Norway Chess: Carlsen beats Nepo in Armageddon

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/11/2021 – Richard Rapport beat Alireza Firouzja in their round-4 classical encounter to increase his lead atop the standings of the Norway Chess Tournament. In the stellar contest of the day, Magnus Carlsen beat Ian Nepomniachtchi in the Armageddon decider after drawing the classical game out of a Berlin Defence. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Rapport beats Firouzja, widens the gap

Three players are still undefeated at the Norway Chess Tournament in Stavanger — Richard Rapport, Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin. However, while the last two are yet to win a classical game, Rapport has defeated Aryan Tari and Alireza Firouzja in classical encounters. The Hungarian, who climbed to world number 9 in the live ratings list, has a 2½-point lead over Carlsen atop the standings table.

Rapport’s incredible performance so far has been slightly overshadowed by the fact that this is the last tournament in which Carlsen will face Ian Nepomniachtchi prior to their World Championship match scheduled to take place at the end of the year in Dubai. The first of two encounters between the current champion and his challenger took place in round 4. 

Nepo did not run into much trouble to hold a draw with black in the classical game, but was defeated by the world champion in the Armageddon tiebreaker. Carlsen was later interviewed by Anastasiya Karlovich, and explained:

As long as I’m not winning any classical games, I absolutely need to win the Armageddon games to have any chance in the tournament. And it’s nice to get some confidence against [Nepomniachtchi] as well.

The Norwegian currently has a perfect 4/4 score in the tiebreakers, but will certainly be looking to get better results in the classical portion of the mini-matches after the rest day. 

Magnus Carlsen, Ian Nepomniachtchi

All eyes on Carlsen vs Nepomniachtchi! | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Carlsen 1½ - 1 Nepomniachtchi

The world champion did not expect to face the Berlin Defence in the classical game, but, as he noted, he managed to pose some questions to his rival nonetheless. Nepo was totally ready to respond, though, and the game ended in a 39-move draw.

In Armageddon, Carlsen got a positional edge in the early middlegame. Nepo’s decision to close the position on move 21 turned out to be a decisive mistake.


After 21...e4 22.Be2, Nepo already saw it necessary to sacrifice his knight with 22...Nxc5 — Carlsen had foreseen this recourse and immediately refuted his rival’s move with 23.Bb4.

White got a clear advantage after 23...Na6 24.Bxf8 Bxf8 25.Rxb7 Qxb7 26.Qxa6


Black found nothing better than 26...Qb8, and Carlsen grabbed another pawn with 27.Qxc6. The world champion agreed to swap the queens in the next move, as he knew the opposite-coloured bishop endgame was winning. Nepo resigned on move 41.


Magnus Carlsen, Ian Nepomniachtchi

Ian Nepomniachtchi resigns | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Rapport 3 - 0 Firouzja

Firouzja came from drawing his first three classical games and losing the ensuing tiebreakers. Against Rapport, the youngster played the Grünfeld and saw his opponent going for a sideline that led to more of a positional struggle.


Rapport had been slowly upping the pressure, and finally got to create a passed pawn with 42.d5 here, with the black knight pinned both along the c-file and the long diagonal.

Firouzja erred decisively nine moves later.


Black’s position is hanging by a thread — 51...Ke7 was responded by 52.Bxf7, and the house of cards began to collapse. There followed 52...Kxd7 53.Rc4 Ke7 54.Bxg6 Rxd6 55.Rxb4 and Firouzja resigned, two pawns down in a hopeless position.


Richard Rapport

Sole leader Richard Rapport | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Tari 1 - 1½ Karjakin

The first result of the day saw Karjakin scoring his second consecutive Armageddon win with the black pieces. After a 30-move draw in the classical encounter, the Russian frustrated Tari’s attack in the decider.


White has gone all-in on the kingside and is two moves away from giving checkmate along the dark squares, but Black gets there just in time — 55...Qe4+ forces the queen swap. Tari resigned.


Aryan Tari, Sergey Karjakin

Aryan Tari facing Sergey Karjakin | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Standings after Round 4

Player Games Points
Richard Rapport 4
Magnus Carlsen 4 6
Ian Nepomniactchi* 3 4
Sergey Karjakin* 3 4
Alireza Firouzja 4 3
Aryan Tari 4 3

*Will play their round-1 game on Saturday, September 11


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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