Reports Oct 8, 2020 | 11:58 AMby Colin McGourty

Norway Chess 3: Firouzja hits back to beat Caruana

Alireza Firouzja bounced back from losing to Magnus Carlsen to beat world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana in another Armageddon, admitting that by the end he was “only looking at the clock”. Magnus meanwhile won his first game of classical chess since March, but his now 124-game unbeaten streak had been in danger and he described what he did against compatriot Aryan Tari as “a bit too risky”. Levon Aronian caught Fabi in the lead after squeezing a win out of nowhere against a luckless Jan-Krzysztof Duda. 

Alireza Firouzja lost to the world no. 1 but beat the world no 2! | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

You can replay all the Altibox Norway Chess games using the selector below.

And here’s the day’s live commentary from Judit Polgar and Vladimir Kramnik.

Check out some special deals during Norway Chess at

Tari 0-1 Carlsen

It wasn't always convincing from Magnus Carlsen against his compatriot! | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

There was no question that Magnus Carlsen would be out for blood against his 21-year-old compatriot Aryan Tari, but the World Champion admitted he’d gone a bit too far in their first ever classical game. 17…d5!? 18.exd5 exf5!?, giving himself tripled isolated f-pawns, was truly asking for trouble, even if Kramnik had once done something similar in a World Championship match!

A former World Championship challenger, English GM Nigel Short, felt it had all been justified…

…but Magnus himself wasn't so sure.

I think the opening was a decent gamble, but after that it was a bit too risky. Certainly the choice paid off in the end, but I feel like his position was a little bit too good at some point… I was just trying to stay afloat somehow.

Tari’s 22.h3!? was a move that had our commentators puzzled…

…but it was only after 22…Bd7 that things suddenly fell apart for White. “The thing about the white position is that it’s extremely good, but you have to win it somehow, and this is what he was trying to do,” said Magnus, and he wasn’t surprised by what followed. 

Moving the bishop to d7 temporarily frees the f4-knight from the need to defend the d5-pawn, and Aryan “took advantage” of that to play 23.Nh5?, a “knight to the rim” move that the watching Kramnik said simply wouldn’t have occurred to a more classically trained player.

The move 23.b4 suggested by the commentators, or the computer’s plan of 23.d6! and 24.Qc3 (or 23.Qc3! first), would have been strong for White, but in the game Magnus was able to counterattack with 23…Nc4! 24.Bxc4 bxc4 25.Qc3?! Rb8! 26.Rf3? (26.Nxf5 is the move Aryan needed to play, but it was already grim) and suddenly Magnus got to play perhaps the move of the tournament so far.

Magnus had seen the 26…Re1! blow in advance, but said, “it was something I was only dreaming of, to be honest - I didn’t expect it to happen!” There was nothing better than 27.Rxe1 Bxd4 28.Qb4 Qc7 29.d6 Qc6 30.Qa5 and even though 30…Bxb2!? wasn't the computer’s first choice of how to finish the job, Magnus showed that the line he played was powerful, with everything forced until the stylish 34…Qd4!

That was the move being discussed when Kramnik and Polgar told Aronian about how Magnus had said earlier in the confessional that his bishop pair was a big long-term asset, if the game lasted that long.

Tari took the a6-pawn with check (35.Ng3 may have offered some more resistance) allowing Magnus to finish things off with some nice chess geometry until resignation came on move 45.

The world champion had lived dangerously but is right back on track, not just picking up a first classical win but becoming the only player to have won all three mini-matches so far.

Firouzja ½ - ½ Caruana (Alireza wins in Armageddon)

Fabiano Caruana concedes defeat in his attempt to flag Alireza Firouzja | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

17-year-old Alireza Firouzja had lost on time in Armageddon the day before to Magnus Carlsen, but the World Champion joined the chorus of observers who noted that the Iranian has been hugely impressive so far in Norway Chess.

Coming off that tough loss to the world no. 1 and then having to play the world no. 2 is as hard as it gets, but Alireza gave as good as he got against Fabiano Caruana. The classical game was a sharp, messy affair at first most notable for a knight square in the centre...

It then suddenly came to a surprise end when both players had just over 5 minutes on the clock.

