Carlsen goes winless, Nakamura soars in dramatic Norway Chess finale

Takes, takes, takes…

Photo by Lennart Ootes via FIDE

The 2023 edition of the Norway Chess tournament, an elite-level chess event featuring the strongest players in the world and a unique format, has concluded in dramatic fashion. Hikaru Nakamura leapfrogged fellow American grandmaster Fabiano Caruana in the final round of play, eclipsing him in the world rankings as well in the process, ending in the number two spot for classical play.

Meanwhile, former world champion Magnus Carlsen, widely considered to be one of the best players of all time, had a shockingly poor event, failing to win a single game in a classical tournament.

Nakamura overhauls Caruana in the final round, wins Norway Chess 2023

The streamer extraordinaire continues to make waves at every over-the-board tournament he’s willing to attend, and his notable comeback to usurp a white-hot Caruana served as a great way to avenge his loss to his fellow countryman in this year’s American Cup.

The two Americans kept trading blows throughout the tournament as the No. 2 spot on the live world rankings swung back and forth between them, seemingly from game to game. Though Caruana had a four-point lead over the field after just four rounds of play (in a format that grants three points for a classical win), his round five defeat to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov offered the pack of challengers a chance to keep up with him.

Heading into the final round of play, Nakamura was 2.5 points behind Caruana, meaning he had to win their head-to-head match in the classical portion to win the tournament. A deeply prepared and devious line in the Fried Liver Attack of the Italian Game did the trick, with Caruana erring on move 17 in devastating fashion—a mistake he had no chance to recover from.

Nakamura was clinical and precise, immediately taking advantage of the miscalculation as there wasn’t sufficient counterplay for the second pawn that was sacrificed. Ultimately, the struggle ended after just 55 moves.

Position after 17. – f5? | Image via

Hikaru, as usual, created his own recaps of the games on his YouTube channel as the tournament trundled along, and the final round was no exception.

Carlsen crashes as post-world championship hangover continues

Meanwhile, Magnus Carlsen, the world number one who abdicated his classical world championship title last year, had a torrid time at the event he previously considered his personal domain. Carlsen had a shaky time in his first classical tournament since losing his crown, failing to win a single game in the slow time format at an event for the first time since 2007.

In the end, he finished the event in sixth place, courtesy of strong showings in the Armageddon segment after a myriad of draws, with 11.5 points out of 27, five behind Nakamura.

No wonder he was glad to be done with the tournament.

What is Norway Chess and what is its tournament format?

Norway Chess is a prestigious invitational chess tournament founded in 2013, with the organizers’ goal of inviting as many of the world’s top ten players as possible.

This is the eleventh edition of the event. The winner of Norway Chess 2022 was Magnus Carlsen, which was his fourth victory in a row at this particular tournament.

Norway Chess uses a unique format to shake up the core classical portion of the event. It all begins with a blitz event on the opening day with 3+2 time controls, which determines the seeding for the main event, which is a single round-robin affair.

The classical game features a slightly more stringent time control than what has become common nowadays, with 120 minutes for the entire game, with no bonus allotment until move 40. From there onwards, only 10 seconds of bonus time per move are added to the players’ clocks, making time management a more significant factor than usual.

Instead of the usual one point for a win and 0.5 for a draw, players earn three points for a win. In the case of draws, an Armageddon game is played, where the player who had the White pieces in the classical game gets ten minutes and their opponent has seven and draw odds. The winner of the Armageddon game gets 1.5 points and the loser gets one. Losing in the classical game nets you nothing.

This interesting format ensures a lot of exciting action and that there is always a decisive result, even if the classical game turns out to be a draw. It also introduces some unique risk-reward dynamics in the slower time controls that aren’t present in most other tournaments.

About the author

Luci Kelemen

Having made a career out of writing about video games as early as 2015, I have amassed a track record of excellence since then in covering a wide variety of subjects from card games like Hearthstone and MTG to first-person shooters, business, chess and, more. Unsurprisingly, if I’m not busy writing about one of them, I’m probably playing them.

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