tomk4 6/15/2019 06:36
The format for this tournament is intended to reduce the number of draws. The results are 7W - 34D - 4B in the classical games and 16W - 18B in the armageddon games. While white did score 53% in the classical games, about normal, the 75% draws suggest that this format has not worked as intended. Also, 47% white in the armageddon
games indicates that the time differential of 10 minutes to 7 is too small, perhaps 10 - 6:30 should be tried. I agree that it would be hasty to draw firm conclusions from this small sample, but we should keep this datum in mind.