General Jun 1, 2021 | 8:30 PMby Colin McGourty

Carlsen & Nepomniachtchi to meet in Norway Chess

Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi will meet in the 9th edition of Norway Chess just two months before they begin their World Championship match in Dubai. Norway Chess, which was originally planned to return to a 10-player format in May 2021, will now be a 6-player double round-robin, with Alireza Firouzja, Richard Rapport, Sergey Karjakin and Aryan Tari completing the line-up. The plan is once again to have fast classical games followed, if the game ends in a draw, by Armageddon.

With Aronian absent, Magnus will be the only player to have played all 8 editions of Norway Chess | photo: Lennart Ootes

The Norway Chess tournament has been buffeted by the pandemic, but in October 2020 it was one of the few traditional tournaments that still took place over the board. The 6-player event featured Alireza Firouzja, Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Aryan Tari and was won, with a round to spare, by Magnus Carlsen.

The plan was then to return to normal in 2021, with a full 10-player Norway Chess featuring a global field at its traditional spring time slot, in this case May 9-21. The pandemic this time intervened, however, with travel restrictions making the tournament impossible in May.

The field for May 2021 was very different

In March it was announced that the tournament had been postponed until September 7-18 and that the field would change, but we couldn’t have guessed how dramatically. Magnus Carlsen remains, as does Alireza Firouzja - the hottest prodigy in world chess will have turned 18 - and local hero Aryan Tari.

PlayerFEDRatingAgeWorld ranking
1Magnus CarlsenNorway2847301st
2Ian NepomniachtchiRussia2792304th
3Richard RapportHungary27632511th
4Alireza FirouzjaFIDE (Iran)27591713th
5Sergey KarjakinRussia27573115th
6Aryan TariNorway263921120th

Fabiano Caruana, Ding Liren, Levon Aronian, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Wesley So and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave are all out, which may partly be explained by a clash with the Chess 9LX Champions Showdown in Saint Louis (planned for September 7-10 - check out our full 2021 Chess Calendar).

There are some impressive replacements, however, including World Championship Challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi, so that it’s very likely the Clarion Hotel in Stavanger will witness Magnus and Ian clash for the final time in a classical game before their World Championship match starts in Dubai on November 24th.

Sergey Karjakin beat Fabiano Caruana in Norway Chess 2014 to finish half a point ahead of Magnus and win his 2nd event in a row | photo: Even Emberland, official website

They’re also joined by a former challenger, Sergey Karjakin, who won the first two editions of Norway Chess held in 2013-4, and current world no. 11, Hungary's Richard Rapport. Richard has climbed to the edge of the Top 10 almost unnoticed, but remains a fan favourite and is set to have a chance to shine in the coming months - he’s now one of the regular players in this year’s Grand Chess Tour and is set to play the 10-player classical opener, the Superbet Chess Classic, that starts on Saturday June 5th.

The format of Norway Chess will be the same double round-robin as in 2020, with a classical game followed, if it ends in a draw, by Armageddon. One difference, however, is that it’s no longer “Altibox” Norway Chess, with new partners set to be announced at a later date.

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