Norway Chess: Aronian beats Carlsen, Firouzja secures second place

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/17/2020 – The 2020 Altibox Norway Chess tournament came to an end on Friday. Magnus Carlsen had secured tournament victory with a round to spare, but finished the event with a loss to Levon Aronian. 17-year-old Alireza Firouzja came in second place thanks to a final-round win over Jan-Krzysztof Duda. In the only matchup that went to Armageddon in round 10, Fabiano Caruana defeated Aryan Tari. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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“We want to play chess”

In these uncertain times — and given the fact that Magnus Carlsen had won the event ahead of time — most of the talk once the tournament ended had to do with future competitions and whether they will take place online or not. Levon Aronian told Fiona Steil-Antoni:

We are chess players, we want to play chess, so I think I’ll take any opportunity to play chess. For us professionals, I think it doesn’t really matter if we play online or if we play over the board. We try to give our best.

Meanwhile, the one Candidate that played in Stavanger, Fabiano Caruana, referred to FIDE’s decision to organize the second half of the Candidates Tournament in spring next year:

I think at the moment [it is the right decision]. Things are getting worse around the world and it’s a risk to the players’ health and to everyone else who will be involved in the tournament. [...] I don’t think we should be compromising the safety of people to play chess.

Caruana does not enjoy playing online that much though:

I prefer over the board. I mean, online chess is fun, but after a while it does a get a little bit...you know, playing nonstop events and playing so many games you do kind of run out of energy. And I’m not a huge fan of looking at the screen in general.

Going back to the tournament, wins by Aronian and Alireza Firouzja were the stories of the day. After going undefeated for 125 games, Carlsen lost twice in a week, with Aronian securing sole third place with a victory over the world champion in round 10. Beating Carlsen was not enough to finish immediately below him in the standings though, as Firouzja ended the tournament in style, beating Jan-Krzysztof Duda in their classical game.

Firouzja was leading the event for a while, and saw his chances of winning the tournament disappear at once when he made a crude mistake against Carlsen in round 9. The youngster commented:

Today I feel happy, but in general I’m a bit disappointed because I was very close to win the whole thing. [...] I got a good result, and except yesterday’s game I think all the games were of good quality.

Alireza Firouzja

Second place in a supertournament at 17 — not a bad result at all! | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Carlsen 0 : 3 Aronian

The world champion was not very happy with his performance on the last day of action, as he was worse in the middlegame and then erred in a rook endgame to lose against Aronian. Carlsen tweeted:

Lost deservedly in the last round of Norway Chess today, which luckily did not matter in terms of tournament standings. There certainly were some positive moments, but mostly I felt pretty clueless throughout the tournament.

He also mentioned though:

Nevertheless happy to be playing over the board and classical again, and a huge thanks to the organizer for making it possible and safe for us. Don’t know when I’ll be playing a classical tournament again, but I’ll be eagerly awaiting the opportunity, and try to improve.

In the game, Aronian was better throughout, since Carlsen’s plan to expand on the kingside did not amount to much in the middlegame. The decisive mistake came on move 49:

 

White needed to push his h-pawn at once instead of wasting a tempo with 50.Rxf6 here. Aronian simply started advancing his passers on the queenside, and White’s rook and king were not quick enough to stop them.

 

Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian

Will we see a handshake the next time we see them playing ‘live’? | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Firouzja 3 : 0 Duda

As Firouzja explained later, Duda seemed to be surprised by his 13.Nc2 out of the opening. Two moves later, Duda spent half an hour before deciding on an unusual manoeuvre:

 

15...Nh5, offering a bishop trade, was described by Firouzja as “very strange”. From that point on, Duda had a tough time dealing with White’s initiative as his pieces were not fully developed. Furthermore, he was permanently pressured by the clock after that long pause on move 15. A ruthless Firouzja won the game in 39 moves.

 

Alireza Firouzja, Jan-Krzysztof Duda

Alireza Firouzja vs. Jan-Krzysztof Duda | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Caruana 1½ : 1 Tari

World number 2 Caruana later explained that he felt he had a really good position after his exchange sacrifice on move 20 in the classical game:

 

20.Rxe6 fxe6 21.Bxh6 Rf7 22.Be3 and only then it dawned on Caruana that he was not better at all. The American explained, “Probably it’s a draw on every line, but I’m definitely not better”. Indeed, after 50 moves, the players agreed to a draw and took the matchup to Armageddon.

In the tiebreaker, Caruana got to capture a minor piece with a rook on e6 again, but under very different circumstances:

 

White was already completely winning, with his d-pawn on the seventh rank and Black’s king irreversibly weakened — 35.Rxe6 Qxd1+ 36.Kh2 Rb1 37.Qxf7+ Rg7 38.Qf5+ and Tari resigned.

 

Fabiano Caruana, Aryan Tari

Stalemate — on to Armageddon! | Photo: Lennart Ootes


Final standings

1. Carlsen 19.5
2. Firouzja 18.5
3. Aronian 17.5
4. Caruana  15.5
5. Duda 9.5
6. Tari 3.5


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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.

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