Chess960, also called Fischer Random Chess is characterized by random starting setting of pieces on the back ranks. This encourages creative openings, downplaying the element of “chess science” and memorization.
This championship, held in at Høvikodden outside Oslo, Norway, from 9 to 13 February, was the first notable Fischer Random event since 2009. With both GMs determined to win, games were very interesting and action-packed. Magnus Carlsen won the championship for a prize of almost $200,000 with a total score of 14 – 10.
After Day 1 the match was tied, with two draws. Carlsen took the lead at the end of second day. The third day was also a success for Carlsen, who won both games as black.
However, on Day 4 Carlsen lost on time in game eight in a bizarre way. He had a rook and a bishop against Nakamura’s rook, but overstepped the time limit. Nevertheless, Carlsen was still leading by two points at the end of the day.
Final day was reserved for blitz: eight 10+5 games were played. The full results are below:
G9: Carlsen-Nakamura 1-0
G10: Nakamura-Carlsen ½-½
G11: Nakamura-Carlsen ½-½
G12: Carlsen-Nakamura ½-½
G13: Carlsen-Nakamura 1-0
G14: Nakamura-Carlsen 0-1
G15: Nakamura-Carlsen 1-0
G16: Carlsen-Nakamura ½-½
Here is the decisive game that brought Carlsen the points he needed to win the championship. It was played in Round 5 of the Fisher Random Blitz. Carlsen is playing white:
- g3 f5 2. f4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. d4 c6 5. Nd3 Nd6 6. e3 Nd7 7. Bf2 Nf6 8. Be1 Ng4 9. Qe2 Qh6 10. h4 Nf6 11. Ne5 Be6 12. Bf3 Nfe4 13. Bxe4 fxe4 14. Na4 O-O 15. g4 Nf7 16. Nc5 Bc8 17. a4! Nxe5 18. dxe5 b6 19. Nb3 g5!! 20. hxg5 Qh3 21. f5 Bxe5 22. Nd4 Bxd4 23. exd4 e6? 24. Ra3! Qh1 25. Bb4 Qh4 26. Bxf8 Qxg5+ 27. Qd2 Qxd2+ 28. Kxd2 Kxf8 29. Rh1 Kg7 30. Rah3 exf5 31. Rxh7+ Kg6 32. Ke3
Both players started with opening up their bishops and blocking the opponent’s bishops in what resembled the Stonewall. The game becomes exciting at move 14, when Nakamura castled into Carlsen’s attack. The game was excellent until Nakamura blundered on move 23, allowing Carlsen to trap his queen, after which the game ended abruptly.
Carlsen opened 2018 with great success winning the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in January. It’s only February and he already has a second title under his belt.
When asked if he thinks there is future for chess960, his response was positive: “This match showed that it’s not too weird and it leads to exactly what you want, which is chess without theory and still at a reasonable level.”