Fabi used his g5-break a couple of moves earlier to play the surprise queen manoeuvre 31…Qb6 32.Kg2 Qg6, impressing Levon Aronian on the live commentary, but it turned out that was just the start of a repetition of moves after 33.Kg1 Qb6 and so on. Fabi had considered breaking with f5, but concluded that was “too risky and it would turn into some complete mess in time trouble”.

So it was another Armageddon game for Firouzja, and once again things went his way early on. Under the influence of online chess, Vladimir Kramnik described Caruana taking on d7 with his queen as a mouse-slip!

Fabi later agreed:

Qd7 was horrible – I just basically lose two tempi because I have to reposition my queen and get the knight to d7. It was just a terrible move. I probably shouldn’t have gone for this line anyway, because why create such a messy position from the start when it’s just playing into his hands?

Magnus Carlsen was on our live show during the game and commented of the chaotic position, “I would bet on Alireza here!” before shortly afterwards the game did indeed swing in the youngster’s favour after 29…Rd8? 30.Rb5!

It turned out Black had to play 29…Re8 on the previous move, since now, as Magnus spotted instantly, 30…Qc6 runs into 31.Qxe5!, a double threat of giving mate on g7 and taking the c5-knight. “Fabiano is going to get tricked to the moon here!” Magnus added, but 30…f6 ensured the game at least went on, and by the end a repeat of the previous day was very possible. Back then Alireza had lost on time after failing to make a move with 5 seconds on his clock, and this time he got down to 4 seconds at one point. He was a very relieved man when Fabiano finally resigned.

Alireza commented:

I got the experience that I should not lose on time only - I was only looking at the clock! It was difficult at the end for him to somehow find a way to complicate things – my play is very easy.

After a perfect 6/6 Fabiano had only scored 1 point in Round 3, allowing Levon Aronian to make his move.

Need a coach, Alireza? Here's my number... | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

Duda 0-1 Aronian

Nothing is going right for Jan-Krzysztof Duda so far | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

There was again only one Armageddon game in Round 3, which was remarkable considering Jan-Krzysztof Duda’s classical game against Levon Aronian looked certain to end in a draw.

Duda had played a quiet variation of the Four Knights in an obvious bid to end the bleeding after two losses in a row. It seemed a reasonable idea, but Levon felt it might have been tough for a player like Duda.

Definitely my opponent is not having a great tournament, so I thought today he was trying to play a safe draw. But I think at some point, because this is not really Jan-Krzysztof’s style, because he’s a very combative player, I think he was maybe not feeling so comfortable playing for a draw with White in such an obvious way, and maybe that helped me. But you can never know what goes through your opponent’s mind.

When Jan-Krzysztof began to hesitate, Levon told himself, “ok, stop the temptation to agree to a draw”, and when he got to play 34…a4 he already had some hopes.

It should still have ended in a draw, but Levon noted another factor - the fast time control with no extra time at move 40 benefits the side with the advantage. Kramnik and Aronian both criticised Duda for playing too passively with his rooks, and when we were down to 7 pieces on the board at move 49 the tablebases were already showing it was mate-in-42 (!) for Black. Rook endings are tough, however, and 51…Rh7 (51…Rh5! was objectively the only win) gave one last chance for White:

52.a4! followed by a5 and it turns out White has just enough counterplay to save the game, but after 52.Rb6 e3! there was no longer any salvation, with resignation following 9 moves later.

“An unexpected victory?” asked Kramnik, to which Levon quipped, “my every victory is unexpected!” The Armenian no. 1 has now caught Fabiano Caruana in first place, but with 3 points for a classical win there’s basically nothing to choose between the top 4 players.

The good news for Tari and Duda is that they play each other in Round 4, while all eyes will be on what Kramnik called El Classico, Carlsen vs. Caruana. Fabi was asked about the game.

I’ve played so many games against Magnus that it’s difficult to know what to say. We’ve played a whole match so we know each other pretty well as players, so it should be an interesting game.

Don’t miss that game, while Aronian-Firouzja will also be critical to deciding who goes into the first rest day in the lead! Tune in again to Vladimir Kramnik and Judit Polgar, live here on chess24 from 17:00 CEST.

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