Nineteen years after facing a chess board for the first time (in Peñíscola, Spain), the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, world champion since 2013, and the Russian challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi will face each other from this Friday 27 for the title in a duel to the best of 14 games, within the framework of the Universal Expo in Dubai.

Russians Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov and Vladimir Kramnik and the indian Viswanathan Anand, former world champions before Carlsen, coincide in pointing to the “Viking” as a favorite, but warn that the Russian “bear”, a fearsome tactical player, has his options to dethrone him.

The specialized blog Chess in Numbers points out very precise percentages on the chances of victory for the two contenders, giving 81 percent to Carlsen, who has been number 1 in the world ranking for eleven uninterrupted years, with an Elo of 2,855 points compared to 2,782 of Grandson, fifth on the list.

The first three games, which will be played on consecutive days starting this Friday before the first break, will be decisive, according to Anand and Kramnik, Carlsen’s predecessors as champions.

Magnus Carlsen, in the run-up to his fourth title defense. Photo EFE

And Grandson is able to hold back the Norwegian’s first thrusts and in turn inflict some damage on him, his hopes will get a boost. On the contrary, if he starts low on the scoreboard, his marked emotional instability can lead him to a fatal destiny.

Anand lost twice to Carlsen with the title at stake. He first gave it to him in 2013 in his hometown of Madras and the following year he could not take it from him in Sochi, Russia. The Indian considers that, unlike the two previous applicants (the Russian Sergey Karjakin and the American Fabiano Caruana), Grandson he does believe himself capable of dethroning Carlsen.

Few players in the world can boast of having a favorable balance in classical chess against Norwegian, called “The Mozart of chess” for its harmonic game, which hides great depth in its apparent simplicity. Nepomniachtchi is one of them: 4 wins, 1 loss and 8 draws against the Norwegian.

That first game in Peñíscola ended with Carlsen’s victory, but the now official contender for the title took a first revenge when both were 13 years old, in the last round of the 2003 U-14 World Cup, in which the Belarusian finished champion. Sergei Zhigalko, Grandson took the podium (third) and Carlsen was ninth.

In senior category he defeated him again in the Tata Steel (2011) and London Classic (2017) tournaments. The only slow-paced game he has lost to the world champion was last year in Zagreb, although the last four offer a favorable balance for the champion: a win and three tables.

Ian Nepomniachtchi poses with players in Dubai.  AFP photo

Ian Nepomniachtchi poses with players in Dubai. AFP photo

World champions seem to be the specialty of Grandson, which in classical chess also has favorable balances over Kramnik (5 wins, 4 losses and 4 draws) and (3-2-5).

The inconsistency in high competition, where alternate brilliant triumphs with unexpected defeats, has prevented him from developing his enormous potential. Grandson He is capable of the greatest subtleties on the board or setting it ablaze with explosive play, but he has earned a reputation as a volatile player, lacking the fighting spirit necessary to be a champion, prone to collapse in the face of setbacks.

His critics accuse him of not taking chess seriously. He is a video game addict, who practices at a very high level, and sometimes fails to manage time during games. In the only one he has lost to Carlsen as an adult, he had 28 minutes to find a not too complicated draw line and yet it only took 40 seconds to pick a losing play.

Experience can play a decisive role in this meeting in Dubai. For Carlsen it will be the fifth “match“with the world crown at stake. After winning it against Anand, he successfully defended it against” Tigre de Madras “(2014), Karjakin (2016) and Caruana (2018). Grandson it will be the first experience.

The preparation of both is unknown, as is traditional. The Russian born in Bryansk, 380 kilometers southwest of Moscow, on July 14, 1990, has locked himself in with his team for the past two months, he has lost ten kilos and he sets out to defend the pride of the Russian school, which aspires to regain the crown that Anand snatched from Kramnik in 2007.

Magnus Carlsen, world number one chess and football fanatic.  Photo: @magnus_carlsen

Magnus Carlsen, world number one chess and football fanatic. Photo: @magnus_carlsen

Carlsen, four months younger than the applicant, has not stopped doing social life nor to participate in some minor competitions in recent weeks. In October he spent 11 days in Spain, taking advantage of the favorable climate of Sancti Petri, where he has played football and paddle tennis at the Royal Hideaway hotel facilities as a complement to chess training.

A fan of Real Madrid, the champion was able to practice one of his favorite sports and left Spain very happy. “There are many reasons to be here: a beautiful climate, not too cold or too hot, which allows you to practice other activities such as running, playing football or paddle tennis, and good food. It is also important that the place is not too big, to stay focused on work, “he explained in a video posted on the Chess24 portal.

Regarding the duel in Dubai, he noted: “I expect one more round-trip fight, without as many draws as in the previous ones. The last two games have been very close and now I hope there will not be those endless battles.”

In his last defense of the crown, against Caruana, the 12 games at a classic pace ended in a draw and the match was resolved in the tiebreaker with a resounding victory for the champion (3-0).

A millionaire bag and how to play

Hand to hand.  Ian Nepomniachtchi will try to win the title from Magnus Carlsen in Dubai.  AFP photo

Hand to hand. Ian Nepomniachtchi will try to win the title from Magnus Carlsen in Dubai. AFP photo

In addition to the world title, there will be a bag of 2 million euros, of which the winner will get 60 percent. If the match is tied at the end of the 14 games and requires a tiebreaker, the winner will receive 55 percent and the challenger, the remaining 45 percent. If one of the two contestants reaches 7.5 points, the fight is over.

The time control will be two hours for the first 40 plays, another hour for the next 20 and 15 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move from 61.

If there is a tie after the 14 games at classical pace, a “play off” will be played at four games of 25 minutes per player, plus an increase of 10 seconds per move. If equality persisted, two blitz games would be played or “blitz“(5 minutes with 3 seconds increment) and, if necessary, a series (up to a maximum of five) of two games blitz.

If the tie is not broken, an Armageddon game would be played. The player who wins in the color draw chooses pieces, knowing that White has 5 minutes in total, with a 3-second increase from move 61, and Black has only 4, but the tables are enough for them to win. the final victory.

To combat passive play, the regulation states that players cannot agree to draw before Black’s 30th move. The request for a draw before that rally is only allowed through the referee, in the case of a triple replay of rallies.

By José Antonio Diego, from EFE agency


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