With two back-to-back wins in the final two rounds of the tournament, Fabiano Caruana won the Altibox NorwayChess tournament. It was an impressive comeback, as the American lost his first round game against Magnus Carlsen.
Drama surrounded the final day, as four players shared the lead. Nakamura and Carlsen made comfortable draws as black, which set the premise for Caruana-So: The winner of that game would become the winner of the tournament. In case of a draw, five players (those mentioned, plus Anand) would need to go back the following day for a blitz tiebreak.
It was a hugely complicated game, during which both So and Caruana had big advantages. Being under pressure, So grabbed his chance to brilliantly sacrifice a rook on move 40 – but he rushed his 41th move to make a losing mistake! As a result, Caruana could claim the throne as the 2018 Norway Chess champion.
Caruana-So. Black to move. So played 41..Rd3, after which his attack was parried by 42.Qg2. Instead he could have played 41..Rd2, with the idea 42.hxg4 hxg4 and there is a big threat of Qh8+, which secures enough counter play for a draw.
Magnus Carlsen finished on shared second place, half a point behind the challenger for his World Champion title. It was a surprising development to the tournament, as Carlsen had a one-point lead over the field already after three rounds. He defeated the eventual winner in round one, with a nice strategic pawn sacrifice.
Carlsen-Caruana. White to move. Magnus played 17.Ne5, losing a pawn after 17..Nxe5 18.dxe5 Rxe5, but getting strategic advantages instead: He got his queen to a wonderful square on d4 where it exerted pressure toward the d5- and b4-pawns.
Halfway, it felt like Carlsen’s tournament to win, but a sixth-round loss to Wesley So turned the tables and made the race for first place very crowded.
At that point, a strong finish was the ingredient needed for tournament victory, and that is precisely what Caruana provided.
By: Jon Ludvig Hammer
Photo: Lennart Ootes