GM Magnus Carlsen wins the Norway Chess tournament for the south time in his career. It is his hat-trick victory. Magnus started as usual slow but steady. However, in the second half of the tournament, he won consecutive matches to finish at the top beating his next world championship challenger, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, who came fourth.
The young prodigy GM Alireza Firouzja ended as the runner-up of the tournament overtaking GM Richard Rapport. GM Sergey Karjakin came fifth beating the Norwegian GM Aryan Tari in armageddon.
Magnus Carlsen after clinching title.
“It feels even better this time,” said Carlsen after his fourth title in Stavanger. “It was really tough this year and frankly, at the halfway point, it didn’t seem likely, at all. It’s a really satisfying victory.”
The champion has had many tournaments with a slow start, and this was another one. It has become a trademark of you. “I was not really rusty, I was just not getting anywhere,” he said about that disappointing first half where he scored four draws and one loss in the classical games. The four armageddons he played were all won, though.
But how did he turn it around?
Carlsen: “First and foremost, I feel like I just worked really hard during the games. I didn’t have so much to work with; it seemed that every game was tough, every victory I had to grind out. But of course, it makes it even more rewarding to succeed. It wasn’t sparkling at all but I think under the circumstances I came away with absolutely everything I could have hoped for.”
It was their last classical game before the world championship. The Russian GM, Nepomniachtchi chose a line in the Italian that has been quite popular in the many online blitz events recently. Carlsen knew it of course and decided to follow a blitz game he had played with GM Wesley So, which meant accepting a slightly worse but fairly solid middlegame.
“I chose a line which is a little bit worse for Black but nothing too special,” he said, adding: “I think I held it quite nicely.” With that, he referred to his moves 28…Kh7, 29…Qf5, and 30…Rd5.
Nepomniachtchi: “I felt like I had some good advantage after I took the e-file but somehow it’s not so easy to exploit this so I guess he just played well. Once he found this idea 30…Rd5, and sometimes …Rb5, you know, it was never a one-sided game as I wanted it to be, so I guess a draw is a more or less objective result.”
For the must-win armageddon, Nepomniachtchi played a Vienna and won a pawn in the opening, but Carlsen trusted his bishop pair. How tired the players really were after 10 rounds became clear when both completely missed the simple, exchange-winning 16…Ba6. After that, Nepomniachtchi couldn’t manage to get a tangible advantage and, having to press, eventually lost.
This way, both clashes between the two players in the 2021 world championship ended in an armageddon win for Carlsen, who commented: “It’s nice, but I was so tired in the armageddon, I felt like I expended so much energy over the last few days that I didn’t have a lot left in the armageddon. I was just so blind tactically, but… bishops are very strong, that saved me in the end!”
“I think this game had quite a symbolic meaning because I think at the same time Richard [was] not doing too good with Black so since he is not going to win his game, the game was not that important,” said Nepomniachtchi. “I think at some point it was some good edge for White but anyway, these two bishops… always a chance to make a draw.”
Here’s the blitz game between Magnus Carlsen vs Ian Nepomniachtchi.