Chess: Magnus Carlsen wins as Alireza Firouzja blunders in late pawn game | Magnus Carlsen
The penultimate round of the Altibox Norway tournament in Stavanger on Thursday saw one of the classic chess occasions, a fight for the top prize between the world champion and a fast rising star who, if he won , would be established as heir presumptive to the throne.
The round ended with the champion winning as Magnus Carlsen secured top prize with a round to spare, while the young contender nursed a self-inflicted injury from a base blunder in a simple pawn endgame .
Alireza Firouzja only took a day to recover. He won convincingly in Friday’s final round while Carlsen lost to Armenian Levon Aronian, the world champion’s second loss after his record 125-game unbeaten streak came to an end.
Carlsen, playing against the Blacks and a point ahead of 17-year-old Firouzja on Thursday, chose a solid opening line but with an interesting approach. After 20 moves Carlsen was one hour ahead of the clock, aiming to use the new time limit where after move 40 players only had a 10 second increment per move.
The game ended with a knight vs. bishop level ending, which transposed into a pawn ending where Firouzja had a forced draw but only 12 seconds remained on his clock. White (Firouzja) had the king on d3, the pawn on e4, against black (Carlsen) with the king on d6, the pawns on e5 and f6.
The fatal blunder was 1 Rc3 ?? Kc5! when the white king has to give in and the black king captures the e4-pawn. All other king moves also lose except for 1 Kd2! Kc5 2 Kc3! who draws. Black cannot progress.
Carlsen had also beaten Firouzja in their second-round match after surviving a few hairy moments and with the ex-Iranian’s flag assist in the dying seconds.
Carlsen’s newfound success still left the 29-year-old Oslo ‘very, very disappointed’ with the shock fifth-round loss to Poland’s Jan-Krzysztof Duda, which ultimately ended his record 125-game run unbeaten spread over two years. Duda had lost his previous four rooks, but Carlsen over-pressed, miscalculated, and found himself with queen and bishop against queen and two rooks.
The final scores were Carlsen (Norway) 19.5, Firouzja (ex-Iran) 18.5, Aronian (Armenia) 17.5, Fabiano Caruana (USA) 15.5, Duda (Poland) 9.5, Aryan Tari (Norway) 4.5.
Firouzja left Iran in December 2019 due to its policy of banning matches against Israelis and being banned from participating in the World Speed Championships. He made an immediate impression there, highlighted by his controversial match with Carlsen, and went on to lead in the early rounds at Wijk aan Zee and win the top prize in Prague. He beat Carlsen twice in extended matches at one-minute ball and three-minute blitz, then seemed to stray into the Carlsen Tour online.
Despite his double loss to Carlsen in Stavanger, Firouzja, who now lives in France, has made a strong leap forward in classical chess despite his lack of experience. He used the Caro-Kann 1 e4 c6 as his main defense which allowed Caruana, the world No. 2, to surprise him with the shifted counter 2 d4 d5 3 f3. Firouzja survived a worse position in the classic game, but was totally crushed in Armageddon.
Firouzja has already broken into the world top 20 and is currently ranked higher in classical chess than such luminaries as US champion Hikaru Nakamura, former world champion Veselin Topalov and eight-time Russian champion Peter Svidler. Should the second prize in Stavanger be confirmed on Friday afternoon, it will be a performance at 17 comparable to Bobby Fischer at Mar del Plata 1960 or Garry Kasparov at Baku 1980, but not on the same level as Carlsen at Wijk aan Zee 2008.
Fide, the world chess body, announced on Friday afternoon that the Candidates Tournament to decide Carlsen’s next challenger has been postponed to spring 2021. The event was scheduled to resume in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on November 1, after having been stopped in April after seven of his 14 rounds due to the pandemic.
At that time, Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi were co-leaders with 4.5/7, one point ahead of their closest rivals. These included United States world number 2 Fabiano Caruana, who planned to travel to Yekaterinburg after the Stavanger tournament.
The worsening virus situation in Russia was a factor in the postponement, coupled with the fact that Chinese Ding Liren and Wang Hao had yet to receive government clearance to travel. The 14-game league match between Carlsen and the winning contender is still set to be played in Dubai at the end of 2021.
3693: 1 Rh8+! and Anand quit because 1…Kg7 2 Qd4+ Bf6 3 Qxf6+! Rxf6 4 Rh7+! Kxh7 5 Nxf6+ and 6 Nxd7 is an easy victory in the late game.