Norway Chess: Carlsen beats Rapport in third straight win

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
9/16/2021 – By scoring a third straight win — taking down sole leader Richard Rapport — Magnus Carlsen is now only a half point behind the Hungarian with two rounds to go at the Norway Chess Tournament. Round 8 also saw Alireza Firouzja beating Sergey Karjakin and Aryan Tari getting the better of World Championship challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Never count him out

Magnus Carlsen participated in all eight previous editions of the Norway Chess Tournament. Playing at home seemed to be more of a disadvantage for the world champion at first, as he only managed to win the event for the first time in the fourth edition (2016). A disappointing ninth place in 2017 was followed by a second place behind Fabiano Caruana in 2018.

Ever since the new pointing system was put in place, though, Carlsen obtained back-to-back tournament victories in 2019 and 2020. After winning three games in a row in this edition, the local hero is now well in contention to obtain his third consecutive title, as he stands a half point behind sole leader Richard Rapport with two rounds to go.

Alireza Firouzja, who won a second game in a row on Wednesday, is in third place, 3 points behind Carlsen, which means he only has an outside chance of fighting for first place in the remaining two rounds.

Carlsen and Firouzja’s victories in classical chess were not the only highlights in round 8, though, as tailender Aryan Tari defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi with the black pieces.

Norway Chess Tournament 2021

Two rounds to go in Stavanger... | Photo: Lennart Ootes 

Carlsen 3 - 0 Rapport

Out of a Spanish Opening, a deeply strategical battle ensued in the key matchup of the day. In the commentary booth, Judit Polgar predicted a 6-hour fight, while Firouzja — after winning his game — claimed that a long torture awaited Rapport. Indeed, Carlsen was ably manoeuvring his pieces, looking to provoke a mistake by his opponent.

The world champion’s perseverance was rewarded on move 58.

 

With both players in severe time pressure, Rapport blundered with 58...Nf6 (58...Qe6 was the only move that kept up the defence). Carlsen found 59.Qc8+ Qd8 60.Qxd8+ Bxd8 61.Bg5

 

Black’s position is collapsing. After 61...gxh5 62.Bxf6 Bxf6, the bishop no longer defends a5 and Black’s c-pawn is bound to fall as well. Carlen had no major difficulties converting the superior endgame into a win.

 

Richard Rapport

Still leading — Richard Rapport | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Nepomniachtchi 0 - 3 Tari

The Russian representatives had a couple of bad days in Stavanger. After both Nepo and Sergey Karjakin lost with black on Tuesday, they played riskily with white against the youngest (and lowest-rated) participants in round 8 — their attempts at a quick recovery backfired, as they both lost for a second day in a row.

Nepo’s 15.f4 against Tari was overly ambitious.

 

The Russian star went all-in on the kingside after weakening his monarch’s position. Tari continued to find the right moves though, until Nepo faltered on move 25.

 

25.Rg6 fails to 25...Rxf4 26.Rag1 Rg4, and Black has successfully escaped the mating threats along the g-file.

In the diagrammed position, White’s best defensive alternative was 25.Bxg7, when after 25...Rxg7 26.Rxg7+ Qxg7 White threatens to gain the queen with a check from g1.

 

Actually, the best move here is 27.Qxf4 (not 27.Rg1 at once), and after 27...Qd4 28.Rg1+ Black needs to capture the rook with the queen to prevent checkmate.

Nepo did not enter this line, though, and went on to lose the game. Tari was visibly ecstatic after his win, noting that “to manage to beat Ian today with black was the best gift I could get — I think I played well, I never beat a player of his calibre before”.

 

Aryan Tari

Aryan Tari | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Karjakin 0 - 3 Firouzja

Given their tournament situation, it is no surprise that Karjakin and Firouzja played a double-edged game. Firouzja felt that his opponent might have miscalculated on move 18.

 

The youngster correctly assessed that he was better after 18...Kd7. With both kings in the centre and White committed to advance his army on the kingside, the ensuing battle was highly tactical. Firouzja was in the driver’s seat and showed his great calculation abilities to convert his advantage into a win. 

 

Alireza Firouzja

Alireza Firouzja | Photo: Lennart Ootes


Standings after Round 8

Player Games Points
Richard Rapport 8 15½
Magnus Carlsen 8 15
Alireza Firouzja 8 12
Ian Nepomniactchi 8
Sergey Karjakin 8
Aryan Tari 8 6

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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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