Norway Chess: Nakamura beats Carlsen in thrilling Armageddon

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/4/2024 – An exciting round in Stavanger saw Hikaru Nakamura beating Magnus Carlsen on time in the Armageddon decider to close the gap to the world number one in the standings — Naka now stands a half point behind Carlsen in sole second place. R Praggnanandhaa and Alireza Firouzja also prevailed in Armageddon, against Ding Liren and Fabiano Caruana, respectively. | Photo: Stev Bonhage / Norway Chess

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Carlsen still sole leader

With three rounds to go at the Norway Chess event, 5-time tournament winner Magnus Carlsen stands in sole first place with 13 points to his name. Placed second and third, Hikaru Nakamura and R Praggnanandhaa, still have very realistic chances of catching up with the local hero — especially after Nakamura got the better of Carlsen in their round-7 Armageddon tiebreaker.

After a 20-move draw in their classical confrontation, Nakamura defeated Carlsen with white in a thrilling encounter (see full analysis below). Notably, the US star found a nice tactical shot in the early middlegame, then saw Carlsen defending resourcefully to restore the balance, and then flagged the Norwegian amid a tricky endgame with rook, knight and pawn against rook and four pawns.

The two remaining mini-matches were also enthralling contests. Fabiano Caruana defended a tough position in the classical game against Alireza Firouzja, but was then defeated by his younger colleague in the rapid tiebreaker. Meanwhile, Ding Liren missed winning chances both in the classical and the rapid game against Praggnanandhaa.

In Armageddon, Ding played a natural-looking move which saw the evaluation of the position going from around -4 to around +5 (the world champion was playing black).

21...Rdg8 loses to 22.Ndf3, which Pragg played after thinking for only 10 seconds. The backward knight move both defends the knight on g5 and discovers an attack against the bishop on d6 — if the bishop moves anywhere, White counts with Rd2-d7, both attacking the queen and creating deadly threats connected to Ng5-f7+.

Ding played 22...h6 and resigned after 23.Rxd6

Instead of 21...Rdg8, Ding could have played 21...Bb4 (diagram below), keeping a large advantage for Black.

Playing Nd4-f3 no longer works tactically, while after 22.Rc2 e5 23.Rxc4 exd4 24.Rxb4 Rdg8, doubling the rooks at the right time, Black is winning — and only needs a draw in the tiebreaker.

It was a rather unfortunate loss for Ding, but it was nice to see the world champion stopping the losing streak (he came from losing four classical games in a row) and even getting promising positions in his two encounters against Pragg.

Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, Ding Liren

Praggnanandhaa and Ding Liren | Photo: Stev Bonhage

Nakamura 1 - 0 Carlsen (Armageddon)

Analysis by André Schulz

Standings after round 7

Rk Name FED Rtg Pts
1 Magnus Carlsen NOR 2830 13
2 Hikaru Nakamura USA 2794 12.5
3 R Praggnanandhaa IND 2747 11
4 Alireza Firouzja FRA 2737 9.5
5 Fabiano Caruana USA 2805 7.5
6 Ding Liren CHN 2762 3.5

All games - Classical

All games - Armageddon

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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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