Norway Chess: Rapport extends his lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/14/2021 – Richard Rapport has a 3-point lead over Ian Nepomniachtchi with four rounds to go at the Norway Chess Tournament (a win in classical chess is worth 3 points). The Hungarian star beat Aryan Tari with the white pieces in round 6. Magnus Carlsen also won his classical game, while Sergey Karjakin got the better of Nepomniachtchi in Armageddon. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Carlsen beats Firouzja

There is a clear leader in Stavanger, as Richard Rapport made the most of his white game against tailender Aryan Tari to get a 3-point advantage over Ian Nepomniachtchi in the standings table. Let us not forget that a win in classical chess at the Norway Chess Tournament is worth 3 points, though, which means there is still all to play for with four rounds to go.

World champion Magnus Carlsen climbed to third place on Monday, thanks to a victory in classical chess over Alireza Firouzja. The next two rounds might be crucial for Magnus, as he faces Tari and Rapport — although Tari is struggling to profit from better positions, he has shown he is capable of creating problems to his higher-rated opponents, including his famed compatriot.

In the remaining clash of the day, Sergey Karjakin followed his win against Carlsen with an Armageddon victory over Nepomniachtchi.

Sergey Karjakin, Vladimir Potkin, Ian Nepomniachtchi

Sergey Karjakin, Vladimir Potkin and Ian Nepomniachtchi | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Rapport 3 - 0 Tari

In a post-game interview with Anastasiya Karlovich, Rapport referred to the fact that his theoretical preparation has not been working all that well in Stavanger. Karlovich asked him what was his routine before and after each game:

I, of course, prepare something, but it doesn’t really work like ever, so soon I’ll probably stop doing that and just take more rest (smiles).

Indeed, against Tari, the Hungarian was surprised with a gambit in the opening. Instead of going for the principled lines, he tried to steer away from his opponent’s preparation. Tari missed some chances to get more from the position, and soon enough found himself on the back foot — after all, Rapport is known for his ability to handle unorthodox setups.


The Norwegian spent 14 minutes trying to decide what to do here, and eventually went for 20...Qb6, instead of the critical 20...Qg3+ 21.Kd2 g4. After the text, the game continued 21.hxg5 Qxd4 22.exd4 hxg5


White definitely has an edge — 23.Rh5 f6 24.Bd3 Rf7 25.Kd2 Kf8 26.Re1 Rc6 followed. The black pawn on d5 is a weakness, while White has quicker access to the open files with his rooks and a more active king.

Rapport patiently converted his advantage into a 58-move victory.


Richard Rapport, Aryan Tari

Richard Rapport and Aryan Tari | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Carlsen 3 - 0 Firouzja

Vintage Carlsen came to the rescue after the world champion’s painful defeat against Karjakin. Much like Rapport, the Norwegian collected 3 points after prevailing in a ligth-squared bishop endgame against Firouzja.


The endgame was drawn, but Carlsen continued to pose difficult questions to his young opponent. Very short on time, Firouzja cracked under the pressure as he blundered with 41...Kg6 in the diagrammed position. In order to keep the balance, Black needed to counterattack with 41...Bh3, and after 42.Bb7 Bf1 if White captures with 43.Bxa6 the f-pawn will promote just in time to save the draw.

After the text, on the other hand, White has 42.Kxf4 Kf6 43.Bd5, and the black bishop will eventually be forced to leave the defence of the vulnerable pawns on the queenside.


Carlsen needed nine more moves to convert this technical position into a win.


Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Karjakin 1½ - 1 Nepomniachtchi

The first all-Russian confrontation of the tournament was played just two days ago, after the game had to be postponed after Nepomniachtchi had trouble reaching Stavanger in time for the first round. Nepo prevailed in that encounter, as Karjakin faltered quickly once his compatriot showed a new idea out of a Berlin Defence.

Playing white in round 6, Karjakin went for a line which, as he explained, is a draw if Black knows how to play it — the variation is quite rare, so it was worth it to take a chance. Nepo was well-prepared, and the classical game ended in a 29-move draw.

In the tiebreaker, Karjakin missed a chance to gain a clear advantage on move 21. A balanced position ensued, and simplifications eventually led to an equal queen endgame.


Nepomniachtchi here blundered with 47...Qb3, as he thought he had a perpetual check after 48.c7 Qd5+ 49.Qc5 Qd7+ 50.Qc6


White escapes the checks both after 50...Qd3+ (51.Kb6 Qb3+ 52.Ka5) or 50...Qf5+ (51.Kb6 Qb1+ 52.Ka7 Qg1+ 53.Ka8). Thus, there followed 50...Qc8 51.Kxa4 and White is totally winning. Nepomniachtchi resigned soon after.


Standings after Round 6

Player Games Points
Richard Rapport 6 12½
Ian Nepomniactchi 6
Magnus Carlsen 6 9
Sergey Karjakin 6
Alireza Firouzja 6 6
Aryan Tari 6 3


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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