Magnus Carlsen won Norway Chess with one round to spare after beating his main competitor Alireza Firouzja in Round 9. Despite this vexing defeat (the youngster lost a drawing position) Firouzja is still one point ahead of Levon Aronian and has a fair chance for the second place in the final standings.
Carlsen little by little outplayed Firouzja in a symmetrical position but when the time came to rip the harvest he rushed things with 35…Nc1 (Magnus thought that he was winning on the spot). Firouzja reached a roughly equal position and eventually transposed into a drawing endgame but had to play on a 30-second increment. Still, all he had to do is to hold a distant opposition but Alireza cracked under pressure, made a tragic mistake 69. Kc3?? (69. Kd2 lead to a draw) and after an obvious 69…Kc5 immediately capitulated.
Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Fabiano Caruana played a very clean high-quality game. The computer evaluation of the position throughout this encounter hovered around equal and even a rook sacrifice on move 37 by the American did not change the balance. The Armageddon game was quite a different story as Caruana quickly obtained quite a comfortable position with Black in the Modern Benoni reversed. Trying to get some play Duda misplaced his knights and the punishment was both quick and severe.
Aryan Tari came very close to claiming his first win in this event as Levon Aronian opted for a very interesting but risky pawn sacrifice with Black in the Caro-Kann defense hoping to confuse his opponent. The Norwegian accepted the gift, consolidated his position but then move after move let his advantage slip away and by the time control allowed Aronian to reach an equal endgame.
In the Armageddon game, Aronian got back to his trusted 1…e5 and scored a good victory in a sharp line of the Scotch Game capitalizing on the opponent's mistake 21.a4? (21.Bh6 was much better).
Standings after Round 9:
1. Magnus Carlsen – 19.5
2. Alireza Firouzja – 15.5
3. Levon Aronian – 14.5
4. Fabiano Caruana – 14
5. Jan-Krzysztof Duda – 9.5
6. Aryan Tari – 2.5