The Streak is over.
For the first time since the summer of 2018, Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen was forced to tip his king in a game played at classical time controls. Polish GM Jan Krzystof Duda did the deed, defeating the champ at the Altibox Norway Chess Tournament now underway in Stavanger, Norway.
Carlsen’s last over-the-board loss came at the hands of Azeri GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov July 31, 2018, at the Biel Chess Festival, some 125 classical games ago. There were some close calls since then (hey, Joe DiMaggio got a few hits in his last at-bat as well), but the magnificent Norwegian star hadn’t been pinned to the mat since, despite often playing against world-class competition.
Duda’s win was unexpected — he was in last place in the six-GM event at the time — but it was a worthy game to end such an impressive streak. Black doesn’t go down easily in this sharp Caro-Kann, sacrificing the exchange to open up the b-file and putting strong pressure on Duda’s king.
The critical sequence comes as the two players were struggling to meet the 40-move time control: 29. Bc3 Qg5 (see diagram) 30. Qe4!? (this works out well despite the fact White is laboring under a huge misconception) Qg2?! (and this doesn’t work out so well even though Black’s threats along the second rank seem so scary; better were moves like 30…f6! or 30… Kh7!, patiently improving Black’s position before the shooting starts) 31. Rhe1 (Duda’s original plan was 31. Qxf4?? with mating threats down the e-file, only to spot at the last minute that Black had 31…Rb1 mate!) Qxa2? — the move that effectively ends the streak.
After 32. Qc2! Qxc4 33. Re8+!, it dawned on Black that 33…Rxe8? 34. Rxe8+ Kh7 35. Rh8+!! Kxh8 36. Bxh7+ picks off the Black queen. Already down the exchange, the champ must give up a full rook after 33…Kh7 34. Rxb8 Qxd5+ 35. Qd2 Bxf3+ 36. Kc1 Qxf5 (Nd3+ 37. Kb1 Qxf5 38. Rh8+! Kxh8 39. Qh6+ Qh7 40. Re8 mate)) 37. Re3.
Black’s queen checks make things uncomfortable for White, but with 47. Kb2 c4 48. Rxe4! fxe4, Duda simplifies down to a rook-up ending that even Carlsen cannot salvage. In the final position, the White rook check will cost Black his queen and the champ conceded.
The champ’s revenge — and the possible start of a new streak — were not long in coming: He defeated his Polish rival the very next day.
Breaking a streak is one way to carve your name in the record books — Reti’s defeat of Capablanca at the fabled 1924 New York tournament, ending the Cuban champ’s eight-year unbeaten streak, was written up in the New York Times the next day.
Bobby Fischer’s unbelievable 20-game victory streak (no losses or draws) in the 1970-71 world championship cycle included consecutive 6-0 match wipeouts of veteran GMs Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen. It was former Soviet world champ Tigran Petrosian who (briefly) slowed the great American’s momentum, defeating him in the second game of the Candidates finals match for the right to take on Boris Spassky.
Fischer had won Game 1 and may have felt a tad overconfident. (Who can blame him?) Petrosian uncorks a strong novelty in the Grunfeld with 7. Rc1 Ne4 8. cxd5! and obtains a clear edge after 13. Ba2 Bf5? 14. Bxe5! Bxe5 15. Nd4 Qxc5 16. Nxf5 gxf5 17. O-O Qa5 18. Qc2 — White gets a powerful central push while Black’s king is caught disastrously in the center.
A defensive genius, Petrosian could attack when the situation warranted, and here he doesn’t miss his chance: 23. d6! Qh5 24. f4 e2? (Bf6 was the last chance to put up a defense) 25. fxe5! exd1=Q 26. Rxd1 Qxe5 27. Rf1, and the White rook, bishop and queen lay down a murderous attacking fire with Black’s rooks totally out of play.
In the final position, Black must lose major material just to stave off mate; Fischer resigned.
Again, revenge was a dish served piping hot — after three draws, Fischer won the last four games of the match to earn his historic date with Spassky.
Duda-Carlsen, 8th Altibox Norway Chess Tournament, Stavanger, Norway, October 2020
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6+ exf6 6. c3 Bd6 7. Bd3 O-O 8. Qc2 Re8+ 9. Ne2 h5 10. Be3 Nd7 11. O-O-O b5 12. d5 c5 13. Bxb5 Rb8 14. c4 a6 15. Ba4 Re7 16. Ng3 Ne5 17. Ne4 Reb7 18. b3 Rb4 19. Bd2 Rxa4 20. bxa4 Bf5 21. Rde1 h4 22. h3 Ng6 23. Re3 Nf4 24. g4 Bg6 25. Kd1 f5 26. Nxd6 Qxd6 27. gxf5 Bh5+ 28. f3 Qf6 29. Bc3 Qg5 30. Qe4 Qg2 31. Rhe1 Qxa2 32. Qc2 Qxc4 33. Re8+ Kh7 34. Rxb8 Qxd5+ 35. Qd2 Bxf3+ 36. Kc1 Qxf5 37. Re3 Ne2+ 38. Kb2 Nxc3 39. Qxc3 Qf4 40. Qd3+ f5 41. Rf8 Qb4+ 42. Kc1 Be4 43. Qb3 Qd4 44. Qc3 Qd6 45. Rf7 Qg6 46. Rd7 Qg1+ 47. Kb2 c4 48. Rxe4 fxe4 49. Rd4 Qf2+ 50. Qd2 c3+ 51. Kxc3 Qg3+ 52. Kb2 Qxh3 53. Rxe4 Qg3 54. Qd4 Qg2+ 55. Kc3 Qf3+ 56. Kb4 Qf8+ 57. Ka5 Qf5+ 58. Kxa6 g5 59. a5 h3 60. Re7+ Kg6 61. Qg7+ Kh5 62. Qh7+ Kg4 63. Re4+ Black resigns.
Petrosian-Fischer, Candidates Match Game 2, Buenos Aires, September 1971
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Bf4 Bg7 5. e3 c5 6. dxc5 Qa5 7. Rc1 Ne4 8. cxd5 Nxc3 9. Qd2 Qxa2 10. bxc3 Qa5 11. Bc4 Nd7 12. Ne2 Ne5 13. Ba2 Bf5 14. Bxe5 Bxe5 15. Nd4 Qxc5 16. Nxf5 gxf5 17. O-O Qa5 18. Qc2 f4 19. c4 fxe3 20. c5 Qd2 21. Qa4+ Kf8 22. Rcd1 Qe2 23. d6 Qh5 24. f4 e2 25. fxe5 exd1=Q 26. Rxd1 Qxe5 27. Rf1 f6 28. Qb3 Kg7 29. Qf7+ Kh6 30. dxe7 f5 31. Rxf5 Qd4+ 32. Kh1 Black resigns.
• David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.