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7 Things We Learned — Norway Chess 2024
Magnus Carlsen briefly looked in danger, but he hit back to take his 6th title. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

7 Things We Learned — Norway Chess 2024

Colin_McGourty
| 80 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Magnus Carlsen briefly stared into the abyss of losing his world number-one spot, but he turned things around to win his sixth Norway Chess title. GM Hikaru Nakamura returned to the 2800 club, while Women's World Champion Ju Wenjun cruised to victory in Women’s Norway Chess. What did we learn from Norway Chess?

  1. Carlsen Won’t Give Up His Number-1 Spot Without A Fight
  2. Nakamura Is Back >2800 After His Last (?) Classical Game Of 2024
  3. Armageddon Didn’t Make The Difference
  4. Ding Remains Resilient Despite Hitting Rock Bottom
  5. Ju Wenjun Is A Dominant World Champion
  6. Anna Muzychuk Is Back
  7. There Are Queues For The Confessional

1. Carlsen Won’t Give Up His Number-1 Spot Without A Fight

When Carlsen resigned against Praggnanandhaa, things weren't looking good for the former world champion. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen is now a six-time Norway Chess Champion after scoring three classical wins and 5/6 in armageddon, but for a brief moment it had looked as though things might fall apart. A risky opening saw him put to sword by GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu in round three, in what at the closing ceremony he described as his most memorable game of the event: “He played a very good game to crush me in that one!”

When GM Fabiano Caruana also beat World Champion Ding Liren in the same round, it felt like a perfect storm. Carlsen would have Black vs. Caruana in round four, and a win for the American would have put him just 3.6 rating points behind the former world champion. Carlsen’s almost 13-year unbroken streak as world number-one, on both official and live rating lists, would be in peril.

Team Carlsen with his father Henrik, girlfriend Ella, and second GM Peter Heine Nielsen. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

That remained a scenario for an alternate universe, however, as Carlsen said his appetite grew during the game until he went on to grind out a crucial win. There was no turning back, as he won the next two games as well, while Caruana became the second victim of Praggnanandhaa. When the dust had settled after the event, Carlsen was 30.2 points clear of second place, and 36.2 points clear of Caruana. Crisis well and truly averted.

The world top-3 after Norway Chess. Source: 2700chess.

Nakamura talked about that ability to perform when it really matters:

"One thing the great champions in any sport have, this isn’t really necessarily chess, is they have a way of getting it done in the critical moments, and I think back to Magnus, whether it’s the world championship against Fabiano where he was one loss away from no longer being number one in the world, or his game against Fabiano here, which he won, that beautiful game which sparked the rally. And even the game against Karjakin after that loss, I think in game nine [of the 2016 World Championship match], he bounced back right away. He finds a way to get it done!"

He finds a way to get it done!

—Hikaru Nakamura on Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen himself explained that it had been a matter of getting back to basics:

"I guess my mindset just changed in that against Fabiano I just wanted to be super, super solid and I was really focused in that game, and it went from trying to play fun chess, which wasn’t fun at all, to more of a slow, grinding style, where I was just trying to see if I could pick up some scraps here and there, trying to win the boring way."

In the end everything went right for Carlsen. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen hasn’t hidden that he’s no longer a great fan of classical chess, but as he summed up: “If I’m trying to play classical, I might as well win the tournament!”

If I'm trying to play classical, I might as well win the tournament!

—Magnus Carlsen

It was another addition to a long list. 

2. Nakamura Is Back >2800 After His Last (?) Classical Game Of 2024

Although Praggnanandhaa had a great event—picking up 10 rating points and coming into the final round with some title chances—once again it was Nakamura who pushed Carlsen hardest. The five-time U.S. Champion regretted a missed classical win against GM Alireza Firouzja, but he had little else to complain about. As he listed in his final recap: unbeaten in classical chess, over 2800, number-one American, and number two in the world.

Hikaru Nakamura is back up to world number-2. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Crossing 2800 is the one that stands out, since it represents a remarkable career arc. Nakamura was last over 2800 back in the summer of 2015, hitting a peak of 2816 and world number-two on the October 2015 FIDE rating list. He'd then dropped as low as 2736 and world number-22 on the eve of the pandemic, so that his tenure at the very top of world chess looked as though it might be coming to an end.

Then came streaming, fame, riches, and a remarkable career renaissance.

The downside of success is that Nakamura is a busy man. On his Kick channel after the penultimate round in Norway, he mentioned that the next game would be his last classical game of 2024. Let’s hope it isn’t, since among other things that would mean Nakamura is not representing the U.S. at the Olympiad this September.

3. Armageddon Didn’t Make The Difference

Nakamura scored a surprisingly poor 3/8 in armageddon (1.5 points), compared, for instance, to Carlsen’s 5/6 (2.5 points), though you could argue if the extra half-points were “so crucial at the end of the tournament” as Carlsen described them. In fact, it is a curious detail that no placement in either the Open or Women’s Norway Chess would be changed if you counted only the classical games on the scale used for the event—three points for a win, one for a draw. 

