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General Feb 25, 2021 | 9:34 PMby Colin McGourty

Carlsen & Firouzja back for Norway Chess in May

Magnus Carlsen will be out to defend his Altibox Norway Chess title just 7 months after the 2020 tournament ended, with the organisers planning to return to a 10-player global event in May with the likes of Ding Liren and Wesley So back in Stavanger. There are more World Champions in action, with Anatoly Karpov set to play in the Tepe Sigeman & Co. Chess tournament in April, Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik to play in Dortmund in July, and we can dream of a return for Garry Kasparov as Chess9LX and the US Champs have been announced for Saint Louis.

Magnus Carlsen won Norway Chess with a round to spare in 2020 by beating Alireza Firouzja, but the 17-year-old still finished 2nd | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website

These are tough times for over-the-board chess. For instance, the European Championship, that was planned to be combined with the Reykjavik Open this year, has been postponed for a second time due to the pandemic, with the event now hoped to be held in August-September this year and qualify players to the 2023 World Cup.

The Harpa Conference Hall in Reykjavik is the planned venue for the European Championship, but pandemic uncertainty made it impossible to organise in the first half of the year | photo: official website

The first major “hybrid” event

Organisers have had to get creative, and there’s now going to be a 30,000 euros, 9-round “hybrid” European Qualification event from 22-30 May to decide 36 places in the World Cup. Players rated 2600 and over can play, though there’s a limit per federation, and the players will play online but from central venues in their countries with an arbiter present. Games are likely be FIDE-rated after new regulations were brought in for just such World Cup qualifying events.

The Tour comes full circle

The next event featuring the very top players will be the $200,000 4th stage of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour here on chess24 from March 13-21. It’s likely to be called the Magnus Invitational, an echo of the event which started it all when the pandemic struck a year ago.

Little did we know that Carlsen's win against Nakamura would just be the start of a whole summer of intense rivalry

After that – if the GRENKE Chess Classic doesn’t take place around Easter – there seems to be nothing before the Candidates Tournament is set to resume on April 19th in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

From then on, however, the picture looks more promising for over-the-board chess!

Karpov returns at the age of 69

13th World Champion Garry Kasparov retired at the age of just 41, 14th World Champion Vladimir Kramnik at 43, but 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov has never retired and, rather than just playing rapid or blitz, has continued from time to time to take on strong players in classical chess. His participation in the 8-player Tepe Sigeman & Co. Chess Tournament in Malmo, Sweden from April 24 – 30 still looks incredibly brave, however.

The 69-year-old will take on a field packed with aggressive players, including Tata Steel Masters winner Jorden van Foreest and 16-year-old rising star Nihal Sarin. The time control is the same long 6-7 hours as in Wijk aan Zee.      

Norway Chess is back

Last year the pandemic pushed Altibox Norway Chess to October, but this year it’s going to return to a more familiar time slot from May 9-21. It’s also planned to return to a full 10-player format, no longer limited only to players with a European passport.

Since it follows hot on the heels of the Candidates we may see Magnus Carlsen facing his new challenger, with current leader Maxime Vachier-Lagrave joined by world no. 2 Fabiano Caruana and world no. 3 Ding Liren. Levon Aronian and Aryan Tari return this year, as does the player who pushed Magnus closest in 2020, 17-year-old Alireza Firouzja. We’ll also see Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Champions Chess Tour leader and Magnus tormentor Wesley So, along with one player yet to be announced. 

Kramnik and Anand to play No Castles Chess

Dortmund has long been one of the traditional super-tournaments, but in 2020 there were already plans afoot to switch mainly to an open tournament instead. The pandemic interfered, while this year the centrepiece of the Dortmund Chess Days is set to be a 4-game classical match between the 14th and 15th World Champions Vladimir Kramnik and Vishy Anand.

Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik played for the World Championship title in Germany back in 2008 | photo: official website

The twist is that the match will be played without the players having the right to castle, one of the chess variants championed by 10-time Dortmund winner Kramnik in order to try and get away from existing opening analysis

Dortmund will also host a 10-player round-robin featuring some of the top German players and international opponents, though if the World Cup goes ahead as currently planned from July 10th it may sharply limit the potential field. There will also be an open tournament, but held online rather than in Dortmund.   

Saint Louis to host top US events again

In the last decade Rex Sinquefield has almost single-handedly turned the Midwestern US city of Saint Louis into one of the major centres of the chess world. When the pandemic struck multiple events could only be held online, but the hope is that the Saint Louis Chess Club will again host the world’s best players in 2021.

Garry Kasparov drew his first competitive game against Magnus Carlsen in 16 years online last year - will we see them meet face-to-face in 2021?

The Grand Chess Tour St. Louis Rapid & Blitz and Sinquefield Cup had already been announced for August, while now another edition of Chess9LX (Chess960) is set for September 8-10 and the US Championships are planned for October 5-19. Wesley So will be out to become the first player since Gata Kamsky in 2014 to defend his title, after winning last year’s online event.    

It goes without saying that all the announced tournaments depend on the pandemic situation, but mid to late 2021 is likely to be packed with chess – including the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour and the small matter of a World Championship match!

For a full schedule of events check out our 2021 Chess Calendar.

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