Chess: Carlsen and Nakamura dominate in Stavanger, while Ding falters again

<span>Magnus Carlsen’s victory at Stavanger means he has won five of the past six Norway Chess events.</span><span>Photograph: Carina Johansen/AP</span>
Magnus Carlsen’s victory at Stavanger means he has won five of the past six Norway Chess events.Photograph: Carina Johansen/AP

Norway Chess, last weekend’s $161,000 event in Stavanger, was Magnus Carlsen’s 10th victory in his last 11 starts, and also a significant success for Hikaru Nakamura. The 36-year-old streamer regained a 2800 rating, and passed Fabiano Caruana to take over as No 2 in the Fide world rankings.

Carlsen assessed it as “a good performance, not a sparkling performance by any means, but I feel I was quite professional in the way that I handled the last seven games or so. My mindset went from trying to play fun chess, which wasn’t fun at all, to more of a slow, grinding style.”

The No 1 scored many points from Armageddon replays after the classical game was drawn. Classical wins counted 3, an Armageddon win 1.5, and an Armageddon loss 1. Carlsen is particularly strong in Armageddons as White, where he has scored 16/17 since the rules changed in 2019.

Norway Chess at Stavanger began in 2013, and for the first six years Carlsen won the event only once, apparently feeling the ­pressure of being the home favourite. By ­contrast, in the six years since Armageddon was introduced, he has scored five victories, missing out only to Nakamura in 2023.

Stavanger 2024 was the 59th major success of Carlsen’s career, which is summarised on a single page of X. A similar analysis for Garry Kasparov shows 40 major successes, plus six world championships and two top board Olympiad golds.

Carlsen’s 11-event lead over his rival for No 1 all-time great is more than explained by his 12 World Rapid and World Blitz championshipsand his six online titles, none of which were available in Kasparov’s era. Kasparov had nine victories at Linares, Carlsen has had eight so far at Wijk aan Zee.

Kasparov retired at 42, while Carlsen has said that he will retire before 40,so the debate on who is the greatest is likely to continue. Kasparov often played around four major events a year, but had a 10-year unbeaten streak as well as a run of 15 consecutive tournament victories. The race seems effectively neck and neck, though the comments page is open if you think otherwise.

Meanwhile, Ding Liren’s travails continue. China’s world champion had performed poorly in 2024 at Wijk aan Zee and Grenke, and said at the start of ­Stavanger that his ambition there was “not to finish last”. He did win two mini-matches, including a ­convincing defeat of Nakamura, but still finished sixth of six with only 7/30, 4.5 points adrift.

Ding has apparently had intermittent depression for several months. He still has at least two events to regain his old form,the ­Sinquefield Cup at St Louis in August and the 180-nation Olympiad at Budapest in ­September, before he defends his title against India’s 18-year-old Gukesh ­Dommaraju in November-December.

Ju Wenjun, won the Women’s Norway Chess title and $65,000 by defeating her old rival Lei Tingjie in the decisive final round. The women’s tour now moves to St Louis, where the $200,000 Cairns Cup, the richest all-female tournament in chess, started on Wednesday. Tan Zhongyi, winner of the 2024 Candidates and Ju’s 2025 challenger, is the top seed.

Tan gave an unexpectedly offbeat answer when New in Chess asked her why China has so many strong chess players: “ It’s probably because of China’s one child policy. This led to many parents trying to push their child to get the best out of them. Ding Liren is another result of this.” She then said: “That’s something that is not easy to copy/paste.”

Related: ‘Defeat clarifies so much’: Chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley on the power of losing

Ethan Pang, the nine-year-old who last week became the youngest ever 2200-rated player, has just set another new record. The Westminster Under School pupil has been selected as a wildcard for next month’s British Championship in Hull, to be played from 25 July to 4 August. At nine years and four months, Pang will break GM David Howell’s age record, set in 2000, by four months.

Top seeds for the 42-player championship, which has a £10,000 first prize, are the eight-time winner GM Michael Adams and the England Olympiad team players GM Gawain Jones and GM Luke McShane. England’s new No 1, the former Russian GM, Nikita Vitiugov, is ineligible to compete due to the championship’s 12-month residency requirement.

Sohum Lohia, 15, achieved his second International Master (IM) norm in Budapest last week, where his round-one victory in a sharp tactical battle against a 2536-rated GM proved a fine start. Lohia is currently competing for his third and final norm at Helsinki, Finland.

Chessfest, the annual family friendly and free celebration of the game in Trafalgar Square, London, returns for 2024 on Sunday 7 July. Last year 15,000 visitors came for the opportunity to challenge a grandmaster or master at five-minute blitz chess or in a simultaneous display. Many of England’s top players and rising junior talents will be present, There will be free lessons for adult and child beginners, and a Living Chess game with actors as pieces.

3924: 1 f6! gxf6 2 Kxg2 Kg4 3 a4! bxa3 ep 4 bxa3 Kf4 5 a4 Ke4 6 d6! cxd6 7 c6! dxc6 8 a5 and White queens.