Magnus Carlsen won first prize last week at the Altibox Norway tournament in Stavanger, but the world champion was not best pleased.

As reported here, his cherished record streak of 125 unbeaten games was ended by Poland’s Jan-Krzysztof Duda, and a second defeat in the final round by Armenia’s Levon Aronian was Carlsen’s first loss with White since December 2017.

To make it still worse, Carlsen had remarked before the game how he had lost twice in rook endings to Aronian, and, sure enough, a fatal rook endgame error again ensured his fate.

Carlsen tweeted later: “There certainly were some positive moments, but mostly I felt pretty clueless throughout the tournament. Even long thinks generally resulted in guesses.”

In contrast, Alireza Firouzja in second place was celebrating possibly the best result ever by a 17-year-old. The former Iranian, who quit his country for France due to Tehran’s policy of barring its competitors from playing Israelis, lost to Carlsen in the penultimate round by a basic blunder in a simple pawn ending. But he won impressively in the final round, and in the eyes of many he is now heir apparent to Carlsen’s throne.

Meanwhile, completion of the official world championship candidates event has been put back to April 2021, and Carlsen’s next title defence to December 2021.

Puzzle 2390

Vladislav Tkachiev v Ivan Sokolov, Shanghai 2002. Level material. Can you find White’s best move?

Click here for solution

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