Norway Chess: A colourful 7th round in Stavanger

by André Schulz
6/7/2023 – In round 7 of the Norway Chess Tournament, the duels between Magnus Carlsen and Alireza Firouzja and Hikaru Nakamura (photo) and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov provided spectacular top chess - with ups and downs and many exciting moments. | Photos: Lennart Ootes/Norway Chess

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Round seven of the Norwegian Chess Tournament saw the match that Magnus Carlsen would have wanted in another World Championship contest, Carlsen versus Firouzja.

After defending his title against Nepomniachtchi, Carlsen had immediately expressed doubts as to whether he would be available for another World Championship match unless he faced a representative of the younger generation, such as Firouzja. But the Iranian-born Frenchman failed to qualify at the Candidates Tournament in Madrid and Carlsen did indeed retire from the World Championship business.

In a recent chess blog Carlsen also commented on trends in modern top-level chess. The amount of preparation required to get to a real chess game, which is not completely determined by opening preparation, is now unbearably high, said the world number one.

Against Firouzja, for example, he played the move 3.Bd3 with White in the Sicilian Defence after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 and commented on it in a good-humoured video statement with the words "Bd3 is not a bad move, but I don't know much about it".

Firouzja won't have known much either. But the world's best junior did not want to lose the psychological opening battle and lashed out with 4...g5!?. A lively game developed, without a theoretical debate though somewhat reminiscent of coffeehouse chess.

At one point Carlsen offered the exchange, which Firouzja, however, did not accept. Carlsen then gained a huge positional advantage and Firouzja started a swindle by sacrificing a piece in a bad position. Carlsen missed the best continuation and Firouzja even gained an advantage in a complicated endgame, but with only seconds on the clock Firouzja failed to find a hidden win and the game ended in a perpetual.

In the ensuing Armageddon Firouzja had no chance and was outplayed.

Another dramatic game was the encounter between Hikaru Nakamura and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. In a Queen's Gambit Accepted the eloquent American Grandmaster had the objectively better game, but still had to worry about his king, which was stuck in the middle. Nakamura did not find the best defense and Mamedyarov found a way to attack Nakamura's king and the game ended with a draw by repetition.

In the Armageddon game Nakamura castled early, but this was not ideal either. Mamedyarov sacrificed a piece on e3 to get a promising attack. However, he did not find a way to end the game quickly and liquidated into an endgame, in which Mamedyarov was still better, but also used much too much time. In a complicated position with only seconds on the clock Mamedyarov he thought too long about one move and lost on time.

Here is what Nakamura had to say about the two games:

Time was also a factor in the encounter between Fabiano Caruana and D. Gukesh. The classical game saw an Italian and ended in a draw without too much excitement. But in the Armageddon game it was Caruana who pressed from the start. He finally reached a winning queen ending, but spent too much time looking for a win and eventually lost on time.

Anish Giri scored three points against Aryan Tari. In a Catalan, Tari held the balance for a long time, but then Giri won a pawn and converted his advantage in a double rook ending.

Wesley So also scored three points by winning the classical game against Nodirbek Abdusattov. In a Queen's Gambit Accepted So seized the initiative and eventually reached a better double rook ending, which he could win.

Caruana remains at the top of the table, ahead of Nakamura and So. Carlsen is only seventh.




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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.