Magnus Carlsen has announced that he expects a quick start in the first three rounds of his 14-game, $ 2 million world title match against Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Play begins at 12:30 p.m. GMT throughout the match, which can be watched live and for free online, with expert and computer commentary on every move.
Nepomniachtchi will have the favorable white pieces in the first game, the colors of which have been determined popping balloons.
Carlsen will push for an early lead. “As the defending champion you have a good chance of hitting early,” he said. “It’s definitely something I’ll try.” Previous cases of first-time challengers that froze include that of Tigran Petrosian disastrous game one in 1963 against Mikhail Botvinnik and the capture of poisoned pawns of Bobby Fischer against Boris Spassky in 1972.
In the 2018 match, Fabiano Caruana was faltering in the first match of the marathon and should have lost at move 38. Carlsen himself, in his second match against Vishy Anand in 2013, planned the Caro-Kann 1 e4 c6 but nervously knocked down his c7 pawn. However, there are also examples like in 1927 and 2000 where the challenger scored early and won the match.
Indian Vishy Anand, who has lost two title games to Carlsen, believes the challenger’s best chance is to find complex and difficult positions where his months of preparation using the Zhores supercomputer will give him chances. “I think Magnus is vulnerable in these circumstances,” he said. “It’s already his fifth title game, so the fire isn’t burning so hard inside.”
Carlsen has become an even firmer favorite in betting over the past week and is now listed at 2-11 from the previous 1-4. This follows his statement that he considers Nepo (as everyone calls him) a ‘wild card’ and ‘a good result for me’ and that Caruana and Chinese Ding Liren ‘are the best’ among the best greats. masters.
What is your prediction for the outcome of the match? The prognosis for this column is for a Carlsen win by 7.5-5.5, three wins, nine draws and one loss, with Game 14 not played.
Carlsen’s Plan A, a quick start against a nervous Nepo, switched to Plan B, a safe and solid theoretical tie position avoiding any surprise Russian opening, when his ball awarded him the black pieces in the first game. Match. A point divided by two could even have been predicted on the first move when the champion avoided the Sicilian combative 1 e4 c5 and preferred to defend an orthodox Ruy Lopez 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5.
Carlsen narrowly edged Nepo in that first clash, as Zhores’ supercomputer produced no surprising novelties, while the mid-game quickly turned into a classic Carlsen classic endgame, testing and probing the opponent’s defensive skills. Nepo could get something out of the game as well since he’s never been in significant danger, avoided nerves the first night, and found the precise choices needed to maintain the level of position.
Saturday’s second game will be the real test of who will take the initiative at the start of the game, as Carlsen seems confident trying to back his early start intentions with lively and positive play. If the champion can wrap up the weekend by winning his Whites and drawing his first two Blacks, that will be an important step in retaining his title.
Carlsen spoke last week before knowing full details of 18-year-old Alireza Firouzja’s triumph at European squads in Slovenia. The former Iranian, who officially became a French citizen on Tuesday, won the individual gold medal in the first draw with 8/9, helped France take team silver behind gold from Ukraine, is moved up to second place in the standings with only Carlsen ahead of him, and became the youngest player over 2,800 years old, eclipsing the world champion’s record, put in 2010, six months.
In total, only 14 players reached 2,800, the first being Garry Kasparov in 1990. Carlsen and Firouzja are the only teenagers on the list, with a big gap to the next youngest, Caruana at 22.
Firouzja’s tournament performance score of 3015 was the second-highest on record after Caruana’s at 3080 at St Louis 2014, and topped Carlsen’s at 3002 at Pearl Spring 2009, which was the record for five years.
Now the question is whether the teenager can continue to capture Carlsen’s age record of youngest No.1 at 19 years and two months. It’s a tall order, as there are fewer elite tournaments now than before the pandemic. Moreover, Carlsen went on to become No.1 in an era where there was no dominant player and reached him with a rating of 2810, far below what Firouzja would need next year.
Away from the world championship, this weekend sees the return of the premier division of 4NCL, the British national speedboat league, after a full season where all matches have been played online. Some teams have disappeared and new ones have appeared, so Divisions 1 and 2 are merged for 2021-2022 with the top 12 forming normal Division 1 in 2022-2023. The Saturday afternoon (2 p.m. start) and Sunday morning (11 a.m. star) rounds will be played in Milton Keynes and can be followed live online.
Aside from the temporarily changed format, the most obvious novelty is that there will likely be a new champion after Guildford’s record of 83 games unbeaten spread over eight years.
The pandemic interrupted that streak and Guildford managers and sponsors Roger Emerson and Nigel Povah decided it was time to end it. Their first team will now be Guildford Young Guns, led by veteran GM Mark Hebden but mostly made up of emerging talent, who will do well to reach the top three.
Chess.com Manx Liberty is the new favorite. The Isle of Man team, where chess already has private sponsors, will benefit from the support and publicity of the chess.com and will be led by one of the game’s legends, “Fire on Board” Alexey Shirov, supported by Hungarian, Romanian and Polish CEOs.
Manx’s title is far from certain, not least because his international team may be more vulnerable to travel and visa issues than his rivals. The most likely challengers are Wood Green, who dominated the league a decade before the Guildford era, and whose team is led by Australian general manager Justin Tan, former world semi-finalist Jon Speelman and the English rising star Ravi Haria.
Chessable White Rose has European team silver medalist Gawain Jones in the lead, while Cheddleton features a strong masters phalanx led by 2021 British champion Nick Pert.
The names sound impressive, but it is disappointing that only Jones among the six 2600 ranked English Grand Masters, as performing in the same arena as a country’s top GMs inspires new talent.
Total squad numbers are only slightly down from 2019-20, 83 to 98, while Division Three already started the new season last weekend at Milton Keynes, Leamington and Doncaster. The league has strong anti-virus precautions, but two Central Three Division players in Leamington tested positive on Monday, so that’s a concern.
Looking for a chance to play overboard in central London? The London Chess Classic, including blitz tournaments open to all, returns December 3-12 at a new location near Oxford Circus.
3791: 1 b4! Qb6 / c7 (the black queen must guard against 2 Rd8 + Bf8 3 Qxf8 mat) 2 Da8 + Bf8 3 Rf1! wins with the double attack on Bf8.