Comeback Caruana Wins Norway Chess

Fabiano Caruana vs. Hikaru Nakamura, Photo Cathy Rogers
Three US Amigos Star in Norwegian Supertournament Stavanger, the fjordland home of the Norway Chess supertournament, has a spring in its step again, and so does Fabiano Caruana. After a dramatic final round, the sixth edition of Norway Chess ended in victory for the 25-year-old American. For the second time since qualifying to challenge for the world title two months ago, Canuana finished ahead of World Champion Magnus Carlsen at a major tournament and for the third time in 2018 a big finish enabled Caruana to run down his rivals. Home to the Norwegian oil industry, Stavanger, like Caruana, peaked in 2014 and then suffered a mini-recession after the oil price dropped dramatically between 2014 and 2016, witnessing job losses and business closures. As the oil price has recovered, so has the city, and this year’s Norway Chess also enjoyed unseasonably warm spring weather. The rare sunny seasons also show up Stavanger’s astonishing variety of street art, displayed on everything from city centre walls to oil silos. (For 17 years the NuArt Festival in Stavanger each September has been encouraging artists around the world to find a blank wall and create art on it.) The improved economic situation enabled the tournament to attract some new sponsors in addition to the naming rights sponsor, cable television company Altibox, which was in the final year of their three year contract with Norway Chess.
Fabiano Caruana on TV2, Photo Cathy Rogers 
A budget of 7 million kroner enabled the organisers to bring together the strongest field of 2018, with former World Champion Viswanathan Anand, the world number 13, the lowest seed among the 10 players. The three best US players were all participating, with high hopes for Fabiano Caruana in particular given his stellar form post-January 2018. The 2018 Norway Chess tournament had everything: a player withdrawing due to injury, a cooking competition, the first defeat  for Carlsen in 2018, and a final round which saw four co-leaders apparently headed for a giant playoff. The start of the rounds was delayed until 16.30 on request of TV2, who wanted to show their hours of chess coverage in prime time. Unlike golf and cycling, which have to pay broadcasters for airtime, in Norway, chess is a sport where rival television stations bid for events in which World Champion and local hero Magnus Carlsen competes. (TV2’s rival NRK – also present in Stavanger - has won the rights to host the November World Championship match between the reigning titleholder and Caruana.) As expected, Carlsen made the early running in Stavanger, beating Caruana in the first round preview of November’s title match. By round three Carlsen was a point clear of the field but then he slowed down. Unfortunately the same did not apply to Chinese star Ding Liren, who took a corner too fast on his cycle around the fjords on the first rest day and found himself with a broken hip and needing an operation. Ding did not play another game and was on crutches and a flight home to China soon thereafter. Since Ding had played fewer than half the games, his score was annulled and six players found themselves with extra free days. Then, after a run of draws, Wesley So threw the tournament wide open in the sixth round by inflicting Carlsen’s first classical loss in 2018 and scoring his first win against Carlsen.
Grandmaster Wesley So
The day before their game, when asked about his coming clash against the young American, Carlsen opined, "To be honest, usually nothing happens in these games. I can't remember him ever being close to beating me. If I want a draw, I will often get it easily." Famous last words...
[Round "?"]
[White "So, Wesley"]
[Black "Carlsen, Magnus"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D13"]
[PlyCount "87"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2018.06.07"]
[SourceVersionDate "2018.06.07"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. cxd5 cxd5 4. Bf4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Nf3 a6 {So feared 6...
Nh5 more.} 7. Rc1 Bf5 8. e3 Rc8 9. Be2 e6 10. O-O Nd7 11. Na4 Be7 12. h3 O-O
13. a3 {Quiet play by So, who explained, “White should be [a little] better
here because I occupy the c5 square faster than he occupies ...c4.”} Na5 14.
Nc5 Nc4 15. b4 $1 Nxc5 16. dxc5 Nxa3 $6 {Very risky." 16...b5 was an option,"
said So.} 17. Nd4 Be4 18. f3 Bg6 19. Qb3 Nc4 20. Bxc4 dxc4 21. Qxc4 Qe8 $5 22.
Bg3 $1 e5 23. Nb3 Bd8 $2 24. Qd5 $1 Qb5 25. Bxe5 Be7 {"Magnus thought he could
take on b4 but he had missed that after 25...Qxb4? 26.Bd6 Re8 27.c6, 27...bxc6
is impossible in view of 28.Bxb4 cxd5 29.Rxc8," noted So.} 26. Qd2 Rfd8 27. Bd6
Bf6 28. e4 h6 29. Nd4 Bxd4+ 30. Qxd4 Re8 31. Rfe1 Kh7 32. g4 $1 {"I like this
move," said So. "We were both down on time and [I get some automatic moves]."}
f6 33. f4 Qc6 34. f5 Bf7 35. h4 Ra8 36. Rc2 a5 37. g5 Bh5 38. g6+ {So used up
almost all of his remaining time on this move. "With the pawn on g6 he has
back rank problems forever," explained So.} Kh8 39. b5 Qxb5 40. Rb2 Qc6 $6 {
40...Qd7 was necessary, but 41.Re3 should win slowly but surely.} 41. Rb6 Qc8
42. Qd5 a4 43. Rxb7 Rg8 {On 43...a3, 44.Rxg7! wins.} 44. c6 1-0[/pgn]
As the tournament moved from the Clarion Hotel to the grand Konserthus in the centre of Stavanger, So and Carlsen were tied for the lead, joined a round later by Anand.
Carlsen vs. Mamdeyarov, Photo Cathy Rogers 
Then in the penultimate round both Caruana and Nakamura joined the leading party, Nakamura demolishing Sergey Karjakin and Caruana knocking down Anand. The critical moment in Caruana’s crazy game against Anand came on move 45.
Vishy Anand vs. Fabiano Caruana, Photo Cathy Rogers

