For the first time, the Norway Chess tournament saw three decisive classical games and therefore no armageddons. GM Richard Rapport defeated GM Sergey Karjakin to jump to world number-six in the live ratings.
He is now 3.5 points ahead of the new runner-up in the tournament, GM Magnus Carlsen, who beat his compatriot GM Aryan Tari. GM Ian Nepomniachtchi dropped to third place after losing to GM Alireza Firouzja.
The games of Norway Chess can be found here as part of our live events platform. Games start daily at 8:00 a.m. Pacific / 17:00 Central Europe.
Round 7 Standings
“Rapport is playing so good in this tournament, it’s very difficult to catch him, I think,” said Firouzja during his interview today. “He’s played really well,” said Carlsen. These simple statements are hard to argue with.
There are three more rounds to go, but so far it looks like the 25-year-old Hungarian grandmaster is having his ultimate breakthrough to the absolute world elite, as he is now occupying sixth place in the live ratings. An 18.4 Elo gain is huge at this level.
“It was completely unexpected, of course, that I converted this game,” said Rapport modestly, emphasizing that the game was very concrete almost right from the opening. But of course, he was always the one pressing as he managed to keep his far-advanced c-pawn on the board throughout the game—almost a miracle in itself—until that pawn decided the game.
This was already Rapport’s fourth classical victory; Carlsen and Firouzja have two, after today’s round. Here are our annotations combined with Rapport’s remarks in his interview:
“It feels like I’m not able to outplay my opponents so this is the only way I can win, by working very hard,” Carlsen said after scoring his second classical victory in a row—after none in the first half of the event. “I wouldn’t say it feels like a great accomplishment but it’s the thing you sometimes need to do to turn a bad tournament around.”
There was an odd moment early on in Carlsen’s game with Tari. Hardly out of the opening, the world champ spent a staggering 46 minutes on his 14th move. Asked whether it paid off, he replied: “I wouldn’t say so because I played the same move that I was gonna play after one minute!”
We’ve all been there.
“It’s a bit strange that this is a theoretical position with White to move but I realized that even a tempo up my position is probably not great,” Carlsen further explained. After missing a chance for an advantage, Tari then got slowly outplayed:
In his post-game interview, Carlsen also revealed something interesting about his bishop endgame with Firouzja the other day:
“The thing is, I have to be honest: I didn’t see that he couldn’t wait. So all this talk of brilliancy is like… He was thinking for a very long time, I didn’t understand why because I didn’t see that the pawn ending was winning. This was the point. He evidently saw it because he was spending so much time. So in retrospect, I feel like a complete fool.”
In retrospect, I feel like a complete fool.
Whereas the world champion won his game today, his challenger in the world championship match lost. According to his opponent, Firouzja, this was at least partly because of the Russian GM avoiding his main repertoire.
“Ian normally plays the Najdorf but it’s clear he wants to keep it for this match. OK, I don’t know what his plan was!” said Firouzja, adding: “It was clear that maybe some experience was lacking there, in the middlegame. The engine probably shows 0.00 but experience is also important.”
More concretely, Firouzja felt that Nepomniachtchi’s decision to maneuver his c6-knight to g6 was, in this particular line, not good:
“I’m learning,” Firouzja reflected on his tournament so far. “Yesterday, the endgame was just a big lesson for me. I’m happy that at least I came back today.”
Norway Chess takes place September 7-18, 2021 in Stavanger, Norway. The format is a double round-robin among six players. The time control is 120 minutes for the whole game with a 10-second increment starting from move 41. In case of a draw, the players play an armageddon game with the same colors. White has 10 minutes and Black has seven minutes with a one-second increment starting from move 41. A victory in the main game gives three points; a loss in the main game, zero points; a draw in the main game followed by a victory in the armageddon, 1.5 points; and a loss in the armageddon, one point.