Norway Chess, Round 2: Fighting chess in Stavanger

by André Schulz
6/1/2023 – The second round of the Norway Chess Tournament saw some very competitive games, which didn't always have a deserving winner. Nakamura was lucky to beat Gukesh, Firouzja scored against Mamedyarov and Abdusattorov had the better end against Aryan Tari. Carlsen and Caruana won in Armageddon against So and Giri. | Photos: Lennart Ootes/ Norway Chess

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The Norway Chess Tournament, like most other tournaments, is a privately organised and financed top tournament with some of the world's best players. However, the tournament is no longer completely private, as FIDE has created the "FIDE Circuit" for the current World Championship cycle. This includes all top tournaments with at least eight players and seven rounds, open or round-robin, that meet certain international standards. The average rating of the top eight players must also be at least 2550. For their results in such tournaments, including high-level blitz and rapid chess tournaments, the top eight players in each tournament will receive points. The player with the most points at the end of the season will play in the Candidates Tournament. This new system replaces the old system of the Grand Prix series, which never really took off.

The current player ranking is as follows:

Regulations FIDE Circuit...

So it makes double sense for the players to do well. They get better prize money and also circuit points.

Magnus Carlsen won't be interested in this additional reward for a good performance. After all, he has been World Champion long enough, for ten years, and probably has no ambitions to qualify for another World Championship match. Carlsen doesn't need any special incentive to play to win, because it is more or less in his nature to want to win. In the past the Norwegian's mood was particularly bad after defeats, but now he seems to have a better grip on himself. Yes, even Carlsen is getting old. Once upon a time, heroes like Smyslov or Korchnoi could still play at the top level at a very old age, but in their day the youngest grandmasters were not yet 12, 13 or 14.

Carlsen's game in the first round against Caruana was somewhat unusual for the Norwegian. The best player in the world was in a bad position for a long time after the opening - that didn't happen very often in the past - and then he was outclassed because he lost control - you didn't see that very often either. Otherwise, the world's number always had a trick up his sleeve, even in bad positions. Did the former world champion give up his superiority and sovereignty with his title?

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All joking aside, Carlsen will hardly have been thrilled by his defeat by Caruana. And in Wesley So the Norwegian had another tough nut to crack in round 2.

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After Carlsen's 1.e4 an Anti-Berlin variation of the Spanish came onto the board. As the game progressed, the pawns on both sides were blocked and, seeing no way forward, the players agreed to a draw. Magnus Carlsen then won the Armeddon game, in which Carlsen showed why he usually is so difficult beat. After a bad opening he started a remarkable swindle and managed to win a lost position.

Fabiano Caruana is currently climbing back up in rankings. His results in the Grand Chess Tour Tournament in Bucharest and his win over Carlsen in Round 1 of Norway Chess have brought him a total of 15 Elo-points, and on the live-ranking list Caruana is now in fourth place, just behind the World Champion (That's Ding Liren). Caruana's opponent in round 2 was Anish Giri. This game also ended without a winner and led to an Armageddon game, which Caruana won.

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The young Indian grandmaster D. Gukesh is going to be a great one one day. He is also busy collecting Elo and circuit points in the Sigeman tournament, in Sharjah and now in Stavanger.  Gukesh is ranked 15th in the live list and is already on a par with the likes of Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave. After beating Firouzja in round 1, the Indian played with White against the "oldie" Nakamura.

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They debated a position with an isolated queen's pawn, arising from a line of the symmetrical Tarrasch variation. Gukesh went for the attack, but then lost his Isolani and found himself on the losing side. However, with only seconds on the clock, Nakamura gave the Indian a chance to turn the tables...

No wonder that Nakamura later claimed that it was a "Great Day".

In round 1 Alireza Firouzja lost to Gukesh. In round 2, against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and with the white pieces, the world's best junior and the world's best blitz player in the live rankings hoped to level the score. He succeeded.

In a Queen's Gambit Accepted, the two players fought an intense battle, and the scales only tipped in Firouzja's favour as the time control approached.

The fifth game of the round was the encounter between Aryan Tari and Nodirbek Abdusattorov. The Uzbek is also one of the "New Kids On The Block". In live-rankings he is currently twentieth, and he continues to go from strength to strength. Against Tari Abdusattorov chose a rather speculative attack in the Sicilian Rossolimo, starting with 7...Rg8 followed by g5. This developed into a very colourful game, in which Tari had very good chances to win, but after failing to make use of them, he lost in the end.

Robert Ris had a closer look at the game which he described as "coffeehouse chess".




Tournament page...

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