Norway Chess: Carlsen, Caruana and wooden boards

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/3/2020 – World numbers one and two will participate in the over-the-board Altibox Norway Chess tournament starting Monday. Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana will be joined by Armenian star Levon Aronian (pictured), Polish number one Jan-Krzysztof Duda, wunderkind Alireza Firouzja and local representative Aryan Tari. No matchup will split the points evenly between the contestants, as an Armageddon decider will follow each and every drawn classical game. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Quarantines and Armageddon

The Altibox Norway Chess Tournament, originally scheduled to take place in June, will kick off on Monday, October 5 in Stavanger. Instead of the usual single round-robin with ten participants, the event will be a six-player double round-robin. The organizers have decided to use the innovative format they put in place last year, with Armageddon deciders following each game that finishes in a draw.

A couple of modifications have been made to the regulations though. Unlike last year, when each player received two hours for the whole game without increments, a 10-second increment will be used after move 40 in this year’s edition. The scoring system has been altered as well:

  • Victory in the main game: 3 points
  • Loss in the main game: 0 points
  • Draw in the main game & victory in Armageddon: 1½ points
  • Draw in the  main game & loss in Armageddon: 1 point 

Last year, a victory in the main game granted 2 points; a win in Armageddon, 1½ points; and loss in Armageddon, ½ point. This edition’s system grants more relevance to the classical game, perhaps after the organizers noted that the 2019 edition saw a couple of players relying heavily on their rapid-chess prowess, thus signing quick draws in the classical encounters.

In the Armageddon decider Black gets 7 minutes to White’s 10, with an increment of 3 seconds per move starting from move 41. Black gets draw odds.

Magnus Carlsen, Peter Heine Nielsen

Magnus Carlsen and Peter Heine Nielsen in 2019 | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The players

Four players from the world top 20 were invited to participate, with two young guns completing the lineup — a nice initiative, which follows the strategy used in Wijk aan Zee to create imbalanced fights and give opportunities to younger talents.

Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian have played in all eight editions of the tournament, while Fabiano Caruana will return for a sixth time, having skipped the 2013 and 2016 editions. The remaining three players — Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Alireza Firouzja and Aryan Tari — will be making their debut in the event, with Duda having been invited as a replacement for Anish Giri, who preferred to stay at home given the rising amount of coronavirus infections.

The organizers have put forth drastic measures regarding the infection, with players and officials quarantined for ten days and tested at the Clarion Energy Hotel, where the games will take place. As reported by Tarjei Svensen, chief organizer Kjell Madland explained:

Sometimes we have bought takeaway to give them something else than food from the hotel. We give them goodie bags and have done shopping for them. We haven’t even met them yet, as they have been quarantined. We have a system for transportation and everyone is wearing a face mask.

Medland added, noting that collateral infectious problems might arise:

We are worried that they will get a cold. Corona isn’t the only problem as getting a cold may lead to quarantine. We will have a special room prepared if that happens and our doctor will make the decision

Fiona Steil-Antoni, who will take care of the tournament’s media presence, shared a picture of the venue:

As usual, the event will be heavily covered in Norway’s media — at least in comparison with other chess tournaments — with TV2 planning to broadcast the rounds on television. Star commentators Judit Polgar and Vladimir Kramnik will analyse the games live from their homes in Budapest and Geneva.

The event will run on October 5-16, with rest days on October 9 and October 14. All rounds start at 15:00 UTC (17:00 CEST, 11:00 ET).

Fabiano Caruana

Fabiano Caruana strolling on the playing hall | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The 2019 edition

World champion Magnus Carlsen won the 2019 edition, in which the radical new format was put in place for the first time. The 10-player single round-robin saw 11 out of 45 classical games finishing decisively, with Carlsen winning twice without going to Armageddon. World number two Fabiano Caruana defeated the Norwegian in the sudden-death decider of the final round, although by then Carlsen had already secured first place.

Levon Aronian and Yu Yangyi shared second place, three points behind the winner.

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



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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