Norway Chess Round 9: Ding Beats Nakamura As Carlsen Increases His Lead

World Champion Ding Liren finally has something to celebrate after beating GM Hikaru Nakamura in armageddon. That is good news for world number-one Magnus Carlsen, who extended his Norway Chess 2024 lead to 1.5 points before the final round after an armageddon win over GM Alireza Firouzja. GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu still has a mathematical chance to win the event despite a loss to GM Fabiano Caruana. 

GM Lei Tingjie has her fate in her own hands after beating GM Vaishali Rameshbabu in the day’s only classical win. She now faces Women’s World Champion Ju Wenjun, who beat GM Koneru Humpy in armageddon to lead Women’s Norway Chess by 1.5 points. GM Anna Muzychuk will be rooting for Lei, since she still has a chance herself after beating GM Pia Cramling.

Round 10, the final round, starts Friday, June 7, at 11 a.m. ET / 17:00 CEST / 8:30 p.m. IST.

Norway Chess Round 9 Results

Open: Ding, Caruana Help Carlsen’s Chances

Carlsen increased his lead over his title rivals Nakamura and Praggnanandhaa by a potentially significant half a point going into the final day.

Standings After Round 9 | Open

Firouzja 1-1.5 Carlsen

Firouzja’s hopes of winning Norway Chess were ended. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

There was a lot riding on this match. A classical win would have catapulted Firouzja to the top of the standings, while Carlsen could potentially win the tournament with a round to spare. In the end neither happened, with the former world champion—who Nakamura reported spent the first 20 minutes yawning—confessing to some crimes against exciting chess in the opening of the classical game:

“So what I did here is kind of the ultimate cop-out against the Bg5 Italian, just not going g5, trading the bishop, and generally Black is slightly worse but should be able to hold.”

That didn’t mean there weren’t interesting moments, however, since Carlsen’s 17…c6!? sent Firouzja into a 58-minute think. The funny thing is that Carlsen admitted he’d overlooked perhaps his opponent’s most obvious reply.

In the end Firouzja’s cogitation resulted in nothing more than a quiet retreat and a perilous situation on the clock. Carlsen had capitalized on that in their previous game in Norway, but this time Firouzja steered toward a draw with little to report.

That meant armageddon, and this time we got a full-blooded fight. Firouzja varied with 12.Bd5 instead of 12.Rb1 in the first game, and this time Carlsen did go for 12…g5, provoking his opponent to sac a knight.

It was game on, and we got to witness a huge fight. Initially Firouzja did gain some advantage, but he struggled to break down Carlsen’s tenacious defense and then missed a trick to turn the tables when already low on time. The world number-one set up an unlosable position and was winning at the end when Firouzja resigned.

That extra half-point is significant since it means that if Nakamura wins his classical game in the final round, Carlsen can still afford to make a draw—as long as he wins the armageddon to force a playoff for the title. 

Nakamura 1-1.5 Ding

Nakamura once again spent his round between the board and the confessional, which he was tempted to rename. 

What we also learned from his visits is that he was hell-bent on beating Ding and in some ways would prefer to lose rather than draw the classical game since it would give him more clarity going into the final day. 

What followed, however, was frustration, as the provocations were met with solid chess by the world champion who didn’t hunt for chances of his own and was happy to trade down into an endgame a pawn down.  

The position was drawn and Nakamura didn’t want to expend too much energy on it, but he also noted that he’d lost it to Carlsen once that he’d expect to win in Titled Tuesday. In Stavanger, however, Ding made no mistake, and they went to armageddon.

Nakamura’s approach to the opening immediately made the commentary team think of that same Titled Tuesday, but the risk proved too high. Ding had understandably considered quitting Norway Chess after a shocking streak of four losses in a row earlier in the event.

He’s been on the road to recovery since, however, making three draws in classical chess, while in the armageddon against Nakamura he didn’t put a foot wrong, picking up pawns when offered and ruthlessly converting his advantage. 

That’s our Game of the Day, which GM Rafael Leitao has analyzed below.

Here’s Nakamura’s take on the day’s action:

In the last few rounds Ding Liren has managed to stop his slump in Stavanger. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Caruana 1.5-1 Praggnanandhaa

This matchup did little to alter the fate of either player. Caruana has had a disappointing event and still finds himself in second-last place, while Praggnanandhaa retains an outside chance of winning the title. For that, however, he now needs both to beat Nakamura in classical chess and for Carlsen to lose with the white pieces to Caruana.

Caruana edged the battle against Praggnanandhaa. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The Indian 18-year-old was surprised in the opening, with Nakamura predicting either a quick collapse or a relatively comfortable draw. In the end it was the latter with Praggnanandhaa finding some excellent moves.

A chess family. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Praggnanandhaa couldn’t pull off the same trick at the faster time control, however, as Caruana won a pawn and then pounced at the end with the one clearly winning move, 45.Bb4!

Women: Ju Leads But Lei Has Fate In Her Own Hands

Lei Tingjie won a second classical game in a row and now knows she needs to make it three by beating Ju Wenjun in the final round to have a chance of winning the tournament. 

Standings After Round 9 | Women

Lei 3-0 Vaishali

When queens left the board on move 10, few would have predicted a 26-move miniature, but the Chinese player used the tried and tested method of making a first appearance in the confessional.

She later commented that the appearance helped to release stress and enabled her to find a clear plan, though she also noted that the confessional doesn’t suit more introverted players such as Ding.

What followed is almost a textbook win with GM David Howell impressed: “This is the perfect diagram for a book on centralization!”

A couple of inaccuracies proved fatal for Vaishali.

Humpy 1-1.5 Ju

Humpy has a surprisingly dominant lifetime score against the world champion, but Ju was able to hold a pawn-down position comfortably in the classical game before punishing an unconventional opening in armageddon. She’s now won six out of seven armageddon games she’s played in Stavanger.

Ju Wenjun beat a tough rival, Koneru Humpy, in armageddon. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Ju will end Lei’s hopes if she draws their classical game in the final round, but Ju also has to be on the watch for Muzychuk, who’s also just 1.5 points back. As in the Open tournament, we could get a playoff.  

Cramling 1-1.5 Muzychuk

Playing an early armageddon in Norway Chess ensures some strong spectators! Photo: Maria Emelianova/

The classical game in this matchup lasted just 20 moves before ending in a draw by repetition. That meant Muzychuk, with Black, needed just a draw in armageddon to clinch the extra half-point. She kept full control on the board and on the clock and was on course to win before getting a sudden helping hand. Cramling gave a queen check, overlooking a bishop could move backward and gobble up the queen!

It’s been an intense tournament, but there’s now just one more round to go.  

Round 10 Pairings

Praggnanandhaa-Nakamura has shades of Caruana-Nepomniachtchi from the final round of the Candidates, since both players need to win the classical game. Praggnanandhaa could then still catch Carlsen and force a playoff if the world number-one loses with White to Caruana. Nakamura, with a win, would take the title outright if Carlsen loses in classical or makes a draw and then loses in armageddon. If Carlsen draws, then wins the armageddon, we’ll get a playoff.

Of course, if Carlsen wins in classical chess, it doesn’t matter what happens elsewhere!

Norway Chess 2024 features Open and Women’s six-player tournaments for equal prize funds of 1,690,000 NOK (~$160,000). It runs May 27 to June 7 in Stavanger, with players facing their opponents twice at classical chess (120 minutes/40 moves, with a 10-second increment from move 41). The winner of a classical game gets three points, the loser, zero; after a draw, the players get one point and fight for another half-point in armageddon (10 minutes for White, seven for Black, who has draw odds). 

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