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Unheralded Mamedyarov sends Caruana crashing


Unheralded Shakriyar Mamedyarov halted Fabiano Caruana’s streak with a victory that jolted the standings not only in the fifth round of the 2023 Norway Chess championships Sunday in Stavenger, Norway but also in the live world rankings.

At age 38 and the oldest participant in the 10-man elite group, Mamedyarov, ranked 15th in the world, outplayed the American with the black pieces of an English Opening, sending a chilling notice that anything is possible with still four rounds left.

Coupled with a victory by Hikaru Nakamura against local bet and 2017 World Junior champion Aryan Tari, the American vaulted to the No. 2 live ratings with an Elo of 2783.5 and gained two notches. He dislodged Caruana who fell to a very close No. 4 ranking, separated by only 1.1 Elo points.

Nakamura was python-like against Tari in squeezing the win on the 42nd move with white of a Spielmann Attack variation of the Bishop’s opening even as young Alireza Firouzja of France beat Wesley So of the US in an Armageddon tiebreak game.

Caruana kept a point lead ahead of Nakamura with 10.5 points while Firouzja only gained 1.5 points from forcing a draw with the black pieces to remain at solo third with 7.5 points. The Iranian Firouzja remained World No. 3 with a 2783.2 Elo points.

Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan jumped from ninth to a tie of fourth and fifth places with Gukesh Dommaraju of India, the youngest combatant at 17 years old.

Gukesh drew with another teen, Nodirbek Abdusattorov of Uzbekistan and won an extra 1.5 points by holding to a draw Abdusattorov with the black pieces.

So, the wunderkind Filipino now playing for the United States, tied for sixth to ninth places with Abdusattorov along with semi-retired Magnus Carlsen and Dutch Anish Giri at six points.

So, 29, is still one of the frontrunners in the points race for one slot in the Candidates Tournament via the FIDE Circuit standings.

He, however, has not won a single classical game, which is being given much premium by the Norway chess organizers who came up with a unique scoring system, giving three points for a win.

The Candidates tournament is one step towards earning the right to face the new world champion, Ding Liren of China, who outlasted Ian Nepomniachi of Russia in the recently held finals. Both Top Ten players are not participating while Carlsen, the World No. 1 and ex-world champion, is honoring his previous commitment to his local supporters.

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