[Event "Altibox Norway Chess"]
[White "Anand, Viswanathan"]
[Black "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2760"]
[BlackElo "2822"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "7k/8/3p4/1p1B2pp/3P3q/2PK1P2/1P1Q2P1/r7 w - - 0 45"]
[PlyCount "12"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "India"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "IND"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]

{Anand’s king had just performed the great escape from Carauna’s kingside
attack and now had the chance to make his king run even more spectacular} 45.
c4 {Anand rejected 45.Bc6! because of 45...Qh1 which Caruana believed to be
winning. However he had missed the unlikely 46.Ke4!!, when Black has nothing
better than 46...Qe1+ 47.Qxe1 Rxe1+ after which 48.Kd5! Re2 49.Kxd6 Rxg2 50.
Kc7 leads to a pawn race which White draws without undue difficulty. Instead
after} (45. Bc6 Qh1 46. Ke4 Qe1+ 47. Qxe1 Rxe1+ 48. Kd5 Re2 49. Kxd6 Rxg2 50.
Kc7) 45... bxc4+ 46. Kxc4 Qf4 $1 47. Qe2 {47.Qxf4 gxf4 is now too slow to hold,
e.g. 48.Be6 Kg7 49.Kd5 Kf6, etc} Qc1+ 48. Kb5 Qc8 $1 49. Kb6 $6 {49.Kb4 is
better but still losing.} Qb8+ 50. Kc6 Rc1+ 0-1[/pgn]
In the final round Carlsen took a 20 minute draw against his former second Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and waited to see if any of the three US players could overtake him by winning their last game. Earlier in the tournament Carlsen had accused Karjakin and Mamedyarov of prearranging draws in earlier tournaments. Mamedyarov readily admitted that he had prearranged draws in the past, notably against his teammate Teimour Radjabov, but noted that if two players really wanted to draw it was hard to stop them, prearranged or otherwise. The ‘game-fixing’ affair became a minor scandal in the Norwegian media but after Carlsen’s last game it had to be reluctantly accepted that (a) prearranged or not, short draws were indeed hard to stop, and (b), sadly for Norway, short draws rarely win tournaments. Nakamura was the next to be stuck on 4.5/8, offered no chances by Levon Aronian. That left the other two US amigos fighting each other for all the marbles – and fight they did.
Fabiano Caruana in a nail-biting final game against Wesley So, Photo Cathy Rogers
The drama came to a head as the players neared for the first time control, with the diagrammed position reached after Caruana’s 38th move.

[Event "Altibox Norway Chess"]
[Date "2018.06.07"]
[White "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Black "So, Wesley"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2822"]
[BlackElo "2778"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "8/1p1k4/1P3n2/2pBqP1p/3rP3/3r4/5QPP/2R1R2K b - - 0 38"]
[PlyCount "20"]
[EventDate "2018.??.??"]
[WhiteTeam "United States"]
[BlackTeam "United States"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "USA"]
[BlackTeamCountry "USA"]

{With his opponent having just a minute for his next two moves, So rejected 38.
..Rd2 39.Qg3 with a likely endgame draw and tried} 38... Ng4 {Caruana suddenly
realized that 39.Qh4 would lose to 39...Rh3!! and found} 39. Qg1 $1 {So again
rejected 39...Rd2 40.Rf1 h4 when Caruana would have 50 extra minutes to
consider his defence. (“My 37.b6 was a bad move but at least it brought me
closer to the time control because it forced a capture,” explained Caruana.)
Instead So went for the super-tricky} Kd8 $5 {“I thought that this was just
a blunder,” said Caruana. Seeing no danger, White ventured} 40. h3 $2 {
“I thought that this was a winning move,” admitted Caruana. So apparently
agreed, running his clock down to eight seconds before playing the
‘desperate’} Rxh3+ $3 {The time control reached, both players had time to
think. Caruana replied with the forced move} 41. gxh3 {whereupon So instantly,
and fatally, replied} Rd3 $4 {instead of 41...Rd2! 42.hxg4 hxg4! with at least
a draw. However after} (41... Rd2 42. hxg4 hxg4) 42. Qg2 {So realized that he
was winning White’s queen but giving away too many pieces in doing so and
the game concluded} Rg3 43. hxg4 Rxg2 44. Kxg2 h4 45. Kf3 Qg3+ 46. Ke2 h3 47.
Rg1 Qh4 48. e5 1-0[/pgn]
With this win, Caruana confirmed his reputation for winning clutch games, inched a little closer to the world number one ranking that Carlsen has held for six years, and secured the 75,000 Euro first prize – So had to settle for 18,000. “[This year] I’ve played well at times and badly at times, but somehow I have always managed to come through,” said Caruana. November’s world title match should be something to see.
GM Ian Rogers interviews Norway Chess Champion Fabiano Caruana, Photo Cathy Rogers
Norway Chess 2018 Final scores: 1.Caruana(USA) 5/8; =2. Anand(Ind), Carlsen(Nor), Nakamura(USA) 4.5;
  1. So(USA) 4;
7. Mamedyarov(Aze) 3.5; =8. Vachier-Lagrave(Fra), Karjakin(Rus) 3.