Norway Chess, Round 1: Five draws, five times Armageddon

by Johannes Fischer
6/5/2019 – The experiment has started. If two players draw their classical game at the Altibox Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger they have to go into Armageddon-overtime: White has ten minutes, Black has seven, no increment before move 60, and White has to win. Round 1 of the Altibox tournament brought five fine draws in classical chess, five exciting Armageddon games and a wild blitz battle. | Picture: Alexander Grischuk | Photo: Lennart Ootes

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Altibox Norway Chess, Round 1

In chess, three results are possible: White wins, Black wins or the game is a draw. In today's top tournaments the last result is the most common but it is also the most unpopular because games without winners and losers are often considered to be uninteresting and boring. Thus, there have always been attempts to reduce the number of draws and the wish to have a decision in each and every encounter led the organisers of the Altibox Norway Chess Tournament in Stavanger resort to Armageddon, blitz games in which Black has less time on the clock but only needs to draw the game to win the encounter.

Traditionally, in chess a win is rewarded with a full point, after a draw the point is split, and losing a game brings you zero points. At the Altibox tournament the winner of the classical game is rewarded with two points while the loser still gets nothing. However, a draw yields half a point – and chances for more. Thanks to Armageddon.

The new mode can be troubling. | Picture: Fabiano Caruana | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Because the winner of the Armageddon game that follows after a draw in the classical games chalks up another point. That is, drawing the classical game and winning the Armageddon game gives you 1½ of possible 2 points.

Time will tell whether this mode of play will become popular, whether it is fair or whether the Armageddon mode (10 minutes for White, 7 for Black) they chose in Norway favours White or Black, and how the Armageddon tiebreak will affect strategy and game plans in the classical games. But in round 1 of Norway Chess 2019 the Armageddon mode led to interesting classical and exciting blitz games. The five classical offered a lot of fine positional and tactical nucances but brought no decisive results. The Armageddon games were more robust.

Results of round 1 (classical games)


The Romanian Grandmaster Constantin Lupulescu, winner of the strong Reykjavik Open 2019, took a closer look at four of the classical games.


These five draws led to five Armageddon games in round 1. The colours did not change, that is, Carlsen had White against Anand in the classical game and he also had White in the Armageddon game. And he played a fine strategic game in which an advance on the queenside culminated in a mating attack on the kingside.

M. Carlsen 1-0 V. Anand


Magnus Carlsen vs Vishy Anand | Photo: Lennart Ootes

S. Mamedyarov 1-0 F. Caruana

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Fabiano Caruana played an interesting game filled with tactical and positional ideas. Right from the opening Mamedyarov put his hopes on the attack and this strategy turned out to be a success.


Shakhriyar Mamedyarov | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Ding Liren 1-0 Wesley So

Ding Liren also crowned a fine strategic effort with a successful attack.


M. Vachier-Lagrave 0-1 Yu Yangyi

Yu Yangyi, the youngest participant in the field, was the only player who could win with Black. The day before Vachier-Lagrave had convincingly won the blitz tournament but against Yu Yangyi he failed to find the right squares for his pieces and was punished swiftly.


L. Aronian 1-0 A. Grischuk

Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk played the most exciting game of the round. The Armageddon games are played without increment and in Aronian vs Grischuk this led to a wild blitz battle which one would rather expect at a club evening late at night than at a world class tournament.

Levon Aronian | Photo: Lennart Ootes

After about 40 moves an exciting game led to an equal though complicated double-rook ending in which the clock was more important than the position and both sides had only a few seconds left to make it to move 60 and the increment. Now both players became more and more hectic and could no longer execute their moves properly, and kings, rooks and pawns started to fly around until Grischuk finally lost on time. The video below shows the end of the game, the real time-trouble battle begins after about three minutes.


Results Armageddon


White won four of the five Armageddon games and this might be an indicator that White's 10 to 7 minutes time advantage is of more importance than White's need to win. But who knows? Maybe Black is more lucky in round 2 of the Altibox Norway Chess Tournament. It starts Wednesday, June 5, 17:00 CEST.

Standings after round 1

M. Carlsen 1,5
S. Mamedyarov 1,5
Ding Liren 1,5
L. Aronian 1,5
Yu Yangyi 1,5
V. Anand 0,5
F. Caruana 0,5
M. Vachier-Lagrave 0,5
W. So 0,5
A. Grischuk 0,5

Live commentary of round 1 by Judit Polgar and Anna Rudolf


Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".


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