Norway Chess Final Standings   

# Name FED Win Draw Loss Classical Armageddon Points Total
1 Magnus Carlsen 3 6 1 15 5/6 2.5 17.5
2 Hikaru Nakamura 2 8 0 14 3/8 1.5 15.5
3 Praggnanandhaa R 2 7 1 13 3/7 1.5 14.5
4 Alireza Firouzja 1 8 1 11 5/8 2.5 13.5
5 Fabiano Caruana 1 7 2 10 3/7 1.5 11.5
6 Ding Liren 0 6 4 6 2/6 1 7

Norway Chess Women Final Standings

# Name FED Win Draw Loss Classical Armageddon Points Total
1 Ju Wenjun 3 7 0 16 6/7 3 19
2 Anna Muzychuk 2 8 0 14 4/8 2 16
3 Lei Tingjie 2 7 1 13 3/7 1.5 14.5
4 Vaishali R 2 5 3 11 3/5 1.5 12.5
5 Koneru Humpy 1 6 3 9 2/6 1 10
6 Pia Cramling 0 7 3 7 2/7 1 8

You could also count the classical games by the standard one point for a win, half a point for a draw scale, and the only difference would be that Carlsen and Nakamura would be level on 6/10, instead of Carlsen being a point ahead.

Where the armageddon games did make a huge difference is in the perception of the day’s action. All games were drawn in the Open section in the first two and the final four (!) rounds, but there were few complaints about dull chess, since it meant a flurry of faster games.

4. Ding Remains Resilient Despite Hitting Rock Bottom

In our Norway Chess preview, we mentioned the world champion’s aim “not to finish in last place.” Strange as that sounds, he was deadly serious, and he failed in the attempt, with a sequence of four losses in a row seeing Ding drop 17.2 rating points and fall out of the top 10. In some ways it was even worse, with the mate-in-two he stumbled into against Carlsen truly shocking for a player of his strength.

Ding told Hindustan Times that he’d considered dropping out of the tournament and was open about his mental state: "Earlier, I wasn’t emotional. After some things happened in life, I’ve become more emotional. Now after each loss…how do I put it... I’m very sad, very upset."

Ding Liren had a disastrous middle of the tournament but managed to keep going. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

A German interview from April surfaced in which Ding talked about struggling to sleep after the world championship match, which led to depression. He revealed he was treated in a clinic and had been taking medication.  

It was impressive, therefore, that Ding managed to escape the spiral of defeats and draw his final four classical games, while also beating Nakamura in armageddon. He missed some chances for more in those games and commented in another interview with the Indian media: “Finally I began to score points. It’s a good sign that I show I can get back to the scoreboard.”

There’s no shortage of well-wishers, with GMs Anna Muzychuk and Lei Tingjie among the players to wish Ding a swift recovery during the event.  

It’s more complicated for Ding’s opponents at the board, since however great the personal sympathy, they know they have to be ruthless during games—the real Ding can show up at any moment!

5. Ju Wenjun Is A Dominant World Champion

China’s other world champion looks completely at home in her role. Ju first won the title in 2018 in a match vs. GM Tan Zhongyi (who she’ll play again next year) and then remarkably retained the title by winning a 64-player knockout later that year. Match wins over GMs Aleksandra Goryachkina (2020) and Lei Tingjie (2023) followed, and the four-time world champion continues to impress.

Ju Wenjun was peerless at her Norway Chess debut. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In Norway, despite a somewhat slow start, she was peerless, winning three classical games, drawing the rest, and scoring 6/7 in armageddon. The one mini-match she lost all tournament was to Muzychuk, when she lost on time in a drawn position that would have given her victory since she had the black pieces in armageddon.

Lei had gone on a great run at the end to take the fight for first into the final round, but Ju swatted away the challenge with a smooth classical win. A near-perfect performance at her Norway Chess debut.    

6. Anna Muzychuk Is Back

Anna Muzychuk finally picked up some wins after a winless Candidates. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Muzychuk is, together with Ju, one of just six women ever to have been rated over 2600, but she’d had a difficult month. She finished winless in last place at the FIDE Women’s Candidates Tournament and started slowly in Stavanger, drawing her first three classical games to make it a streak of 21 games without a win. She also lost all three armageddon games that followed.

It all changed after that, however, as Muzychuk scored classical wins against the two oldest players in the field, GMs Koneru Humpy and Pia Cramling. She ended the event unbeaten and also scored 4/5 in her remaining armageddon games, making it a perfect warmup for the Cairns Cup in St. Louis that starts on Thursday and features a $50,000 top prize. 

Muzychuk’s event is in some ways a mirror of that of GM Vaishali Rameshbabu, who led at the halfway mark after carrying on her brilliant form from the end of the Candidates but then ran out of steam, losing three classical games in the second half.

Chess legend Pia Cramling fell just short of a classical win on the final day, but she looked at home in Stavanger. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

7. There Are Queues For The Confessional

There is absolutely no surprise at who dominated the confessional, with Nakamura making it his second home during the event.


We got to hear the players’ thoughts during the action rather than after they’d carefully checked with a computer, and Carlsen and Praggnanandhaa were among the players to realize something only while talking on camera. 

There was clearly a nervousness about trying out the confessional, particularly for the women who were encountering it for the first time, but by the end most of the players had made their debuts…


…and there were reports of queues to reveal all. Talking to an audience during the intense focus of a game of chess may not be for everyone, but it seems the confessional is here to stay! 


There was just time for a little more chess…

…before the players and commentators headed their separate ways. 

Up next is the Bullet Chess Championship, with Nakamura, Firouzja, Praggnanandhaa, and Caruana among the players in action in one-minute chess beginning tomorrow. Carlsen has decided to sit this one out. “I think that’s Hikaru’s turf, so I’ll be following intently as a spectator, but I don’t enjoy bullet much these days. I’m happy to let others fight that out!”

Previous coverage:

    Colin_McGourty
    Colin McGourty

    Colin McGourty led news at Chess24 from its launch until it merged with Chess.com a decade later. An amateur player, he got into chess writing when he set up the website Chess in Translation after previously studying Slavic languages and literature in St. Andrews, Odesa, Oxford, and Krakow.

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