Magnus Carlsen’s reaction to beating Alireza Firouzja underlines fiery fight for chess perch

Magnus Carlsen seems to sense the growing power of 16-year-old chess phenom Alireza Firouzja and the long-term threat Firouzja poses to his chess supremacy.

Their rivalry has exploded lately: No. 1 Carlsen narrowly edged Firouzja in a controversial World Blitz 2019 matchup in which his rival accused him of cheating; Firzouzja returned the favor earlier this month at the Banter Blitz Cup before Carlsen beat him again at the Magnus Carlsen Invitational on Monday.

Carlsen’s reaction to this week’s victory over No. 21 Firouzja — who still remains a step behind the world’s best overall — provided a look into the intensity of a one-on-one battle that could define the coming years.

“Truth be told, I wanted to crush him today,” Carlsen said in a postmatch interview. “A narrow win wouldn’t make up for the fact that I actually lost to the guy. … That fact that (I didn’t sweep him) pissed me off.”

The World Blitz 2019 finish established a level of animosity between Carlsen and Firouzja. After Carlsen won via time, Firouzja accused him of speaking under his breath as a means of distraction. Firouzja appealed the decision and video captured him enraged at his appeal being denied.

“He was talking,” Firouzja insisted to a judge. “He’s talking during the game. He’s saying something in Norwegian, I don’t know what he’s saying.”

Carlsen fell to Firouzja in the Banter Blitz Cup last week — a competition he was considered a heavy favorite to win. The final game of the match is considered an instant classic.

Carlsen’s 2.5-1.5 match win over Firouzja on Monday in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational restores his supremacy over Firouzja — for now. It’s an advantage he clearly cares about beyond a one-off round robin tournament win.

He’s nowhere near ready to cede control of his perch atop the chess world, but Firouzja figures to be on a mission to chase him down.

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