General May 29, 2022 | 7:26 PMby Tarjei Svensen

Carlsen and Anand feature in surprising Norway Chess line-up

Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand will lock horns again as the 10th edition of Norway Chess starts in Stavanger this Monday with a blitz tournament. In the run-up to the event the organisers explained why they decided to invite a number of semi-retired and inactive players, including a surprise return to top-level action for China's Wang Hao.

4-time Norway Chess winner Magnus Carlsen will face Viswanathan Anand in the 10th edition of the super tournament in Stavanger, Norway | photo: Lennart Ootes

The 10th edition of the prestigious super tournament begins on Monday with the traditional blitz tournament, while the classical event starts Tuesday and lasts until June 10.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who won the last three editions in Stavanger, once again heads the field and will continue his bid to break the 2900 barrier.

Speaking to TV 2, the 31-year-old spoke about how he feels less pressure now that he's won the last three events in Stavanger. 

In 2015 I did so poorly that it was almost comical, and in 2017 I felt that I struggled to manage anything. It has been difficult at times.

He added:

I can't guarantee any success this year, but no matter how it goes, I have broken a barrier and I am not worried anymore.

Wesley So says he thinks classical chess is still the most important, and that he is excited about playing Carlsen again.

Magnus has been the best player for 10 years now, there is nobody close. It's a bit embarrassing for the rest of us that his rating is so much higher than the rest.

As in the two previous pandemic years, the organisers faced difficulties finalizing the field. The Candidates Tournament begins just a week after the final move is made in Stavanger, which forced the organisers to look further down the rankings.

In addition, the organisers decided that Russians are not welcome this year due to the invasion of Ukraine, and singled out two-time winner Sergey Karjakin for a permanent ban, while Alexander Grischuk was originally set to play but later replaced.

Richard Rapport, who accepted his invitation to play before qualifiying for the Candidates through the FIDE Grand Prix, decided to withdraw from the event this week. The Hungarian grandmaster, who had long complained about a lack of financial support from his chess federation, is now switching with his wife to the Romanian Chess Federation after receiving the backing of the founder of the Superbet corporation

Rapport has already been replaced by Norwegian no. 2 Aryan Tari.

Norwegian #2 Aryan Tari plays Norway Chess for the third time after replacing Richard Rapport | photo: Lennart Ootes

Speaking to chess24, Norway Chess Chief Organiser Kjell Madland says it was a difficult message to receive.

It's extremely difficult when we receive such a message at this point, so late before the tournament starts. It could lead to a bye for all the players and we have events and commitments for the sponsors, and it would be difficult to be one round without Magnus.

Madland says they are very grateful that Tari stepped in at short notice.

It's always a pity when these things happen, but when it does we have to solve it in the best way possible. We are very happy to have Aryan in.

The field for the 10th edition did raise eyebrows among chess fans. With the exception of Tari, the field includes no players under the age of 27 and no newcomers. Three of the players have been rather inactive in the last 2.5 years.

Madland explains that they at some point decided that the anniversary edition of Norway Chess would include previous winners and players who took part in the first edition in 2013. With the ban on Russian players and a clash with the Candidates, they had to change plans a bit.

Two-time Norway Chess winner Sergey Karjakin will not be a part of future editions in Stavanger, after organisers called his statements supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine "completely incomprehensible" | photo: Lennart Ootes

That led to an invitation to 2015 winner and former World Champion Veselin Topalov, who is semi-retired and hasn't played a classical event since Gibraltar in 2020.

The 47-year-old told

I have been invited simply because many of the candidates cancelled Norway Chess and apparently this year Russians are not invited. Also, I don’t think the format benefits me, but I will try to do my best.

Indian legend and former World Champion Viswanathan Anand also hasn't played a classical tournament since the FIDE Grand Swiss in November 2019. 

The 52-year-old, who joined Arkady Dvorkovich's bid for a second term as FIDE president, scored an excellent result in the Superbet Rapid & Blitz in Warsaw last week, finishing third, and seems to be in great shape.

Another surprise in the field is Wang Hao, who announced his retirement after finishing last in the Candidates Tournament last year

Teimour Radjabov scored a disappointing result with only 3/9 in the first Norway Chess in 2013, finishing 9th, and is looking to improve on that result | photo: Lennart Ootes

He's now set for a surprise comeback, but perhaps the most controversial invitee is world no. 13 Teimour Radjabov. The Azerbaijan grandmaster has gained a reputation as one of the least fighting players in the chess world after drawing a majority of his games. Radjabov was dead last on the Fighting Chess Index (FCI), which ranked the combativeness of top chess players between 2015 and 2020.

Grandmaster and two-time participant in Stavanger Jon Ludvig Hammer, who now commentates on the tournament for Norwegian TV, tweeted last year:

FCI creator GM David Smerdon notes that Radjabov drew more than 60% of his games in the time period and played a short draw almost once in every five games. 

That number doesn't include his additional 17 draws in 17 games played in 2021.

The 35-year-old Azerbaijan grandmaster, who now resides in Moscow after getting married earlier this year, is currently on a streak of 20 draws and could break Magnus Carlsen's record 21 draws in a row during the tournament.

Radjabov is also expected to preserve some energy in Stavanger, as he will go straight to Madrid to take part in the Candidates Tournament, which starts on June 17, exactly one week later.

When Norway Chess is over we'll have just a week before the Candidates begins

Confronted with the reactions, Madland says:

It would have been difficult if we had to take other opinions into consideration when inviting players. We are trying to mix a field that is strong, exciting and different, so it's always very difficult as there are 1000 opinions if you ask 1000 people. I think it's exciting to see Radjabov again, as he hasn't been here since 2013.

Madland also notes that the format with armageddon games after a drawn classical game has been successful.

The players know the concept, so if you are going to win Norway Chess, making draws won't be enough. You have to win. Since we changed the format and the time control for the 2019 edition, we went from 15% to 55% decisive games. It proves that the concept works after we changed the format.

He added:

We are extremely satisfied with the players we have this year. There is a lot of excitement, and it's really nice with some new faces.

The blitz tournament starts Monday at 18:00 CEST, while the games in the classical event start at 17:00 CEST. There are rest days on June 4 (after Round 4) and on June 8 (after Round 7).

The complete lineup for the 2022 Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger.

chess24 will have full coverage of Norway Chess with our commentary duo of Jan Gustafsson and Jovanka Houska providing the official broadcast on site in Stavanger.

The tournament venue will be Finansparken, the premises of SR-Bank in Bjergsted, near Stavanger's city centre. In another venue near to the main playing hall, the Norway Chess Open will take place from June 3 to June 10.

Indian prodigy Praggnanandhaa and the young Uzbek duo of Nodirbek Yakubboev and Javokhir Sindarov are among the 11 grandmasters currently signed up.

 See also:

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